Written by Laura Faulkner on CafeMom’s blog, The Stir
It’s hard to believe, but 2019 is already upon us. Amid the excitement for what’s to come, maybe you were too busy on New Year’s Eve to read my latest column on what your child’s bedtime and what you say to them is telling us about them, so here it is:
Housing Minister and Calgary MP Ahmed Hussen wants to sleep with you. Now.
Hussen appears set on renovating his life. He’s woken up to Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante’s proposal to make it legal for people to drive around with neon-lit LED scooters on the street, like a disco ride for the early 1990s. If she gets her way, Hussen’s reportedly interested in applying for a license of his own. On a more serious note, he’s considering the home-building revolution (in which sky-high condos stack up like sand castles) and is reviewing the status of existing apartment housing.
Plante, with whom Hussen worked in the past, maintains that the issue is about easing urban density and increasing efficiency — and surely Hussen thinks so too. “Big apartments used to be the norm,” he said in December. “But now it’s getting too damn big.” He isn’t alone in the neo-Rent-Boyo creep toward monstrous residential developments. Both major political parties, the federal Liberals and the province’s NDP, have expressed an interest in loosening the rules for what’s come to be known as “brownfield development.” Construction of residential areas and mixed-use developments — in that way, both Hussen and Plante are telling their constituents, they’re not just creating more affordable dwellings in this country but are also going green.
If you ask Hussen, he’s just investing in a city. Plante’s hopeful that her proposals, which include luxury rental units, will spur urban density. “An attractive, walkable city would be good for Montrealers,” she said. “I’m really optimistic that in the next decade, we can maintain the attention we have given to mobility,” she said.
Hussen believes his country’s housing minister should also be investing in his country. He’s considering new rules for seniors’ homes so that they are not only therapeutic but also affordable. “They should be a place of refuge for them,” he said. “They should be allowed to retire happily, to stay for as long as they want.”
By 2050, he says, Canada will have an aging population. “That’s something we need to keep in mind.”
Plante, meanwhile, also wants to bring more creativity to Montreal’s streets. She has started the administration of a public consultation on public art that’s called “évelez-vous?” or “Are you ready?” You get to decide what happens with the lighting, space and etiquettes of the city in general. “It will be quite different,” she said. “We don’t want to be encumbered with rules and regulations.”
It is a crowded era in Canada’s publicly-funded corridors. The housing minister is worried about whether his city’s streets will remain attractive for renters and seniors. People living in low- or medium-cost housing may be denied the weekend respite from work and/or family responsibilities they are accustomed to and may find it difficult to leave their apartments, between study breaks and lunchtime picking up dry cleaning.
There may be less parking in some neighbourhoods, and buses may run less frequently, huffing and puffing and making us feel in a rush even when we’re relaxing in bed. It would be one thing if the City of Montreal were at all to make some improvements to its infrastructure, but before it gets too excited about creating public art, let’s not forget that no one has a right to access public spaces. First, the federal government, and next, the province and the city.