I will return to Vienna to look at its affordable housing model. First, I have to address some of the issues that make solving the affordability crisis complex. For many years, multiple levels of government focused on “capacity to buy”. Think of the programs:
All of these initiatives sell the dream of home ownership and drive demand. So, prices rose and previously contented renters started to feel like they were missing out. Consequently, even more demand as consumers clamour to get on to the property ladder or worry about getting priced out of the market.
All the while governments have effectively acted to constrain supply. In Toronto, it can take eight to ten years after raw land acquisition for the first shovel of dirt to be turned on a new development. This may be an exceptionally long wait period, but five or six year delays are commonplace across Canada. Interest costs, real estate taxes, planning professionals’ fees, and hours and hours spent with civil servants and politicians accumulate. Long waits mean higher land costs before that first turn of the dirt.
Then, there is so much resistance to increasing urban density. Many of the resistors fancy themselves as environmentalists. Delusional! Cities continue to grow! If we don’t densify, there is only one alternative. More urban sprawl that chews up agricultural land, forests, and parkland. Development pushes out beyond available public transport. So, more cars on the road creating more air pollution. Now, not all density has to be in high rise buildings. Consider the four to six storey buildings in dense neighbourhoods in Paris, London, Vienna and other European cities. Think of the density achieved with three storey buildings in Montreal’s inner city neighbourhoods such as Plateau Mont-Royal and Villeray.
Toronto has zoned almost seventy percent of its territory for single-family, detached housing. Similar percentages prevail across North American cities. As already noted above, single-family zoning chews up acres of forest and agricultural land. It restricts the amount of land available for parks and recreational areas. And, it curtails the development of much needed housing. According to relatively recent Statistics Canada data, there are 564,000 detached single-family homes on the island of Montreal. If only 25% of homeowners chose to densify their lots by one additional unit over the next ten years, this would add 116,000 homes to existing inventory.
Acceptance and implementation of new building technology, techniques, and materials takes time. Why? Trade union resistance, man-power retraining, building code revisions, and vested-interest “no change” industry lobbying all require attention. Then maybe we will see:
Poor urban planning and NIMBYs deserve their own post. Delivery – sometime over the next few weeks. I can’t spend too much time all at once on these topics – bad for my blood pressure. And, I promise, I will return to Vienna.
My age odometer turns over this week. I won’t tell you my age – many of you know anyway. The rest of you will have to guess. I will give you hints. Things I miss: I don’t miss My age odometer turns over I think it is natural to think back as we grow older. […]
I am not keeping up with my commitment to write more often. I am busy. In addition to my usual advisory work, I am investing a lot off time into three inter-connected initiatives: Interconnected because they are all about improving urban life and providing homes for everyone and everything. How did I Ever Get Hooked? […]
I will return to Vienna to look at its affordable housing model. First, I have to address some of the issues that make solving the affordability crisis complex. For many years, multiple levels of government focused on “capacity to buy”. Think of the programs: All of these initiatives sell the dream of home ownership and […]
We left for Portugal on January 31st. I have only published twice since then. But, I have been busy. We spent four weeks in Nazaré, the World’s surfing capital. Yes, this is the place that surfers go to catch the 100-foot waves. And then, two weeks in Vienna. I did take time to enjoy my […]
Lisbon’s seven hills and waterfront make it visually spectacular. The second oldest capital in Europe, the city has energy. Busy streets and squares, full restaurants, and vibrant night life – the city pulsates. And, the population seems young. All signs of a city on the rise? Earthquake A 1755 earthquake destroyed 85% of the city […]
People living on the street have come to symbolize the global housing crisis but they are only the tip of the iceberg. While the examples of Finland and Houston demonstrate a focussed plan pursued diligently can resolve the housing situation for the chronically homeless, addressing the affordable housing problem is much more complex. Defining Affordability […]