More walkable communities add to affordability

Living beyond our needs a problem in western society

Re: Cost of living weighs heavily on Greater Victoria residents (vicnews.com)

On Tuesday, housing affordability and the inherent cost of living were identified as top concerns of residents of the Capital Region.

However, this region is not unique in identifying this concern in North America. Many individuals and governments are missing out on opportunities to reduce their respective operating costs.

One of the most overlooked aspects of why we have so much debt is our desire to have the suburban lifestyle with two or more cars. With urban sprawl we have created a situation where we need to drive to conduct our daily activities. A recent StatsCan report indicated that in Canada we spend 18 per cent of our disposable income just on transportation and a further 30 per cent on housing that often exceeds our size needs.

What if we lived in more compact communities with higher density, had more affordable transportation and lived in domiciles that match the size of our families and needs. This is the norm in Europe and Asia, where they spend much less on moving goods, services and people.

The International Association of Public Transport indicates that in European and Asian countries, five to eight per cent of GDP is spent on transportation, respectively. We spend 13 per cent in North America.

Average household debt in Canada hit a new high of almost 170 per cent of disposable income in 2012, a sizeable jump from 150 per cent in 2010, StatsCan reported.

Former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney also warned about the dangers that household debt poses to the economy going forward.

We can improve our economic and physical health by creating more compact walkable communities. The choice is ours.

Avi Ickovich

Langford