Like Kae Elgie in this article, I also support the idea of the city and Region adopting a climate budget to help us better understand the environmental impact of municipal actions and decisions. Without such a budget, environmental decisions can be unclear or even worse, ignored altogether.
In regards to the proposal for 16-20 Queen St N, the article notes that Ms. Elgie “says the implicit carbon costs of demolishing and then constructing a new building in its place are high.” I think a carbon budget could better help us understand the impacts of new buildings, but the fact that new homes have an environmental impact is one of the reasons I often advocate for more density, not less, especially when demolition of existing buildings is needed.
Which is why I am somewhat perplexed by the ACO’s advocacy regarding the Mill St proposal. The development originally proposed nearly 200 homes, though several existing buildings would be demolished. Many neighbourhood residents and members of the ACO advocated for a reduction in height and density on this site. Given the environmental costs of demolishing buildings to create new housing, shouldn’t we demand that we make full use of that space and build more homes for our community?
A carbon budget could also help us better understand the totality of the impacts of a new development. For example, one of the things that I see as a real win both for affordability and sustainability is that no new parking will be built. The developer has a partnership with the City of Kitchener who will share a municipal parking lot with residents requiring parking. The article says “the building’s expected carbon footprint is low, mainly because residents will be able to use the city of Kitchener’s nearby parking garage. This means the company does not need to construct a new parking lot. This will save 4,400 tonnes of concrete.” Those kinds of environmental benefits would be factored into a carbon budget.
The article states, “Developers should be pitching their ideas in better ways, says Elgie. “Sell it to us on the basis of what you can do for the environment, pitch it to us that way.” It feels to me that the developers for the 16-20 Queen St N development have at least started that conversation. In addition to shared parking, given this proposal’s location, near transit and amenities, many residents may choose not to have any parking at all. Creating dense, walkable communities is another win for environmental sustainability.
And lastly, I have mostly focused this discussion on the environment, but we can’t forget that we are in a housing crisis. As noted in the article, “These 238 homes have to go somewhere in the city.” Also, building 238 single-detached homes at the edge of our city would have huge environmental impacts as well.
I absolutely believe that we are in a Climate Emergency and must take significant and important actions to address that. One way to do that is to create neighbourhoods that reduce our reliance on a vehicle and help us to build up so we don’t have to build out.