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Old Posted Aug 19, 2013, 4:10 AM
Hali87 Hali87 is offline
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Housing affordability

An interesting article from The Coast on gentrification in the North End.

While I am excited to see the rate of incremental densification going on in the North End right now, and would argue that a redevelopment of St. Pat's-Alexandra could work a lot better than simply converting the existing building to community/institutional use, the article does raise some points that I find important.

A lot of the argument behind densification/redevelopment has been that adding more units will help keep housing prices in check. This does not actually seem to be how things have played out though. The units in new buildings are what I would think of a mid-priced (certainly out of my range for the forseeable future) and assessments on adjacent properties are being driven up simply by virtue of the new developments happening nearby. People are being priced out of their neighbourhoods, and it seems that if the trend continues, it will be hard for an increasingly large number of people to be able to afford to live close to downtown. Can anything be done to ensure that housing near the downtown area remains affordable to those with below-average income? I'm sure there are many who think that nothing should be done to ensure this, but I am very much in the other camp.

As far as I know, the province has not yet granted HRM the power to leverage affordable housing through density bonusing outside of the original HRMBD area, and even if/when it does, I am not sure how "affordable" has been defined. As mentioned in the article, and previously in this forum, a lot of the "affordable" rates are "affordable" relative to the rest of the building but can still be above average rent prices for the city overall.

Thoughts?
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Old Posted Aug 19, 2013, 7:09 AM
RyeJay RyeJay is offline
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Originally Posted by Hali87 View Post
An interesting article from The Coast on gentrification in the North End.
Hilary Beaumont's work seems to be getting more popular. I know people in the Moncton area who frequent her material. I find her work enjoyable. In person, she's one of the prettiest, most friendly girls you'll ever meet, definitely. It's nice to see someone so passionate about journalism.

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I am not sure how "affordable" has been defined. As mentioned in the article, and previously in this forum, a lot of the "affordable" rates are "affordable" relative to the rest of the building but can still be above average rent prices for the city overall.

Thoughts?
The easiest answer, an answer that I frequently hear from my conservative friends, is that ANYTHING regarding the economy: we should simply just ignore it and allow the market to "do its thing," (even though that has clearly shown to produce a level of poverty that eventually undermines our system of capitalism due to a stagnation in cash flow from the middle classes, since captial eventually becomes monopolised to the upper classes/largest private enterprises without appropriate regulations and taxation).

I do not wish for communism by any means, but we do need to have modest regulations so that affordable housing can be better incorporated into more private developments in all major regions of the city; and by affordable, I mean someone living on minimum wage.

We need to admit that there are individuals, in what is a quickly growing segment of Canadian society, who will earn minimum wage for their entire life. These people are the working poor -- because 'minimum wage' has not kept up with inflation, the rising cost of living.

(Elizabeth Warren, an American Senator from Massachusetts, is someone who has been advocating that a more numerically honest minimum wage would be just over $20, for instance.)

Although modest regulations on the private sector are an obvious step in approaching this problem, we need to explore our options for more government housing. The subsidised housing needs to be located on the peninsula as well -- and yes, even the downtown. There are minimum wage jobs located in the downtown. It's better for the city's traffic congestion and for the financial well-being of these minimum wage employees if they live closer to their jobs.

This needs to be addressed, because most new jobs in Canada have been minimum wage retail jobs. Most Canadians are going to be the working poor.

This is an uphill political battle. There are those who desire for a lower minimum wage (like the slaves in China who now do our manufacturing jobs), and for any form of public or affordable housing to be placed far, far away from urban centres.

I don't think gentrification can be entirely stopped -- and nor do I think it should. At the same time though, we need to prevent the creation of ghettos and slums in the suburbs, which are expensive to police. A mix of affordable housing throughout the city is a balanced approach that will help give the working poor more options as well as job opportunities and a chance at some social mobility.

I don't know how balanced the results will be from Halifax's plans that are currently under development.
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  #3  
Old Posted Aug 19, 2013, 6:05 PM
halifaxboyns halifaxboyns is offline
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This is an issue that planners (including myself in my career) have struggled with for years and there are all sorts of theories. I find that we tend to forget too quickly about the residents in an area and those on the margins (living pay cheque to pay cheque) when we vision an area. Having been in that situation, even as a well paid planner, it's not fun. We have to remember that communities work best when they are inclusive of all, not just a select few.

That said - I'm not sure the best way to go about this. I'm not a fan of rent control because I don't think it takes into account issues for landlords of older buildings (where maintenance costs are usually higher). It also may tend to favour the tenant in unrealistic ways (i've seen some rent control situations which are really great for the tenant, not so nice for the landlord). So, I'm open to many ideas on the existing resident front.

Certainly for new development, the provision of affordable housing must be there. But I don't think HRM is quite to a level of understanding how to do that - which is typical of many cities that are just getting into this. Calgary doesn't even have this yet...so HRM shouldn't feel alone. My understanding of the current idea for affordable housing as part of the HbD process is that it's for 10 years; then the unit reverts to market housing. If that's the case - we need to fix that. It should simply be for the life of the development - so if that's 100 years, then the unit is affordable housing for 100 years. Certainly even setting a target that 10% of the units of a development must be dedicated for affordable housing will make a huge dent in the waiting list for HRM housing. I would even be willing to suggest only 5% but then the developer would also have to contribute financially to future construction of affordable housing units (market value X the remaining 5% of the units - so the total would still come out to 10% but you contribute the financial value for the 5% you didn't build).

One program which Calgary has (as an arm's length organization) is Attainable Homes Calgary. As I understand it, they secure units from developers at or slightly below cost and then work to obtain people financing to get a down payment and buy the units. As the units go up in value; when the 'owner' sells - Attainable homes gets a share of the value increase which goes to funding future units. They obtained a grant from the city to get started and recently got approval for a new 32 unit building (I was the planner who did the file) and they aren't going to be your average 'affordable' housing project - they are pretty high class units. Perhaps that is part of the way forward for HRM (a similar program)?
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Old Posted Aug 19, 2013, 8:55 PM
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Keith P. Keith P. is offline
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Originally Posted by RyeJay View Post
Hilary Beaumont's work seems to be getting more popular. I know people in the Moncton area who frequent her material. I find her work enjoyable. In person, she's one of the prettiest, most friendly girls you'll ever meet, definitely. It's nice to see someone so passionate about journalism.
I'm flabbergasted at such a condescending, sexist comment. Does that mean that hard-nosed, less "pretty" women are not good journalists?

Quote:
The easiest answer, an answer that I frequently hear from my conservative friends, is that ANYTHING regarding the economy: we should simply just ignore it and allow the market to "do its thing," (even though that has clearly shown to produce a level of poverty that eventually undermines our system of capitalism due to a stagnation in cash flow from the middle classes, since captial eventually becomes monopolised to the upper classes/largest private enterprises without appropriate regulations and taxation).
That presumes that nobody will ever work to improve themselves, to get ahead; that it is the role of govt to be the heavy hand that brings everyone to equal levels of misery. That is wrong.

Quote:
I do not wish for communism by any means, but we do need to have modest regulations so that affordable housing can be better incorporated into more private developments in all major regions of the city; and by affordable, I mean someone living on minimum wage.
That is absurd. If I were to do a new development on Young Avenue or Inglis Street, it is foolish to expect that someone on minimum wage should aspire to live in such a location.

Quote:
We need to admit that there are individuals, in what is a quickly growing segment of Canadian society, who will earn minimum wage for their entire life. These people are the working poor -- because 'minimum wage' has not kept up with inflation, the rising cost of living.
The poor will always be with us. Nothing govt can do about that.

Quote:
(Elizabeth Warren, an American Senator from Massachusetts, is someone who has been advocating that a more numerically honest minimum wage would be just over $20, for instance.)
Warren is a nattering left-wing harpie who is the epitome of the Massachusetts champagne socialist. Only in a place like that would she get elected over a solid middle of the road type like Scott Brown.

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Although modest regulations on the private sector are an obvious step in approaching this problem, we need to explore our options for more government housing. The subsidised housing needs to be located on the peninsula as well -- and yes, even the downtown. There are minimum wage jobs located in the downtown. It's better for the city's traffic congestion and for the financial well-being of these minimum wage employees if they live closer to their jobs.
Uniacke Square is a fine example of what you describe. A low rent area close to downtown. Not sure we need more of those. Those minimum wage workers that work downtown can take the bus.

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This needs to be addressed, because most new jobs in Canada have been minimum wage retail jobs. Most Canadians are going to be the working poor.
Nonsense. It is a matter of choice. You can educate yourself, take appropriate training, and get a good-paying new economy job. Or you can do nothing and clean toilets all your life.

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I don't think gentrification can be entirely stopped -- and nor do I think it should. At the same time though, we need to prevent the creation of ghettos and slums in the suburbs, which are expensive to police. A mix of affordable housing throughout the city is a balanced approach that will help give the working poor more options as well as job opportunities and a chance at some social mobility.
Unless you wish to recreate East Germany there will always be affluent areas and less affluent areas in our society. They are not life sentences. The policy option should not be to attempt to fix the ills of society through artificial land use planning policies. The key is education and breaking the mindset in ghettoized areas that the way out is through drug dealing and crime, or that the only thing the future holds is dependence upon the govt dole. That is a culture that is much tougher to fix, but is the only way to solve the long-term problem. Unfortunately people like Ms. Beaumont, the good Rev. Britton and others prefer to ignorantly decry the ills of improving neighborhoods in order to perpetuate the poverty cycle.
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Old Posted Aug 20, 2013, 3:52 AM
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The key is education and breaking the mindset in ghettoized areas that the way out is through drug dealing and crime, or that the only thing the future holds is dependence upon the govt dole.
This is a really good point. I find too many people have black and white opinions that success is either 100% based on hard work or 100% based on luck or government largesse. There will always be a luck component, but the vast majority of people in Canada can make decisions that have a big positive impact on their standard of living. I find it annoying when rich people assume that they are better off purely because they work harder than poor people, but I find it equally annoying when lazy poor people discount the years of hard work and sacrifices that many more successful people have had to make to get to the point where they could have luxuries like an apartment in a great neighbourhood.

Affordable housing units might be okay as a stop-gap measure, and some "free" housing needs to be available for a small segment of society, but it isn't a viable or fair long-term solution for everybody. There is a tendency for affordable housing to result in winners and losers and to penalize middle class people who can't afford to live downtown but also aren't poor enough to qualify for aid.

If the city really wants to help out poorer people I think the best way to do it is through cheap or free social services. Two good examples are public health care and public transit. Providing those for free to people earning minimum wage makes a much bigger difference than subsidized apartments that allow people to live on Gottingen Street instead of Herring Cove Road.
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Old Posted Aug 20, 2013, 4:02 AM
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A lot of the argument behind densification/redevelopment has been that adding more units will help keep housing prices in check. This does not actually seem to be how things have played out though. The units in new buildings are what I would think of a mid-priced (certainly out of my range for the forseeable future) and assessments on adjacent properties are being driven up simply by virtue of the new developments happening nearby.
This is fairly theoretical, but I think the downward pressure on housing prices tends to be more regional than local and it happens over a long time scale rather than a short time scale. Brand new housing developments are not going to be cheaper than older, lower quality housing stock, but they do normally move down the market over time.

Something else to note is that apartment starts are above average in Halifax right now and rents have actually fallen this year in absolute terms during a period of general inflation and wage growth.

It is also hard to say that new construction is driving up prices. It is not enough to say that prices are higher now than they were 10 years ago when really the argument is about whether prices are high than they otherwise would have been without the construction. Maybe, without the condos, there would have been more rehabs of existing houses, pushing even more people out.

At the end of the day, when it comes to Gottingen, I am sympathetic toward the residents but it is also clearly a neighbourhood that wasn't working, and it is also clearly terrible for the region to waste extremely central land while thousands of people are stuck in gridlock because they live in far-flung suburbs. Because Halifax is so small it's also unclear why there's a big difference between living along bombed-out Gottingen Street circa 1992 or living in an area like Spryfield or Fairview.
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Old Posted Aug 20, 2013, 4:46 PM
RyeJay RyeJay is offline
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I'm flabbergasted at such a condescending, sexist comment. Does that mean that hard-nosed, less "pretty" women are not good journalists?
How pathetic, even for you, to stoop to such a level of fake outrage over me complimenting Hilary. In no way did I say her looks are conducive to her journalistic success, nor did I even claim she was a good journalist.

And if you must degenerate this conversation with such a stupid question: you, of all ideologues, should have at least a few crumbs of a clue left about the attractive women on FOX News.

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That presumes that nobody will ever work to improve themselves, to get ahead; that it is the role of govt to be the heavy hand that brings everyone to equal levels of misery. That is wrong.
Socialism doesn't destroy motivation; it permits social mobility to more people so they may compete for higher earnings. You seem to be unable to see past your obsession with communism. No one is advocating that we abandon democracy and capitalism. We need capitalism to fuel our social programmes, which are necessary for providing the economy with a baseline of middle-class consumers, upon which growth is achieved via the private sector.

Poor people aren't going to be getting rich off the government.
(That's something large corporations and banks often get away with.)

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That is absurd. If I were to do a new development on Young Avenue or Inglis Street, it is foolish to expect that someone on minimum wage should aspire to live in such a location.
Gentrification often results in more sprawl, especially if every region of the city that gets a few high-rises is suddenly 'too good' for minimum wage slaves.

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The poor will always be with us. Nothing govt can do about that.
If the elimination of all poverty was a thought that was rocking back and forth in your head, then perhaps you do have more empathy than the average neocon.

The poor will always be with us; however, if poverty is the majority it is going to hinder our economic growth because many of our industries obviously aren't going to have enough consumer support. Government has a role in protecting our system of capitalism from this stagnation.

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Warren is a nattering left-wing harpie who is the epitome of the Massachusetts champagne socialist. Only in a place like that would she get elected over a solid middle of the road type like Scott Brown.
Scott Brown is barely a moderate in an American political context. Through the lens of Canada's political spectrum, Scott Brown is totally out to lunch, and you're buying.

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Uniacke Square is a fine example of what you describe. A low rent area close to downtown. Not sure we need more of those. Those minimum wage workers that work downtown can take the bus.
We need to encourage a culture of walking in order to handle vehicular traffic congestion. Minimum wage earners have become today's middle-class, considering youth unemployment across most of the country is over 20%. This is a lot of people that we must consider if we want to be as sustainable as possible through our urban planning policies. We cannot address our traffic issues if we're going to constantly be pushing people outward. It would be more reasonable to try retaining a portion of lower-class people as peninsular neighbours are gentrified.

We are going to require much more public transit if we are going to be forcing out massive amounts of people to the edges of the HRM. And just who in the hell is going to pay for these transit upgrades?

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Nonsense. It is a matter of choice. You can educate yourself, take appropriate training, and get a good-paying new economy job. Or you can do nothing and clean toilets all your life.
Canadians don't get a choice as to where corporations invest. We can educate ourselves and prepare to engage these jobs -- but ultimately these jobs may not come to fruition.

The 'New Economy' is in China, in India, in Brazil.

And I have personally known custodians all my life, since my middle-class family did not discriminate against people who clean toilets all their lives. These people had families, too, and certainly *did* something. A university degree isn't affordable for everyone. A science degree doesn't guarantee you employment in your field (but it'll certainly help you find a minimum wage job, which have been the most commonly created jobs in Canada).

Today's job market is gentrifying Canadians who've never gone to college.

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Originally Posted by Keith P. View Post
Unless you wish to recreate East Germany there will always be affluent areas and less affluent areas in our society. They are not life sentences. The policy option should not be to attempt to fix the ills of society through artificial land use planning policies. The key is education and breaking the mindset in ghettoized areas that the way out is through drug dealing and crime, or that the only thing the future holds is dependence upon the govt dole. That is a culture that is much tougher to fix, but is the only way to solve the long-term problem. Unfortunately people like Ms. Beaumont, the good Rev. Britton and others prefer to ignorantly decry the ills of improving neighborhoods in order to perpetuate the poverty cycle.
The affluent and less affluent areas need to be hybridised slightly. You're advocating for segregation.

A strong, public education system is just as important as a strong, public healthcare system for helping people in ghettos...but, ultimately it goes much further than that. Drug policies need to be reformed. Safe injection sites are needed. Ghettos often came about not because the people within are lazy and dependent on government -- but because they were refugees or are the descendants of refugees, former slaves, or because they are slaves in today's Canada (i.e.: minimum wage earners). And life is hard -- and drugs can be an escape, not just in terms of getting high, but also in terms of cash.

There's not much point in debating with you further, considering you believe that a job exists in this country for every job seeker. Even if Canadian students could be perfectly educated to a field related to their strengths, in a market where there would be demand for labour by the time of graduation, there would still be a job shortage relative to the number of grads we produce.

And we are making our employment and wage prospects even weaker with temporary foreign workers in jobs that should be done by Canadians (but that 15% reduction on the minimum wage is just too tempting).
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Old Posted Aug 21, 2013, 2:55 AM
Hali87 Hali87 is offline
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What I'm most interested in is the possibility of allowing housing to remain affordable without necessarily having to be "designated" affordable housing. As mentioned, housing that is officially deemed affordable seems to be, and actual public housing certainly is, targeted at specific demographic/income groups, meaning that it is not necessarily available to those who make just over $x/year.

I guess tax reform would be one big game-changer, since presumably the relatively high property tax rates in the urban centre drive up housing prices, both for homeowners and indirectly for renters.

I also wonder if a mechanism could be put in place that would prevent existing buildings from increasing in value simply by virtue of having new buildings built nearby. Does the municipality have the authority to put such measures in place? Does the province? What would be the major downsides of such a system?
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Old Posted Dec 6, 2014, 9:58 PM
Hali87 Hali87 is offline
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Does anyone know how "below-market rent" is defined in Nova Scotia?

For example, if all 1-bedroom apartments in "Neighbourhood A" rent for $400/month, and the city average for a 1-bedroom apartment is $700/month, would all of the apartments in Neighbourhood A be defined as "below-market"? Or none of them?

It's a term that seems to be used a lot, and in pretty important contexts, but it's surprisingly hard to find any info on how "the market" is defined in this particular case.
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Old Posted Dec 8, 2014, 2:31 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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Does anyone know how "below-market rent" is defined in Nova Scotia?

For example, if all 1-bedroom apartments in "Neighbourhood A" rent for $400/month, and the city average for a 1-bedroom apartment is $700/month, would all of the apartments in Neighbourhood A be defined as "below-market"? Or none of them?

It's a term that seems to be used a lot, and in pretty important contexts, but it's surprisingly hard to find any info on how "the market" is defined in this particular case.
That's a good question, and one that I don't have an answer for. Would be interesting to see how this is defined in actuality.

The gist I get from what I've read on this forum is that it refers to "below market" for that neighborhood. i.e. If the average 1 bdrm rent on SGR is $700, then "below market" would be less than $700. Whereas if it were $500 in the North End, it would be adjusted thusly.

Which brings another thought to mind... how much below average does it have to be? I mean, if average is $700, would $699 be considered "below market"? I assume not, but what would the percentage be?

I'm sure there must be a definition out there somewhere, otherwise it would basically be window-dressing...
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