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The Halifax Regional Municipality is looking into establishing an office-conversion incentive program.

Halifax Considering Office Conversion Incentive Program

The Halifax Regional Municipality is looking into establishing an office-conversion incentive program, CBC reported.

The region has begun to develop a office-to-residential pilot program that could be funded with some of the $79 million to be provided to HRM through the federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund.

“We don’t have an office crisis; we have a housing crisis,” Coun. Waye Mason told CBC. “It seems like a smart thing to do to convert empty office spaces into residential that will be full as soon as it’s done.”

According to Mason, HRM staff are still working out details. He told CBC that the program would take up “a couple of million” of the $79 million in HAF money. But that estimate is well short of the many millions required for a typical conversion.

It’s also well shy of the $75 million that the City of Calgary allocated for its Downtown Incentives Program that is converting offices to residential units.

According to CBC, at least three buildings have been suggested as possible candidates for the pilot program. Mason touted such benefits as quick sources of new housing supply, a low impact on streetscape and reduced waste in landfills due to fewer building demolitions..

Rents would be offered at market rates.

“We would, of course, love to see far more federal and provincial investment in affordable housing; we need thousands of  affordable housing units,” Mason told CBC. “But we also need to see these conversions; and because it can be so expensive to convert commercial, that might not be the right place to put the affordable housing.”

News of the planned pilot program comes after CBRE reported that office conversions are starting to make inroads in Halifax. Local firm Sidewalk Real Estate Development, headed by retrofit specialist Elliot MacNeil, has undertaken a number of conversion projects in Halifax and its twin city of Dartmouth, N.S.

As CBC noted, a March Canadian Urban Institute report calls Halifax “a capital of conversions.” CUI said Sidewalk is demonstrating a number of “successful conversion precedents.”

Pictured: Downtown Halifax

Image: CBRE


Inside The Story

CBRESidewalk Real Estate DevelopmentElliot MacNeil

About Monte Stewart

Monte Stewart serves as Content Director - Canada for Connect Commercial Real Estate. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Monte provides daily news coverage of major Canadian commercial real estate markets, including Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Calgary. He has written about the real estate sector for various media outlets and Avison Young since the early 2000s. In addition, he has covered sports, general news and business for several leading wire services and publications, including The Canadian Press, The Associated Press, The Calgary Herald, The Globe and Mail, Research Money, The Daily Oil Bulletin, Natural Gas World and The Toronto Star. Monte is active in his community as a youth basketball coach and raises funds for such charitable causes as Movember.

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