Some disappointing news from the Provincial government. After teasing that they were considering it, Housing Minister John Lohr announced that the Province isn’t looking at building any new public housing (CBC story here). This is a profoundly disappointing decision. According to the 2022 Auditor General’s report on Nova Scotia’s Provincial housing agencies, there were 2,415 people on Metro Housing’s wait list in HRM. In 2021, Metro Housing placed 336. The wait list looks way longer than the reported 2 years with numbers like that! The Auditor General’s report also indicates that HRM accounts for half the overall Provincial wait list, but just a third of the total public housing is located here.
All of this isn’t rocket science. The population of HRM in 1995 when the last public housing units were built was 339,000. Today it’s just over 480,000. We have 140,000 more people, but the same number of rent-to-income housing units as we had 30 years ago. Our government is refusing to accept their role in providing housing, something that was once considered a core responsibility. Government abdicating that role for 30 years is a huge part of our current crisis.
The Province’s strategy is to evidently hope the market somehow works out. Unfortunately, the market will never, ever provide deep affordability. It never has and never will. The cost of new construction makes it a virtual impossibility. Only government can do that. Working with non-profits is great, and rent supplements are useful, but by refusing to consider new public housing, the Province is leaving one of their most powerful options unused in the drawer.
The Province has been talking about adding more supply as the solution for our housing crisis, and they’re not wrong. We need lots more housing. How come though more supply doesn’t extend to public housing where supply is inadequate and been stagnant for decades? How come supply is the answer to every other aspect of the housing crisis except for when it comes to public housing? Hopefully the Province will reconsider as we’re not going to come to any sort of real fix for our housing woes without working on both market and non-market solutions.
In other housing news, the Province has finally announced their plans for the Double Tree by the Macdonald Bridge. The Province had been leasing about half the hotel to provide shelter for people who are homeless. Earlier this month, hotel staff were told that they were being laid off because the Province was taking over the entire hotel. Rumours immediately started flying. The Province confirmed last week that they will indeed be taking over the entire space.
A large portion of the new space at the Double Tree will be used to provide shelter for people who are homeless who have medical issues. Since they have no home to go to, a lot of people who are homeless end up staying in hospital beds longer than necessary. The Province is looking to free up hospital beds by creating space at the Double Tree for patients who are homeless to recover in. The Province will also have a medical clinic on site aimed at specifically addressing health issues for people who are homeless.
This sounds like a good initiative. The only downside is it’s really unclear how much additional space is being created here for people who are currently living outside. The Province is closing the Christ Church shelter space at the end of the month and moving people from other hotel rooms to the Double Tree. While 19 rooms sounds like a lot, considering half already existed, and large portion of the rooms are replacing space in hospitals and in other hotels, I’m skeptical that this will make any kind of meaningful impact in terms of giving people options to shelter that isn’t their neighbourhood park.
I have spoken with Claudia Chender about this and she has been pushing the Department of Community Services to hold a public meeting so that the community can have a clear understanding as to how the Double Tree will operate. I’m not certain whether they will agree to do that or not.
Water Levels and Sullivan’s Pond Fountain
You might have noticed over the last few weeks that the water level at Sullivan’s Pond was a lot lower than normal. We’re indeed not having a normal spring, which is kind of a continuation of an abnormal winter. Precipitation in Dartmouth has been less than half of what it would normally be over the last 2.5 months and with no winter snow pack to melt, we’re seeing water levels that tend to only occur in the depths of a dry, hot August. The flow from the Albro Lakes into Northbrook has stopped entirely, and there is only a trickle in the streams coming out of Penhorn and Oathill. It’s very dry out there.
The very noticeable result of the dry conditions is that Lake Banook stopped flowing into Sullivan’s Pond because Banook had reached level at the top of the Lock. The lack of flow from Banook caused Sullivan’s Pond to drain down to the lowest rung of the fish ladder, leaving a lot of the Pond high and dry.
Halifax Water controls the level of Lake Banook and the utility typically adjusts the level twice a year. Basically, there is a summer and a winter setting. They don’t actively manage it on any sort of day-to-day basis. Given the low water levels and at the request of residents and HRM Parks, Halifax Water has lowered the Banook gate by a few inches to let more water flow out of Banook and into Sullivan’s Pond. There is no similar control system for Northbrook.
Without significant rain, lowering the Banook gate is a temporary fix since Banook will slowly drain down to new lower level. With no significant inflow into Banook, there is no replenishing the water currently flowing into Sullivan’s Pond. So if we don’t get some significant rain, Banook will eventually level off again and Sullivan’s will once again begin to drain down. We need rain and lots of it. Yesterday’s showers are a start and there appears to be some hope in the forecast for early next week so fingers crossed. We really need a good soaking.
Given the uncertainty around water levels, Parks has turned off the fountain at Sullivan’s Pond (the fountain could be damaged by operating at low water levels). Parks will turn the fountain back on once conditions have returned to normal. The fountain isn’t malfunctioning and there is no need to call 311 to report that it’s not operating.
Disc Golf on the Dartmouth Common
I have been getting a lot of questions about when disc golf will return to the Dartmouth Common. HRM is still working on what disc golf will look like this season. I definitely want to see it return to the Common as it was huge hit last year. I heard from several people who had never tried disc golf before and did because of the Common course and loved it. My kids and I played it a few times and we were never alone on the course whenever we went. It was extremely well-used.
This year, staff are looking at either putting up baskets again to continue the pilot or installing permanent infrastructure. I have been discussing the situation with Parks and the preference is to make the course permanent. Parks is currently exploring that option, but we’re just not entirely sure if it’s doable this year. The backup plan will be to buy some baskets (the ones that were there last years were loaned to HRM) and continue the pilot. I will share more in my e-newsletter when a decision has been reached
The Alderney Library has adjusted their evening hours. The Library will now close at 6:00 pm Monday – Thursday instead of being open until 9:00 pm. While the hours the Library is open has been reduced, this isn’t actually a cutback in staffing. The change in hours has come about because the Library is doubling up staffing during the day. Same number of people working, just their shifts fully overlap now. There have been some challenges around Alderney Gate lately and an increased staff presence is necessary in the Library to make sure the space is safe and welcoming for everyone, but also to meet some complex programming needs. The Library will reassess in future.
Still with Alderney, HRM is making some adjustments. Police have the keys to the new community police office, and an extra-duty officer has been deployed to Alderney. HRM is also looking to consolidate its security contracts around Alderney so that the whole building and Ferry Terminal Park is covered by one provider. HRM’s efforts to work with marginalized folks in our community, including the homeless and youth, also continues.
Clement Street Park Work
You might have noticed some survey stakes and digging going on in Clement Street Park. There is no project underway yet. The activity is being carried out by Halifax Water. Right now, water from Maynard Lake and Eisner’s Marsh flows into the combined sewer system and ends up at the Dartmouth treatment plant. Treating perfectly fine lake and marsh water takes up capacity and makes the whole sewer system more prone to overflows during storms, but right now there is no choice because that’s where the pipes go.
To address this problem, Halifax Water is planning for a major project to separate the sewer system and instead have the lake and marsh water flow directly into the Harbour. The existing combined sewer and storm pipe runs through Clement Street Park and basically follows the low point between Rodney Road and Portland Street over to Old Ferry Road before heading down to the pump station by Hazelhurst Street. Geo-technical and other planning work for this project is currently underway, which has involved work in Clement Street Park. Timing for the major project is still to be determined.
HRM’s annual Volunteer Awards took place on April 19. The Volunteer Awards are designed to recognize and thank people in HRM who make a difference. This year in District 5, the following folks received awards:
- Juliana Bruce: Juliana is a youth recipient and a regular volunteer at the Findlay Community Centre
- Robert Bertrand: Robert is a member of the Sackville Lions and cadet volunteer
- Marc Carver: Marc is a fixture at the North Woodside Community Centre, performing many roles as a volunteer at the Centre over the last 28 years
- Alex Joseph: The Dartmouth General Hospital Foundation wouldn’t be the same without Alex’s fundraising efforts
- Sam Schwartz: As President of the North Dartmouth Outreach Resource Centre, Sam helps provide food to some of our most vulnerable residents
- Kieran Sharpe: Kieran volunteers his time with the 18 Dartmouth Lions Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron as a biathlon coach for up to 70 youth
- Michael Vlahos: Mike has served a variety of roles over the years at the Oathill Lake Society, Dartmouth Health Board, Penhorn Lake Area Trails Association, and through his past pastor role at the South End Baptist Church
Congratulations and thanks to all the award recipients!
The Halifax Solid Waste Resources team is issuing a Litterati challenge in each municipal electoral district to see which district’s residents can pick up the most litter. Join the challenge by downloading the Litterati app and searching your municipal district number, plus the word “Cleanup.” (ex District 5 Cleanup). Residents can also join using the code “HRM” with their district number (ex HRM5). In June, zero waste prize kits will be awarded to the top three litter collectors in each district for the month of May. In October 2023, a second round of prizes will be awarded for the top three litter collectors in each district.
Using the Litterati mobile app and joining a HRM challenge will enable the municipality to collect information on litter hot spots and will help inform future initiatives to mitigate litter in our communities! Over 26,061 pieces of litter were collected through HRM’s Litterati challenges last year.
Changes to annual parking permit fees, visitor parking permits, commuter permits, and carshare parking:
- Annual permit price has increased from $40/year to $75/year and the option to purchase a second pass now exists for $175.
- Visitor parking permits will shift to payper-use with one day ($15), two day ($25) and weekly ($35) options
- Carshare vehicles will be able to park at any onstreet paid parking location (no more looking for the carshare parking only space). This means carshare users can sign out of their vehicle at any legal parking space. It just became even easier to use carshare’s flex zone.
- Commuter permits will see price increases or price decreases, depending on the zone. Student commuter permits will change from a flat rate of $35/month to $10/month discount off the regular zone price.
- All permits will shift to a digital format, removing the need for replacement fees.
All current parking permits will remain valid until they expire. For more details, visit HRM’s website.
Host an International Student
HRCE is looking for warm and caring host families for international students attending schools within HRM. Hosting a student is an exciting adventure that enriches your family’s life and brings a world of new ideas and experiences right to your doorstep. Host Families are supported by a Homestay Coordinator and financial assistance is provided during the student’s stay ($775 tax free per month). Host families are required for students who are in Grades 7 to 12. For more information, please contact email@example.com or 902-464-2000 ext. 2548
Wednesday, May 31, 7:00 pm
1601 Lower Water Street, Halifax
All of Nova Scotia’s municipalities are required to review their electoral boundaries every ten years. As I wrote about last month, HRM’s review is complete and there are some significant changes for District 5. The big challenge in Dartmouth is there are too many people inside the Circumferential for one district, but there aren’t enough for two. Everyone identifies with Downtown Dartmouth, but someone has to be paired with someone on the other side of the highway. In 2010, it was Highfield that was paired with Montebello and Woodlawn, which really wasn’t a good match since there is no community of interest at all between those places. Under the new map, Dartmouth North gets reunited, and it’s Penhorn and Southdale/North Woodside that have to join up with folks on the other side of the highway. Below is the revised map.
The next and last stage of the boundary review process is for the Utility and Review Board to approve the boundaries, and that approval process does allow for public participation. The Board will hold a public hearing on May 31 at their offices at 1601 Lower Water Street. Public submissions to the Board have resulted in changes in the past so I would encourage anyone who has feedback to share to do so. To speak at the hearing, you must register in advance by May 10. You can register or send written feedback to the Board by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Everyone is welcome to participate
53 Queen Street (old Post Office)
Now – May 13
RHAD Architects has submitted a request on behalf of the owner of the old Post Office property for a substantial redevelopment of the site. The property is a registered heritage building, which means that redevelopment of the site will proceed via a development agreement process. This isn’t an as-of-right situation. Harboureast Council will make the decision as to whether to approve the project or not.
The proposal for the Post Office property would see the old stone building basically be restored and retained in its current form, while the parking lot next door would become home to a 90 metre tall mixed-use building. A public information meeting was held on April 13. Comments can still be submitted online up until May 13. For more information and to submit feedback or ask questions, visit the Planning Department’s page here.
42 Canal Street
Now – May 5
Still with development, public feedback is being collected on a proposed development of 42 Canal Street in Dartmouth Cove. Like Queen Street, 42 Canal Street will proceed via a development agreement process, but unlike Queen Street, the development agreement will be less specific as to building design. Rather than a specific building, the process will be to apply one of the Centre Plan’s zone to the property. This difference in approach is because there is no heritage property involved and because Dartmouth Cove is one of the Centre Plan’s future growth nodes that was envisioned in the Plan as being suitable for significant redevelopment.
The property owner is proposing to apply the Centre 2 zone in the Centre Plan to the site, which would enable a large high-rise along Canal Street. Two mid-rises are envisioned closer to Skokomul Street (Maitland Street renamed in 2022). A video outlining the rules that apply to the site and the proposal is available on HRM’s website here. For more information and to provide feedback, visit the Planning Department’s page here. Feedback is required by May 5.
Acting on Climate Change Together
April 25 – May 2
Halifax Public Libraries and HRM’s HalifACT team are partnering on climate change engagement to learn from you. This month’s topic is about preparing for climate change and HRM is seeking citizen feedback. Visit any library branch between April 25 – May 2 to share in person using interactive displays, or participate online on HRM’s shapeyourcity page here. Information gathered will be shared and used to help create climate resources, programs and support for effective climate action.
For more information on HalifACT and to read about the plan’s second community updated, visit the HalifACT page here.
To keep you informed about what is going on at Council, I’m writing a regular blog after each meeting. Each of my entries is about what I saw as noteworthy from a District 5 perspective and my views on the issues. We might not always agree, but I think it’s important to provide a record of how I voted and why.
Council Update, April 4 and 25
Council changes its mind on charging for parking on Saturdays, repeat offenders will soon pay higher parking fines, changes are coming to HRM’s tax relief program for non-profits, and the municipality has a new field strategy. Read about it here.
Council Update, March 29
The final result of all our budget adjustments, what is in and what is out, including some last minute drama over staffing for HRM’s climate change plan Read about it here.
Council Update, March 21 and 7
A bunch of updates on housing and homelessness, the new public safety strategy and a grant for Banook Canoe Club. Read about it here.
Quiet time of year for tenders
- Playground Replacement Findlay Community Centre, Arkson Fence, $133,800
- Playground Replacement Southdale-North Woodside Elementary School, Elmsdale Landscaping, $76,700
- Asphalt Overlays and traffic calming East Region, Dexter’s, $3,720,102
Asphalt patching at various locations, including Chappell Street which will include traffic calming (speed tables)
- Shrub and Flower Beds, Ground Force Property Maintenance, $316,230
Most of HRM’s shrub and flower beds in District 5 are tended to by in-house staff, but some work is contracted out including maintenance for beds at Oakland Park, Eric Spicer Building, Lancaster Ridge gateway sign, and Bridge Terminal. Tender includes these locations as well as other beds throughout Dartmouth
- Tactical Bikeway Improvements Slayter and Liverpool Streets, Basin Contracting, $62,055
Following up on last year’s installation of speed tables on Slayter Street, HRM will be installing curb extensions at the major intersections on Slayter including at Albro Lake Road, Woodland Avenue, School Street, and Thistle Street
- Street Rebuild, Lyngby Avenue, Closes April 28
Paving, curbwork, and traffic calming on Lyngby Avenue
City Nature Challenge
Observations April 28 – May 1, identification May 2 – 7
The City Nature Challenge is a nature-based activity that tracks biodiversity in communities all around the world. The Challenge encourages people to use the iNaturalist platform to find and document all the plants and wildlife they can find in their city. Knowing what species are found in each city helps conservationists study and protect them, and the CNC is a way for scientists, land managers and the community to come together for the common good of documenting nature in the area. Developed by staff at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and California Academy of Sciences, City Nature Challenge has continued to attract greater participation every year. To participate, download the iNaturalist app. Obervations are collected today and tomorrow, with identification of plants and animals running until May 7.
Saturday, April 29, 11:00 am – 2:00 pm
Catherine Furness Park
It’s the season for clean-ups. The Harbourview Resident’s Asssociation will be holding theirs tomorrow. Meet at Catherine Furness Park (Hare Lane and Fairbanks Street). Garbage bags will be provided, but you’re also very welcome to bring your own. Rain date is May 6.
Southdale/North Woodside Clean-Up
Saturday, April 29, 1:00
North Woodside Community Centre
The Plessant-Woodside Association will be holding their annual clean-up on Saturday as well. Meet at North Woodside Community Centre parking lot. The Association plans to focus clean-up efforts on the Harbour Trail and neighbourhood parks. Bags, gloves and safety vests will be provided, but bring your own if you can.
National Youth Week
May 1 – 7
May kicks off with National Youth Week, a celebration of youth and their participation in our community. There are a variety of events going on as part of National Youth Week including brunch with the mayor, a youth potluck, mural creation, arts and crafts, trivia, a sunset hike, sports, karaoke and more. For full details about what’s on offer around HRM check out the National Youth Week page here.
Cooking for Newcomers
Tuesdays, May 2 – 23, 5:00 – 7:00 pm
Dartmouth North Library
A free program in international cuisine and food tasting. In this 4-week series, participants will cook and share their favourite recipes from all over the world. All supplies are provided. To register, contact Tatjana at email@example.com or (902)817-6132
Wije’winen Cultural Circle & Showcase
May 3 – 6
As part of the East Coast Music Awards, Grand Parade will be home to the Wije’winen Cultural Circle and Showcase. A variety of activities and performances will take place in Grand Parade from noon until 4:00 pm each day, plus an opening sunrise ceremony at 9:00 am on May 3rd. Lit teepees, a sacred fire, traditional Mi’kmaq hand drumming, many styles of competitive Indigenous dance, a Ko’jua tutorial, community drumming, spoken word, and Inuit throat singing. A tobacco offering will be included on May 5th to mark the National Day of Awareness surrounding Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls.
May 6 – 7
The first weekend in May is just around the corner which means it’s time to get out walking again. Jane’s Walk Halifax will take place May 6 -7. Jane’s Walk is a free community-driven event in honour of Jane Jacobs. Volunteers lead people on a walk that is part tour, part mobile conversation. This year there will once again be a number of Walk’s in Dartmouth including geology on the Common, the Penhorn Lake Trail, Shubie Park history, Dartmouth Cove History, and Art in Downtown Dartmouth. For a full listing of all the Walk’s happening and more details about the Dartmouth ones, visit the Jane’s Walk page here. With so many different topics, Jane’s Walk has something for everyone.
District 5 Bird Walk
Tuesday, May 16, 9:00 – 10:00 am
May 13 – 20 is Bird Week and to celebrate our feathered friends, a series of guided walks will be taking place throughout HRM. Walks are being organized by Bird Friendly Halifax. For more details on all the walks taking place in HRM and to register for the walks, visit Bird Friendly Halifax’s event page here.
Household Special Waste Depot (Mic Mac Mall)
Saturday, May 20, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Have some old batteries, empty propane cylinders, or paint kicking around the house that you want to get rid of but don’t want to drive to Bayers Lake? Good news, HRM’s Mobile Special Waste Depot is returning to Mic Mac Mall. On Saturday May 9, bring your hazardous waste to the mall between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm for free disposal. For a complete list of hazardous materials that you can drop off or for other mobile depot locations, check out the HRM website here.
Parks and Rec Greenhouse Open House
Saturday, May 20, 10:00 am
62 Caledonia Road
HRM’s horticultural staff will holding an open house at the HRM greenhouse on Caledonia Road. Come meet some of HRM’s incredible staff who help make Downtown Dartmouth and its parks such a beautiful place.
Oathill Lake Society Plant and Book Sale
Saturday, May 27
54 Lorne Avenue
The Oathill Lake Society will be holding their annual plant and book sale on May 27 (rain date May 28). Proceeds go to support the Society’s efforts to protect the health of Oathill Lake. Keep an eye on the Oathill Lake facebook page for more details