Affordable housing

It is said that the Town Administration wants to encourage affordable housing in the Town . It would seem then that the Town would follow policies which would lead to that.

The farm fight is not immaterial to this issue. Why is farmland even considered for development when there is housing available in Wolfville and other towns around? There are many houses for sale here in Wolfville. Why is there pressure to build in Greenwich and Port Williams?

Because it is expensive to live in Wolfville. Land is more expensive and taxes are higher. Those who are buying (or building) a house know that and look elsewhere. Buyers also avoid the high deed transfer taxes that towns often impose. This increases the pressure for land outside of Town limits.

What would be the result of taking all land suitable for farming in the province completely off the development map for good, whether presently used for farming or not, via legislation? The amount of land available for building would decrease dramatically, the price of land where building was allowed would increase accordingly. Housing would be less affordable even though incomes are no higher. Even rents would go up.

Is this what we want? Think carefully about who would benefit.

Can the province (ie. present and future taxpayers) afford to compensate farmers for their land (since they can’t make a living off of it but can’t sell it either)  and then subsidise housing for those who cannot afford it? What policies could the province put in place which would make farming more profitable, creating employment in the industry and of the land instead of unemployment?

There should be a win/win solution somewhere (there usually is)  but we have a feeling no one is looking for one. Everyone is too  attached and passionate about their own position.


8 responses to “Affordable housing

  1. I understand that property taxes on qualifying farms are presently paid by the province. This would seem to be relevant to your analysis of the interplay between regulation and subsidies.

    Subsidies, be they to create affordable housing or to prop up unprofitable farms, should be frequently reviewed — they usually have unintended consequences.

  2. Travis Fricker

    The vast majority of Nova Scotia is not arable land. It is a big mistake to let developers and farmers looking to retire to parcel off what little farmland there is. Just go up the south mountain instead of developing the valley bottom. I come from the Fraser Valley in B.C. and over my lifetime, developers have chewed away at agricultural land in what is probably the most productive farmland in the country. As soon as you let a few farmers get a big payday, all of sudden everyone on the boundaries of town will be saying, ‘Why not me too?’ and it will never stop.

    • British Columbia population increased for 2.66 million in 1979 to 4.46 million in 2009. Over the same period, the population of Nova Scotia changed from a little less than 1 million to a little less than 1 million. Nevertheless, in the last decade, the population of HRM has been growing at about 4% per annum.

      So, to answer your question, the law of supply and demand will ensure that most farmland remains farmland — unless, of course, it is simply abandoned as unprofitable to farm.

      The choice is clear, either we make room for a bit of urbanization here in The Valley or we watch everyone shift to HRM. An once they’ve gone, we can kiss goodbye the farms, Acadia University, and pretty much everything else.

      BTW, flat land is best for towns and cities. Mountains are good for goats.

  3. We should legislate where people live. They shouldn’t be allowed to live on arable land unless they farm it. Half of Wolfville is arable. What a waste. We should definitely move most of the residents there to south mountain and restore the orchards and what not. That would be a big improvement. Of course the farms we have aren’t profitable so with even more farms the ones that are surviving now will be even less profitable but that shouldn’t worry the government. Nor should we consider that we don’t have enough workers who want to work on farms, but we feel sure that Travis will volunteer at least. And to help him we can bring in workers from, like, wherever. We would be doing the right thing for the planet. Save all the farmland NOW!

  4. Having just returned to Wolfville after a few years away I am pleased to see this issue getting some serious debate.

    I have to admit that my position on building on farmland has more to with aesthetics than preserving farm capacity. The scenic beauty of the Valley was a significant factor in my decision to move here and I find the slow but relentless spread of vinyl clad mediocrity along the Valley’s roads rather depressing.

    • I’m depressed by vinyl clad mediocrity in town. Perhaps, if I stumble into a bundle of cash, I’ll upgrade my place. Then again, how would I pay the property taxation on the upgrade? Oh, it’s just all too depressing.

      Maybe the raccoons will share one of those abandoned farms with me?

  5. “my position on building on farmland has more to with aesthetics than preserving farm capacity.” That is honest. We believe that is the reason motivating most of the protesters only they don’t say so.

  6. HRM isn’t growing because of all of the housing opportunities – it’s because of the jobs. Housing is a bi-product. We’re certainly not seeing any job opportunity increases here , unless you’re a nurse, a farm labourer or a contractor looking to develop farm land. Finding solutions to increase the number of good paying job opportunities will help people to ‘afford’ housing. I just don’t see how building new homes with starting prices beyond the ‘affordability’ of the average family in the valley helps with this cause regardless of whose boundaries the home is in. Saving farm land may be a good thing, but delaying a decision either way to develop a good strong plan which includes helping local farmers and looking long term to the ability of all citizens to feed themselves in the future is better. If that means developing the land – fine – so long as all things are considered and there’s a plan.