Halifax has recognized the economic and environmental impacts of increasing density in the urban core. Through the adoption of the Regional Plan in 2006, HRM set growth targets at 25% for urban areas. The recent Stantec study indicated that if the municipality sticks to its targets it could save up to $670 million over the remaining 20 years of the plan.
Encouraging growth. and density in the Regional Centre is the main goal of HRM’s Regional Plan. With many of the new jobs located in the urban core, HRM can make bigger strides in achieving or even exceeding the Regional Plan goal of 25% growth in the Regional Centre.
Encouraging growth and density in the Regional Centre is the main goal of HRM’s Regional Plan. With many of the new jobs located in the urban core, HRM can make bigger strides in achieving or even exceeding the Regional Plan goal of 25% growth in the Regional Centre.
A recent study on future growth patterns in HRM indicate that meeting the Regional Plan growth targets would achieve $700 million in savings over 20 years. Growing the Regional Centre allows us to tap into existing infrastructure of roads, utilities, stores, services and schools, rather than building communities on the outskirts which require new services and infrastructure.
Bill 83: Halifax Regional Municipality Charter (amended) Law Amendments Committee Presentation May 8, 2013
Five years into the plan with the release of RP+5 we are witnessing urban growth stagnate at 16%; far lower than expected. Adding to the problem, we are seeing continued strong suburban growth at 56%.
POPULATION & HOUSING TRENDS IN HRM
A new national study shows that although Canada is routinely described as an urban nation, 67% of us, 22.4 million people, actually live in suburban neighborhoods, typically characterized by low-density housing and a dependence on the automobile. The five-year study by Professor David Gordon of Queen’s University School of Urban and Regional Planning analyzes census data for 33 metropolitan areas with emphasis on population density and transportation.
Close to 95% of recent growth in Canada’s 33 metropolitan areas took place in the suburbs, as 1.5 million Canadians moved into these areas between 2006 and 2011. In contrast, the city cores grew by 90,000 people despite urban condo development in cities like Vancouver and Toronto. Every city in Canada has been affected by the same suburban growth, this study has made headlines recently in most cities.
Is this sustainable? At what cost? If not, how are we going to address it?
HRM NEIGHBORHOOD DENSITY
HRM neighborhood density on the peninsula – Zack Taylor, University of Toronto and Metapolis Consulting
The map developed by Zack Taylor of the University of Toronto indicates Halifax density (2011 census data). It was recently used by councilor Waye Mason in a presentation to show where people are living on the peninsula. As seen on the map, planning area 3, specifically Hunter street, is one of the most dense streets in Halifax.
HRM can increase peninsula density and meet its targets by encouraging laneway and infill housing; “granny suites” in active core neighborhoods. Small, efficient housing will preserve streetscapes, maintain green space and have little impact on municipal services. Obvious financial benefits to HRM through taxation and infrastructure costs would be realized. Vancouver has had legislation to encourage this type of density in place since 2008. It has fostered a niche market in the residential construction industry, catering to small, efficient construction and renovation work.Additional soft benefits that are not necessarily seen on a spreadsheet are a healthier, happier, and active population; walking or cycling to local amenities like grocery stores, medical facilities, parks and other social gathering points, all in the neighborhood. The new cross-town connector bike path will also add to the area’s active transportation options.The Hunter Street Micro-loft Variance Appeals are off to Development Services. Next step, Community Council! Check out densecity.ca for details.
The diagram above shows amenities located in the Hunter Street neighborhood and within walking/biking distance.
HUNTER STREET MICRO-LOFT PROPOSAL
Used as a test case, we are proposing an increase in the density at 2368 Hunter Street and 2374 Hunter Street. The lots are zoned R2 and are located in peninsula planning area 3; medium density residential. Currently the property is two single family dwellings. The plan calls for an internal conversion of the houses and a four unit addition at the rear, totalling 7 units: 2 in each of the existing houses: 2 units behind 2368 and 1 unit behind 2374.
Dating back to 2006 and only a few blocks away in areas 5 & 6, four unit conversions are as of right. There are several multi-unit buildings located in planning area 3 which contribute to it being one of the most dense neighborhoods in Halifax:
- 7 Units – 6131 Charles Street
- 15 Units – 2590 Windsor Street
- 27 Units – 6022 North Street
- 30 Units – 2476 Robie Street
- 44 Units – 6399 North Street
Hunter Street adjacent building density
Perhaps the most relevant of which are located next to our proposed development at 2360 and 2344 Hunter.
- 24 Units – 2360 Hunter
- 27 Units – 2344 Hunter
In addition to the abundant institutional, park and commercial activity; like Long and McQuaid, Olympic Hall and Phoenix House (located directly across the street), the majority of the street is comprised of income properties. Aside from an encroachment on Charles Street, the Planning Office was in favour of the Spirit Place application which was far more dense at 56 units (planning area 3).
We are submitting the plan to development services instead of planning for several reasons;
- The scale of our proposal is modest and may not require the level of scrutiny the planning process entails
- When placed next to large scale residential developments, a small addition (as we are proposing) may unnecessarily tie up resources in the planning department
- The planning process requires a significant time and financial investment, both of which make the proposal unfeasible
- If the intent is to use this as a pilot project, with the outcome determining whether or not HRM encourages similar density measures through changes in legislation, development is the best path to take for this and simmilar projects
We require four variances (listed numerically below) to be granted in order to complete the project. Seen individually this proposal doesn’t not meet the intent of the land-use-bylaw, however, when looking at the project as a whole it has merit. We are submitting this joint proposal because there are some considerations (rights of way and covenants) that cross over for the application.
1 – LOT AREA
2374 and 2368 Hunter Street lot areas are 2,824 sq. ft. and 4,971 sq. ft. respectively. Eight thousand sq. ft. lots are required for 3 or 4 units in Peninsula North. We are looking for a variance on lot size to accommodate the 3 additional units (1 behind 2734 and 2 behind 2368).
2 – LOT FRONTAGE
2374 and 2368 Hunter Street lot frontages are 39ft and 33ft respectively. Eighty feet lots are required for 3 or 4 units in Peninsula North.
3 – SIDE YARD SET BACKS
We are looking for a 0ft lot clearance on the common lot line. No windows will be located on the common wall and a 1 hour fire rating will be incorporated on both common walls which will yield a 2 hour total rating. The zero clearance will establish greater usable green space for the units and preserve a mature tree in the back yard. Separate services from the street can be run to each unit in order to maintain the separation.
4 – LOT COVERAGE
We realize all guidelines are in place to create sensitive development, however, we feel lot coverage is a key determining factor to maintaining usable outdoor space. In an effort to meet the lot coverage criteria our proposal is designed with a small footprint and efficient use of space.
- 2374 Hunter 716 sq. ft. (present) + 525 sq. ft. (proposed) = 1241 sq. ft. or 43.9% lot coverage
- We meet lot coverage at 2368 Hunter: 2368 Hunter 792 sq. ft. (present) +975 sq. ft. (proposed) = 1767 sq. ft. or 35.5% lot coverage
Looking at the combined parcel of land (7,795 sq. ft. ) the joint proposal covers 38.6% of the area.
Consideration for connected covenants
2374 and 2368 Hunter Street lot areas are 2,824 sq. ft. and 4,971 sq. ft. respectively. The combined area establishes a 7,795 sq. ft. parcel (8,000 sq. ft. lots are required for 3 or 4 units in Peninsula North). We are asking that the combined lot size, the mixed use of the neighbourhood and location be taken into consideration for our request to accommodate the number of units. The adjacent property at 2360 Hunter is 3 stories and boasts 24 units on 14,000 sq. ft.; 583.3 sq. ft. per unit, we are asking for 7 units on 7,795 sq. ft.; 1113.6 sq. ft. per unit ratio.
We support active transportation and as cyclists we understand the challenges of adequate storage. We plan to provide ample, covered, secure storage for bicycles and strollers. We have allocated adequate parking (7) for the proposed number of units. Two spots located to the right of 2374 Hunter and 6 spaces behind 2368 Hunter Street. All parking stalls are 8 ft. x 16 ft. We have a commitment from CarShare Halifax to be a part of the development and will encourage its use.
Gross Floor Area Ratio (GFAR)
We are within the allotted GFAR for 2374 and 2368;
- 2374 Hunter 1432 sq. ft. (present) + 1241 sq. ft. (proposed) = 2137 sq. ft. (Lots 3,500-4,000 max. GFAR is 2625 sq. ft.)
- 2368 Hunter 1584 sq. ft. (present) + 1335 sq. ft. (proposed) = 2919 sq. ft. (Lots 4,500-5,500 max. GFAR is 2983 sq. ft.)
The proposed addition is set back from the original structure and will be connected by a covered pedway. We are proposing this to maintain good and usable green spaces for the units. It will also preserve a mature tree in the backyard and form a better living environment for the development as a whole.
“Building” includes every structure placed on, over or under the land and every part of the same and any external chimney, staircase, porch, sign or other structure use in connection with such building and shall include any tent, awning or other covering.
Halifax Regional Municipality Land Use By-Law Edition 202 August 17, 2013
2374 Hunter St, Halifax Property ID (PID): 00145292 Lot size 2,824 sq. ft. Variances requested for an internal conversion to 2 units and the addition of a third
2368 Hunter St, Halifax Property ID (PID): 00145284 Lot size 5,055 sq. ft. Variances requested for an internal conversion to 2 units and the addition of two units
- Lot Area: 8,000 sq. ft. > 2,824 sq. ft.
- Lot Frontage: 80 ft. > 39 ft.
- Left Side Yard: 6 ft. > 0 ft.
- Lot Coverage: 35% > 43.9%
- Lot Area: 8,000 sq. ft. > 4,971 sq. ft.
- Lot Frontage: 80ft. > 33ft.
- Right Side Yard: 6 ft. > 0 ft.
- Lot Coverage: 35% > 34.4%
LOOK & FEEL
SUSTAINABILITY & IMPACT
Encouraging active transportation, recycling and social interaction through density are ways we hope to develop and nurture a small community on Hunter Street. A small efficient footprint for the proposed addition will maintain green space where this community can grow. The design and function of the addition is another core component. We plan to use natural materials and sensitive design to incorporate the new structures seamlessly with their original counterparts.
We also plan to use modular housing techniques as the base of the construction. This will decrease our environmental impact and cause less disruption to the people and environment in the immediate area during the construction phase.
If not us, who?
- Andy Lynch – 4 decades of nationally recognized experience in residential architecture
- Urban Renewable – award winning residential restoration and sustainable development
If not now, when?
- Instill a sense of urgency to meet HRM density targets
If not here, where?
- Physical centre of peninsular Halifax, minimal lot coverage, adjacent to multi-units
Other Canadian municipalities have passed legislation to encourage small efficient housing projects aimed at increasing density in their urban core.
Vancouver has had legislation in place since 2008 for laneway housing:
Regina is also being presented with similar housing issues faced by Vancouver for some time now and moving towards similar legislation.
“There may be an opportunity to permit secondary suites in other dwelling types, such as semidetached dwellings, if they meet similar criteria to those in single-detached dwellings. There may also be an opportunity to permit secondary suites outside of the principal structure but still within the same lot, such as a garden suite, granny flat, or a coach house or laneway house.”
CMHC has crafted a study analyzing benefits to laneway and infill housing to address density targets.
Halifax recently commissioned a report from Stantec to assess the financial impact of sprawl on the city: