Nova Scotia

Secondary suites will create more affordable, accessible housing, Halifax councillor says

A Halifax councillor says the city's recent decision to allow certain types of properties to have backyard or secondary suites is a way to create more affordable and accessible housing in the city.

Vacancy rate sits at 1%, but secondary suites should boost availability

Shawn Cleary, the city councillor for Halifax West Armdale, said accessory dwelling units will create more affordable and accessible housing. (CBC)

A Halifax councillor says the city's recent decision to allow certain types of properties to have backyard or secondary suites is a way to create more affordable and accessible housing in the city.

Council voted last month to allow single-detached homes, duplexes, semi-detached houses or townhouses to have secondary or backyard suites.

The accessory dwelling units would include units contained within a home like a basement or attic apartment, and backyard suites that are separate free-standing buildings like granny suites or tiny homes.

Shawn Cleary, who is the councillor for Halifax West Armdale, said the city is in the middle of a housing crisis and accessory dwelling units will create more affordable options.

"If we give people the opportunity to add an apartment to a house ... that could be huge, not only for them in their own personal finances, but huge for the people who are desperately looking for an apartment," he said in an interview with CBC Nova Scotia News At Six on Monday.

Backyard suites, which can include granny suites and renovated garages, could be an option for homeowners in Halifax. (CBC)

The overall vacancy rate in Halifax sits at one per cent, according to a 2020 study by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. An ideal vacancy rate would be three per cent, according to a report from Royal Bank of Canada Economics released last September.

Cleary said many young families want to move back into the urban core but can't afford half-million dollar homes, so basement or attic apartments will help that demographic.

However, detached backyard suites could help elderly couples looking to downsize or people with disabilities.

Paul Vienneau, the city's accessibility consultant, said it's the responsibility of the city to always consider accessibility.

"If you're going to have your mother-in-law or an elderly person live in your backyard, putting them above the car in the garage is kind of silly because they may not be in a wheelchair right now, but after a few years of dragging themselves up and down steep steps, they're going to need one ... so I think having standards for these to be accessible as much as possible, to me, is the smart and responsible thing to do," he said.

Paul Vienneau, Halifax's accessibility consultant, said he thinks more accessible housing is the responsibility of the city and this is a step in the right direction. (CBC)

Property owners hoping to build secondary suites will still have to follow standard land-use bylaw requirements in their area. Secondary suites within a home must have a maximum floor area of 80 square metres and backyard suites must not exceed 90 square metres.

City council will be hosting a virtual public hearing about secondary and backyard suites on Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. AT.

With files from Elizabeth Chiu

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