Friday, 29 March 2013

Housing Anniversaries

This has been a year of rememberance. It has been 25 years since the opening of Bethlehem Place and 20 years since the first Habitat for Humanity Niagara home.  I was there for both, as the development consultant for BP and chair of the Habitat board.  I've just been asked to attend a board meeting of Cornerstone Co-op, which I helped start 30 years ago, as a living artifact of the early days. 
My goal is to be there to celebrate the projects I am starting today.
See the St. Catharines Standard insert on the BP anniversary

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Myth of Aging in Place

One of our projects is in Niagara Falls where Covenant Care Niagara is working to create a new kind of nursing home in Ontario where aging is not considered an illness suitable for a large institution, but a fact of life, where, in a small setting, life continues to be meaningful, relevant, and important.

The inspiration comes from the Green House homes that are becoming very popular in the U.S. They are a change away from our institutional, medicalized model where advanced age is an illness.

Bill Thomas is the driving force behind this movement and I was struck by a comment he made in the linked article.
"Aging is, and has always been, a team sport. The myth of "aging in place" harms people by defining the decision to share one's daily life with others as failure. But a big piece of the reluctance to seek out new ways of living with others is the dread of institutionalization. People cling to their homes in large part because they fear life in a nursing home more than they fear death. These are solvable problems, but we can't and won't make much progress until we come to a vastly deeper appreciation for the value of "life beyond adulthood."
I suspect he is right about "aging in place" as a reaction against the alternative. For 10 years it has been the buzz phrase for progressive thinking on elder care. It should mean having sufficient supports to remain in one's current home not as long as possible, but rather until a better, more meaningful alternative makes better sense. One view is clinging to the last hope of independence. The other is ensuring any place one lives is the right place.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

More Damage to Niagara Cities

Proposed Outlet Mall in NOTL.  Note the guard towers at entrances to keep out pedestrians.
On the June 8th Standard front page we saw three hospital sites are leaked and an “XL retail outlet” for NOTL proposed, all of them outside urban areas. Why are we again going to hurt ourselves?

Regional policy promotes Smart Growth which includes encouraging diverse walkable neighbourhoods with healthy and vibrant downtowns.  Yet we, through our politicians, continue to permit non-urban development that ensures further damage and sprawl.  This must stop.

Are we are really set on repeating the mistake of placing the St. Catharines Hospital outside of the urban fabric? Hospitals are a major urban asset that should be in neighbourhoods to be easily associated with residential and related commercial development.  

As for the Nike and Dockers outlet, tourists want an authentic regional destination. Locals, who will keep this QEW strip mall afloat for a while, will see it eventually die, but not before this economic leech damages the really interesting places, including our downtowns (see  

For years we have known we must be smarter about development to reduce our infrastructure costs, ensure a resilient sustainable environment, and make for more livable cities; and then we get this.

Monday, 25 June 2012

CBC Coverage of Cordage Green

We had an excellent bit of coverage on the CBC National on Cordage Green.  What is most exciting about this project is the broad support we have in the community.  This is going to be extraordinary. 
The comment in the video about homes at $100 ft2 is unfortunate.  That would be construction costs only.
See the video/

Keep track of the progress at

Monday, 31 October 2011

Trees have property value

I've know it for years, but had no real proof. Trees add value to property. Trees imply permanence, continuity with nature, privacy from neighbours, and above all, shade - no pun intended.
If you doubt this, just ask someone in an older neighbourhood how upset they would be if their neighbour cuts down their trees. Answer? Not happy at all. They intuitively feel the value of the own property decline.
Nice quote:  Best time to plant a tree?  Twenty years ago.  Second best time?  Now.
What?  Did you think the natural environment was all about you?

Monday, 20 December 2010

New Kiwanis Seniors Project

 Mayor Brian McMullan speaking at the announcement of funding for the Kiwanis Project on Geneva Street. The 40 unit, 6 story building will add to the 100 seniors units already on site next to the Fairview Mall.

Also on hand was the Regional council Chair, Peter Partington, MPP Jim Bradley, and MP Rick Dykstra.

We are the development consultants for this project. Occupancy is scheduled for November 2011.

Valley Way Project

Construction is underway at 6009 Valley Way, converting the old St. Michaels High School into 34 apartment units for seniors.  Occupancy is scheduled for June 1st. 

We are the development consultants.

This is the first phase for this project that will later include life lease independent and assisted living units.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

One-fifth of Canadians can’t afford their homes

This is quite sad. One in four can not afford to own their own home, counting those who living in subsidized housing. While home ownership is not a right or often not desirable, this is not about choice, it is about an unequal distribution of wealth.  From theToront Star:
A new study from an Ottawa-based economic think-tank suggests that about 20 per cent of Canadians are struggling to afford the homes they’re living in and that national productivity is suffering as a result. The Conference Board of Canada says three-quarters of Canadians are living in homes they can afford, while about five per cent live in housing subsidized by the government. That leaves about 20 per cent of people who are struggling to cope with the cost of their homes.
One-fifth of Canadians can’t afford their homes: study

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

So why should I worry?

The Atlantic Monthly has some interesting observations on the disconnect between acknowleging the reality of climate change and actually believing it will have a personal effect.
Yale climate change research scientist Anthony Leiserowitz. The survey asked Americans, “Who will be most harmed by climate change?” Respondents said that climate change would mostly affect:

• Plant and animal species: 45 percent

• Future generations of people: 44 percent

• People in developing countries: 31 percent

• People in other industrialized nations: 22 percent

• People in the United States: 21 percent

• Your local community: 13 percent

• Your family: 11 percent

You personally: 10 percent

This explains a lot.  Most importantly it explains the lack of urgency to prevent the worst climate change scenario.  Climate change is believed to be true, but in practice, supporting change with personal implications, like gas tax increases, get little support.  It is little wonder that politicians, even those who understand the implications, are so unwilling to act.

The study also showed that Americans are not alone in this.  The disconnect is a world wide phenomenon. 

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Oil crunch

It has been awhile since posting anything here. So here are some miscellaneous items around a predicted energy crunch:
From popular science an interesting chart that is likely wildly optimistic and news of several former staff members. “IEA Whistleblower Claims Agency Has Downplayed Looming Oil Shortage According to a senior International Energy Agency official, the energy watchdog agency fears the truth would trigger panic buying.” Of course former staff members who refuse to give their names may not be the most reliable sources. Still, look at the chart. It is likely wishful thinking.
To back up the concern, here is a recent Glob & Mail blog by Jeff Rubin:
"At that rate, the world has to find no less than 20 million barrels per day of new production just so the global economy can burn the same amount of oil in 2014 as it burns today. That’s why, in the oil business, you have to run faster to stand still. And even if global production can keep up with that treadmill, that leaves no allowance for any growth in demand."
What will this mean for house prices? I hope you are living close to work, shopping, and schools. If you want to move to those locations, be prepared to pay more.