Friday, May 14, 2010

Rob Stack's Presentation to the City's Executive Committee, April 21

Presentation for Executive Committee April 21, 2010. Rob Stack McCauley Community League.

Thank you, once again, for the opportunity to speak on this important issue.
Back in my research days we talked of elegant solutions to problems. Solutions that are effective, efficient, constructive, and almost always shockingly simple. We have one of those solutions in front of us but we may be too busy “processing” to focus on potential outcomes.

The elegant option is a regulated moratorium. Akin to Option 3 in the discussion paper. Effectively not adding more non-market housing to “High Threshold” neighbourhoods. The only significant exceptions being major Council-driven initiatives. Recognize that this is threshold based; this barrier would disappear when the indicators change.

Regulatory firmness would create an instant base on which positive action could be built. Unlike an “incentive” approach no new consultative bodies need be created, no new pressures are placed on distressed neighbourhoods, nothing needs to be created to move forward, it involves no expenditures on incentives that may miss the mark.
Vulnerable neighbourhoods, currently the path of least resistance, instantly are simply not under consideration. The inertia and huge machinery focusing non-market initiatives on these areas are redirected. Our neighbourhoods can then work towards better integrating existing developments and creating a great future.

For developers, both market and non-market, a regulated policy provides the clarity and certainty that they require.

Option 3 offers a huge advantage because it forces the issue. The playing field is instantly changed. NM developers would be forced to work with healthy communities towards a common goal. Today, resident concern is automatically given the label NIMBY and degraded. Everyone has the right to be concerned and we should never be sanctioning the use of name calling and other heavy handed tactics. These concerns are legitimate and a real dialogue with empowered communities will create not just better educated residents but better performing housing/service operators.

Apparently a major concern with option 3 is that it could rob us of the miracle housing project or projects that would fix urban poverty, stimulate development, and end urban crime. This is a romantic fallacy and a proven failure. Concentrating poverty is wrong and concentrating NMH concentrates poverty and/or institutionalizes residential areas -- end of story. The solutions we are looking for lie in integrated communities, and the elimination of areas of disadvantage and marginalization.

The concept of injecting market housing into troubled areas using NMH is equally flawed. Mixed residential can work (and work well) but it is dependent on locations of high market demand. It is the highly desirable location that is the known lever to entice dispersion and integration using mixed projects. It is backwards to think that NMH is a tool to leverage condo sales in the market.

The other problem with using NMH to fix problems of NMH concentration is that you are adding more of something to lower the concentration of that thing; this is simply circular logic.

What neighborhoods under extreme stress need is a moratorium. What the non-market development industry needs is a moratorium in the high threshold areas. No fancy footwork exemptions. We need this help, they need that guidance, we all need the certainty.

This would be a strong base to move forward from and I implore you to make this choice so that we can all move onto better things.

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