Development at Blatchford remains behind schedule. Some councilors fear it’s too expensive to live in
Edmonton city councilors are pushing for more affordable housing in the Blatchford neighborhood while maintaining the ambitious environmental goals set out in the original 2014 business plan.
Com. Andrew Knack noted that when Blatchford was established the idea was that the town would make money from land sales.
« By doing this, are we shutting people out of the market right now? » Knack said at an executive committee meeting on Wednesday.
« And if sales don’t materialize as quickly as we would like, we potentially won’t see the return that we first thought. »
Knack also expressed concern to learn that the average cost of a townhouse on the old downtown airport grounds is $650,000, about $200,000 more than the average home. single-family homes elsewhere in Edmonton.
“Will it be an urbanist Glenora – essentially a place no ordinary person can afford to live in because we haven’t expanded those options?” Knack asked during the meeting.
City managers have been tasked with finding ways to make building and buying in Blatchford more economical.
A progress report on Blatchford, presented at the meeting, shows that there are only 45 occupied houses on the site. The initial plan for the district called for the construction of 500 residential units per year starting in 2018.
Knack’s post was echoed by Adil Kodian of the Edmonton Chapter of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA).
« We don’t believe there is a financially viable path without some adjustments to the Blatchford model, » he told advisers on Wednesday.
He said the CHBA would suggest a more gradual energy transition instead of a jump to 100% renewable energy as outlined in Blatchford’s business plan.
« Blatchford has a long list of pretty laudable goals, but none of those goals are achieved without houses being built and people actually living there, » Kodian said.
From the airport to the houses
Tom Lumsden, town manager of the Blatchford Redevelopment Office, said it would take between 20 and 25 years to build the roughly 280 acres, which is still a reasonable time frame given what the site was like ten years ago. .
The townhouses currently on the site are larger than the new multi-unit units being built on the same amount of land, making them cheaper at around $465,000. Apartment styles are also still being worked out, he said.
City managers will report back to the committee with the results of the review next June.
Advisors disagree on environmental targets
Knack and Cartmell had intended the review of the business case to include consideration of environmental objectives, but Coun. Anne Stevenson said it was important to maintain the criteria established in the original plan.
“We are in a climate emergency and these are the imperatives of what we need to do in our municipal building,” Stevenson said. « The long-term operating benefits far outweigh the initial cost. »
The rest of the committee sided with Stevenson and removed environmental objectives from the review.
Cartmell said market affordability cannot be determined without looking at environmental and architectural aspects.
« It’s an empty exercise, as far as I’m concerned, if we’re not going to consider that environmental element, » he said.
He said Blatchford’s goals are laudable, but the city should always analyze what they cost.
« I think the people we represent deserve to know what the premium is for those goals, » he said.
The city’s long-term vision is for the site to be carbon neutral with 100% renewable energy coming from the neighborhood’s energy system.
Blatchford’s buildings are designed to be up to 37% more efficient than the minimums set out in current national codes, the report says.