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  #21  
Old Posted May 22, 2019, 6:50 PM
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Originally Posted by OldDartmouthMark View Post
The fact is, lower priced housing will be razed to create more expensive housing, and while that is not a bad thing entirely, the net effect is that some low cost housing will be eliminated, and that people who need it don't have 30 years to wait for the building to deteriorate and become undesirable so they can afford it, if that would even happen.
But there will be many more units in the new development (maybe 5-10x what is there now).

When more people come to the city they bid up the price of existing housing, even the affordable stuff. Without construction, the old affordable stuff will not remain affordable for long. With new construction, people move up into nicer units and those farther down the ladder can afford something better. The shiny new buildings tend to make the last round of construction look a bit less exciting and prices are depressed slightly going down the line.

Imagine a tiny town with 2 people. Person A is a rich buyer and B is a poor tenant. If the town has one shack, A lives in it and B is homeless. If the town has a mansion and a shack, A lives in the mansion and B lives in the shack. If another rich person C decides to live in the town, B becomes homeless again unless another mansion or shack is built. Despite being a shack-dweller, B can benefit from a supply of mansions.

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The idea seemed to have some merit as the proposal doesn't fit within the current rules, and thus it would not seem unreasonable for the city to require some low cost units in exchange for the concession.
Are you talking about it needing a development agreement? There's really nothing special about that. This is a classic Halifax NIMBY playbook item which IMO clouds the debate rather than adding clarity (it reminds me of "three felonies a day": every development "breaks the rules"!). Thankfully this whole line of discussion will disappear when the Centre Plan is put into place.
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  #22  
Old Posted May 22, 2019, 7:08 PM
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Thankfully this whole line of discussion will disappear when the Centre Plan is put into place.

At which point we will have a whole new line of discussion about how new development has become stagnant, and how that which is being undertaken are short, stubby, formulaic and uninteresting because of the overly prescriptive nature of the CP.
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  #23  
Old Posted May 22, 2019, 7:53 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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Originally Posted by someone123 View Post
But there will be many more units in the new development (maybe 5-10x what is there now).
Which is why it would not seem unreasonable to dedicate a small portion to affordable housing.

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Originally Posted by someone123 View Post
When more people come to the city they bid up the price of existing housing, even the affordable stuff. Without construction, the old affordable stuff will not remain affordable for long. With new construction, people move up into nicer units and those farther down the ladder can afford something better. The shiny new buildings tend to make the last round of construction look a bit less exciting and prices are depressed slightly going down the line.
You're talking about market-driven "affordable housing", i.e. when something becomes undesirable, and thus cheap, it will be more "affordable". Unfortunately, the trend for the peninsula is to be more desirable, and therefore less affordable - or more likely unattainable - for those of low income to live on the peninsula.

Is there not a program with specific requirements that designate particular units as Affordable Housing? Did I not read on this forum about some buildings trading off bonus density for affordable housing units? Housing Nova Scotia has a program that subsidizes developers for creating such units, and I assumed that the city was using the same program and requirements, but I could be wrong.

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Imagine a tiny town with 2 people. Person A is a rich buyer and B is a poor tenant. If the town has one shack, A lives in it and B is homeless. If the town has a mansion and a shack, A lives in the mansion and B lives in the shack. If another rich person C decides to live in the town, B becomes homeless again unless another mansion or shack is built. Despite being a shack-dweller, B can benefit from a supply of mansions.
Yes, classic supply and demand. This concept is easily understood, but real estate is never quite that simple. Location location location and all that, etc etc etc.


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Originally Posted by someone123 View Post
Are you talking about it needing a development agreement? There's really nothing special about that. This is a classic Halifax NIMBY playbook item which IMO clouds the debate rather than adding clarity (it reminds me of "three felonies a day": every development "breaks the rules"!). Thankfully this whole line of discussion will disappear when the Centre Plan is put into place.
I was talking about the statement in the article...

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The proposal doesn’t fit the current rules for the area, but staff told council it generally aligns with the coming Centre Plan — the long-awaited set of planning bylaws designed to guide growth in the urban centre of Halifax Regional Municipality for the next decade or more.
Since staff was involved, I assumed it came from them, not the "NIMBYs"... and it "generally" aligns with the Centre Plan? Generally? ...what does that mean?

Of course there's the chance that the article was poorly written...
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  #24  
Old Posted May 22, 2019, 8:50 PM
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Originally Posted by OldDartmouthMark View Post
You're talking about market-driven "affordable housing", i.e. when something becomes undesirable, and thus cheap, it will be more "affordable". Unfortunately, the trend for the peninsula is to be more desirable, and therefore less affordable - or more likely unattainable - for those of low income to live on the peninsula.
Metro Halifax has 430,000 people. Not all of them can live on the peninsula. If you sprinkle special affordable housing into each building, you have to pick winners and losers and you give up a lot of the flexibility that is so great about markets. It's also inherently inefficient to mix housing types in these buildings. You'd get more affordable housing by taking the money that would have gone into a couple units on Robie Street and building some houses in Sackville, or better yet giving people money or vouchers for housing. The biggest threat to affordable housing in all of this is NIMBYs and politicians blocking new supply. If they do that it doesn't matter if there is special purpose-built affordable housing; there will still be shortages.

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I was talking about the statement in the article...
But the rules include a process for getting variances and development agreements. Everything is being done according to the planning process in place.

The most common scenario is:

Municipal planning strategy - "to build something over 40 feet tall you need to get a development agreement"
Developer - "I want to build a 100 foot building, so I will apply for a development agreement"
NIMBYs - "Look! They're breaking the rules! The MPS has a 40 foot height limit!"
Journalist - "Proposal doesn’t fit the current rules"
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  #25  
Old Posted May 22, 2019, 9:28 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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Originally Posted by someone123 View Post
Metro Halifax has 430,000 people. Not all of them can live on the peninsula. If you sprinkle special affordable housing into each building, you have to pick winners and losers and you give up a lot of the flexibility that is so great about markets. It's also inherently inefficient to mix housing types in these buildings. You'd get more affordable housing by taking the money that would have gone into a couple units on Robie Street and building some houses in Sackville, or better yet giving people money or vouchers for housing. The biggest threat to affordable housing in all of this is NIMBYs and politicians blocking new supply. If they do that it doesn't matter if there is special purpose-built affordable housing; there will still be shortages.



But the rules include a process for getting variances and development agreements. Everything is being done according to the planning process in place.

The most common scenario is:

Municipal planning strategy - "to build something over 40 feet tall you need to get a development agreement"
Developer - "I want to build a 100 foot building, so I will apply for a development agreement"
NIMBYs - "Look! They're breaking the rules! The MPS has a 40 foot height limit!"
Journalist - "Proposal doesn’t fit the current rules"
Fair enough. Thanks for reading through my points and formulating thoughtful replies.

For me, it was a good discussion.
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  #26  
Old Posted May 22, 2019, 9:42 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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Oh yeah... and I still don't like the ugly blockbuster-ish design of this building...
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  #27  
Old Posted May 22, 2019, 11:18 PM
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Originally Posted by OldDartmouthMark View Post
Fair enough. Thanks for reading through my points and formulating thoughtful replies.

For me, it was a good discussion.
Yes, I think it was a good discussion too. I enjoy the discussions and don't mean for my posts to be corrections; they're just my opinions.

I agree that the "blockbuster" designs are bad. It's tricky to plan around that because, ideally, there would be diversity in the length of the street frontages. But there isn't a great mechanism for introducing variety in streetscapes in most planning rules and the economic pressure promotes lot consolidation (e.g. "we want a mix of tall and shorter buildings, mostly thinner buildings, and some wider buildings"; instead it's more like "the max is X" and developers always build to the max).
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  #28  
Old Posted May 23, 2019, 12:05 AM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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Thanks, the discussions are really informative for me and I appreciate the exchange of ideas that always happen in them.

Urban design and buildings in general have always been more of a passing interest for me, but my interest has increased over the past few years, especially concerning heritage/history, but I often find myself being schooled/playing catchup with it. So feel free to 'correct' me (i.e. state an opinion that makes more sense than mine), if required.
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  #29  
Old Posted May 23, 2019, 11:57 AM
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However, I am dismayed that this building is going to disappear:

Now, I have no idea what it is like inside nor what its use is. Being an older building I have little doubt it needs some work. However it always struck me as being reasonably well maintained and somewhat handsome in design, unlike its neighbors. To me this is an unfortunate loss for the area. It's a shame it could not somehow be incorporated into the development as was done with the less attractive building (to me at least) adjacent to the ordinary-looking Lotus Point development on Ochterloney in Dartmouth
This is probably the biggest sticking point to me. The loss of the other Victorians up the street has already happened to an extent. On the outside at least, this seems like a very well-maintained building. Would be nice to see the developers move it, perhaps, like the Robie & College (one of them?) development is looking to do.
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  #30  
Old Posted May 23, 2019, 12:16 PM
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So the newest draft of Centre Plan is (contrary to what Keith believes) quite flexible when it comes to design. I'm looking at the possibility of buying an apartment building in Dartmouth, and Centre Plan as drafted would make it pretty easy to build another 6-8 units on the site, with little to no effort on my part. The development requirements would be very easy to meet.

On the discussion of affordable housing, Mark is right to a degree. Market forces will never provide truly affordable housing in a demand scenario. Building lots of housing will stop it from getting too expensive, but it will never cause it to get cheap, because as soon as the supply pushes prices down to "reasonable", it's not good business to keep building new housing. I.e. at best supply and demand will balance out at mid-range prices. Generally the only time when market housing gets "big A" Affordable is when demand rapidly collapses (e.g. Phoenix or Las Vegas in 2009), or when there is a very long period of slow depression, like parts of HRM in the 90s. Neither scenario is good for other reasons.

To deal with that, Centre Plan as drafted requires density bonusing for any development over 2,000 square metres (~20,000 SF). The developer must provide a cash contribution based on the extra square footage and a rate set depending on the area of town (higher rates in areas with higher development value). Of this cash contribution, a minimum of 75% is for the provision of affordable housing.

I believe HRM had originally planned on requiring affordable units in every building, but as someone123 notes, this gets really complicated and inefficient. The new approach looks pretty reasonable, assuming they can come up with a good mechanism for actually putting that money to use in the provision of Affordable units.
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  #31  
Old Posted May 23, 2019, 2:35 PM
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Originally Posted by IanWatson View Post
I believe HRM had originally planned on requiring affordable units in every building, but as someone123 notes, this gets really complicated and inefficient. The new approach looks pretty reasonable, assuming they can come up with a good mechanism for actually putting that money to use in the provision of Affordable units.
HRM will probably come up with some rationalization to use it instead on building bike lanes because people who need affordable housing probably can't afford a car either, so they will do that for them as an alternative.
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  #32  
Old Posted May 23, 2019, 2:42 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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Originally Posted by IanWatson View Post
So the newest draft of Centre Plan is (contrary to what Keith believes) quite flexible when it comes to design. I'm looking at the possibility of buying an apartment building in Dartmouth, and Centre Plan as drafted would make it pretty easy to build another 6-8 units on the site, with little to no effort on my part. The development requirements would be very easy to meet.

On the discussion of affordable housing, Mark is right to a degree. Market forces will never provide truly affordable housing in a demand scenario. Building lots of housing will stop it from getting too expensive, but it will never cause it to get cheap, because as soon as the supply pushes prices down to "reasonable", it's not good business to keep building new housing. I.e. at best supply and demand will balance out at mid-range prices. Generally the only time when market housing gets "big A" Affordable is when demand rapidly collapses (e.g. Phoenix or Las Vegas in 2009), or when there is a very long period of slow depression, like parts of HRM in the 90s. Neither scenario is good for other reasons.

To deal with that, Centre Plan as drafted requires density bonusing for any development over 2,000 square metres (~20,000 SF). The developer must provide a cash contribution based on the extra square footage and a rate set depending on the area of town (higher rates in areas with higher development value). Of this cash contribution, a minimum of 75% is for the provision of affordable housing.

I believe HRM had originally planned on requiring affordable units in every building, but as someone123 notes, this gets really complicated and inefficient. The new approach looks pretty reasonable, assuming they can come up with a good mechanism for actually putting that money to use in the provision of Affordable units.
Thanks for the explanation, especially regarding density bonusing. Really appreciate the info.
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  #33  
Old Posted May 23, 2019, 3:25 PM
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Originally Posted by IanWatson View Post
On the discussion of affordable housing, Mark is right to a degree. Market forces will never provide truly affordable housing in a demand scenario. Building lots of housing will stop it from getting too expensive, but it will never cause it to get cheap, because as soon as the supply pushes prices down to "reasonable", it's not good business to keep building new housing. I.e. at best supply and demand will balance out at mid-range prices. Generally the only time when market housing gets "big A" Affordable is when demand rapidly collapses (e.g. Phoenix or Las Vegas in 2009), or when there is a very long period of slow depression, like parts of HRM in the 90s. Neither scenario is good for other reasons.

To deal with that, Centre Plan as drafted requires density bonusing for any development over 2,000 square metres (~20,000 SF). The developer must provide a cash contribution based on the extra square footage and a rate set depending on the area of town (higher rates in areas with higher development value). Of this cash contribution, a minimum of 75% is for the provision of affordable housing.
Why is the Centre Plan dealing with this though? Why is this a special thing that needs to be funded by development money when we correctly think of money as fungible in other areas and put it in a giant pot called general revenues and then spend it on the highest priorities?

Requiring a specific social benefit in exchange for bonus density doesn't really make sense either. The optimal size and shape of a building doesn't depend on whether the developer donated money to a special cause.

I think the only real side-benefit of density bonusing over better tax policies is that it placates area residents. By tying height and density to social causes, developers are shielded to some degree from criticism. But unfortunately this approach also has the effect of disincentivizing some development that is actually better for the city in the first place, so it is not economically efficient.
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Last edited by someone123; May 23, 2019 at 3:35 PM.
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  #34  
Old Posted May 23, 2019, 7:32 PM
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Well the initial theory behind density bonusing is to provide on-site (or in the immediate area) amenities to offset the social "cost" of increased development. For example, parkland dedications are usually done through the subdivision process, but if you're densifying an established area there is no actual subdivision, so no new parkland, and the new residents add strain to the existing parks in the immediate area. Density bonusing would, in theory, account for this by creating investments to improve the parks in the immediate area. Local impact = local improvement.

With the affordable housing thing you're right, that link isn't all that strong. Yes, some affordable housing is being lost with new development, but that's independent of the density of the development (taller buildings don't cause more affordable housing to be lost). And it doesn't seem like the affordable housing is necessarily being provided in the area where it was lost.

In reality, I'd (as an outsider making wild guesses) say this is a hack to get around the fact that the Province is dropping the ball when it comes to affordable housing. Technically, housing is a provincial responsibility so HRM can hardly justify using general revenues to enter that realm. But of all the provincial ball dropping, housing has to be one of the worst, and there's a strong desire from HRM residents, politicians, and staff to pick up the slack. Density bonusing is the hack to get around that division of responsibilities problem; it's not HRM providing affordable housing, it's developers .

In a perfect world we'd just set taxes appropriately and use it to provide appropriate affordable housing, but this isn't a perfect world .
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  #35  
Old Posted May 23, 2019, 11:06 PM
Colin May Colin May is offline
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The recent public hearing for the deveopment of a portion of Lancaster Ridge owned by First Baptist Church drew a mixed broup including a couple of bigots who were horiffied at the prospect of an apartment development being built in an area of owner occupied homes. The bigoted couple comprised a husband and wife who were much more polite than they were at the PIM but used coded words. The lady is a person of colour but she seemed quite at ease explaining why renters are unsuitable She was one of the last speakers. I went to the meeting with one purpose - to speak in favour of mixed neighbourhoods and I explained how many times we rented and owned a home. I also spoke of the mix of residents in our area.
The changes taking place in central HRM will over time turn many neighbourhoods into middle class ghettoes, much like Bedford. I don't see any real effort in the centre plan to encourage mixed neighbourhoods, lower income voices have not been heard and the trend is not positive.
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  #36  
Old Posted May 23, 2019, 11:42 PM
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The recent public hearing for the deveopment of a portion of Lancaster Ridge owned by First Baptist Church drew a mixed broup including a couple of bigots who were horiffied at the prospect of an apartment development being built in an area of owner occupied homes. The bigoted couple comprised a husband and wife who were much more polite than they were at the PIM but used coded words. The lady is a person of colour but she seemed quite at ease explaining why renters are unsuitable She was one of the last speakers. I went to the meeting with one purpose - to speak in favour of mixed neighbourhoods and I explained how many times we rented and owned a home. I also spoke of the mix of residents in our area.
The changes taking place in central HRM will over time turn many neighbourhoods into middle class ghettoes, much like Bedford. I don't see any real effort in the centre plan to encourage mixed neighbourhoods, lower income voices have not been heard and the trend is not positive.
HRM needs that sweet tax revenue from skyrocketing property values in the core, so don't look for them to try anything that would cause that to moderate. That's the only way the tax-and-spend Council can feed their addiction.
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