It was a mere coincident that when WinnipegREALTORS® was nearing completion of a discussion paper on Manitoba’s acute rental shortage, one of the civic issues identified was on the city planner’s agenda for a workshop featuring the city guide, Housing in My Backyard: A Municipal Guide For Responding to NIMBY — Not in My Back Yard.
WinnipegREALTORS® referred to this guide in its discussion paper and took note of the author, Marni Cappe, as a good contact on the issue. As it turns out, the city, with the support of WinnipegREALTORS® and the Manitoba Professional Planning Institute, had arranged a special event in March to bring Cappe to Winnipeg and share her expertise. She is a local governance and urban policy expert with 30 years of experience working for federal, provincial and local governments. She also is the current president of the Canadian Institute of Planners.
The following article is drawn directly from the WinnipegREALTORS® discussion paper which can be sourced under Resources/Position Papers on the front page of winnipegrealtors.ca website.
NIMBY — This issue is clearly one that falls under the purview and responsibility of the municipality. The “Not In My Backyard” sentiment was expressed in 2010 with respect to the proposed redevelopment of abandoned industrial lands in Fort Rouge or what has been referred to as the Fort Rouge Yards because of its proximity to the railway tracks. It is a real opportunity to bring in new multi-family residential alongside the newly planned rapid transit corridor that will eventually connect the University of
Manitoba with the downtown area.
Transit-oriented design or the integration of public transportation with more intensified mixed-use development has really come into its own in other cities and is now on Winnipeg’s radar screen.
The crux of the matter is that you are going to have to convince existing residents in established communities where new development is planned and/or proposed. The evidence shows that in the vast
majority of cases, if not all, property values will not be negatively affected. In fact, property values often go up. This has been documented in studies in Canada and the United States with respect to affordable housing proposals and higher-density development. Traffic congestion tends to be overplayed as well and in areas where transit is readily available there is less need for using a car.
You do have the tendency of existing residents trying or wanting to act as the arbiter of good judgment. They want to have a say in determining who is the most suitable as incoming residents to their area. The truth is legislation and human rights codes prevent “people zoning” and it really is incumbent on municipal staff and politicians to make that clear if public comments fall along these lines.
And if some of these concerns revolve around increased crime, a study of 146 supportive housing sites in Denver concluded “there was no statistically significant evidence that supportive housing led to
increased rates of reported violence, property, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct or total crimes.”
As for any new development, it must comply with existing zoning and design guidelines in order not to be in conflict with the existing character of a neighbourhood. This is where being proactive in consulting and engaging the community early on in the
proposal, as well as showing a sincere and genuine
interest in seeking constructive input, can be
extremely helpful to working out a satisfactory solution.
Ultimately, Winnipeggers are going to have to accept the fact the city is experiencing some significant growth given the influx of new immigrants. No single area of the city will be able to accommodate the equivalent of the current population of Regina in the next 20 years. As such, there will have to be accommodations for new residential and infill development throughout the four quadrants of the city.
While change can make people uncomfortable and uneasy, the results of new development rarely turn out to be anywhere near the fears expressed and can often be quite benign in impact. In fact, they can end up being positive. The intent of any new development first and foremost should never be to compromise the qualities of what makes a community or neighbourhood desirable.