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4. Adhere to residential growth targets

To ensure HRM meets their agreed-upon residential growth targets of 25 per cent urban, 50 per cent suburban and 25 per cent rural as outlined in the 2006 Regional Municipal Planning Strategy. For the financial and environmental sustainability of the Municipality, these targets should be revisted and strengthened. Concentrating growth in already built-up areas decreases servicing costs and maintains green areas.


While the suburbs and commutershed have grown consistently, the downtown has not met its target for growth. In 2011, HRM identified that over the past five years only 16 per cent of residential growth happened in urbanized areas, 28 per cent in rural areas and 56 per cent in suburban areas.

HRM requires a 15-year supply of serviced lands to accommodate growth – it should define a minimum density for development and promote inf ill on opportunity sites. Density should be achieved using low-impact development that avoids the destruction of sensitive ecosystems. HRM should have a stricter policy to only maintain, rather than extend, water and sewer lines.

HRM Council should consider sequencing development to ensure that the target for the urban area is met prior to developing suburban and rural commutershed areas. A variety of tools can be used for sequencing, including restricting subdivisions in non-core areas and limiting the number of building permits approved based on the desired growth breakdown. Our HRM Alliance's ideal target is closer to 40
per cent urban, 40 per cent suburban and 20 per cent rural.

Encouraging this breakdown will require the development of a housing strategy.  A Housing Affordability Function Plan would help ensure new units are available at prices accessible to a variety of income level s. Council committed to this plan in the RMPS, but it has yet to be realized.

Developers may claim that they only build units where consumers want them. However, residents are often responding to the options they are given. They purchase what they can afford, wherever it is located. Housing strategies, including development incentives, must encourage affordable residential development in town centres and within the circumferential highway. Subsidized housing may be the purview of the
Province thanks to the 1995 Service Exchange; but ensuring that affordable housing options are available to all residents in a variety of locations is within HRM's mandate as specified by the purpose statement in the HRM Charter.

Where else this is done:

The Capital Regional District of British Colombia, which includes Victoria, enacted a strict urban containment boundary calling for 90 per cent of all growth to occur within the boundary. The seventeen municipalities that fall within the boundary have adhered to this target. The city of Saint John, New Brunswick has set an even stricter target with 95 per cent of growth set to occur within its Primary Development Area.

Next steps:

HRM should meet residential growth targets for the urban, suburban, and rural areas in the Municipality. It should also consider establishing incentives to help developers reach these targets and ensure that a percentage of the units are affordable to people earning minimum wage. Council must be cognisant of appropriate densities for individual neighbourhoods. A robust affordable housing strategy must be developed in conjunction with other measures to meet these targets.

Why we chose this solution to meet our objectives:

HRM already has enough lots approved to handle projected growth for a generation (See: Page 3, 2009 HRM Staff Report; Page 2, 2010 HRM Staff Report). If these lots are all built upon, HRM's development pattern will continue in a manner that increases servicing costs and threatens the natural environment. HRM must use incentives to encourage development in already built-up areas. It is through incentives that HRM might actually meet its desired residential growth targets.

How other cities implement this:

Correspondence to existing RMPS:

In the introduction, Section 3.0, of Housing and Settlement, the population breakdown target for HRM is outlined. This is found on Page 36 of the RMPS.