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Downtown discourse

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The local discourse around Edmonton’s downtown growth continues to bring clear forecasts of expansion, urban dynamism and prosperity—but for whom, exactly?

Between the weekly unveilings of condo and office tower plans and endless downtown boosterism in the media, Edmontonians have been too eager to ignore the core’s affordable housing needs and the necessity to include non-market housing in one of Edmonton’s fastest-growing neighbourhoods.

While Edmonton’s housing stock continues to boom, non-market housing—those that rely on public subsidies—has virtually stalled. This is particularly noticeable in inner city neighbourhoods, which have faced a social-housing moratorium since 2012. Granted, residents and councillors alike agree that neighbourhoods such as McCauley, Boyle Street and Queen Mary Park have seen their fair share of affordable housing and that it’s time for the rest of the city to step up.

Yet, with the city finally working tirelessly to build a vibrant core, there’s a sense that Edmonton’s less fortunate aren’t part of the equation. We’re finally creating a walkable downtown full of homes, jobs and amenities, but neglecting those who would benefit most from them. And with active and organized community leagues, Oliver and Downtown offer myriad ways to get involved with the city’s workings, or simply ways to feel like part of a community.

Non-market housing is a difficult sell on the local level, given its reliance on provincial and federal funding, but if we shift the downtown spotlight away from corporate interests for just a second, we can show that there’s ample space for affordable housing as well.

Most Edmontonians might see downtown growth as a sign of prosperity, but others face an entirely different reality, and we’re not helping their cause by incessantly boosting downtown as the next great neighbourhood. If we want a truly successful downtown—one to be proud of—we must offer its advantage to everybody.

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