Kitchener has seen massive growth in recent years; we have more companies, more families, more young professionals, and more students choosing to make Kitchener their home. Community growth can be a great thing but it is important to ensure cities are managing growth so that it is purposeful, efficient, and sustainable.
This means ensuring your city councillors are looking at how each piece fits into a holistic vision of what we want Kitchener to become. It means working to grow our community as well as our economy. It means ensuring new neighbourhoods have access to the same resources and facilities as older neighbourhoods. It means building a city that is connected; providing the infrastructure for active transportation, sidewalks, bike paths, and trails, helps to encourage healthy living, interactions between neighbours and traffic calming as fewer people drive as frequently.
Smart growth means planning safe walking paths to schools in new neighbourhoods. It means properly maintaining these paths with city led snow removal on roads and sidewalks. It means developing an efficient transit system with frequent and convenient routes that service the entire city, not just the core. Too many neighbourhoods in Kitchener are virtually inaccessible without a personal car and many of those communities are in Ward 5. Good public transit gives people more financial flexibility, helps to calm traffic, and helps to foster a more sustainable city.
Smart growth also means housing and developments that make sense. We cannot continue to build outward forever, but that doesn’t mean growth needs to stop. Increasing housing density will help us to provide more housing — and housing within a broader price range. This means more people with closer access to public services and public transit, it means protecting our green spaces and ensuring we hold the country line. Dense housing also creates more sustainable tax spaces and cities can deliver services more affordably. Mid-rise developments have offered the perfect solution in large cities all around the world and I believe Kitchener must look to this type of housing more frequently if we want to ensure sustainable city growth.
Green spaces and agricultural land provide many benefits to our city, it’s not just land on which we can expand our city. Green space, like parks, ravines and even the trees on our streets help to cool down our city, absorb rainwater (preventing flooding and replenishing our aquifer), clean our air, and provide recreation spaces for our community. Agricultural land helps produce food, ensuring we have access to fresh produce locally. Ensuring food security is an important part of having a strong community.
Finally, we need to think long-term on any infrastructure or development. Our infrastructure will face new challenges, including changing weather patterns, we may have more severe rainstorms, more thawing events in the winter, and more intense heat. Our communities must be ready to handle that. Whether this means looking at where we choose to build, the materials we choose to use, or the actual design of the project, we must continuously ask how we will address these challenges. We are also moving towards a net-zero carbon future, the timeline for this may be disputed, but the trend is clear. We can take advantage of any new projects to be at the forefront of this new era. Things like solar panels and smart-microgrids, zero (or even negative!) emission buildings, and electric charging stations should become the norm.
Kitchener has massive potential and the municipal government should work to foster this growth in a way that makes sense for the economy, for the environment, and for the community.