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Breakthrough Cities

November 8th 2013
Toronto, Canada

A broad array of approaches to citizen engagement exist, but few are mandated with the explicit purpose of providing feedback on disruptive, transformative ideas that extend beyond the purview of strictly policy-makers. And yet the level of change we need in our current system must target serious ‘breakthrough ‘ trajectories and involve actors from across the system.

Breakthrough Cities will take place at Evergreen BrickWorks on Friday November 8th. It will bring residents together from across the region in Canada to share their authentic, genuine thoughts on how highly ambitious changes to our existing system would be received by residents, what barriers exist to adoption of these ideas and how these barriers can be overcome.

The objectives of this session are two-fold:

Firstly, this session provides space to explore what a Breakthrough Cities Citizens Panel could look like. What role would it play? How would it function? What would it be in service of? How would feedback be taken forward to implementers of the feedback?

Secondly, this session provides a real-time opportunity to test how this Panel would work in practice. We will be presenting one ‘Breakthrough Idea’ that relates to the overarching topic of ‘incentives’. The objective will be to generate insights from residents, and identify barriers and pathways to adoption.

The Breakthrough Idea: Full cost pricing of housing

Urban sprawl is often cited as a having broad negative impacts on our health, finances, environment and quality of life. Yet, there are many strong reasons people decide to locate in a specific area, for example, safety, limited options , perceptions of lower cost, schools, family, cultural affiliation and more.

A revealing 2012 Pembina-RBC study found that four out of five residents in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) would prefer to live in a mixed-use neighbourhood with high walkability and transit options rather than typical car-oriented suburbs.

It appears that a trade-off is being made because suburban houses are cheaper and widely available, and people ultimately choose based on cost and availability, not their ultimate preference. Yet people are often shocked to discover some of the hidden costs of housing – and the lifestyle associated to where they have purchased their home. From auto and transportation costs (including wasted time in traffic), to energy sensitivity (size of the house and type of heating and cooling), etc.

What are the values and incentives that currently inform your housing choices? What if there was a full cost pricing model for homes that incorporated all these costs and provided full transparency to the buyer (i.e. in a mortgage, or on the purchase price)? What incentives might be offered that would allow you to choose based on preference?

We are pleased to be presenting Breakthrough Cities in partnership with Evergreen CityWorks, MASS LBP, Pembina Institute, Royal Bank of Canada and The Value Web.