K-W Housing: Is Affordability-By-Transit Dream Dying A Gentrification Nightmare?

parking lot beside LRT route in Waterloo
P1015208 LRT Corridor photo by Markus Moos is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Will a call to build affordable housing on parking lots beside Waterloo transit fall on deaf ears?

Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario is one of those inconvenient urban regions that glommed together without giving up its original city names, leading typists to cry out for an abbreviation. K-W is about as good as it gets.

A year ago we reported on the ill-fated California Housing Bill SB 827, which pinned affordable housing hopes on higher density neighbourhoods around transit nodes and corridors.

Among fervent critics of this bill were those who questioned the likelihood that nieghbourhoods close to transit would be voluntarily left for higher density affordable housing, as opposed to higher density upscale housing. This wishful thinking seemed founded on the idea that the gentry would either prefer to live somewhere else, or spurn lowbrow public transit to drive downtown through the smog and then hunt for parking.

Upscale housing developers expressed their own opinions with their pocketbooks1.

Bill SB 827 died last year in the Sacramento legislature. Bill SB 50 is this year’s version2. It banged the same higher/density transit-linked drum but has recently been shelved for at least a year.3

Experience in Europe strongly suggests that gentrification squeezes out affordability in transit nodes.4 And now in Kitchener-Waterloo, hopes for an affordable housing boost from a new transit corridor are reflecting exactly the same problem.

Transit systems are ventures requiring boldness and vision. All well and good, but it’s not enough to merely ‘hope’ that transit will benefit everyone. Legislation is needed that does more than allow but actually requires affordable housing around transit corridors and nodes. In the absence of such coercion, it is possible that the futuristic new transit system will benefit only the gentry. Read more in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record: LRT Development Boom Is Squeezing Out Affordable Housing

Footnotes

  1. Try: California Transit Hub Neighbourhoods May Soon Be Home to Non-Transit-Using Gentry
  2. Try: Honey, I’m Back! Densified Kiss-And-Ride California Transit Nodes Return From The Dead
  3. Read Mother Jones’ handwringing assessment of this development: California Lawmakers Just Shelved Their Only Bill Focused On Solving The Housing Shortage Crisis
  4. Try: California Dreaming? Europe’s Mature Rail Networks Spread Unaffordability, Not Affordability.

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