What do I mean by Smart/Responsible Densification? - Elect Sim for Ward 10

Tuesday 5 September 2017

What do I mean by Smart/Responsible Densification?

We all agree continuous growth of Edmonton outward is not sustainable in the long run. Resources required to maintain the quality of city services would mean further increases in taxes, or a general trend of deteriorating service levels. Though increasing density in the mature neighbourhoods appear to be a common goal majority of Edmontonians share, we increasingly feel like City Hall is telling us what our communities should look like, rather than asking us what we want for our communities.

I don't see opposition in many of our mature neighbourhoods to lot splitting and infill as NIMBYism*.  There are many reasons why residents are frustrated.

They see that the type of infill being built, at the price ranges they are built are not bringing the type of young families with young children to their older neighbourhoods. After all, how many young families can afford a $600K duplex and would want to buy one in a mature neighbourhood when they can buy a house in the suburbs for $450K?

They see houses built that pay no regard to height, architectural form, or front setback of their streets. A few bad examples are enough to make people very frustrated. They see these infill houses popping up not in areas in close proximity to transit but wherever builders can find a house they can knock down and make the most profit. Parking becomes an issue on the streets. The more profit opportunity builders see in the community, the more you see houses with multiple bids. Prices rise faster even for older homes in neighbourhoods where infill is proving to be a "good business".

In general they feel like the infill they are seeing built is nowhere near what was promised to them.

I believe there is a different, a better way to approach the issue of increasing density in the core neighbourhoods. This starts by understanding that you can't have a cookie cutter approach to every neighbourhood in the city. It starts by understanding that the current residents of a community bought in that specific area with certain expectations of a life style and that they deserve to have a say in how they want their neighbourhood to evolve.

That's why I will push for "true and sincere" consultation with residents of mature neighbourhoods, if elected to council. Rather than giant infill houses, or skinny's popping up everywhere randomly it is possible to work with communities to build a long term vision about where it makes sense to build medium density housing, where they would want to see senior housing etc. I propose establishing (or working with existing) non-profit development organizations, that will have the capacity to transform a whole block, rather than piece-meal projects. In my home country of Turkey, there are projects where owners of whole substandard buildings, or apartment complexes move out of 60-70 units. They live in rentals for a year or two. A whole new complex is built with increased density, and they all move in to their new apartments in the same neighbourhood they left in a couple years. They get a brand new apartment out of the process, don't have to pay for the rental unit while their new apartment is being built, and the builders still make money out of this. All that was done was legislation that a certain (high) majority of the neighbours would agree to this.

The Turkish model may not work in Edmonton, but it can still give us an idea about how we can approach densification in the mature neighbourhoods. If elected to council, I will work hard to re-ignite the community consultations. Through these consultations we can identify neighbourhoods that are willing and that would benefit from renewal and transformation.True public engagement is more than residents being given two options to choose from. And true public engagement can do wonders for creating win-win solutions for (those) mature neighbourhoods that can benefit from densification.

*NIMBY = Not In My Back Yard

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