Sometimes I get the feeling there’s a little cognitive dissonance going on in the neighbourhood. I suppose it’s almost predictable, since the ‘hood is full of caring people, and caring almost invariably leads eventually to a kind of inner conflict between two or more beliefs or goals or attitudes. (Isn’t that how social change happens?)
On the one hand we have the desire to protect the architectural heritage and greenness, which combine to make it an exceptionally beautiful neighbourhood. On the other, we have a growing concern about the steadily increasing cost of accommodation. At the end of the day, these two factors work against each other.
The relatively large, architecturally interesting ‘character’ homes make this a high-demand neighbourhood, which means that in the Toronto context of ‘supply-and-demand’, the average selling price is high – basically unaffordable to all but higher income people. Even a one-bedroom condo is too expensive for average folks.
The trend of transformation from multiple to single-family dwellings also has meant fewer and fewer rental units – again resulting in a higher cost of renting. The “net” is that many interesting, creative, community-oriented people are being forced to leave for less expensive territory. The fear is that this community is being filled up with high-income individuals like lawyers and financiers – people likely to be too busy or pre-occupied to really participate in a ‘caring community’. Of course this may be a false assumption, another urban myth. But we are still left with the brutal reality of lower income people being increasingly forced to move away. We are left with a feeling of loss. We are diminished.
In urban planning circles, there is an increasing recognition and promotion of the need for greater density** – for the sake of sustainability. This kind of development uses already existing infrastructure and protects green spaces from urban sprawl as well as creating some resistance to the pressure of rising costs.
Years ago when I first began to think about ideas like “infill”, I found it distasteful. But I learned about new architectural ideas that create privacy and “greenness” even in dense housing. And I visited a few examples that convinced me one could adjust. Eventually the idea of adjusting for the sake of “Mother Earth” actually appealed to me.
It’s pretty obvious we need much greater density if we hope to have anything like affordability around here. Supply and demand. I often say it’s just basic arithmetic.
But I suppose it may be already too late – at least for this neighbourhood. And the habit in the ‘hood is still to react emotionally, even In panic, to proposed developments – the only time they think about it at all. I would like instead to see us pre-empt the standard process and instead decide as a community what kind of development we want, pros and cons of different ideas, etc. In other words, In a civilized way, come to understand and agree on a plan.
For me, that plan would be healthiest if it included small and medium-scale apartment buildings sprinkled throughout the neighbourhood. Of course there would have to be incentives, to encourage such building. There are also interesting examples of tiny but extremely efficient units in other parts of the world.
But we are spoiled, of course. We generally resist change – even resist thinking about it. But we do need to start the conversation in Roncesvalles Village – and Toronto as a whole. And I do believe we can and will evolve. It’s a human essential: evolve or perish.
– anxiety that results from simultaneously holding contradictory or otherwise incompatible attitudes, beliefs, or the like, as when one likes a person but disapproves strongly of one of his or her habits.