Saskatoon, in Canada’s Prairies, is the latest city to discover that economic good times can be bad for a great many people. A story on the front page of today’s Report on Business in The Globe and Mail notes that the economic boom in that city, and the province of Saskatchewan, is not being shared by low, moderate and even middle-income people.
About 400 tenants in the McNab Park district of Saskatoon face losing their homes as a property developer attempts to cash in on the demand for higher-priced housing. Next door in the Province of Alberta, the oil-fed economic boom has generated a huge amount of housing insecurity, and massive and growing homelessness. Even Toronto, which has seen a number of years of solid – if not spectacular – economic growth until recently, has experienced the downside of good times as poverty and income inequality has grown.
The current response in Saskatoon, based on a quote from senior city planner Allan Wallace, is to throw up their collective hands in dismay and brace for the economic storm. “We think we’ve learned from Alberta’s experience before us,” Wallace is quoted as saying. “But what we’ve learned is that it’s impossible to keep up. You’re basically reacting continuously.”
Wrong – as was clearly demonstrated last Thursday, when the Wellesley Institute and the Cities Centre at the University of Toronto brought together more than 120 municipal planners and other community leaders for our inclusionary zoning forum. The three policy experts that came up from the United States – David Rusk from Washington, DC; Sheila Dillon from Boston; and Adam Gross from Chicago – all agreed that economic good times are exactly the right time to start effective land use planning to make sure that there is room for everyone, not just the dwindling numbers who can afford the skyrocketing market cost of housing.
More details on the forum, and the next steps, will be posted shortly on the Wellesley Institute web site.