Does planning acknowledge the cost of redevelopment on housing affordability?
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Canadian media is showing increased coverage of residents struggling to afford housing and residents being displaced from their communities due to the rising cost of housing and neighbourhood redevelopment. Simultaneously, Canadian city-regions are encouraging high density housing in urban cores with mixed-uses as part of an increasing desire for smart growth. However, many researchers in urban planning are finding redevelopment in the forms of revitalization and densification may contribute to a loss of affordable housing. My research explores to what extent planners from five Canadian city-regions (Vancouver, Edmonton, Greater Toronto Area, Halifax, and St. John’s) address objectives for redevelopment and affordable housing in tandem (in discussion and planning documents), if planners recognize the negative impacts of redevelopment on affordable housing, and if the language for redevelopment and affordable housing objectives is equally compulsory and specific. My analysis of interviews with 92 practicing planners and 24 planning documents indicates that planners address redevelopment objectives significantly more often than affordable housing objectives and the objectives are seldom addressed in tandem. The few times planners address both objectives together, planners often state that redevelopment (usually in the form of densification, but sometimes as revitalization) leads to increased and improved affordable housing. Planners rarely address the negative impacts redevelopment can have on affordable housing. The language for objectives to increase density is sometimes more compulsory than language used to increase or protect affordable housing. Many planners address frustration with provincial and federal governments not taking responsibility for affordable housing. Research on revitalization and densification overwhelmingly shows these forms of redevelopment may lead to a loss of affordable housing (as prices increase and family-style housing is lost). However, Canadian planners have formed an unevaluated consensus that density and revitalization will improve and increase affordable housing. They are further encouraging site re-use, revitalization, and intensification.
Dalton, Meaghan. (2016). Does planning acknowledge the cost of redevelopment on housing affordability? Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.