Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Interpreting the signs - The Livability/Equity Index (part 3 of 4)

This is part 3 of 4, dissecting the results of the Pembina Institutes latest publication and how it relates specifically to Windsor (Part 1, Part 2)

The second dimension of community sustainability is composed of social aspects, such as livability and equity. Livability refers to the features of a community that attract residents to it and that make it a pleasant, safe and healthy place to be. Livability is also increasingly linked to the economic health of the community in that corporate leaders want to locate in urban areas with a high quality of life, both for themselves and to attract the right kinds of employees.

Livability is enhanced by a strong sense of place, a dynamic ommunity , and an attractive environment that lends itself to active recreation and socializing. A livable community is one in which opportunities for healthy social and personal actvities are maximized and stresses, such as crime and disease, are minimized.

Equity refers to the fairness with which social resources such as housing and income are distribute in a community. An equitable community is one in which all types of people - all ages, income levels and ethnic groups - feel comfortabel, enjoy the necessities of life and have the resources and freedom to participate fully in community life. A socially equitable community is one that is more likely to enjoy social peace and a stronger sense of community, and to suffer less alienation among specific are, income or ethnic groups.

And here is where windsor ranks in comparison to the 27 other communities in the study.

1/ Income inequality (An indicator of the degree of income inequality in Windsor)
Windsor's Ranking - 11 out of 27. Fair, considering the sheer quantity of high-income automotive factory jobs we have in this city. There is, however, a noticable divide between these "auto-lotto" winners and the low-paying service industry that services the community.

2/ Dwelling Diversity (A measure of the balance among different housing types and the range of housing options that will be available for a variety of individuals and families. A diversity of dwelling types within a community may reduce the need for ling-distance commuting)
Windsor's Ranking - 17 out of 27. Below average. Windsor has it's sprawling McMansions and it's inner-city neighbourhoods, but not much in between. There has been a movement as of late to build new medium-density residential developments, but not enough to make a difference.

3/ Affordable Housing 1: owners (A measure of housing affordability among home owners. Reflects social inclusiveness)
Windsor's Ranking - 10 out of 27. Good, though I thought we'd do better. Windsor has many undervalued neighbourhoods that most people could afford to purchase in.

4/ Affordable Housing 2: tenants (A measure of housing affordability among tenants. Reflects social inclusiveness)
Windsor's Ranking - 11 out of 27. Good. Reflects Windsor's lower property values and those savings are being passed along to renters.

5/ Heritage Homes (A proxy for the number of potential heritage houses and sense of place that a community posesses. Heritage buildings provide a sense of place and community identity as well as contribute to a pleasant pedestrian environment)
Windsor's Ranking - 4 out of 27. Excellent. However, I think the term "potential" is the buzz word in this indicator. Windsor is an historically significant area and our housing stock reflects that. If only WACAC (Windsor Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee) could get some incentives in place that would help us preserve these buildings.

6/ Community Centres (Community Centres provide recreational facilities, social gathering places, and opportunities to participate in community affairs)
Windsor's Ranking - 11 out of 27. Passable, but I don't know where they got this number. In the number of neighbourhoods I've lived I've never had a community centre nearby.

7/ Parks and Recreational Areas (Green space within a community provides ready access to recreational opportunities and a pleasant, low-stress environment)
Windsor's Ranking - 26 out of 27. Unbearably Poor. As much as this city touts it's riverfront, it neglects any other parkland and greenspace. Maybe we're just saving urban parks for the school board to build new facilities on.

8/ Physical Activity (Reflects the availability of opportunities for physical activity (walkable streets, recreational areas, green spaces)
Windsor's Ranking - 20 out of 27. Terrible, but considering we don't invest in greenspace and our neighbourhoods aren't exactly "walkable" there is tremendous room for improvement in this category.

9/ People Obese and Overweight (Reflects opportunities for physical exercise and general helath of the population)
Windsor's Ranking - 16 out of 27. Poor. Our city has been physically laid out to acoomplish this though. We need to get out of our cars and use those things dangling at the end of our legs more. See our scores for greenspace and physical activity.

10/ Crime Rate (Measure of social stress. Could also influence sense of social cohesion, and perceived safety of streets)
Windsor's Ranking - 22 out of 27. Horrible, but surprised the hell out of me. I know we can attribute a lot of our crime to our north-of-the-border weekend visitors, but for the most part, I feel pretty safe in Windsor

11/ Vehicle Crashes (Measure of social stress and car dependancy)
Windsor's Ranking - 18 out of 27. Poor, but our city planners have made a driver's licence all but mandatory. Kids can hurtle 3500 lb of steel down the road before they can vote. I bet these statistics were fairly close amongst all 27 regions, as this is a disease most of North America is suffering from.

It's fairly clear how these indicators add up to a poor showing for Windsor in the Livability/Equity Index subsection. It's also very easy to see how the indicators add up to our very poor ranking of 22 out of 27. How in the world are we going to attract investment and the people necessary to haul Windsor out of the dustbin if we continue to be happy with results like these?

Our next, and final installment will be the Economic Vitality Index, where we will see just how important a healthy, LOCAL economy is to the sustainability of Windsor

1 comment:

andrew said...

WACAC doesn't exist anymore, it's now the WHC (Windsor Heritage Comittee). However we are only an advisory body to City Council, as a result we can't implement, only reccomend. There is a tax relief pilot project on the books in Sandwich, but to spread it to all heritage properties, is up to the city.