My friend, Stefano Grande from Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, had an interesting editorial in this paper last Saturday concerning city planning and development practices. In it, he bemoaned the continued outward growth of the city instead of concentrating on the inner city and downtown.
Grande cited a note he received from the recently re-elected mayor of Calgary, Naheed Nenshi, claiming that Calgarians subsidize new homes in new developments by about $4,800 per unit. However, he didn't mention that the cost of government-imposed fees and charges increased by five times that amount over the past year, thereby making new residential development a pretty good investment on their part.
Grande also talked about the perils of urban sprawl and the cost to the inner city. In reality, the opposite is true. Winnipeg has become a more affordable place to live, with assistance to those in need of housing, because of new development, not in spite of it.
For example, the Manitoba government has committed proceeds from the development of Bridgwater Forest and Lakes to fund social housing. They would not have the funds to do as much without it. Similarly, the city of Winnipeg will ultimately realize more than $200 million from the Waverley West developments toward its operating revenue.
Road-building and paving, water and sewer lines, utility lines, engineering fees, sidewalks, street landscaping, street lighting, walkways and trails, parks and playgrounds and land allocation for schools are all done at the initial expense of the developer, and eventually paid for by the residents of a new neighbourhood. These amenities do not come from government revenue diverted from other necessary areas.
There's no doubt that a strong and vibrant downtown benefits us all. The MTS Centre would not be located there were that not true. However, we need to develop and revitalize downtown Winnipeg in conjunction with, not instead of, creating exciting new neighbourhoods.
If we're going to continue to attract more than 10,000 new immigrants to our province every year, we need places for them to live and families to grow. And if we're going to increase our population by 180,000 people, as outlined in the Our Winnipeg plan, we need a wide variety of options for people to live.
Mike Moore is president of the Manitoba Home Builders' Association.