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SLCW and Les Jeunes Familles

Posted by Laura / May 15, 2007

Picture by MP Flickr member MiaowMatthew.

Young families* are good for neighborhoods, says the City of Montreal, and we want them to stay. It's true. The 25-39 age bracket often invests in real estate, they stimulate a wholesome commercial presence wherever they settle, and they walk down the street wheeling baby carriages and smiling. Unfortunately, Montreal is losing these jeunes familles and all their lovely side effects to the suburbs. From a public relations standpoint, it just doesn't look good when 52,000 young people leave your city for the greener pastures of the South Shore and Laval.

Marie-Andrée Beaudoin, responsable du développement social et communautaire for the City, is on it.

She lays out her ideas: invest in schools, revitalize parks so that there are more child-friendly spaces, provide benefits for homeowners who turn their driveway into a front yard, fix traffic signals so that they allow cumbersome strollers and toddling children to cross more safely, and improve lighting in public spaces. She also mentions the possibility of zoning out rental housing and prohibiting the division of bigger homes into apartments.

None of these ideas (save perhaps the last) is bad; but the city should take care not to equate family-friendliness with a more suburban lifestyle. Yes, kids like running around on grass, and it's important to keep them safe while crossing the street. But what about the benefits for kids of living among people that are different than them? Being exposed to the multitude of uses that a city street can serve? Learning to live with a little less space and stuff than the average suburbanite?

If you were raised in Montreal, or another city, or are raising kids here, I invite you to leave a comment about it. Do these family-friendly policies sound interesting and good? What else could be done?

And if you are a part of a young family in Ahuntsic/Cartierville and want to participate in the drawing up of family-friendly policies for the arondissement, you can attend Mayor Beaudoin's sessions over the next few months. The next one is on Thursday. Click here for the information.

*Apparently the City defines these as (mostly heterosexual) couples with children.



alanah (alternative transportation nerd) / May 15, 2007 at 03:34 pm
I grew up all around Montreal and the suburban west island. Living in the city is a great way for kids and teens to grow up with some independence rather than have to rely on lifts from adults to get to school, activities and friends' houses (no fun for parents either).
I am all for better inner-city schools, parks & pedestrian infrastructure and I LOVE the idea of turning driveways into yards. But zoning out rentals seems weird to me - maybe because I experienced st-henri, the plateau and NDG growing up in rented duplexes - often with a border or student subletting the spare room. I am of the opinion that the more mixed zoning can be the better (obviously within limits relating to health and safety). This allows for flexibility and diversity. Why segregate renters from owners? Wouldn't it be better to keep rents controlled so that families can afford to rent in the city? It's not easy to find large, affordable apartments around here anymore (thus the rules against dividing large apartments).
Also, I wonder whether all these couples who run to the suburbs for cheaper real estate taking into account the cost of the cars they will be dependant upon and time they'll spend stuck in traffic rather than with their families?
laura / May 15, 2007 at 04:47 pm
Alanah-- I totally agree with your points about rental housing and subdividing large homes. In the city, three or more bedroom homes are expensive, and prohibiting subdivision of them seems like a way to keep certain populations out. I know the benefits of high rates of inner-city homeownership-- lower crime, higher property values, and better building upkeep. But NDG and the Plateau don't seem to be suffering from their renter populations. On the contrary, the renters give some of the character.
DC / May 16, 2007 at 01:41 pm
It's not the city that's confusing family-friendliness with suburban form, it's the families themselves. The "choice" of a single-family house on the part of young families is end-stage cultural ossification around the compulsion to have a backyard and the supposed foolishness of renting one's own home. That this ideology has penetrated so far into Quebec, which until recently was one of the few North American jurisdictions in which the population shrugged at a housing pattern to which American families hysterically cling in the face of all reason, is a troubling sign.

Until you kill that fixation on single-family homeownership, there's nothing to do about families moving to a place with enough vacant land available to fulfil the dream. Pair that up with major provincial $$$ for suburban infrastructure and indifference to urban infrastructure needs, and you end up with a situation where suburban governments are being heavily subsidized to undermine the population base of the central city.

That being said, I think you've made an error in your summary of the La Presse peice: though Beaudoin does mention preventing the practice of chopping up bigger apartments (in this case, those with more than three bedrooms) into smaller ones, she doesn't talk about zoning out rental housing per se.

Mile-End is the only central city neighbourhood that is bucking the trend of a sharp decline in the number of families (that and Rosemont, which is full of families and dense as can be but for some reason isn't held up as a model for other Montreal neighbourhoods) for exactly that reason: big, decently-maintained apartments, few of which have been carved up into shitty 3 1/2s like a lot of Plateau buildings.
Sami / May 16, 2007 at 11:52 pm
Interestingly enough, Manhattan and San Francisco are experiencing a baby boom and major influx of young families:;en=f09b32422e8c0fa6&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

Two differences with Montreal: NYC and SF have much larger numbers of wealthy young families, and the suburbs are a lot further away from downtown.
laura / May 17, 2007 at 09:24 am
DC: Thanks for your comments, which are spot-on. I'm sure it's a chicken and egg type of deal: if the city wants to attract families, it thinks it has to appeal to their suburban side.

And thanks for pointing out that the La Presse piece doesn't specify anything about rental housing; I must have extrapolated. Prohibition of dividing homes is usually combined with anti-rental zoning laws in planning policy.

Sami: Good article. To illustrate how incredibly expensive it is to live in Manhattan: these are Very Wealthy Young Families making over 280k per year! Unreal! We are really lucky that urban living is affordable here in Montreal.
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