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New community engagement platform tackles Victoria's 'generation squeeze' dilemma

Families, inclusiveness and healthy communities are at the heart of Victoria-based ARYZE Development's recently launched Talk to ARYZE engagement effort. The informational and open dialogue platform hopes to break down housing barriers that are pushing younger generations of Victorians away from the neighbourhoods in which they grew up.  ARYZE Developments

New community engagement platform tackles Victoria's 'generation squeeze' dilemma
MIKE KOZAKOWSKI, CITIFIED.CA
Victoria’s growing disconnect between real-estate development trends and the City’s ‘generation squeeze’ demographic is the backdrop to a new civic engagement portal that hopes to make a positive impact on the region’s housing accessibility and affordability challenges.
 
Talk to ARYZE, a website created by the partnership of Victoria-based ARYZE Developments and Purdey Group, is the first industry-backed local platform to formally supplant the efforts of grassroots pro-housing organizations through frank and open dialogue on the Capital’s land-use.
 
“Despite universal calls for solutions to Victoria’s real-estate affordability problem and a strong desire to expedite the construction of new housing, the underlying attitude among many of Victoria’s neighbourhood groups remains antagonistic towards infill development,” says Luke Mari, Director with Purdey Group.
 
“As developers, we are told that neighbourhoods want more affordability, housing diversity, transit options, parks, and local retail but at the same time, they want to remain the same as it relates to height, character, use, and density. This dichotomy eventually materializes into the very pressures pro-housing groups like Generation Squeeze and Cities for Everyone have identified as key obstacles to affordability among Victoria’s younger generations.”
 
The parallels between citizens lobbying local authorities for steadfast action on the housing front and the bureaucracy developers face in providing that housing propelled Mari and his team to take on the established narrative through an educational and a fact-based online campaign.
 
“Talk to ARYZE is not a tool to extract profits from neighbourhoods or to force large development. It’s a step towards aligning the reality of the market by engaging and talking with the people that we ultimately serve as developers,” Mari says, adding that the “time has come to stop pointing fingers at one another” and to “use factual data to empower all residents to become productively engaged participants in the land use conversation.”
 
Based in Victoria’s Gonzalez neighbourhood, the ARYZE team is made up of a group of 30-somethings who live and operate businesses in the communities in which they seek to develop infill homes (a practice of taking advantage of surplus or under-developed land to build residential density).
 
And through neighbourhood consultations and discussions with neighbours they’ve developed an acute awareness of the challenges their demographic is facing in a city that they believe has lost touch with the needs of young people and families.
 
“We’ve found ourselves in position to help drive positive change in our neighbourhoods, and we deeply wish for that change to be inclusive and to collaborate with the public to ensure that what we do is helpful to the community and is deeply rooted in meeting its needs,” says Ryan Goodman, co-owner of ARYZE.
 
“We’re adding a significant amount of new housing downtown, but we can’t as a society push our young people, who want to start families and outgrow condos, out of the city and into car-dependant suburbs. Not addressing the housing needs for this new demographic of residents is like pretending that the realities of our housing market have no long-term consequences.  We’re well beyond the point where our politicians and residents can turn a blind eye to the realities of housing in Victoria.”
 
Talk to ARYZE is guided by a set of principles that envision Victoria’s future as a healthy, vibrant city where families can afford to raise children, where a lack of rental apartments or real-estate affordability are no longer an employee retention issue for local businesses, where walkable, amenity-rich urban neighbourhoods are viewed as a planning priority and inclusiveness is part and parcel of new developments.
 
“Even though some residents may disagree with each other on the surface, I would like to think that there’s common ground in relation to diverse, inclusive neighbourhoods. We may ultimately find that proponents and opponents of development see eye-to-eye, but they’d never know it due to the outdated, overly controlled engagement processes that can pit residents against each other,” Mari said.
 
Pro-housing organizations have referred to Victoria’s system of zoning and development restrictions as a modern-day continuation of social and ethnic-based population divides which today appear in the form of socio-economic barriers to entry. 
 
Breaking down those walls through access to a wider spectrum of housing, Mari says, will work to address the homogeneity rapidly intensifying in established neighbourhoods, increase housing types and tenures in order to encourage families to return to the urban core.
 
“The question is not whether we should be building six-storey condos all over the place, that’s not the point. But if our neighbourhoods are growing, how do we best guide that growth to maintain the special qualities which drew residents there in the first place? Council wants to hear from existing and future Victorians on how to achieve an all encompassing balance, and we hope that we can help facilitate that conversation.” C
 
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 Article resources

  • Visit Talk to ARYZE and become engaged in the future of infill housing in Victoria
  • Learn more about ARYZE Developments here
  • Discuss and stay up-to-date on housing housing affordability in Victoria with VibrantVictoria's dedicated thread here
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