For years, even decades, under previous mayors Bill Smith, Stephen Mandel and Don Iveson, Edmonton has earned a reputation of being a “pro-development” city.
Supporters of the plan-it-and-greenlight-it philosophy will say that it’s led to a robust housing supply, which has kept living in Edmonton affordable relative to pretty much any other big city in Canada. Critics will say that it has led to sprawl; the city has to maintain more roads, provide extra services and struggles to provide transit to the subdivisions which push against Edmonton’s borders.
But, is Edmonton’s time as a “pro-development” city coming to an end?
This week, the Urban Planning Committee met to discuss the city’s Growth Management Plan. That seems about as exciting as eating dry white toast while listening to Coldplay. But, the development community was at City Hall to decry certain provisions which they claimed could artificially control the market and restrict housing supply — which would cause a rise in housing prices..
It all comes down to the City Plan. It lays out some pretty basic concepts for how Edmonton should be built out. But, like a lot of government plans, the language is pretty general. So, it says that the City has control over the approval of all new neighbourhoods (as it should). But, in order to approve a neighbourhood, City planners need to see “substantial completion.” It’s a term that’s so open-ended, it means nothing.
So, administration was charged to actually give meaning to “substantial completion.” And it came up with a scoreboard of sorts, based on housing-start statistics. What it boils down to is this: If one area of the city is expanding ahead of pace, while the others lag behind, those other areas will be allowed to catch up. Think of it like a golf handicap, but on the housing market.