Building for the new neighbours
Working in established urban areas presents unique challenges.
Change is hard. When it comes to cities, it’s also inevitable. Urban environments are constantly shedding their skin. The latest population projections show the province will hit 6.6 million people by 2046. That’s an increase of 2.3 million from 2018. Most of those people will choose to put down roots in urban areas. Calgary is expected to add some 22,000 new residents every year. The City of Calgary has a goal of settling half of new arrivals in established areas by 2069. That target is set out in the Municipal Development Plan. The MDP defines the established areas as those communities built between 1950 and 1990. So the City is not focused on downtown or inner-city communities. It has a more ambitious vision and it will impact a lot of current residents. Redevelopment projects often involve applying for a change in land use designation. If granted, the change permits a different type of building on an existing lot. A multi-family residence in the place of a single home, for example. The City has developed an engagement toolkit that will help developers determine the amount of public consultation necessary for any given project. (In general, the larger a proposed building, the greater the necessary public engagement.) Engagement sessions often result in changes to the proposed new building. But it’s likely that no amount of public engagement will make everyone happy. In cases where a project receives Council approval, it can still face delay. For a fee of $100, residents can file an appeal with the Calgary Subdivision & Development Appeal Board. The SDAB is an independent agency that “hears appeals on development permits, subdivision decisions and enforcement orders issued by The City of Calgary.” It serves an important role as a court of last resort. But it can also lead to further delays in starting construction. And, when it comes to construction, delays mean added costs for prospective homeowners. A higher appeal fee might discourage those who have more wounded feelings than legitimate complaints. It might also help the City achieve the goals laid out in the MDP. Housing affordability is a big issue for Canadians. A recent survey found that 78% of us want to see the federal government tackle the issue. That means more public engagement. That is not a bad thing. It only becomes a problem when the talk falls on deaf ears.