Ward 11 has many diverse communities, people and places. As I continue to knock on doors, it is encouraging to hear most Ward 11 residents are generally pretty happy with their neighbourhoods and their lives in Calgary, regardless of which area they call home. There is however, always opportunity for improvement. One that seems to resonate most with people I’ve talked to is affordability. Here are some of my thoughts on the subject:
With this latest economic downturn, seniors, families, individuals and businesses (big and small) are all struggling with affordability. We need to explore ways to make things more accessible financially within our communities. For instance, making sure there is a range of housing options in older areas so that seniors can right-size their home and stay within the community they have lived in for decades and prevent them from becoming socially isolated. We need to look at new ways to collect taxes that are more fair to individuals living on a fixed income. We need to shift away from the City’s reliance on property taxes and perhaps look into using a consumption or income tax instead or other more sustainable options for recurring revenue. We need to make sure there are efficient, economically accessible services and amenities available for families and individuals, including transit, park space and recreation facilities. We need to better prioritize how we spend money as a city to ensure we are receiving good value for our dollars.
Businesses, particularly small businesses, are struggling to meet their expenses and have revenue flow to their bottom line. In some cases, this is due to issues like transferring of significant property tax values down on them, because their business is on high value assessed land. Communities need a variety of small and medium sized businesses for multiple reasons. If the land value pushes businesses away from certain areas, the community is less complete as a whole. One solution is to encourage residential, mixed use growth at key nodes, adding a larger customer base for more businesses while creating jobs and sharing out the tax costs for that land. This would also make communities more sustainable, with more options and opportunities for residents and can increase property values in aging, established communities.
Many of these issues are complex and will require a balanced approach to solve (and time). I believe though that we can do a better job of making Calgary more economically sustainable and affordable for Calgary’s residents and businesses. By addressing affordability issues, we will be able to grow the city in a more positive way and ensure there is a place for everyone now and into the future.