BIZ X MAGAZINE: How should Windsor prepare for population growth projected by StatCan?

For September 2021, the Rose Rose City Politics panel answers “How should Windsor prepare for population growth as projected by Statistics Canada?”:

With up to 35 per cent population growth projected for both Windsor and Essex County over the next 25 years by the Ontario Ministry of Finance, Windsor needs to deal with being a city that’s expected to grow, not shrink.

For almost 13 years the city “held the line on taxes” while reducing services for short term political gain amid a tumultuous climate of both economic and population decline, and stagnation.

What may have been good politics then won’t suffice now. According to Canadian economist Dr. Mike Moffatt, for every three people that now leave Windsor, the city sees four return.

In a fight against our regional neighbours we need a strategy to best entice anyone moving into the region to choose Windsor. To do so, we need to increase local housing supply, improve public and active transportation, and ensure both are in accordance with Windsor’s official climate change plan.

We need more housing, whether detached, semi-detached and townhouses, condos, rental apartments, or rental rooms. Housing prices and rents have surged in recent years and will continue to do so without a significant increase in supply. The Windsor Works report shows a need for 3,000 more units downtown alone. Incentivizing the development of additional housing, specifically medium and high density housing, is smart policy.

City council needs to implement the very ambitious Transit Master Plan and Active Transit Master Plan. We’ve spent the money studying and know investment is needed in Transit Windsor for a new garage, busses, and routes. Windsor currently has no dedicated bike lanes on city roads and despite the belief of some, active transportation is not only for recreation but also transportation.

The City of Windsor Climate Change Adaptation Plan seeks to minimize climate change risks through sustainable policies and infrastructure investment. The Earth’s temperature continues to increase causing ‘once in a hundred year’ storms to occur more frequently which continues to cause regular basement flooding for residents and business owners. Development needs to be done to not negatively affect both our environment and climate.

Jon Liedtke is a co-host and producer of Rose City Politics, a business consultant focusing on cannabis and marketing, an occasional reporter and writer, and a member of Windsor’s The Nefidovs.

With a potential 35% increase in population growth over the next 25 years, planning for this windfall will be of the utmost importance. As we can see even today and for the last couple years housing costs and availability have already been an issue. Bringing in approximately 6000 new residents to our area will put greater pressure on an already tight housing market. 

Regional cooperation of land use and development guidelines that have been ignored forever is something as a region we will need to focus on. Every municipality having their own fees and development guidelines will lead to a regional hodge podge of bad land use and developments. Housing styles such as townhouse and low rise and high rise condo developments will need to be expanded for the aging population locally and the new “retirees” already moving to the area. These properties also tend to be lower cost which will help people starting out get into the housing market. So far we have seen the classic “NIMBY” push back for many developments of this nature already being proposed. 

Going along with the housing situation, these new areas will need to be served with better public transportation. If your kids are anything like mine they grew up thinking we will be their personal drivers forever and don’t seem to be interested in getting their own drivers licenses. Thus they will rely more on public transit, or you can dawn your chauffeur’s cap and shuttle them around like the hired help they think we are. 

Better healthcare infrastructure is of vital importance, as we have been left behind for decades with sub par hospitals and medical services. Also making our urban areas places people actually want to live or visit with better public amenities and infrastructure. This isn’t complicated. Many cities have had to deal with these issues and simple things like pedestrian malls, restaurant patios, outdoor events which seem to be so difficult here have been embraced in other areas. We don’t need more “Made in Windsor” solutions that are usually code for “Well That Was Stupid” when we can take what works in other areas and apply them here.

Don Merrifield Jr. is a realtor serving Windsor Essex County for over 21 year, a co-host on Rose City Politics for over 10 years, a former professional musician, father and grandfather, and a former ward 3 city council candidate.

After decades of slow population growth in the region, new provincial estimates show Windsor and its neighbouring municipalities stand to grow by nearly 35% over the next 25 years. This is no surprise to alert Windsorites. The evidence of growth is all around us. Our supply of housing is not able to meet demand and the result is skyrocketing real estate and rental prices along with a steady stream of new residential developments throughout the city.

We’ve seen first-hand what a stagnant or declining population can do to a community, and it’s not pretty. In the difficult years following the financial crisis of 2008, Windsor experienced population decline along with plummeting real estate prices and blighted urban neighbourhoods. Compared to the problems we faced a decade ago, a tight real estate market is a good one to have, but it doesn’t impact everyone equally.

Some folks in our community are experiencing unprecedented growth in the value of their homes, while others are increasingly priced out of access to decent housing. Some of the gains should be taxed to provide the kind of municipal services that can build a more equitable community. It’s time to invest instead of returning short-term dividends to wealthy residents in the form of tax freezes.

If Windsor and the surrounding region continue to pursue the same old policies around land-use planning, taxation, and service delivery, we will miss the opportunity created by population growth to revitalize and build resilience. We should chart a new course and take into account the long-term cost of different patterns of development. Continuing to gobble up farmland to build new housing developments will increase the burden on each taxpayer to support the infrastructure needed to support our quality of life.

Increasing residential density, providing quality services to all residents, and building or rebuilding neighborhoods on a scale suitable for active transportation are the path forward for building a more resilient, affordable and liveable city. This is a moment of growth and opportunity. It would be a shame to miss it.

Doug Sartori is a political observer and organizer. When he’s not recording podcasts or getting people out to vote he runs Parallel 42 Systems, a technology consultancy in downtown Windsor.


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