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

Authors: Robin Basalaev-Binder*, McGill University
Topics: Urban Geography, Planning Geography, Canada
Keywords: Walkability, affordability, environmental justice, sustainability, active living
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 9
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

From a sustainability standpoint, urban spaces should offer safe, comfortable 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 the 2020 proximity measures database from Statistics Canada, OpenStreetMap, and Canadian Census socioeconomic variables we map the relationships between these factors to identify spatial patterns across Canada. These datasets provide a comprehensive measurement of the quality of the built environment for active transportation by capturing access to a wide range of amenities and data on green and leisure space. We further posture 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 comparing to data on 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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