Since the beginning of this City Council’s term the Mayor and several other members of Council have made infill housing one of the top priorities. The discussion surrounding infill housing in our City takes on many forms: infill in mature neighborhoods, infill on surplus school sites, or even increasing density through building more housing units on existing spaces. Yet despite this Council’s priority, many citizens are growing to oppose the City’s new position of infill push.
Advocates that are pro-infill state that it is better to increase population density on existing land and use existing infrastructure than increasingly relying on greenfield developments pushing us outwards. “Better up than out” is a mantra I have often heard in discussion with this topic.
A noble desire which on the surface seems to makes sense – but then again so did bike lanes to some.
I am hearing from people all across the city that many communities are feeling that they are under siege from reckless housing contractors—often given no defense due to a very non-existent public engagement process coupled with a lack of respect for the community equity and character of the citizen’s neighborhoods.
The fact of the matter is that the City is not meeting its corporate infill targets and resistance is growing.
I cannot help but see many similarities between what is happening to our infill push and the failure of the City’s bike lanes. I believe it is clear that the City’s bikes lanes that were approved by the last Council had the best of intentions but the worst of implementation – so much so we are now pulling out bike lanes that have met much community resistance that Council is being forced to act.
It is a shame the City seems to be repeating past mistakes. It has been moving infill too quickly, without first building a clear and enhanced community-customer relations process that would better manage neighborhood complaints, address development officer’s variance, and set out clear terms of engagement for contractor/neighbor disputes.
It is equally unfortunate that Council failed to heed the warnings of many communities on how such things like building form, construction impacts on local infrastructure, and other issues affecting the neighborhood character including housing finishes, are souring infill for many.
I would be the first to say we are definitely in need of infill housing, as old housing stock that was built in the 1950’s and 60’s has to turn as they are at the end of their life cycle. Yet, throwing all these issues into a cauldron, stirring them around and bringing them to a boil, only to deal with their impacts after the fact is a recipe for a bike lane level of dissatisfaction.
Only now is Council starting to respond and mitigate many of these issues. But we are a long way off from making this a win-win situation for the City and its neighborhoods.