When Ron Rapp asked me if I would provide a guest Monday Morning Briefing (MMB) column while he is visiting family in Ontario, I jumped at the chance. MMB is near and dear to my heart. I launched the weekly publication in 2000, and I still have every edition I wrote, right up to the time I retired in October, 2012.
As many of you know, Carolyn and I moved in May, 2013 to the scenic Nova Scotia waterfront hamlet of Dayspring, located 100 kilometres west of Halifax on the province’s South Shore.
We enjoy the slower pace of life, close proximity to many white-sand beaches that rival any beach located in the Caribbean, and no stop-and-go traffic. I’ve not replaced my vehicle’s brake pads since moving here.
That said, I enjoy some excitement. For the past 10 years I have been a volunteer firefighter and advanced medical first responder with the Dayspring and District Fire Department. I’ve taken lots of specialized and intensive training. So far, I’ve responded to 557 emergency calls, including structure fires, wildfires, motor vehicle collisions, medicals and water rescues.
The latest wildfire in Shelburne County consumed 25,000 hectares, or 250 square kilometres. More than 60 homes were lost and 5,000 people were evacuated temporarily. Nearly 70 fire departments, including ours, were deployed to douse the flames. I empathize with the folks in B.C. who struggle with wildfires.
Shortly after the wildfires were contained, the sky opened up and dropped nearly 300 mm of rain on our region in just one day, July 21. For 16 hours straight, we experienced unprecedented sustained thunder and lightning. The one-in-a-hundred-year rain event caused numerous states of emergency, washed-out roads and bridges, flooded communities and, sadly, the deaths of an adult, teenager and two young children.
The basements and/or main floors of many homes and businesses in our community flooded, and numerous lightning strikes on structures were reported. It was a challenging time for all emergency-response agencies. Our fire department was busy all day dealing with the storm’s impact. Thankfully, our home was not affected. We didn’t even lose power, likely because we are on the same grid as the nearby hospital.
The region in which we live, the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg (MODL), is a district municipality in Lunenburg County. The district surrounds the towns of Bridgewater, Lunenburg and Mahone Bay, which are incorporated separately as municipal units and not part of the district municipality.
MODL has a population of 25,545, up 2.7 percent from seven years ago. With a land area of 1,757.79 square kilometres (678.69 square miles), it has a population density of roughly 14.5 per square kilometre (37.6 per square mile), so district residents are not exactly jostling for elbow room.
Our home is positioned four kilometres from Bridgewater (pop. 9,000), the economic hub of Nova Scotia’s South Shore, and 11 kilometres from historic Lunenburg (pop. 2,800), a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We remit rural taxes, yet we enjoy all the amenities of the two nearby towns. Townies, eat your hearts out.
Regarding municipalities, rural locales have their benefits. I recall vividly how GVHBA (now HAVAN) and its members constantly duked it out with the 22 municipalities that comprise Metro Vancouver over ever-increasing development charges and an assortment of associated fees, levies and community amenity charges that combine to jack up the price of new homes, negatively impacting housing affordability.
Don’t even get me started on NIMBYs (not in my backyard), the ever-present shrill naysayers who attempt by any self-serving means to block development proposed in close proximity to their homes. “We don’t want those types of people living in our community,” they shout. “Those types of people” might someday be their own children. Heck, even themselves. As they approach their golden years, the aging NIMBYs might welcome downsizing to low-rise condos close to where they currently reside and feel comfortable.
With the exception of Nova Scotia’s largest city, Halifax (metro population 420,000), NIMBYs are few and far between here. Reasonable folks embrace residential, commercial, industrial and institutional growth because they want their children to have career opportunities and purchase homes where they grew up.
It’s rare for municipalities to impede responsible development. MODL is governed by a progressive and fair-minded mayor and 11 councillors who encourage growth and support streamlining the permitting and approvals processes. Also, the director of planning and development and his staff are first rate.
The homebuilding industry faces few obstacles in our region. There are no development cost charges, no tree preservation bylaw, and no community amenity charges other than a small fee to acquire parkland.
Only 12 percent of the municipality has land-use planning in place. The province wants all municipalities and their individual communities to have planning in place by 2040, but no one is pushing too hard.
When builders submit building permit applications, they can be assured permits are in their hands within 14 days. Inspections, too, are carried out expeditiously. Halifax, again, is the exception, but it’s improving.
I served for five years as chair of the MODL Planning Advisory Committee, working the fifth year on new subdivision and private roads bylaws. I was pleased with the outcomes, then stepped down to take on different responsibilities. Following a two-year hiatus, I received a call from the mayor, who asked if I would return to chair the committee and work on two key emerging issues – riparian buffer zones and coastal protection, which will impact how development occurs along Nova Scotia’s coastline.
Lately, the rest of Canada seems to have discovered Nova Scotia’s reasonable home prices compared to where they live. They can purchase an oceanfront home here for a fraction of what they could get for their current subdivision homes. Given that financial reality, many folks tired of the urban grind are relocating to this region, shedding their mortgages in the process.
Carolyn’s roots run deep in this region, a prime reason for our relocation here following my retirement from GVHBA. In 1753, a branch of her family settled in what is now the town of Lunenburg.
Over the years, Carolyn and I have welcomed to our home many association members – Bob and Peggy Rasmus, John Friswell, Kevin Shoemaker and his family, Ralph and Helene Belisle, Chuck and Lorraine Marr, and Avtar and Connie Johl. The Marrs and Johls visited two days apart earlier this month. Fun times discussing the good old days. Ron Rapp plans to visit next year.
You know, I miss everyone, and I’m proud of how two wonderful ladies I hired so many years ago, Wendy McNeil and Renee Auer, are still providing exceptional leadership and service to association members.
God willing, Carolyn and I hope to see you at the association’s 50th anniversary festivities next year.
Peter Simpson, BIAE
GVHBA President & Chief Executive Officer, 1993-2012
HAVAN continues to work with CHBA BC and CHBA to advocate for all levels of government to work together to address the challenges of the housing industry including zoning restrictions, density limits, and NIMBYism.
Looking to stay up-to-date on Metro Vancouver’s residential housing industry? Sign up for Ron’s weekly Monday Morning Briefing and other HAVAN emails here.
QUICK BITES …
- Our hearts go out to everyone who is being impacted by the wildfires ravaging the province and elsewhere, and we hope everyone remains safe. To stay up-to-date on what is happening, visit BC Wildfire Service, which includes the current wildfire map, latest evacuation advisories, news and bulletins, road closures, preparedness checklists and more. Federated Insurance has a guide to outline some best practices before, during, and after a wildfire to help you mitigate damage to your property, or contact your insurance provider for resources and/or if you have been affected.
- FortisBC New Home Rebate Program Changes: The FortisBC New Home Program is set to undergo a program change for 2024. To ensure rebate eligibility for the rebates available under the 2023 New Home Program, builders must:
1. Pre-register their project by December 31, 2023. This will ensure the builder is eligible to apply for the rebates after completing construction.
2. Have the building permit issued prior to December 31, 2023.
3. Complete the project by December 31, 2025 and apply for rebates within six months of project completion. For builders pursuing the Step Code pathway rebates, an energy advisor will apply on your behalf.
FortisBC will be hosting two information sessions to give a rundown of the program changes and answer questions. Both sessions will cover the same content so please feel free to register for your preferred date/time using this link:
• Session 1: Wednesday, September 13, 2023 – 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
• Session 2: Wednesday, September 20, 2023 – 11:00 a.m. to noon.
- Vancouver is Awesome: Long way home: Blamed for affordability crisis, Liberals look to pivot on housing
- An proposed change to the BC Building Code will require all new homes to have at least one temperature-controlled room, through passive or cooling measures, is an opportunity to build creatively for the future, reports The Globe and Mail.
- Hot summer, cooler housing market in Canada – RBC Thought Leadership
- Opinion: No single force can fix Canada’s housing crisis – but Ottawa needs to lead the way – The Globe and Mail
- Examining Approval Timelines and The Impact on Housing Affordability – MLA Canada
- Storeys article: Housing Industry Experts Draft Blueprint To Build 2M Purpose-Built Rentals By 2030
- Headwinds holding back efforts to boost housing supply: CHBA CEO Kevin Lee discusses the factors that need to come together to boost housing starts in Financial Post interview (video)