Urban Sprawl and Poverty
The CRD has a nationally renowned problem with homelessness. There are 1500 people living here with inadequate housing and without immediate action that number will quadruple in size within five years. Currently there are also 1 385 under housed people on the affordable housing waiting list including 631 families with small children. The CRD has made remarkable efforts to address this crisis, but the demand for infrastructure and services in burgeoning rural municipalities is a constant drain on the resources needed to create adequate shelter beds and social housing units.
Vancouver Island is at a crossroads in managing its development. Decisions being made right now have obvious environmental implications, but land use choices also carry social and economic consequences that need to be considered. Dogwood’s campaign against urban sprawl is part of a larger movement for community sustainability so the distribution of resources and strength of our social programs is of paramount concern to us.
The diversion of money away from community services is one of the largest concerns with urban sprawl. As our cities creep outwards infrastructure projects and public resources are forced to follow and this pulls resources away from urban centers. Moreover as wealthy populations amass in rural areas so does political power and the interest in servicing cities gives way to pressure for amenities in commuter suburbs. This is evident across North America where lavish subdivisions surround crumbling cities that struggle with poverty and homelessness and it’s starting to happen here on our Island.
Instead of making positive steps to help the most vulnerable people in our community we are cutting them off by choosing to sprawl outwards and spread finite resources across a variety of new development areas.
If development is allowed to sprawl beyond Langford and Sooke into the Juan de Fuca region how long will it be before new residents demand improvements to Highway 14? Fire and ambulance services will be required and new residents will expect schools, sports facilities and recreation centers for their families. All of these expenses come at a time when the CRD is struggling to address major social problems.
At the Dogwood Initiative we look past the things we are trying to stop to imagine the community that we are trying to create so to us the campaign against urban sprawl is a campaign against poverty. It’s about building a sustainable community and a healthy future for all of us on Vancouver Island and as the threat of reckless development intensifies we will continue to advocate for marginalized communities by opposing urban sprawl.