Cities are becoming increasingly aware of the need to densify. The infrastructure costs of suburban sprawl are not recoverable.
No one is prepared to pay the real costs which are imposed upon most city services by the continued expansion of suburbia.
Thus, there’s no doubt in my mind that urban densification is our future.
Saskatoon certainly has existing unused capacity which can be found on roadways, sidewalks, bridges and water and sewer lines.
The city has no choice but to approve well-designed, high-density development to achieve the growth plan which includes an increase in population to half a million people.
We have seen Saskatoon City Council vote in favour of several core area, infill projects in recent years. They are making good business decisions which ultimately help mitigate our ongoing property tax increases.
There is, however, a problem with this solution that has not been properly addressed.
Sacrificing value to serve purpose
Much of the zoning of the lands found in the core area does not permit multifamily development.
If I, as a developer, obtain approval for a spot rezoning of a parcel for condo development, I could be negatively impacting value of the surrounding single-family homes if the rear/side yard privacy of those homes has been taken away.
The second single-family home I owned in the early 1980s was located on a huge pie-shaped lot at the back of a quiet cul-de-sac.
A couple of years after I purchased the property, I discovered a high-rise office tower was going up immediately behind me, taking away all privacy and most, if not all, the equity due to its devaluation.
I put the house on the market immediately.
Plan ahead for the consequences
Where it has not already been done, cities need to go back to the drawing board. They need to identify each parcel which can be subject to infill, multifamily development.
Once the review and re-identification process is complete, it is up to the property owner if they want to stay until adjacent development is announced, at which time further devaluation occurs.
Densification is not going away. This is the responsible solution.