By Karen Unland
The high cost of the few homes that have been built so far at Blatchford is cause for concern, say the hosts of Taproot's civic affairs podcast.
But Speaking Municipally's Mack Male and Troy Pavlek are not as impatient with the development as Ward pihêsiwin's Coun. Tim Cartmell, who noted in a May 9 blog post that 2,750 residential units should have been built there by now according to the Blatchford Business Case approved by city council in 2014, but just 32 have connected to the Blatchford Renewable Energy Utility so far.
That gap is worrisome, but it's important to remember the big picture, said Male.
"Blatchford was never going to be built in five or six years," he said on Episode 178. "This was always going to be a multi-decade build. Should we be questioning the pace? Yes. And making sure that we're on track? Yes. But I don't know that we should be throwing everything out for Blatchford quite yet."
Cartmell also noted that "there is nothing affordable about these homes," with prices for townhouses ranging from about $600,000 to $900,000. That affordability angle was a bigger deal to our city hall observers.
"If we think that developments like Blatchford and infill in general are going to be a key part of how we bring City Plan to life, it's really problematic that it's not accessible to more people," said Male.
At those prices, it's not clear that Blatchford will attract families who are sensitive to the market forces that would encourage active transportation and transit use over driving and parking. "Part of the dream of Blatchford is ... you can have a no-car household with bicycles and access to the LRT and walking. If people living in Blatchford don't adopt that en masse, I think it is fair to say that the experiment to some extent has failed," Pavlek said.
Cartmell suggested changes such as making developed land available to builders below market value, partnering with private developers, and cutting back the district energy utility. His motion to ask administration to prepare a report on Blatchford's development was postponed until the week of May 24.