Friday, May 27, 2016

Local Business, Affordable Housing and Climate Change - Connecting the Dots

Every morning my dog, Lego, takes me for a walk.  Today I noticed Craig arriving for work, on foot, at Ironworks distillery,   Craig lives in New Town, so I know he had a nice, brisk, twenty minute walk to work.  Then I headed up King st. to see Jason arrive to work on his bicycle at The Laughing Whale Coffee Roasters.  That's two people that did not get into a car today.

Back tracking to last night, I was chatting with my neighbours, Jerri and Dave, as they were swinging on their locally made Porch Swing.   (Full disclosure, my husband made that.)   They were telling me about how as they leave town for work in Halifax every morning, they see many cars coming into town.  Some of those cars are driven by people that work in town and would like to live in town, but can't find affordable housing.

The Town of Lunenburg has been identified as one of the Unesco Heritage sites at risk from Climate Change.  You can read about it in this CBC article, Climate change threatens world heritage sites.
So, local businesses are taking the lead. People are making positive change happen.  The efforts of small business owners are keeping cars off the roads.  Every person that runs a business in a small town is part of the solution. But what is government doing to help local businesses thrive? What policies are they creating to encourage people to work from home?  What policies are they creating to revitalize our main streets? What policies are they creating to ensure that all those people driving into town for work can also live in town?

Dave was telling me about something he had heard of, somewhere,  (I'm a blogger, not an investigative reporter, so that's as factual as we are going to get)  where landlords who own commercial store fronts were given tax incentives if they rented out the living space above their shops.  That got me thinking.  If you look above the shops on Lincoln st. and Montague st. you'll see apartments. In fact, the zoning of our commercial district was created to encourage Lunenburg's long history of live/work.  (Yes, I have spent many hours reading about the policies behind our zoning.)  The thing is, some of those spaces are unused.  I have been in a couple of them.  This is where local and provincial government can step in.

We know we have a housing crisis.  We know we have a climate crisis.  We know that cars contribute to climate change. What can government do to incentivize landlords to turn those spaces into affordable housing?  What can government do to help people work from home?  What can government do to give a boost to entrepreneurs who are creating local jobs and revitalizing downtowns?

On a separate, but related topic, I had a visit last weekend from the mayor of Barrie, Ontario, Jeff Lehman.

Jeff is a forward thinking, progressive Mayor.  We talked a lot about the importance of supporting home-based business and it's important function as an incubator.  But what I found truly inspiring was listening to him talk about how much a municipality can actually accomplish. Those words were music to my ears.  It seems some times that governments love to talk about what is out of their control.  It was particularly depressing to watch small municipal governments in Nova Scotia give away the ownership of something that was actually completely in their control.  (Every municipality has the prime authority to create their own planning and what uses are permitted in a home falls within planning.)  Municipal governments could be doing so much to reverse climate change.  This is not happening.  They are not claiming responsibility.

Entrepreneurs are busy doing what needs to be done to create a more environmentally friendly world.  Now it's time for both local and provincial government to encourage local business and affordable housing with supportive policies.


  1. OK, since I'm the somewhat dubious source of part of this, I'll confirm that it was the city of Kingston, Ontario, that offered that preferential tax rate to downtown landlords. I'm not sure if it's still in effect. But the province of Nova Scotia has recently taken steps to allow municipalities to tweak tax rates to help out downtown business landlords. So there's hope.

  2. Good information and you raise good questions that municipal politicians should be asking themselves. Let's get the discussion started.


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