The Rent is Too Damned High: Stop Stopping Condos!

Driving through mid-town the other day I caught a sign that said “Stop the Alaska Condo”. Not knowing anything about it I looked it up and was met with an inspiring, modern design to replace 28 family units with 130 new units of housing around Yonge and Strathgowan.

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The Proposed Alaska Condo

Of course there is a neighbourhood association who are protesting its development. Reasons to protest include “safety” (left considerably vague), that it will introduce a number of new people and cars and that it isn’t in keeping with the village’s rustic aesthetic. The Uptown Yonge Neighbourhood Alliance acknowledges the need of urban redevelopment, just not that urban redevelopment.

Cities are more than just crowded places that people live. They are the modern backbone of vibrant economies. Toronto itself accounts for 11% of Canada’s total GDP, and depends on a growing number of people to provide tax revenues, employment and businesses. In his book Triumph of the City, author Edward Glaeser outlines how cities provide networks that spawn a creative class and strengthen our economies.

But far more concerning is how in modern times cities have also become a mess of regulations that are stifling growth. Not economic growth, but residential growth. Urban density helps make neighbourhoods more prosperous and with a wider more successful variety of services. But as is the case with the Alaska Condo, proposals to increase density often face strong resistance. I tend to view this resistance as not only cutting off one’s nose, but as immoral too. Toronto is a bustling city, whose cost of living continues to skyrocket because of lack of housing. In the rush to try and prevent change to our city we are not only choking off our future economic vitality, but punishing people financially with ever increasing home ownership and rental costs, even as more and more of our economy depends on service sector work and less on manufacturing.

I have no doubt that the members of the Uptown Yonge Neighbourhood Alliance feel very passionately about their cause, but I’m afraid it boils down to little more than NIMBY-ism. People need places to live, and the Yonge & Strathgowan area will benefit from some lower cost housing and all the new residents, who will bring money, taxes and businesses to the area.

Further Reading: The Rent is Too Damn High by Matt Yglesias

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