Nova Scotia

Tax breaks for urban housing: Uteck

Halifax should consider tax breaks as a way to lure people to the urban core and boost development, a city councillor says.

Construction of new housing in downtown areas lagging

Halifax should consider tax breaks as a way to lure people to the urban core and boost development, a city councillor says.

The Halifax Regional Municipality isn't meeting the targets it set for new housing construction in downtown Halifax and Dartmouth.

Coun. Sue Uteck, who represents south-end Halifax, said tax incentives would make a difference.

"Taxes are going to dictate where people are going to live. There's no tax holiday, there's no incentive to build in the downtown where it's the most expensive per square foot," she said Thursday.

The municipality's 25-year regional plan has been in place for five years.

As of last year, only 16 per cent of new housing construction was in the two downtown centres.  The target was 25 per cent.

Meanwhile, the growth in the suburbs and rural areas exceeded expectations.

"That indicates to us that we have some work to do with respect to increased focus on the regional centre," said Roger Wells, manager of regional planning.

While urban areas are much more expensive for developers and residents, they're more cost-effective for the municipality.

In fact, providing municipal services is a lot cheaper downtown.

"For an urban-dense unit for services like snow removal and garbage it's $1,500 a year or so. For a low density, car-based neighbourhood, the municipal services costs are $5,000 a year," said Andy Fillmore, manager of urban design.

Finding ways to beef up the population in the two urban centres will be a major focus of this year's review of the regional plan. 

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