Spacing Radio is the voice of Spacing, Canada's leading publication on urbanism.
Episode 67: Toronto Election: the case against a strong mayor system
Another election, another surprise announcement from Premier Doug Ford that throws it all into disarray. Ford's proposal for "Strong Mayor" powers for Toronto and Ottawa's next mayors have left many wondering why the Premier is intervening in local-level governance.
One of these people is former Toronto Mayor David Miller. We speak to Miller — currently managing director of C40 Cities, advising municipalities on fighting climate change — about why a Strong Mayor system would be harmful to local democracy, as long as key issues for this elections such as housing, transit, active transportation, and the environment.
The Overhead: Breaking the addiction to high home values
We're all used to headlines about impossibly soaring housing prices in Canadian cities: prices that leave many out of the market, and out in the cold. But this model of perpetually increasing home values is the dream for many owners. You buy a home, let it accumulate in value, and do whatever you can to insure that growing value isn't threatened. But this model is unsustainable and leaves many people without proper housing options.
Dr. Paul Kershaw is a University of British Columbia professor, founder of Generation Squeeze, and author of the paper "Wealth and the Problem of Housing Inequity Across Generations." He says these rising home values have changed what it means to be wealthy:
“We have to be cognizant of the fact that there is a cultural and political addiction to high and rising home prices for many in this country, because it makes us better off. And some people will resist that [...] I'll get angry emails: 'I'm not rich!' But what we need to have right now is more and more dialogue about who's affluent and who's not. And the rise in home values is so disrupting and transforming class dynamics.”
PARTNA is a Black-founded, Black-led organization working with multiple levels of government to let owners of detached and semi-detached houses add long-term, affordable units to their properties. Cheryll Case is the planning director and Jason Allen John is finance director. Cheryll says there are existing homeowners who are ready to break with the status quo and help make a change, and that's where PARTNA comes in:
“There's so many housing owners who are seeing the crisis of housing inaffordability who want to do something. They don't know what to do. No one is reaching out to help them. We come in to help them build affordable housing.”
Can we really change the way we see housing from an asset garnering increasingly high value to a human right everyone should have access to?
Episode 066: Toronto Election Engagement
The Toronto municipal election is underway, and we'll be spending the summer bringing you coverage, all the way up to E-Day on October 24th.
But how do we get people engaged, and avoid the abysmally low voter turnout we saw in the Ontario provincial election? What does "Ford More Years" of Premier Doug mean for the municipal race, and the next council? What key items should be made election issues? And what does new police data which admits to systemic, racist overpolicing of minorities and use of force mean for the police reform movement?
To answer these and other questions, we've got panel guests John Lorinc (Spacing senior editor) and Jennifer Pagliaro (Toronto Star crime reporter focusing on youth justice, formerly of the City Hall bureau).
The race is on!
The Overhead: Fixing the housing market
The housing market is one everyone's minds these days. It determines who can live where, who can afford to buy a home, or even afford rent. It keeps some people in poverty, while making a small few incredibly rich. Is there a way governments, at various levels, can help bring some stability to an unstable market?
To begin our discussion, we speak to University of British Columbia associate professor Thomas Davidoff, director of the Centre for Economics and Real Estate, who co-authored a revealing study about laneway houses in Vancouver:
“Neighbourhoods that have relatively low prices (and of course it's relative in the City of Vancouver), so the east side of Vancouver, there doesn't seem to be any adverse effect on neighbouring property values. But the effect is bigger on the order of 5 to 7% in the more affluent neighbourhoods.”
On the other side of the country, in Montreal, we talk to McGill University associate professor David Wachsmuth about the outsized influence short term rentals such as AirBnB have on rent prices, and what governments can do to rein thing in.
“AirBnb — now more so than in the past, thankfully — they have some interest in being regarded as a cooperative corporate citizen. So if particularly provinces where the real power here is, they've got a lot of carrots and they've got a lot of sticks, and it's simply just a question of deciding to make this a priority.”
What can these two examples teach us about shaping the housing market and improving affordability?
The Overhead: Non-market housing solutions
Spacing and the Balanced Supply of Housing research node proudly present The Overhead: Understanding Canada’s Affordable Housing Crisis, a special podcast series.
THIS EPISODE: Non-market housing solutions
For many housing advocates, part of the solution to providing affordable housing is removing housing from the volatile market. This means finding ways to secure housing ensuring it won't be sold, flipped, or inflated in price. It's something the Better Supply of Housing research node has been examining, as part of a holistic approach to the housing crisis.
Cliff Grant is director of strategic relations at the Aboriginal Housing Management Association in British Columbia, and says non-market housing is part of a that organization's recently published "Urban, Rural, and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy":
“We're working on both fronts. One, the strategy to maintain current assets, and two, then looking at the data — a lot of which comes out of the municipality's housing needs assessment.”
In Toronto, the Kensington Market Community Land Trust was able to buying a mixed-use building in that area, with the help of the City and donors, including a number of housing units, for the express purpose of maintaining them as affordable rental. Chiyi Tam, Dominique Russell, and Kevin Barrett all spoke on behalf of the land trust, explaining the significance of taking those units off the market. Dominique says:
“Ultimately, it is the best investment for our collective tax dollars to invest in affordability that is forever in the community. The alternative is to invest, short term, in the interest of a few.”
What is the role of non-market housing in addressing the housing crisis?
Listen here for The Overhead:
Episode 065: Cities for Youth
Urban designers and placemakers often struggle to create cities that work for everyone, including youth. But the youth themselves are often left out of planning and engagement, or aren't being invited to participate in a way they feel comfortable with or excited about.
How do we engage youth in building their cities? Federico Palacios is a graduate student at X University's (formally Ryerson) School of Urban and Regional Planning. He has developed the Cities for Youth Toolkit: a resource for people to better engage youth in city building.
To help establish the importance of youth engagement and participation, Federico speaks to Gladki Planning Associates planner Lindsay Toth, Urban Minds' outreach coordinator Enosh Chen, and Carizon Family and Community Services youth engagement in systems lead Joana Lincho.
Bien fait, juste une petite commentaire
Great podcast (and associated publication) on Canadian urbanism. De plus, comme canadien francophone vivant hors Québec, je vraiment apprécie le fait que la balado touche, en français qu’en anglais, des enjeux urbains partout dans le pays, y compris des épisodes en français qui ne parle pas juste de la scène urbaine québécoise. Bravo! My only feedback is that it would be great if the producers/hosts did episodes on a wider variety of Canadian municipalities. For instance, there hasn’t yet been an episode discussing the urban issues transpiring in some of Canada’s biggest/most interesting (from an urbanism POV) cities such as Calgary (e.g. Green Line, new MAX BRT network, cycle track network, 5A infrastructure plan, Alpine Park), Halifax (e.g. the new Street Improvement Pilot Projects like on Yonge and Kaye), Moncton (e.g. Vision Lands), Kelowna (e.g. “first 5G Smart City project), or Winnipeg (e.g. Indigenous Urban design initiative).
Check it out!
Always worth a listen to prompt thought on varied themes and perspectives and discussion with others. Tight production and great music!
Thoughtful and well-researched discussion on everything urbanism. Always impressed with the calibre of guests too. Keep it up.