December 15, 2011: Opinion: Should the Tail Be Wagging the Dog?
Opinion: Should the Tail Be Wagging the Dog?
By Debra Huron, Champlain Park resident.
Why do developers in Ottawa think they have the right to decide what kind of housing people want?
In a recent Newswest article about the City’s plan to create new infill design guidelines, the author of the piece reports that developers have reacted with chagrin. They were quoted as saying the proposed changes will stifle creative design and make houses “difficult (if not impossible) to market.”
If developers are interested in building houses people want to live in, they would surely need to be looking at: the footprint of the home; its energy efficiency rating; how it enhances the streetscape; and, whether home buyers expect to drive a car.
One of the compelling reasons for living in most neighbourhoods in Kitchissippi Ward is that the commercial areas we access for shopping and social life and school and maybe even work are nearby. It’s this possibility of being part of a vibrant community that attracts many new homeowners to the ward. I’ve talked to middle-agers who are looking to downsize from a home in the suburbs and are eyeing this ward. And I know of many savvy young couples that actually enjoy living with two or three children in 1,200 sq. ft. homes. Do others in that age group have a chance to buy new homes of that type in Kitchissippi?
If I remember correctly, customers are the ones who are always right. They drive the offerings that the marketplace proffers. Isn’t it a case of the tail wagging the dog for developers to say that they are the ones who somehow define the customers’ home choices?
It may be true that some infill developers are having a hard time selling their artistically designed homes in the current market. Maybe that’s because many people who would love to live in the highly-attractive residential zones of Kitchissippi are looking for something small and beautiful—something with ecological integrity and built to a human scale.
Isn’t it time for infill developers to recognize that today’s home-buying public is willing to pay for housing that meets broader social and environmental aspirations? And why wouldn’t they be open to that radical idea? They can still make potfulls of money.