Residents fall in love with their communities. They love the parks, the memories, and the housing they have.
Though developers built these communities, they are often not included as part of those communities. Their initial vision of what could be is discounted, forgotten and ignored when new development is proposed.
Case in point: In Preston, Ont., a developer owned a former hotel site and had a vision to retain the best existing features while creating adult living spaces that included the area’s hot springs heritage.
Even though the actual development consisted of only 150 units within smaller buildings, they were met with many roadblocks and much red tape, to the point where the developer decided enough was enough and sold the site to another developer.
The new developer proposed taller buildings containing 579 units — an intensification strategy. Likely, this would also be met with strong opposition.
The struggles of creating a new development
Existing communities hate change. And they object to adjacent developments that differ in character from their own, fearing property value devaluation and reduced security.
Developers go headlong into this negative emotion and resistance as adversaries. They tend to get a bad rap, labelled as money-grabbing or disruptive — unfairly in most instances. The municipality, often, cannot satisfy all sides.
The struggles all three sides face is symptomatic of a few things:
– new municipal objectives to reflect changing realities;
– rent controls;
– forced cap expenditure;
– inclusionary zoning;
– the developer’s economic realities;
– political constraints;
– and the community’s resistance to lifestyle changes and economic fears.
Strong need for more affordable housing
The current push for affordable housing heightens all these concerns. Municipalities need affordable housing in the face of economic, social and political pressure.
Potential homeowners lament they are priced out of where they grew up but don’t like the solutions offered.
Developers are caught in the middle. They’re the ones taking the risks yet getting through the municipal/community gauntlet is frustrating and very challenging.
Emotions and housing have always intertwined; nobody wants to let an outsider tell them what their community should look like.
Communities are right to want the very best for where they decide to call home. Yet developers are not there to pillage a community; they have a drive to improve, redefine and revitalize.
Understanding how developers can contribute may help everyone reach a more amicable solution.
A fine line for all parties to walk
Municipalities walk a fine political line, too. They depend on developers yet seem to hamper innovation and progress.
The root of the problem is communication. The existing processes for clear discussion between the parties is inconsistent, often poorly timed, and tends to pit the parties against one another instead of fostering a more approachable and open atmosphere.
Developers need a clear space, economically, politically, and socially, to do what they do best — build innovative and desirable housing.
Communities need certainty that what they’ve invested in isn’t compromised by future developments or municipal policy changes. And municipalities must provide services and develop policies that encourage both economic and social viability in the long term.
The inequities are that developers have the funds to promote their projects, municipalities have the political power to reject or approve, and communities feel they’re brought in too late into the process to make a difference, being relatively unorganized and underfunded to successfully defend their position.
An opportunity exists for developers and municipalities to lessen the friction. Before developments become too entrenched, a mechanism that gives all parties an opportunity to relationally discuss new proposals would go a long way to reducing the mistrust between the parties.
Hopefully, this would pave the way to reduced development challenges and bring about progress that satisfies everyone’s goals. Area revitalization, affordability and economic responsible progress is necessary and vital for continued social well-being — for all concerned.
To that end, an investment in a suitable forum seems logical.