Comment 108656

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted February 01, 2015 at 11:21:11 in reply to Comment 108655

Good comments in the previous two posts: I agree that it is important to be sensitive to people's feelings of being attacked for something that is not really their fault.

The link between density and fertility is interesting, but it is far from established at least at the level we are interested in Hamilton (most of the population versus density studies are comparing countries). I couldn't find anything to back of the claim that low density suburbs must necessarily have higher fertility than more urban areas. Is it even true in Hamilton (e.g. compare Kirkendall and Waterdown)? And, in any case, you could look at fertility per km^2 rather than per woman if you are really interested in urban sustainability.

Also, it is usually considered that most important factors determining fertility levels nationally are wealth and education levels of women. However, the problem in Canada, as you point out, is that developers refuse to build apartments that are suitable for families with more than one or two children maximum. And the most popular apartments/condos are now one bedrooms because the are more profitable for builders and good for investors or as secondary residences.

This has turned out to be a big problem in new dense developments in Vancouver, like Yaletown and Coal Harbour where developers and the city argued against the need for schools and playgrounds on the grounds that "families don't like living downtown". They were completely wrong and the city is now scrambling to try to accommodate all the children living in these dense downtown neighbourhoods. This finally seems to be changing:

Regarding fertility in Europe, government policies have a big effect, especially those that favour working mothers. France now has one of the highest fertility rates in Europe despite the density of most French cities (even the suburbs are far denser than in Canada). Childcare is largely free from two months to 3 years, and school starts at 3 years with after school care integrated with the school until 6:30pm. Income splitting is allowed for tax purposes between spouses AND children and families with 3 or more children have various additional advantages. The result is that 80% of women with one child work (using the nursery from an early age) and 50% of women with three children work, much higher rates than other European countries. The fertility rate is 2.01, compared with 1.38 in Germany or 1.61 in low density Canada!

So, Canada has a lot of other things it could be doing to encourage fertility than building low density suburbs.

Finally, the question is how to actually get the facts out there on how low density suburbs are unsustainable without making it seem like an attack on the suburbs. How should one (or the city) respond to the constant chorus that people in the suburbs "are sick and tired of subsidizing the downtown!" (have a look at the comments section of the Spec). How does one respond when even the councillors, who should know better, repeat these obviously false claims and attempt to back them up with deliberately misleading statistics?

The problem is that the belief that suburbs are paying for the luxuries and inefficiencies of downtown really does drive very damaging decisions, as we've seen with the bus lane and are beginning to see with LRT or cycle lanes, that make it more difficult to build a more attractive and fiscally sustainable future.

And, democratically, is it really reasonable to dismiss the views of those engaged citizens who take the time and energy to organize, get involved and express their opinions directly to Council in favour of the perceived views of those who can't be bothered? Hamilton is supposed to be the best place for engaging citizens, and that surely means that you should take that engagement seriously when it comes time to make decisions.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-02-01 11:27:49

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