Mon. Aug 8th, 2022

We have an infrastructure deficit of billions. These are not just roads, sewers and sidewalks, but social infrastructure such as parks, community centers and other social spaces.

Article content

We are a city in growth. Our population is expected to grow 40 percent over the coming decades. Ottawa’s new official plan seeks to address how that growth can be addressed in a sustainable way. But we are challenged when investment decisions at the budget table are in sharp contrast to the goals we have set.

Advertising

Article content

In 2020, the city of Ottawa declared a housing emergency. The city budget for 2021 set aside $ 15 million for housing, but earmarked $ 171 million for roads and sidewalks. Transit prices rose 2.5 percent in January 2021 and continued to make public transportation in Ottawa one of the most expensive in the country.

Since the declaration of an emergency in climate in 2019, the city has earmarked less than one percent of the annual investments needed to address climate efforts. Based on ecology Ottawa’s research set aside $ 140 million for 2021 to repair and renovate roads, with less than $ 3 million set aside for climate action.

A large part of our infrastructure budget is new roads. The 3.4-mile expansion of Standherd Drive has a price tag of more than $ 30 million per year. Kilometer. We have to ask ourselves if it is right to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on roads.

Advertising

Article content

We have an infrastructure deficit of billions. These are not just roads, sewers and sidewalks, but social infrastructure such as parks, community centers and other social spaces.

Consider the alternatives.

If we financed transit and did transit for free, it would cost the city what we spend on roads in a year. Imagine being boosted to the well-being of society, climate change and reduced traffic, whose transit was free, frequent and reliable.

Over 15,000 people are on waiting lists for affordable housing. The city does not contribute enough funds to repair what we have, let alone keep up with the increased demand. We could address both affordable housing and affordable housing by choosing to invest in places for people. Investing in housing first saves money.

Advertising

Article content

There are 29 dangerous intersections for cyclists, and a majority of them are in the city center, where the lowest percentage of people own a car. These communities are important as the central sites for 15-minute communities that the city is targeting in the new official plan. It sees walkable and cycling communities as important to moderate densities. But we choose road extensions instead.

The longer we postpone investments in climate change, the more expensive the solutions will be. But it is politically appropriate to subject this to a future council. It is our future that we are pushing from. The decisions we are making today have far-reaching consequences.

Are we prepared to continue to fund an ever-growing network of suburbs that drive (literally) more traffic in the city center? Should we develop a congestion pricing model that encourages transit use, just as London, UK did, and see a resulting drop in traffic, cleaner air and increased transit traffic? Or should we consider canceling road widening projects like London, Ont. recently did?

Advertising

Article content

Citizens of Ottawa are being asked to consult with the upcoming budget. Once again, we provide input to a budget that is largely set in advance, and of which our dedicated efforts will move the needle no more than a fraction of.

We need to see all budget spending through a climate lens. We need to see the value in investing in housing first and offering home, mental and physical health care to people in need. It saves money and is good for people.

We need to rethink how we invest in infrastructure so we get better value; this may mean using a fraction more to create safer streets, better buildings and resilient parks. We need to see that this investment is a step towards solving decades of underinvestment that results in pages of horror stories. This is a step towards better places to work and better places to play.

We need to rethink how our budget reflects the social needs of our growing city.

Budgeting better means a better city; better use of our tax dollars means we create the social network we need for a growing city.

Show Dreessen is an architect and president of Ottawa-based Architects DCA and is a former president of the Ontario Association of Architects.

    Advertising

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments can take up to an hour to appear on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications – you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, which is an update of a comment thread you follow, or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on adjusting your email settings.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.