On June 7th 2022, I brought forward a motion requesting a City Administration progress report on land development at Blatchford.
On October 13, 2022, Administration provided that report to Executive Committee (EC). EC endorsed City Administration’s response, and - in essence - agreed that no changes were required to the Blatchford Business Plan.
I am not on EC, so I did not have a vote. I was in attendance and participated in the conversation.
To date, we have spent enormous amounts of money to subsidize the construction of a very small number of homes.
Those homes are relatively expensive, available only to wealthy families.
Those homes are mainly townhomes, while the majority of purchases in Edmonton want single family homes.
Those homes are so expensive, it’s likely development won’t accelerate, and it will take a very long time before the City sells enough land to make our money back.
And Administration has no intention of changing their approach to development in Blatchford.
What Occurred at the Oct 13th EC Meeting?
EC heard from representatives of the development industry, who provided the following insights:
- Consumers determine the market. Home builders cannot support what consumers don’t support.
- Currently, 62% of consumers demand single family homes. Blatchford currently prohibits single family homes.
- Townhomes in Blatchford cost far in excess of similar homes of similar size anywhere else in Edmonton. This link states that the average townhome cost is $649k, and the least expensive home is $520k.
- While there have been over 40,000 residential permits issued in the last four years - including permits for nearly 13,000 infill units - Blatchford has 125 permitted units and 45 occupied homes.
- Unless Blatchford offers more building choices, and finds a way to make those choices affordable, the pace and volume of development at Blatchford will not improve.
Why are those homes so expensive? Some builders say it's the requirement to attach to the District Energy system or to build Net Zero buildings. Others say the high architectural standards drive the cost. Some say the cost of the land is a cost driver.
EC also heard from City Administration, who stated that:
- All developments start slow and pick up speed;
- That the original development projections were admittedly optimistic;
- That Council changes in the vision for Blatchford led to delays;
- That several significant development agreements are just around the corner, and that we will soon see more affordable homes in the $465k range. (Note that $465k might be considered affordable in Blatchford, but is not considered affordable in any other part of the City).
I sincerely hope that Administration is right, and we see considerably more development very soon. What we all want is many more homes built much more quickly, and to see our investment repaid as soon as possible.
I stated publicly that I would wait and see what happens in the next year - because I don’t have a choice given EC’s decisions. EC had the opportunity to send the report to Council where all Councillors could weigh in and vote. Instead, they chose to proceed on their own.
Committee also approved a motion instructing Administration to:
- Review the Blatchford Business case goals in regards to social sustainability goals;
- Explore approaches to address market affordability;
- Undertake a comprehensive housing market review.
While asking for a report to make homes more affordable, EC also instructed Administration to NOT consider relaxation of the environmental, architectural and zoning restrictions that drive the very high costs of homes that are currently unaffordable.
Why ask for a report on enhanced affordability, but prohibit consideration of the very factors that reduce affordability?
What Does this Mean for Taxpayers?
In my previous blog, I outlined how the City has spent roughly $278M to subsidize the 125 homes at Blatchford. Which is why I asked for this report, and why I asked for changes in the City’s approach to accelerate the pace and volume of development at Blatchford. I want to see the City recoup this investment as soon as possible - we can all think of things that $278M could be used for.
My previous Blatchford blog can be found by clicking here.
As I said in June, We need to considerably accelerate the pace of development in Blatchford. In so many ways, we can’t afford not to.
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