Lessons from Edmonton’s Blatchford neighbourhood can help Canada’s housing crisis: Iveson

A new report on housing chaired by Edmonton's former mayor Don Iveson calls on all levels of government to 'legalize densification.' Adding Canada needs to build nearly 6 million homes by 2030 to meet demand.

A former Edmonton mayor says lessons learned from the city’s struggling Blatchford neighbourhood will help relieve Canada’s housing crisis.

A new report by a task force on housing and climate chaired by Don Iveson calls on all levels of government to “legalize densification,” arguing Canada needs to build nearly six million homes by 2030 to meet demand.

“The task force is just saying, go further in this and really nudge municipalities to take the reforms that are necessary to legalize more opportunities for duplexes and fourplexes and apartments near transit,” Iveson told CityNews.

Last fall, Edmonton city council approved an overhaul of the city zoning bylaw, allowing more density and different types of dwellings to be built in Edmonton’s neighbourhoods.

The city’s former mayor says it’s a start.

“The new zoning bylaw in Edmonton is really the capstone of more than a decade of work to legalize density in this community,” Iveson said. “There’s actually still more to do here, but it provides an excellent template for the types of things that other cities are doing.”

Edmonton’s Blatchford neighbourhood. (CityNews)

Urban densification is a hot topic in Edmonton. Developing the Blatchford neighbourhood was a key project during Iveson’s time as mayor. It was supposed to transform the old airport field into a densely populated, sustainable and carbon-neutral urban neighbourhood of 30,000 people – served by an LRT stop.

But nearly a decade after breaking ground and scaling back many of the sustainability features, only several dozen housing units are built. The neighbourhood is nowhere close to what was envisioned.

READ MORE: Project to turn Blatchford into sustainable community well behind schedule (2022)

The housing report calls on Ottawa to promote higher density and better financial conditions to manufacture factory-built houses. Iveson believes that’s the solution in Edmonton and across the country.

“To actually export flat-packed, factory-built houses to other parts of the country that don’t have the same capacity,” the former mayor said. “So I actually see an economic opportunity for Edmonton to be a part of the solution. And I think that can help control the cost of building here.”

Edmonton’s Blatchford neighbourhood under construction on Oct. 13, 2022. (Credit: CityNews/Laura Krause)

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