Happy 2010 Plus a Few Predictions

Well it is a new year and I think promises to be a good one, or better rather than 2009, which maybe for some isn’t saying too much!  One of my quasi-resolutions was to keep this blog up and running with regular posts, as there is always much to write about in the sphere of infrastructure and urban issues these days.   I thought I would start off with a few predictions on issues that may develop and/or pre-occupy us over the coming year:

Energy Prices on the Rise Again

The price of oil has quickly bolted through the $80 mark in early January 2010, a price level where it begins to have serious consequences for transportation (trucking, air and long distance car commuting) and therefore across the broader economy.  I predict that the price will continue to ascend, though not at the frenetic pace of 2007-08, and the repreive we were granted due to the late 2008 financial and economic meltdown will be over.  This fact, more than the failed ambitions of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, will drive discussions of alternative energy and sustainability.  Peak oil anyone?

Stimulated, Now What?

2010 will see the many thousands of micro-infrastructure projects funded by the 2009 federal stimulus budget well underway or completed.  While the impact of new arena roofs, repaved roads and refurbished transit stops has likely not been significant economically, it may have better attuned Canadians to the merits of infrastructure investment.  Hopefully, it will “stimulate” a discussion of how we might take a more strategic perspective to infrastructure investment, and better overlay it with policy objectives in other areas, such as sustainable development/planning, public health, greentech/reducing energy costs and improving transportation generally.  Moreover, despite the short term focus of the stimulus finds, I hope we will better come to understand that infrastructure policy is perhaps uniquely about the kind of Canada we want to have in 25 or even 50 years.

What to do About Housing Prices

2009 was the year that millions of Canadian homeowners breathed a huge sigh of relief.  After reading endless stories about the housing catastrophe in the United States with millions of homes in foreclosure and household finances decimated, happily Canadians saw most major urban markets stabilize in 2009 and, towards the end of the year, prices even resumed their upward ascent.  Good news for existing homeowners yes, but not great for aspiring ones.  House prices remain at very high levels by historical price to income levels, or buy vs rent measures, even with the lowest interest rates in two generations.  With interest rates set to rise at least some, housing affordability I predict will come to be a major issue in 2010 and beyond.  Potential prescriptions will need to address both the supply and demand sides.

Well those are three issue floating around in my crystal ball – I hope to address each further throughout the year.  Of course none exist in isolation and are related to large degree, which is what makes soapbox analysis and blogosphere policy-making fun.  Any comments are welcome!


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