Urban Sprawl, Creating Density, and Sustainable Development
For a city its size, Edmonton currently enjoys one of the lowest population densities in Canada. This may seem like a net positive but leads to many challenges including sustainability, consistently delivering utilities and core services to all areas of the city, and addressing disparity and maintaining diversity between and within different sections of the city.
As urban municipalities continue to push outward, sustainability of food resources (including maintaining the availability and access to market for local food producers and arable land for farmers) will be a major issue. A balance between urban areas and farmland must be maintained to ensure municipalities remain viable, and access to healthy food remains available and at a reasonable cost (free of increased travel time and costs).
Sustainability also includes Edmonton’s ability to deliver it’s core services to an ever encroaching land mass. With Edmonton’s budgets relying primarily on property taxes, the current model asks us to continue to push city boundaries outward to address increased costs of delivering services to its citizens (see also Taxation and Budget).
Delivering Utilities & Services
As above, delivering core services including police, fire, transit, libraries, and utilities to Edmontonians can be a challenge to a constantly expanding city. The current dependence on building outward is a part of a vicious cycle of expansion to create taxpaying communities to create new sources of revenue for a city that needs to be able to pay for the services it’s already committed to.
Disparity and Inequity
The healthiest and most desirable cities have people with diverse cross section backgrounds, economic status, and age categories living side by side. Yet Edmonton is increasingly divided into neighborhoods which reflect economic and social differences. The danger is that some services may be unfairly delivered to some over others. That in turn creates further disparity and inequity which eventually affects us all negatively (see Policing and Homelessness). Ensuring that community developments reflect Edmonton’s dynamic and diverse population will ensure opportunity, understanding, and equality for all.
The current model is not sustainable. Edmonton needs to look creatively at ways to build up (as opposed to outward) and more densely. To make this work, this will require better transit funding, incentives for developing increased density of dwellings, infill, affordable housing, and reclamation of industrial land.
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