Stop the Sprawl! Say 'No' to new communities on Oct 19

Michael Soron, Flikr Creative Commons

On Monday, October 19, City Council faces a decision about the kind of city we want, when some developers will ask Council to approve more subdivisions on the periphery of our city. Developers are submitting 11 business cases, which will result in work beginning in nine subdivisions, and add two new subdivisions to land available for development.

Image credit: Michael Soron, Flikr Creative Commons

Approving more subdivisions would be fiscally irresponsible.  The 41 new subdivisions already on the books have overloaded Calgary with 2,600 hectares of excess suburban land.  That excess land translates into unsold homes and vacant lots that will be with us for at least 24 years. 

Along with the economic recession and the residual effects of COVID, these sprawling subdivisions have sown the seeds for a continuing collapse in the housing market.  By the end of 2022, house prices are expected to decline 10% to 24%, further depleting the wealth of homeowners and landlords. 

As well, developers who invested in our existing communities – from Country Hills to Copperfield, Cougar Ridge to Coral Springs – are at risk of losing their shirts because they can't sell their inventory of homes or follow through on already approved permits.  Meanwhile, land in places like Currie Barracks and around the Westbrook shopping centre remain wastelands of unfulfilled promises.

It did not have to be that way.  In 2009, City Council approved a ground-breaking Municipal Development Plan.  With its focus on a more compact, livable city, the MDP offered one of the most important ways to keep taxes low and communities strong.  Current estimates are that sticking to the MDP will save our city $16.8 billion in capital costs and, by 2070, $260 million in annual operating cost.  It is also the most cost-effective way to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Sadly, over the last decade, the MDP was neutered.  New subdivisions continued to be approved outside of the objectives and requirements of the MDP.  City Administration would bring forward recommendations for more subdivisions and, with few exceptions, Council would approve. 

In contrast, many people saw the benefits of the MDP.  Inner-city developers built new, community-sensitive homes.  Homebuyers responded by choosing existing communities over new subdivisions.  The trend in population growth in new subdivisions dropped from 94% in 2009 to 67% in 2015.  The trend for new housing in subdivisions followed suit, going from 89% to 54%.

City Administration consistently underestimated the trend away from new subdivisions.  Administration’s suburban housing forecasts, on average, exceeded the trends by 15%.  Suburban population forecasts were more extreme, averaging 31% above trends.  

Guided by the forecasts, City Council in 2018 brought us to where we are today by approving another 14 new subdivisions.  Servicing those 14 new subdivisions are estimated to cost over $330 million during the current budget cycle.  During the next two years, $43 million will come directly out of our pockets in the form of property taxes and utility fees along with the cost of LRT extensions, new schools, and expansion of Stoney Trail

On Monday, 11 suburban “business cases” will come before City Council.  It is estimated those business cases will generate 2 to 3 more subdivisions, which developers will argue are a great investment based on crystal-ball gazing City Administration asked them to do. 

Unfortunately, at this point and for the next 24 years, what developers say now is irrelevant.  City Council must put a moratorium on more subdivisions to plug the hole in its budget that new subdivisions have created.

The ball is in the Council’s court.  A key piece for solving the City’s financial troubles is at stake.


Call to Action

In response to this we are asking you to do three things.

1. Speak before City Council - On October 19th we are asking our members to speak to city council and ask them not to approve these new communities, but instead direct these resources towards services that will make our city stronger. Please let us know if you are willing to speak. We will be happy to provide you with talking points and coaching if needed. Please let us know if you are willing to speak by contacting Bob at aresem@shaw.ca. Please register to speak emailing the city clerk at: publicsubmissions@calgary.ca

 

2. Write or phone your City Councillor - If you are unable to present before city council then please email your city councillor. Please see below for email address and key points to include in your email or phone message

 

3. Post to social medial –Use the hash tag #yyccc and include your city councillor (see list below for councillors’ twitter information). This will be especially important on October 19th, but post beforehand are also important. You can write your own message and/or share posts from the Calgary Climate Hub or Calgary Alliance for the Common Good social media accounts which can be found on Facebook and Twitter @calgaryclimatehub @CommonGoodYYC.

How to Speak before Council

Key Points

(for emails, letters, phone calls or presentation before council – choose the ones that speak to your interests and the interests of your councillor if you know them)

 

  • I am asking you to vote against approving additional communities during this time. Prioritize spending on strengthening our existing communities instead of spending on developing communities that people won’t live in for years.

 

  • Instead of spending on new communities I am asking you to invest in _____ (options include: improving public transit, investing in our recreation centres, enacting the climate resiliency strategy, affordable housing, developing more community hubs. Expanding the number of PACT (police and crisis teams), increasing the number of Indigenous Liaison Officers Etc. )

 

  • The administration has already recommended that we don’t build these communities. Why would council go against the recommendations of those who have studied this closely?

 

  • There is already too much housing supply Already, over 2,600 hectares of land are scheduled for servicing for new subdivisions already, enough for 14 year’s worth of new detached and semi-detached homes and 24 year’s worth of other residences.

 

  • These new communities will have a significant financial cost for all of us. While developer levies are supposed to cover the cost of new developments, there is no indication that this is actually true. This means that the cost will have to be borne by the rest of the city. The 14 new subdivisions already approved are estimated to cost over $330 million from 2019 to 2022, with fifty-five million is to be paid from property taxes.

 

  • If we continue to build out instead of up this will create a long-term financial imbalance for our city. Failure to follow the City’s Municipal Development Plan (MDP) goal of growth in 50% new communities %50 existing communities will result in $16.6 billion in additional capital costs of60 years and additional annual operating costs of $390 million by 2070.

 

  • Urban sprawl comes at a high cost in not just financial terms. Libraries, policing, fire and social services become stretched. Sprawl comes at a high cost in terms of time added to commutes,  unworkable transit routes, destruction of natural infrastructure, such as wetlands drained, forests bulldozed, and prairie paved over while increasing our greenhouse gas emissions.

 

  • Unoccupied new home inventories and rental vacancy rates are rising. People are leaving Calgary. Adding more supply while demand is dropping will cause home prices to drop by an estimated 10-24 per cent by 2022. Families will be left owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, while builders undercut them with cheap houses in the suburbs. 

 

  • Instead of sprawl, keeping Calgary compact will help the city build walkable neighbourhoods centred around good transit, with shops and offices close by -- the kind of neighbourhoods that will attract new businesses and young people to our city.

 

  • When you are in a financial crisis and looking at budget cuts it is not the time to put money into building new rooms for your house.

 

Contact Your City Councillor

 

Ward

Official

Email

twitter

Mayor

Naheed Nenshi

TheMayor@calgary.ca

"@nenshi"

1

Ward Sutherland

Ward.Sutherland@calgary.ca

"@Ward4Ward1"

2

Joe Magliocca

Joe.Magliocca@calgary.ca

"@Joe_Magliocca"

3

Jyoti Gondek *

Jyoti.Gondek@calgary.ca

"@JyotiGondek"

4

Sean Chu

Sean.Chu@calgary.ca

"@seanchucalgary"

5

George Chahal

george.chahal@calgary.ca

"@ChahalGeorge"

6

Jeff Davison

Jeff.Davison@calgary.ca

"@JeffDavisonYYC"

7

Druh Farrell

Druh.Farrell@calgary.ca

"@DruhFarrell"

8

Evan Woolley

Evan.Woolley@calgary.ca

"@EwoolleyWard8"

9

Gian-Carlo Carra

Gian-Carlo.Carra@calgary.ca

"@gccarra"

10

Ray Jones

EAWARD10@calgary.ca

"@RundleRay"

11

Jeromy Farkas

Jeromy.Farkas@calgary.ca

@JeromyYYC

12

Shane Keating

Shane.Keating@calgary.ca

@CouncillorKeats

13

Diane Colley-Urquhart

Diane.Colley-Urquhart@calgary.ca

"@BigRedyyc"

14

Peter Demong

Peter.Demong@calgary.ca

"@peterdemong"