Developers Oppose Density

In this Herald article today, a study commissioned by two groups representing builders revealed that city residents approve of the direction laid out in Plan It, the city’s proposed long-term plan for land use and transportation, but that they don’t intend to change their own marked (73%) preference for single family unit dwellings. This is, in my opinion a succinct manifestation of the gap between the public’s collective desire for action on sustainability issues and individual intentions or preferences, and why, I also believe that serious change requires more than mere moral suasion on the part of governments. I’ve talked about Plan It below; the plan itself is hardly radical in its basic premise that Calgary’s relatively enormous urban footprint is not a sustainable (or affordable) path forward – a separate financial analysis of the document reveals that the status quo would cost the city an additional $11 billion present value dollars in infrastructure and operating costs over 60 years. Since municipal government is mainly where the proverbial rubber hits the road i.e. where actual planning and infrastructure decisions get made that will affect how people live, I believe it is incumbent upon them to set direction and targets that will affect positive change. If that is some people’s “social engineering” than so be it (of course I am saying this as a private citizen, and not a city employee, who doesn’t work in the planning department at any rate). Creating a network of walkable inner-city neighbourhoods is Calgary’s great opportunity, and by showing leadership on this issue, Calgary has the chance to change thinking and the marketplace, as we have seen in Toronto and Vancouver, whose inner city neighbourhoods, if price is anything to go by, are far and away the most desireable. The people are rooting for it; it will just take some time, good policy, and a few more “early adopters” to trade up to true city living.


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