Nova Scotia

Federal government backs rental housing project in Halifax

Ottawa is providing a $115.5-million loan to a Halifax developer to include what are described as 76 affordable rental units in a new building to be constructed on Joseph Howe Drive.

Mixed-use building on Joseph Howe Drive will include 76 affordable rental units

The new building is expected to be completed by the second half of 2024 (BANC Group of Companies)

The federal government announced Wednesday that it will provide a $115.5-million, low-cost loan to a Halifax-based developer to include what were described as 76 affordable rental units in a building it plans to construct.

The Interchange, a 12-storey, 324-unit multi-use building, is to be built at 3514 Joseph Howe Drive in Halifax.

Funding to BANC Investments will be provided through a Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation program.

Regional council approved amendments to municipal bylaws in July 2020 to allow for construction.

The initiative was announced at a virtual media conference on Wednesday (Ministry of Families, Children and Social Development)

Speaking at a virtual conference on Wednesday afternoon, Alex Halef, the president of BANC Investments, said the planned completion date for the project is in 2024.

Mixing affordable units with upscale project

According to Halef, one of his main concerns was the feasibility of including affordable rental units in an upscale building. 

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He said he was able to work with the CMHC to ensure that the planned units met its standards while not compromising his own standards. 

The building is slated to be constructed on the site of a former strip mall. (Google Maps)

According to a press release, the project will be required to maintain at least 76 units with rents at or below 30 per cent of the median household income "in the area," including 65 units that would be set at or below 21 per cent of median household income.

Halef said Wednesday the current median household income of the area is $89,510, but the CMHC clarified Thursday that the area and the number used in fact referred to the whole Halifax census area at the time of underwriting.

Under the formula, the 65 units would currently have rents that would max out at $1,566.42 per month.

The formula will be maintained for a minimum of 21 years.

On Thursday, the office of Ahmed Hussen, the federal minister of families, children and social development, said "initial" rents for the project will range from $1,455 to $1,844, depending on unit type.

Accessibility a priority

The building will have barrier-free access and 33 of the units in the building will meet or exceed local accessibility standards.

Hussen said the pandemic has shown the importance of affordable shelter at a time when people were being told to stay home and stay safe. 

"Now, more than ever, we do need programs like the Rental Construction Financing Initiative, which is supporting the construction of new affordable housing in Nova Scotia and across Canada," Hussen said in the virtual press conference. 

"These projects are putting the needs of Canadians first while stimulating the local economy and creating good middle class jobs when they need it the most."