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Density

CITIES AND URBAN AREAS

Halifax has the second lowest population density among its benchmark cities; however this is not surprising given the landscape. When considering just the population centres, Halifax’s population density jumps to the middle of the pack among its benchmark cities. Halifax has significant work to do to achieve the kind of urban density that cities such as London and Regina have. Population density in the urban areas of Halifax did not change greatly between 2006 and 2011.

Nearly 300,000 people in Halifax live on just 300 km2, with the other 90,000 residents living in rural areas across the municipality’s remaining 5200 km2. This proportion (76.3%) of people living in urban areas is the lowest among benchmark cities.

REGIONAL CENTRE POPULATION

 Of concern is the population density in the Regional Centre. Halifax’s core has been stagnant in terms of population growth. This trend has turned around just recently but not quite at target levels. Between 2006 and 2011, the Regional Centre added 1,832 people, providing a marginal increase in the amount of density in that time.

       

POPULATION DENSITY (PERSONS PER KM2) OF
URBAN AREAS/POPULATION CENTRES

DENSITY_GRAPH1A-01

Source: Statistics Canada
  
 

TOTAL PERMITS, VALUE AND NUMBER, SUB-HALIFAX, 2012-13

 Density Graph May 23

Source: Statistics Canada
A major turnaround to population trends may be in the works. According to the Planning and Design Centre’s development map, an estimated 1500-3000 residential units are proposed, approved, under construction or nearing completion in the Regional Centre. These units, if constructed and filled, would be home to thousands of residents. Overall, building permits approved in the Regional Centre represented 45% of the total for HRM in 2012 – a significant improvement from the 31% average of the previous five years. With the Nova Centre, Halifax Shipyard upgrades and other projects on the horizon, the investment in the Regional Centre seems to be improving drastically.

While these trends are positive, continued work to encourage a densified urban core is required. In particular, the municipality has two key open items that will determine the ability to create more density in the Regional Centre:

  1. Adjustments to the HRM charter to allow for density bonusing (allowing increased, but still within existing maximum heights, development rights in exchange for investments that will benefit the public – including affordable housing and streetscaping);
  2. Adjustments to the HRM charter to allow for site plan approvals for the full Regional Centre,  allowing for a streamlined process for individual sites getting approved – cutting the time and cost of the development approval process significantly.

Both of these items are currently in front of the Nova Scotia legislature and would allow elements of the Regional Plan, including the Centre Plan, the flexibility to achieve the desired outcomes.