featured Poverty

The Bloomfield debacle

Photo Robert Devet (I think)

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Gentrification of the Halifax North End is a real thing, and as so often, it’s Black people who are paying the price.

“The Black population in the North End was relatively constant from the 1970s until 2006. But between 2006 and 2016 the Black population of the North End dropped by half, by over 700 people. The North End up to North Street was 30% Black in 2006, According to Statistics Canada data in 2016 that number was down to below 15%.” 

That’s what Ted Rutland, an Associate Professor, Geography, Planning and Environment at Concordia University, told the Nova Scotia Advocate when we interviewed him last year about his fascinating book on planning and racism in Halifax. 

Meanwhile, the secretive sale of the Bloomfield Centre shows once again that stopping gentrification and creating affordable housing is not a priority in this city, or indeed, this province. 

We mere mortals first heard rumors of the sale in December. Earlier this month Mayor Mike Savage told the Chronicle Herald that yes, the former school in the North End was sold in July, and the $40 million sale approved by Council in September. 

This happened despite efforts by the community group Imagine Bloomfield to stop the sale and have its voice heard. Some 1700 people signed its petition, but never mind, The purchase and sale agreement has progressed beyond this point of rethinking, Savage told the Herald.

Community space, artist studios, green space, and heritage preservation, all these are important and valid concerns, but it’s the lack of affordable housing that warrants a closer look.

Councillor Lindell Smith posted on Facebook that 10 percent of the proposed residential units must be deemed “affordable”. Affordable is of course a stretchable concept, with a termination date built in, and in terms of numbers a mere pittance in view of what is needed, 

There was a time when the Bloomfield development promised to make a real difference. In 2012 the then NDP government proposed to acquire the old school and create 191 affordable units. It didn’t last. In 2016 the new Liberal government ditched the idea and that was the last we heard of it. 

It wasn’t viable, we were told.

That may be true, but that was only so because the city insisted on treating the Bloomfield development as a commercial project like any other. The province was competing with several commercial developers and had to fork out $15 million just to get out of the starting block.

That $15 million was taxpayer’s money, to be paid to a city that operates on taxpayer’s money. One hand paying the other hand. It doesn’t make sense.

If the province and the city truly cared about affordable housing and gentrification they’d develop Bloomfield together, create lots of affordable housing, and make a real difference.

With a special thanks to our generous donors who make publication of the Nova Scotia Advocate possible.

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