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The 2021 federal budget

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 04/05/2021 - 1:04pm in

I’ve written a ‘top 10’ overview of the recent federal budget. The link to the post is available here: https://nickfalvo.ca/ten-things-to-know-about-canadas-2021-federal-budget/

The 2021 federal budget

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 04/05/2021 - 1:04pm in

I’ve written a ‘top 10’ overview of the recent federal budget. The link to the post is available here: https://nickfalvo.ca/ten-things-to-know-about-canadas-2021-federal-budget/

Graham Linehan’s Trans Day of Visibility: It’s Against a Harmful Ideology, Not People

I’m almost two weeks late writing about this, but I think it needs to be covered. On the last day of March, Graham Linehan and his conversationalists on The Mess We’re In channel held their own Trans Day of Visibility. As well as being the writer behind the awesome Father Ted, Linehan is very much a male feminist. He’s become notorious over the past few years for his opposition to the transgender ideology, along with Kellie-Jay Kean, Abigail Shrier, Benjamin Boyce, and the host of another YouTube channel, You’re Kidding, Right?. This last lady presents the arguments against the ideology from the perspective of a Black American woman, which is very enlightening. Especially when she forcefully tells the trans rights activists not to true to compare their ideology to the Civil Rights movement. One of her critics tried to tell her that she was the equivalent of the Klan. Her antecedents came from Georgia when the Klan were powerful and extremely frightening. She made it very, very clear that she was nothing like the Klan. But I digress.

Linehan is joined on his videos with Welsh feminist Helen Staniland and gay Canadian Arty Morty. Morty is, by his own admission, very much a part of the Canadian gay scene and worked as a bar man in a trans bar. Staniland is concerned about the threat to women and girls from biological men being allowed into female spaces on the grounds that they identify as women. Morty is particularly concerned that gender reassignment is being used as a form of conversion therapy to ‘cure’ gender non-conforming children and teens by parents who are afraid that their children will grow up gay. He’s particularly concerned as he was one of these kids. As a boy, he preferred to play with dolls, and he’s afraid that if he was a child today, he would have been put down as transgender and been put on the path to transition.

It was the ‘trans day of visibility’ a few weeks ago, and so Linehan and his friends have as guests in this video their transgender friends and supporters – Debbie Hayton, Miranda Yardlemort, Scott Newgent, and a transman who appears simply as Aaron. These gents and ladies give their perspective on the dangers of trans movement and ideology as transmen and women, and how they came to oppose it.

They did so for a variety of reasons. In the case of Yardlemort, it was through looking at what the gender critical feminists actually wrote for herself, and being horrified at the grotesquely exaggerated response by the trans activists to entirely reasonable points as well as the way opposing feminists were stalked, abused and maltreated. She was also concerned by the way the pro-trans stance of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Women actually invalidates those rights and endangers women. She was thrown off Twitter for such crimes as saying that there are only two genders, transwomen shouldn’t be allowed into women’s spaces, and that rape and death threat to women aren’t acceptable. Yardlemort has also suffered her share of bullying from trans activists, as when one tried to take her to court for alleged ‘transphobia’.

Debbie Hayton joined the anti-trans movement because she was afraid that their extreme claims would actually damage the trans movement, and make trans people less accepted. She argues that being gender critical does not mean being anti-trans. She and Helen Staniland looked back to a time when transwomen and women were largely in harmony with each other, although there was occasional conflicts over the inclusion of transwomen in female-only events, such as the Michfest women-only music festival.

They also talk about the vexed issues of pronouns. The attitude of Arty Morty is that, while he doesn’t believe that there should be laws demanding transgender people be referred to be their chosen pronouns, he has no problem doing so for decent people. It’s only the misogynists he refuses to call ‘she’.

Aaron made it very clear that he believes transitioning is beneficial for some people. It worked for him, but he didn’t have a mental illness. This is important, as some of those being diagnosed a transgender may simply be mentally ill or have a neurological condition like autism. He turned against the trans ideology three years ago from concerns about the homophobia. He’s afraid that the excesses of the trans activists, such as the attacks on J.K. Rowling, will eventually lead to a ban on transitions, which will harm those who really need them. He is also afraid, like Linehan, Staniland, Morty and the others, that children and vulnerable adults are being misdiagnosed as trans and consequently mutilated. Debbie Orlander also shares this fear, especially when it comes to children as young as four or five.

Scott Newgent makes the point that part of the problem is medical corporations, who stand to make a profit from these drugs and treatments, telling vulnerable people they have the solution. This is compounded by social media, as Twitter and other sites will not allow the opposing side to be heard. He also makes the point that the trans ideology is supported by genuinely good people, who want to do the right thing, and have been falsely persuaded that the trans issue is the same as gay rights and comparable to the struggle over gay marriage. He believes that there is a positive side to trans activism, but this is a problem as its acceptance leads also to the acceptance of the negative aspects as well. He and the others also take down some of the ridiculously inflated and entirely false claims of the trans activists. Over here in the Blighty, the trans activists wanted a ‘trans day of remembrance’ for all the transgender people, who’ve been murdered. Except the numbers of transgender people who’ve been killed over here is vanishingly small. No transpeople have been killed in Scotland, for example. Newgent makes the same point about similar claims in his part of the US. He attended a talk about trans rights, in which the speaker claimed that trans children in his state of South Dakota were in danger of committing suicide. Except they weren’t. No trans children have committed suicide there.

The peeps do, however, express concerns that these threats and prophecies of suicide may be self-fulling. There is the danger that people, who have been misled into transitioning, may kill themselves when they find that it is not the cure they have been promised. Lesbian girls may be particularly affected by this. One of them talks about how they’re horrified by the the people, who’ve been physically harmed by the treatment – people with osteopathy and shrunken hearts due to puberty blockers and the hormones they’ve been prescribed. There’s also the case of the medical doctor, who contacted Linehan in distress at being officially barred from telling upset trans people that J.K. Rowling does not in fact want to kill them.

The team talk about the toxicity and violence of the trans activists. One of them physically attacked a gender critical feminist, Cathy Brennan, at Speaker’s Corner, a situation made all the worse by the actions of Stonewall, the gay advocacy organisation. They also criticise the left for its handling of the debate. They state that the left is undemocratic, intolerant of free speech and has a problem with racism and misogyny. Stonewall by its actions over a number of issues has provoked a backlash, of which the gender critical movement is only one part.

Hayton is optimistic, believing that more people are turning against the trans movement and being aware how it affects women’s rights and children’s safeguarding, as well as the way it harms transpeople themselves. Fionne, another transwoman, is also optimistic, noting the success of the Keira Bell case. Like Aaron, she believes that medical transition should be an option, but only for adults, not children, who need psychotherapy and a more diverse approach. She believes that transpeople have made a mistake in demanding access to women’s spaces, and should instead have demanded their own, third spaces. Yardlemort actually emailed a number of LGBTQ organisations about the need for gay spaces away from transpeople, but none of them replied.

The team also debate whether Donald Trump was the only person, who would have been able to stop the progress of trans ideology. They feel we need more people like J.K. Rowlings, who stand up to the trans lobby simply out of principle without any benefit to themselves. Newgent states that he has sacrificed his own career for his principles. He states that when it comes to the treatment of children,

I am very much aware that this is a very emotive issue and that many of my readers don’t share my views on this topic. However, I strongly believe that Linehan and his guests here are correct, and that vulnerable people, particularly women and children, are being unnecessarily put on life-changing, harmful medical treatment. And there is a problem with biological men being allowed into female-only spaces, such as prisons. There have been a series of rapes of women prisoners by biological men, who have been placed in women’s prisons because they have identified, or claimed to identify, as women.

I don’t hate transgender people, and definitely don’t wish anyone to come to any harm, much less be killed. But there are genuine dangers here, but unfortunately the climate of liberal opinion and many ‘official’ gay organisations, like Stonewall, mean that the gender critical side is silenced and their arguments not heard.

As you can see from this video, Linehan and his friends very definitely don’t hate transpeople, although they do discuss some extremely dangerous and predatory individuals. And they clearly have friends and supporters in the trans community, who share their concerns.

At the very least, they need to be heard and listened to. The topic should not be the monopoly of intolerant trans activists.

Tories Killing Free Speech and Democracy in the Name of Stopping ‘Nuisance’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/03/2021 - 8:51pm in

Following the Met police’s rough manhandling of the women at the vigil for Sarah Everard on Clapham Common and the consequent outcry, our smirking excuse for a home secretary, Priti Patel wishes to introduce legislation with the explicit intention of limiting public protest. This, as Mike and the good peeps on Twitter have pointed out, is Fascism. It’s suppression of the fundamental right to public protest. The intention is to stop criticism of the government. But the Tories are past masters in lying, and so they’ve dressed this latest assault on democracy up as somehow empowering the public. They’re not doing it to stop free speech, you see. They’re trying to empower local communities, who may find themselves seriously disrupted by noisy protesters. It’s about stopping them making a nuisance of themselves. And so the proposed legislation will, if passed, allow the authorities to cancel a demo if even a single person complains about it.

There’s a quote, which unfortunately I’ve largely forgotten, which states that Fascism never comes as a repressive force. It always presents itself in friendly terms until it is too late, the concentration camps have been put up and thugs in jackboots are stamping on human faces, to use George Orwell’s metaphor. There’s another quote that says that the totalitarianism of the future won’t present itself as an oppressive tyrant, but as society’s benevolent, obedient servant. Patel’s wretched bill surely bears out the truth of this statement. It’s Fascism all right, but dressed up as defending local communities’ right not to have their peace and quiet spoilt by anything as vulgar as an enraged or concerned public.

While Priti Patel is trying to push the bill through parliament now, it isn’t just her that’s behind it. It’s a Tory idea that’s been around since ‘Dodgy’ Dave Cameron was in No. 10. He also tried to pass it, but with no success. Now, almost a decade later, the Tories are trying again.

The Labour party plans to oppose the bill. So should everyone who values democracy and free speech, regardless of party. And including and particularly Tories. One of the Transatlantic Conservative sites I used to read several years ago was opposed to government legislation outlawing Holocaust denial. There was a debate at the time over whether the Canadian government should join other countries in banning it. This was just during the Conservative Harper administration. The Jewish owner of the site was against this, arguing that Conservatives should not support legislation limiting free speech. If the precedent was set, then it would give a weapon to the Tories’ enemies, who could use it to their own advantage. Exactly. And I have come across Tories who are genuine, passionate defenders of free speech. Years ago Lobster reviewed a book written by one of them, which recognised that every democratic freedom we now enjoy isn’t a natural outgrowth of the development of some transcendent principle of freedom and democracy inherent in British or western society. No, these freedoms are the hard-won results of bitter struggles. And Patel’s vile legislation makes it very clear that struggle is far from over.

People are already organising petitions and planning protests against the bill. I received this email from Democracy Unleashed, laying out the arguments and asking me to sign a petition against it, which I did. It runs

‘Once again, the government is attempting to force controversial legislation through Parliament without proper scrutiny.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill contains provisions that could land peaceful protestors with up to ten years’ imprisonment if their protest is deemed capable of causing “serious annoyance” to any section of the public. 

Did the People’s Vote marches cause “serious annoyance”? What about Black Lives Matter? Or Extinction Rebellion? Or March for Women? Or Stop The War Coalition? Which one of those protests do you think the Home Secretary would ban under this new legislation?

I will not be silenced

Many thousands of people take part in hundreds of protests across the United Kingdom every year. In most cases, a little bit of nuisance is what gets them noticed and their messages heard. Whether or not you agree with their cause, their right to protest is an essential part of a healthy democracy and any legislation that dilutes that right should be subject to very careful scrutiny indeed. 

We don’t think protestors campaigning passionately (or noisily) but peacefully for a cause should face the possibility of a prison sentence just because the Home Secretary has decided that someone might find their protest “seriously annoying.”

This legislation represents a serious attack on the foundations of our democracy and history tells us that such attacks often signal the beginning of something more sinister. We need to wake up to the threat and do something while we still can.  

Sign the petition to tell the Home Secretary that government cannot be allowed to bury our democratic rights just because it suites them to do so. 

I’ll sign the petition

Help us make this the loudest protest possible by sharing the petition on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp with the hashtag #SeriouslyAnnoyed. ‘

We have to oppose this bill, otherwise democracy in Britain will be as hollow and meaningless as Singapore. You have the right to speak in public there about political issues, but you have to register with the police in advance, who have the power to turn you down and arrest you. Needless to say, people aren’t exactly lining up at the Singaporean equivalent of Speaker’s Corner.

And that’s the kind of empty, hollow democracy Priti Patel and her predecessors want for Britain.

Israel’s Racist Persecution of Black Jews

I’m not surprised that the Blairites in the Labour party had Tony Greenstein thrown out as an anti-Semite in their vile witch-hunt, and the Zionist Jewish establishment hates him with a passion. He’s that most dangerous creature, you see, a self-respecting, passionately socialist and anti-racist Jew, who loathes Zionism as a Jewish form of Fascism. And with a wealth of documented fact at his fingertips, he is more than able to cut through the hasbara – the official Jewish propaganda – and prove it. His articles, frequently reprinting and commenting on stories of persecution and atrocity reported in the Jewish press, convict Zionism as an ideology and the Israeli military and political establishment again and again of crimes against humanity.

He is, like the mighty Jackie Walker, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi and Ilan Pappe, the ‘wrong kind of Jew’, who must be silenced and persecuted at all costs. Just like the western mainstream media really doesn’t want you to hear such dissident Jewish voices, whether from liberals and the left, or from the extremely traditional. The latter include the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jews, who reject modern Israel out of their belief, rooted in the Talmud and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, that Israel can only be restored and her people redeemed by divine action through the Mashiach, the Messiah. This was also the view of some members of Britain’s Jewish establishment. He has quoted a former Chief Rabbi, who also rejected the Israeli state for the same reason. This reverend gentleman believed that not only should and would Israel be redeemed in this way by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but the removal of the Palestinians from the newly restored nation would be done through peaceful negotiation and agreement. Israel has done neither. He has also quoted other prominent figures from Britain’s Jewish community, who hated Zionism as a Jewish version of the anti-Semitism they had so staunchly fought against in gentiles. Zionism seemed to these men to be a concession to the prejudiced view that there were profound racial difference between Jew and gentile and the two could never mix. Thus, according to the anti-Semites, they should be kept apart. The ultimate development of this idea was that Jews should be given their own state, to which diaspora Jews should be encouraged or forced to emigrate.

In his latest piece, posted on Saturday, Tony posts and comments on an article by Gavin Lewis, a mixed-race Black British writer, who chillingly describes Israel’s racist persecution of Black Jews. Lewis discusses Israel’s refusal to allowance entry to a Black American Jewish mother, Idit Malka and her son, when they tried to visit the country. They were detained for 10 hours before being deported. Before her departure, an Israeli woman screamed at her that Israel was no country for ‘Cushim’, an Israeli term of abuse for Blacks. In 2013, Haaretz and The Times of Israel reported that over 130,000 Black Jews had been forcibly sterilised by the Israeli authorities, a policy that evokes Nazi eugenics. YTNews in 2009 reported that some Israeli neighbourhoods, such as Ashkelon, who maintained a Whites only police. The Daily Beast also reported in 2017 that Israeli kindergartens also had a policy of segregation, separating White and Black toddlers. The Israeli state has also rejected blood donations from Blacks as ‘unclean’. The San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper also reported in 2016 that racial discrimination against Blacks in Israel was so appalling, that 300 Black Jews had declared their intention not to report for reserve service because of official racism against Ethiopian Jews.

The article also discusses the theft of babies born to Yemeni parents, who were sold to Ashkenazi Jewish parents, because of the racist belief that Yemeni Jewish culture was so inferior that it was an unsuitable environment for raising Jewish children. Just as shocking was that many of these innocents had been given an experimental treatment. The hearts of some of the dead babies were surgically removed for study by American doctors curious about the absence of heart disease in Yemen. He also talks about the massive racial hatred against Palestinians and Arabs, including the incident where two Chechen players were hounded out of Beitar Jerusalem football club.

Lewis states unequivocally that Israel is an apartheid state, as Desmond Tutu and former President Jimmy Carter has said, but the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism has ruled that it is anti-Semitic to compare it to Nazism, even though this is clearly warranted by some of its policies. He also describes how Israeli racism is routinely covered up by western politicians. In Britain, Labour’s odious leader, Keir Starmer, sacked Rebecca Long-Bailey from his team after she correctly pointed out that the choke-hold that killed George Floyd had been taught to the police by the Israelis. His action may not be un-adjacent to the fact that Starmer had received a £62,000 donation from a pro-Israeli lobbyist.

The second-class status of Black Britons is also shown in the differences in treatment between them and members of Britain’s gay community regarding visits to potentially hostile countries and regions. In 2016 the British government and media warned gay, bi and trans people not to visit North Carolina. But neither Starmer nor the rest of the political and media class have taken it upon themselves to warn Black Brits of the dangers of visiting the parts of Israel that are off the tourist itineraries.

Over the other side of the pond, America’s politicos and media have thrown their weight behind Israel. CNN even sacked one of their reporters, a Black American, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, because he publicly sided with the Palestinians. Although he was an American, Hill was considered inferior to the interests of Israel, a foreign country, because of his colour.

In his afterword, Lewis compares contemporary Israel to the White settler societies of the US, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Rhodesia, and their respective systems of apartheid, segregation and/ or official policies of limiting or banning non-White immigration. He concludes

Yet, in twenty-first-century, in the form of Israel, Black and Indigenous peoples of the world are expected to put up with variants of these traditional white-settler offenses. And, alarmingly, even parts of the left are threatened into exempting Zionism from the sort of critique and anticolonial resistance leveled against other white-settler societies.

Tony’s introduction to the piece is also worth reading, as he argues that it is a mistake to see Israeli racism purely in terms of White supremacy. It’s a Jewish supremacist state, in which only Jews can be citizens and enjoy full civil rights. He also describes how the Mizrahi Jews, who were Arabic in culture and language, were so maltreated that the once formed a Black Panthers organisation of their own in solidarity with the Black American group. Since then, the Mizrahim have become even more fanatically anti-Arab than the Ashkenazim who founded Israel, who then supported Menachim Begin. At the same time Ethiopian Jews in Israeli have no sympathy for the Palestinians, but wish instead to have racial equality with White Jews of European, or White American descent. Nevertheless, colour prejudice is a major factor. Yemeni Jews were tested to see if they had ‘Negro’ blood, and a group of Ugandan Jews were refused Jewish citizenship because of their colour.

See: Tony Greenstein’s Blog: A racist endeavor: Zionist Israel’s Black Jewish victims of color (azvsas.blogspot.com)

This is horrific stuff, and it’s an indictment of mainstream western politicos and the media that this is not reported and condemned over here. Or if it is, it’s done very half-heartedly. The theft and infanticide of the Yemeni babies is comparable to the Nazi theft of blonde children from Slav parents, such as the Poles, to be brought up by approved, ‘Aryan’, German parents. The Nazis considered these children to be the product of German bloodline amongst conquered, ‘subhuman’ Slavs.

It also bears a horrible similarity to one of the crimes of the Magdalen Laundries in Ireland. These were homes run by the Roman Catholic church for unmarried mothers. These unfortunate women had their babies removed to be sold for adoption to rich Americans while their mothers were forced to work as laundrywomen. But only strong, bonny babies had this good fortune. The weak were left to perish in ‘dying rooms’. Incidentally, when a leading member of the Irish feminist organisation, The Countess Didn’t Fight For This, revealed this during a discussion with Graham Linehan and his conversationalists, Helen Staniland and Arty Morty it reduced the latter to tears. Linehan and his allies have been terribly reviled for their opposition to the transgender craze and accused of transphobia. I believe this to be profoundly wrong – they are moved instead by the great harm transgender ideology is doing to the vulnerable, especially girls and young women. But like Posie Parker, they certainly do not wish to see transpeople themselves assaulted or murdered. Morty is a gay Canadian, deeply immersed in his community. His unostentatious tears over the deaths of children left to die in Eire to me amply demonstrate that he, Linehan and Staniland very definitely do not wish harm on anyone. If the Nazi-like experimentation and mass deaths of the Yemeni children had been performed by a gentile organisation, like the Roman Catholic Church, it would eventually have been exposed across the world. There has been a film about one woman’s experiences of it, Philomena, which I believe stars Steve Coogan as the British reporter who uncovers the heroine and her story. It’s a testament to the institutional power of the Roman Catholic church in Eira that this horrific policy continued until the ’90s. But it was eventually exposed, along with the systematic abuse of children in the Roman Catholic and other churches, including my own, the Anglican Church, across the world. Would the media and politicians have allowed the story to get out if it were instead an Israeli organisation preying on Jews? I somehow doubt it.

Tony’s and Lewis’ articles amply demonstrate that Israel is a profoundly racist state. But anyone who tells the truth about this in the lamestream media or politics over here will be viciously attacked and hounded on the grounds that they are ‘anti-Semitic’. Even if they are decent, self-respecting men and women, who had suffered anti-Semitic abuse and assault themselves, or, if gentiles, because they dared support Jews, Blacks and Asians to live in peace, equality and dignity.

A primer on supportive housing and Housing First

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/02/2021 - 5:38am in

I’ve written a 900-word primer on supportive housing and Housing First.

Here’s the link to the English-language version: https://nickfalvo.ca/a-primer-on-supportive-housing-and-housing-first/

Here’s the link to the French-language version: https://nickfalvo.ca/une-introduction-au-logement-supervise-et-le-logement-dabord/

A primer on supportive housing and Housing First

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/02/2021 - 5:38am in

I’ve written a 900-word primer on supportive housing and Housing First.

Here’s the link to the English-language version: https://nickfalvo.ca/a-primer-on-supportive-housing-and-housing-first/

Here’s the link to the French-language version: https://nickfalvo.ca/une-introduction-au-logement-supervise-et-le-logement-dabord/

Edmonton Is Making Its Alleyways a Great Place to Live

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 23/01/2021 - 4:31am in

Tags 

Canada, Housing

Three months ago, Mary-Jane Turnell moved into her new home, an airy suite built above a three-car garage in her daughter’s backyard in Edmonton, Alberta. Turnell had been eyeing this type of living space for years after learning about it from a magazine article.

“It just made sense to me,” Turnell says. Here was a way to downsize and reduce her environmental footprint, while being able to age in place near family, including her grandkids. Plus, she’d still have a yard with a garden to putter in, all located in a mature, walkable neighborhood. “In my circumstances, it’s provided me a chance to be freer. If I travel, I can easily leave my dog with my daughter. And if she travels, I can take care of the kids.”

edmontonMary-Jane Turnell at her above-garage home in the Strathearn neighborhood in central Edmonton on January 5, 2021. Credit: Amber Bracken

Turnell is part of a quiet transformation taking place in Edmonton’s backyards and alleyways. As part of a bold plan to build in rather than out, the city has been loosening regulations and streamlining permitting for garden suites. Its goal is to squeeze more living space into the urban landscape by slipping these apartments — also known as granny flats, laneway housing and accessory dwelling units — into underutilized urban spaces.  While these small-scale living spaces, often located in the backyard of a detached house, are difficult to build in many North American cities, Edmonton is clearing a path for them. 

“Edmonton is like the unassuming leader when it comes to garden suite bylaws and infill policy,” says Ashley Salvador, an urban planner and president of YEGarden Suites, an education and advocacy-based non-profit. Though the city is perhaps better known for its sprawling parking lots, Salvador says she’s seen a culture shift in Edmonton, which is developing a reputation as an unlikely pioneer of progressive urban concepts. “When we first started out [in 2017], no one knew what garden suites were,” she says. “We’d say the word and they’re like, ‘What do you mean? Is that like a shed or something? Are you gardening back there?’”

edmontonA container home in Edmonton’s Ritchie neighborhood. Credit: Amber Bracken

Now, though, the suites have become “pretty mainstream,” according to Salvador, with close to 400 across the city. Salvador has seen a recent uptick in interest due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “People are thinking about their families and loved ones and how to care for them into the future in a way that is resilient and can withstand these kinds of uncertain shocks,” Salvador says.

This commitment to densification is all the more impressive when you consider that Edmonton does have room to continue sprawling outwards, says Sean Bohle, a senior planner for the city. But there are many good reasons for pulling more people into existing neighborhoods regardless. Bohle points to a 2011 report showing that Edmonton’s mature neighborhoods — generally completed prior to 1970 — consistently lost population in the preceding 40 years. That means fewer people utilizing the schools, roads, parks, playgrounds and other infrastructure in those communities. 

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“There’s definitely a fiscal responsibility element to pursuing infill development, but it isn’t purely a fiscal question,” says Bohle. “There’s environmental benefits from containing your urban growth and not expanding outwards, and there’s also a bit of an urban vitality element to it as well. The more people we have in existing areas, these people support local shops and businesses. They’re out in public, they’re in the parks, they’re using the facilities that have already been built.” To that end, Edmonton’s new city plan, approved by city council in December 2020, sets an ambitious target: 50% of new housing units added through infill city wide. 

Garden suites cultivate this density without fundamentally changing the character of neighborhoods, which can help circumvent the kind of NIMBY backlash that might be sparked by, say, a new high-rise apartment building.   

edmontonOne of Edmonton’s many backyard apartments peeks above a hedge. Credit: Amber Bracken

Garden suites hold other advantages for homeowners, as well, giving them the opportunity to adapt their property for rental income, multi-generational living, or to downsize rather than move. 

Recognizing these benefits, Edmonton has been cutting the red tape that often constrains this type of construction. “In the past five years or so, Edmonton has made a tremendous number of changes to try to adjust our zones and our other rules… to make it work for the builders of these types of units,” Bohle says. 

Developers have taken note. “They’ve done a great job of easing the process,” says Daniel Engleman, co-founder of Honomobo, an Edmonton-based business that sells houses, including laneway models, made of shipping containers. Engleman built a 320-square-foot garden suite made of two shipping containers in his own Edmonton backyard in 2016. He rents it out, and he likes how unobtrusive it is, while adding to the vibrancy and security of the back lane.

edmontonThe view of central Edmonton. Credit: Amber Bracken

About 50 percent of Honomobo’s business is now in California, says Engleman, where accessory dwelling units have been made simpler to build across the state. But Engleman says that while it costs about $2,500 for a garden suite permit in Edmonton, fees in California add up to $30,000 to $40,000.    

In Edmonton, simplifying the process for building a garden suite has included expanding the size of suites allowed (up to 1,400 square feet, depending on lot size) and locations where they can be built. Garden suites were once limited to specific spots, such as corner lots, but zoning bylaw updates mean garden suites can now be built on almost every single-family residential lot in Edmonton. 

Another major change saw garden suites move from a discretionary use to a permitted use, meaning if all rules of the zoning bylaw are met, a permit can’t be denied. Last summer, another barrier was removed when the city eliminated parking minimums, so garden suites no longer require a set number of parking stalls. 

Perhaps the most whimsical change has been that, as more people move into alleyways, other residents are starting to see those spaces differently —  as places for more than just throwing their garbage and parking their cars. In recent years, businesses have started opening in at least one Edmonton back alley. A one-day pop-up art show and auction called the Secret Alley Gallery was held in 2016 in a narrow downtown laneway. And in 2019, a laneway block party was hosted in an alley with three garden suites, featuring food trucks, music, entertainment and garden suite tours. “It opened the door to people seeing [alleys] in a little bit of a different light,” says Salvador. 

For the City of Edmonton, the increasing number of building permits being issued speaks to the garden suites’ success in densifying the city. City data for core, mature and established neighborhoods shows 65 garden suite building permits issued in 2019, up from just nine in 2013. 

Bohle says that, while that number may seem small, “These things really take time to take effect.” Plus, for the people building such suites, the changes have been significant, he says. Some families have found a way to accommodate an adult child with disabilities, while aging residents have been able to downsize and stay in their communities, or help an adult child get into the housing market. 

For Turnell, the Edmonton grandma who moved into her garden suite three months ago, those changes have made her golden years even better. “It’s nice that way, because it makes everybody’s life a little easier and I get to spend time with my grandkids,” she says.  

The post Edmonton Is Making Its Alleyways a Great Place to Live appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

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