The District 61 School Board is considering giving a 60 year lease to the Capital Region Housing Corporation for a parcel of currently unused land between Vic Highschool and Chambers Street, to build the Caldonia Project which will include 155 affordable housing units.
Cities for Everyone recently sent letters to the District 61 School Board and the Victoria City Council in support of this project.
This type of development provides significant benefits to residents and communities. Compared with living in suburban areas, residents of compact, walkable urban neighborhoods:
- Spend 10-30% less money on transportation.
- Spend less time driving and delayed by congestion.
- Consume less energy and produce 20-50% lower pollution emissions.
- Have substantially lower traffic casualty rates.
- Are healthier and live longer.
- Have greater economic mobility (chance that children born in lower-income households become economically successful as adults).
- Require less land for roads and parking, which reduces stormwater management costs and heat island effects, and preserves open space (farmland and habitat).
- Reduce costs of providing roads, parking facilities and public services.
Some critics argue that the Caledonia Project will reduce greenspace, harm the community, and be unfair to Victoria High students. These arguments are incomplete.
Compact developments, such as the Caledonia project, minimize per capita land consumption, both directly, because townhouses and apartments use little land per household, and indirectly by reducing automobile ownership and travel, which reduces the amount of land that must be paved for roads and parking facilities. The figure below from our previous blog, Seeing the Urban Forest for the Trees, illustrates this effect: a typical household living car-free in a townhouse or apartment only uses about 680 square feet (sf) of land, compared with an estimated 6,200 sf if it occupies a suburban house and owns two cars, including land used for housing, roads and parking facilities. As a result, the Caledonia project displaces far less greenspace than if those households living in suburban, automobile-dependent areas.
It is also incomplete to argue, as critics do, that this project is unfair to students. Although, Victoria High has less greenspace per student than most other schools, it does have two large sports fields, plus gardens and lawns, and nearby parks. There is no evidence that students there are disadvantaged by inadequate greenspace. On the other hand, students, particularly those from lower-income households, are much better off if they can live in walkable urban neighborhoods within convenient walking distance of their schools. This increases their physical activity and fitness, their ability to participate in school activities, and their economic mobility (chance that a child born in a lower-income will become more economically successful as an adult).
During the last century, school site size requirements have increased, resulting in school sprawl, since only urban-fringe locations have sufficient land. Although students at urban-fringe schools may have larger sports facilities they are less likely to walk and bicycle to school. In recent years, transportation engineers and school planners have started to advocate for more flexible requirements and creative designs that result in smaller, more centrally-located schools within walking distances of students’ homes.
The Caledonia Project is a win-win opportunity. The School District will benefit from additional revenue, lower-income households will benefit from affordable housing in a walkable urban neighborhood, and students who live there will particularly benefit from their proximity to our excellent local schools.
The District will host an open house to consult on this project:
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019, 6 p.m. — 8 p.m.
Victoria High Roper Gymnasium