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Is there a ‘sustainability premium’? : Who can afford to live in green walkable neighbourhoods in Canada?

Authors: Kevin Manaugh*, McGill University, Robin Basalaev-Binder, McGill University, Emma Bandia, McGill University, Thomas Herrmann, McGill University, Mylene Riva, McGill University, David Wachsmuth, McGill University, Nancy Ross, McGill University
Topics: Transportation Geography, Urban Geography, Geography and Urban Health
Keywords: Walkability, affordability, environmental justice, sustainability, active living, green space
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


From an urban sustainability standpoint, neighbourhoods should offer safe, comfortable, and convenient places to engage in low carbon and health-promoting modes of transport while also offering ‘green and blue space’ with ecosystem and biophysical benefits (Gascon et al., 2015). From a ‘just sustainability’ standpoint (Agyeman, 2008), neighbourhoods should also provide housing options that are affordable to families across the life cycle and be welcoming to newcomers. The distribution of spaces which maximize these qualities is an important environmental justice and equity question (Shellenberger and Nordhaus, 2009; Wolch et al., 2014). This paper examines how access to green space interacts with walkability and affordability in Canada at the neighbourhood scale. Using data on green and leisure space from Open Street Maps, 2016 data from the Can-ALE comprehensive measurement of the quality of the built environment for active transportation (Hermann et al., 2019), and Canadian Census socioeconomic variables, we map the relationships between these factors to identify spatial patterns across Canada. We further position the distribution of greenspace and active living environments as an affordability and equity issue through assessing other indicators of inequality and marginalisation, such as household income, dwelling value, and immigration status. And, by examining mobility patterns, such as journey to work data, identify areas where marginalized populations are using active transport in areas that are not necessarily conducive to this activity.

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