Big plans for Crescent Valley

The Province has big plans for Crescent Valley, and the PowerPoints to prove it. Attended a presentation at the Arts Centre outlining the Province’s vision for this part of the City. (I’ll upload their slide deck when I get a copy of it.)

Key points:

  • Mixed income housing
  • Anchor green spaces (park, playground, etc.)
  • Staged infill
  • No displacement of existing community population (to maintain the strong sense of community there now)
  • No specific timeframe, development schedule to be determined by willingness of developers

Related to this, here’s a CBC interview about mixed housing practices and Crescent Valley: audio link. And summary:

Interviewee: Mark Joseph, assistant prof at Case Western Reserve Uni.

Summary: Mixed income housing has really taken off in American urban centres like Chicago. Have been very high expectations around mixed income. Successes have included changing circumstances for families. Can lead people to form different kind of social bond, giving low income families a chance to interact with middle income families.

Challenges:
  • Can fail because people come in with assumptions about each other and perceptions that prevent them from forming new relationships.
  • Economic opportunities have also proven challenging; people live in nicer circumstances but don’t end up earning more income.
  • Prospective renters worry that these redevelopments weren’t really intended for them but were intended for a higher income population, and worry that they would not be welcomed. How they would be treated. Worried about high screen standards, and don’t want to be judged. (Other families were excited about prospect of being around different populations. Wanting their kids to be around professionals and people they could learn from.)
  • In Chicago, tended to be ‘cream of the crop’ from lower income populations. Leads to questions about who gets to benefit from redevelopment.
In Saint John, we have enough lead time to think about these issues and learn lessons from other communities.
  • Think about physical design, giving families from different backgrounds an opportunity to run into each other.
  • Repeated interactions leading to greater comfort and trust. Informal, repeated interactions.
  • Entryways flowing out into a similar area; common spaces; integration of different kinds of units; making sure the units are indistinguishable, so you can’t tell from the outside which unit is inhabited by a lower income or higher income family.
  • Range of support services, in addition to housing. Housing is an initial stabilizer but other issues need to be addressed: employment, health, substance abuse, family functioning, education.
  • Community building, to surmount ‘us vs. them’ dynamic. Who’s role is it to bring families together, identify common ground, develop trust?
  • Governance: who gets to decide important things about new development: rules, expectations, where kids can play. Often owners who have bought in are able to make those decisions (through condo associations or homeowners associations) but the renters can’t. Renters need a voice as well.
Mixed income is a good idea, despite challenges. Concentrating and isolating the poor and families in need doesn’t work. Whether it’s mobility strategies or redevelopment strategies, both are important, both have benefits and challenges.

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