Nanaimo’s next city plan is putting a renewed focus on intergenerational living.
The City of Nanaimo is in the final stages of the public process before council adopts the next city plan, meant to set goals and city-building policies for the coming decades.
One of the new buzz phrases in the new city plan is the concept of ‘intergenerational living,’ the concept that the city should support opportunities for residents to live, work and enjoy leisure time in their neighbourhoods from childhood through to retirement and old age.
The city’s 2008 plan included social enrichment goals such as livable and inclusive communities, with policies directing support for equitable distribution of services and amenities. Since then, the city underlined some of those goals and set new ones with the adoption of an age-friendly plan in 2019.
Lisa Bhopalsingh, the city’s director of community development, said at a governance and priorities meeting earlier this spring that the draft city plan’s intergenerational living section “incorporates philosophies” of the age-friendly plan.
“All through the document, terms like universal access, all of that is about intergenerational living and providing equitable access regardless of a person’s age and ability,” Bhopalsingh said.
The desired outcomes of intergenerational living planning, according to the document, include policies around supporting children and youths, creating intergenerational connections and helping seniors age in place. Some of the policies related to aging in place include encouraging accessible development and exploring stricter requirements for accessible units in housing proposals. The plan also calls for encouraging programs and services – related to parks and recreation, housing or health services, for example – that support active aging and aging in place.
One of the desired outcomes in the plan is “spaces and programs that encourage intergenerational sharing of experiences and invite all generations to be together.”
Other intended outcomes include incentives that encourage “intergenerational features, service and amenities into new development or redevelopment.
Councillors’ discussion on the topic centred on housing. Coun. Sheryl Armstrong expressed some concern that some of the city’s policies to build upward are contrary to what “most seniors want,” which she said are level-entry residences such as small rancher houses and patio homes.
“I have friends that are sitting in 4-5,000-square-foot homes that would move, but they want their level entry…” she said. “We’re not building the houses that they will move to, so they stay in these big homes that they don’t need. That’s just food for thought. We need to look at that as well.”
Mayor Leonard Krog said the city can only build so many rancher homes before Nanaimo sprawls into rural areas, taking away green space and creating costly sewer and water infrastructure expansion.
“I appreciate the demand for it, but builders are also recognizing the marketplace…” he said. “We may not be able to get what we want, to use the words of the song, but we might get what we need.”
Coun. Don Bonner suggested he generally agreed, noting that condos and apartments above the ground floor can still be accessible, and said ensuring the ability to age in place is what’s most important.
Councillors did not suggest any revisions to that section of the draft city plan. The plan will go to a special public hearing next month and is expected to be adopted in early summer. After that, the City of Nanaimo will work further on an action plan that will identify specific ways to try to achieve the goals set out in the city plan.