John Harding’s recent editorial discussing the Official Community Plan’s maximum build-out of 12,000 people in the future Qualicum Beach raises many important questions and concerns.
While I appreciate the many caveats incorporated into Harding’s calculations, I believe that there is in fact a serious erroneous assumption.
If the town does lose approximately 3,000 people over 60 years, (using Harding’s conservative births/deaths ratio), it would indeed need to attract 6,000 additional people to reach the build-out capacity, and that is 100 additional people a year for the next 60 years, as Harding wrote.
He assumed this translates into 400 new people, all of whom need new homes or 200 new homes, in every council term. But this calculation deserves a very close examination.
In fact, half of those people, (the half who died), already had places to live: the town that is built now already accommodates 8,500 people.
When people die, they leave existing homes that are available for new people.
So, over the next 60 years, we would need to add homes for only 3,000 additional people, or 1,500 living units at two people per unit or 100 units in each council term, or 25 living units each year.
I could easily identify right now 25 new living units under construction in Qualicum Beach over the last year. So I am not concerned at all about the pace of growth and the management of that growth by the previous or current council.
But this issue masks some real concerns that merit much more attention.
Populations in all major western countries are shrinking. Apparently, our 60-year consumer holiday has created an appetite for more things, but not for more families or more young people. Also, I believe Harding’s deaths/births ratio assumes many of us are going to live longer than we actually will.
So, the era of ever-expanding growth may be over, and the build-out figure of 12,000 may not, in the end, even be realistic.
Planning is a discipline fraught with assumptions, agendas and land mines. The traditional developer sees only the new; their industry has been one of planned obsolescence.
But I think we have built housing for 8,500 people, and that valuable permanent infrastructure should be reflected in Harding’s calculations.
I think the wisest thing we could do is go beyond a focus on numbers, beyond an assumption that the new will be a replication or replacement of the old and focus on creating a community based on the quality of life, not the quantity of growth.
Andrew BrownQualicum Beach