We’ve all spent more time close to home over the past year. Existing neighbourhood gems have made it more manageable, while we’ve also experienced the vulnerabilities in our social and physical infrastructure. Now more than ever, we know just how essential our communities are to our resilience, mental health, economic security, safety and wellbeing. The vision of a 15 minute neighbourhood means you can live in a community where the majority of your needs and desires are met within a 15 minute walk from where you live.
For too long we built single generation neighbourhoods which go through a predictable pattern of rapid growth and then equally significant decline over the course of subsequent generations. This leads to school closures, the loss of local businesses, a lack of options for downsizing, a loss of services and a City that has difficulty affording needed infrastructure upgrades.
Mature and core neighbourhoods that are experiencing a population decline, need housing that can accomodate downsizing seniors, options for affordable retrofitting of existing housing stock, (including a full PACE program), and a way to tell the story of these neighbourhoods while competing with the major advertising campaigns that draw people to new suburban communities.
The current imbalances in the types of housing available in different parts of the City, and who can afford it, create divisions in the community. If we have a good mix of diverse housing in our communities, we’ll be able to attract the people we need to maintain and create vibrant and interesting communities.
Many young families are looking for homes they can afford in central neighbourhoods close to work, school, recreation and other amenities. Being close to family and friends has become even more important as we navigate smaller gatherings, outdoors or online. This means building and retrofitting housing that can meet the needs of growing families, multi-generational households, seniors wanting to age in place and other flexible options including co-operatives and shared living arrangements.
When a community is in transition, we need to facilitate flexible uses for vacant lots, existing buildings and community spaces. Working with communities, entrepreneurs and artists we can create more adaptable places for people. And when we are replacing recreation centers, libraries or other community buildings, let’s think about the natural evolution of a community and how we can keep it well maintained and adaptable to the needs of changing demographics.