The Halifax Regional Municipality has big plans to double its population over the next 26 years, with a goal of reaching one million people by 2050 — which could be a challenge for an already struggling city to keep up with the demographic boom it has experienced in recent years. a few years.
Jacqueline Hamilton, the municipality’s new executive director of planning and development, said that achieving this goal “will require an all-stakeholder approach”.
“It’s not just about planning for this growth, it’s also about ensuring, while accommodating this growth, that we don’t leave the community behind,” she said.
Hamilton, a trained town planner with 30 years’ experience, started his new role earlier this month. She succeeds Kelly Denty, who retired in the spring after serving in the role since 1996.
She noted Halifax’s “unprecedented” population growth in recent years and the resulting housing shortage.
The biggest challenge facing the municipality, she said, is “growth readiness”: ensuring the city has enough housing to support future population increases.
“We’ve seen record builds happening…but they’re not meeting the needs of our community,” she said.
Solving the housing crisis is a “top priority”, she said, adding that the downtown plan can help unlock the future growth potential of urban, suburban and rural communities.
Although housing is a provincial responsibility, Hamilton said the city has already taken some steps in supporting affordable housing through the federal Rapid Housing Initiative.
She said the city is now looking to work with other levels of government, as well as partners from other sectors, to address the current housing crisis.
“Going forward, we certainly want to tap into available federal funding, working in partnership with the province and the federal government to accelerate housing through a number of means,” she said.
“By encouraging things like secondary apartments and apartments with backyards, allowing the conversion of commercial properties to residential use, and really trying to close that gap. »
The city has long said it is focused on improving transit and bicycle accessibility, and Hamilton has also identified transportation as another top priority as Halifax continues down the path of growth.
Although she pointed out that public transit is a bit outside her jurisdiction, she indicated that the municipality seeks to follow the vision set out in its regional and integrated mobility plans.
“We have plans along key growth corridors and are working to secure funding and opportunities around rapid transit that would help alleviate some of these challenges in the future,” she said, adding that the municipality seek to reduce dependence on the automobile by encouraging walking, cycling and public transport as alternative means of travel.
On the issue of emergency exits for communities facing climate emergencies — such as the slow evacuation of residents from the Tantallon and Hammonds Plains wildfires due to limited exit options — Hamilton highlighted HalifACT, the city’s climate plan, which presents plans to reduce emissions. and make communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
She did not give details on how she hopes to resolve the issue, but said efforts were being led by the Community Safety Team.
“The team is actively working on how we can adapt our communities to be more resilient in the future, addressing issues such as building standards and access, and all of these issues are being actively considered” , she said.
Hamilton said his vision is centered on the regional plan and the city’s central plan.
“It’s really about planning for sustainable communities, healthy communities, connected communities, and as we grow, making sure we leave no one behind and have the services in place to support that growth,” he said. she declared.
“And really, it’s happening in a way that not only allows us to be a bigger city but also a better city.”
While it’s clear that a lot of work remains to be done, Hamilton says she’s happy to be back in her hometown after spending the past 14 years in Saint John, New Brunswick.
“I bring a pa*sion for bold planning and a love for the Halifax region, and I look forward to continuing the work the municipality has started,” she said.
– with files by Callum Smith
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