As CEO of the Urban Development Institute in Calgary, Guy Huntingford knows a lot about what makes a city, and thereby that city’s development, tick. Huntingford took some time to chat with CREBNow about everything from urban sprawl to low density development to migration numbers in the city.
CN: Help me define urban sprawl in a way that will make sense to Calgarians.
GH: The Oxford dictionary defines Urban Sprawl as ‘ the uncontrolled expansion of urban areas’. Therefore there is no Urban Sprawl in the purest sense as Calgary has always had planned contiguous growth in the suburbs. The main benefit for Calgary to controlling sprawl is that it is a uni-city. This means that it is one giant metropolitan area and the development that exists within its boundaries can be controlled. By way of comparison , consider Edmonton where the capital region has 24 municipalities that make up the region and all of them want development, so coordinating is much more complex.
CN: How can Calgary narrow the segregation between residential and commercial uses? Has it done so already?
GH: The MDP (municipal development plan) that was introduced in 2009 calls for ‘complete communities’ where you can ‘live, work, play’, all in your community. This has meant a much greater emphasis on breaking down the segregation between development types.
CN: Is Calgary a victim of low-density development? How does it compare to other Canadian centres?
GH: Victim? Calgary has built out over the years to satisfy the needs and wants of the population and politicians at the time. Developers only build what they can sell within the guidelines and regulations set by the municipality. For example, up until 2009 suburban development (new communities) had a maximum density target. After the MDP was introduced in 2009 the municipality changed to a minimum density target. Guess what, the density of new communities in now some of the highest in North America. Policy and zoning matters.
CN: Do consistently low vacancy rates and high rental rates contribute to urban sprawl? And if so, how do you combat that?
GH: No … and again, there is no urban sprawl. There is controlled growth to meet demand.