Fixing the Suburbs in the Montreal Area, Slowly but Surely (5 min read)

xratedcheese killed it responding in this thread (reddit thread)

3 patterns learned from the housing beat (4 min read)


Hey everybody it's Kyle. Where, on this podcast, I share, discuss, ponder, and try to connect some dots through the best content I've discovered each week related to urban planning, architecture, and cities.

I want to build with you case studies, discover examples, refine ideas, that hopefully inspire you as you go along your journey. If you don't have time to read, I'm trying to break down the patterns here and help you stay ahead of the curve.

Ultimately, trying to learn, what are the patterns of development?

First up a case study from Montreal.

With the additional of duplexes and triplex as infill development, moving parking off the street front and converting it to protected bike lanes they've created more options for transportation in this particular community and they've added stealth density.

A strategy we see time and time again when looking to revitalize an area. Offer infrastructure for multiple transportation options, add density, and consider how to slow down experience velocity of the area so that people aren't just going through it.

From the post on Imgur, "This neighbourhood used to be nearly all detached housing some 40 years ago. Today, it's more than 50% duplexes/triples/town houses.

"Adding some density to existing shopping centres, making the street safer (bike lanes), building new buildings closer to the street, etc. It's better to go at it bit by bit and strive for incremental improvements. Organic change is best, with the proper zoning and incentives of course."

So Montreal's getting after it. Someone posted the question on reddit, and user name Xratedcheese responsed with some wisdom. I'm just going to read it:

"If you want actual progress and not a lot of fruitless effort, don't present the town with your big plans for a new monorail.

Identify your goals and figure out what's preventing your town from reaching those goals. Don't assume everyone shares your goals; a lot of people probably like things just the way they are.

Identify why you have your goals and why other good, rational, intelligent people don't share your goals. Identify how your proposed changes could harm other people. You might have to reevaluate your goals and look for compromises that work for everyone.

Look for multiple small, incremental changes that cost little or nothing, because there's always room in the budget for stuff that costs nothing, and look for ways to avoid triggering major Nimby responses, because you don't want angry, deep-pocketed, well-lawyered residents to become your well-organized enemies if you can help it.

Look for ways to make life better through feasible regulation changes, signage changes, new lines painted on existing streets. Several small, cheap changes might be possible where one major, expensive change is not.

Look for ways that have maximum positive results and minimum negative results. Make people happy. Don't make people angry or fearful.

One major goal, for example, might be to revitalize a dead downtown. A million towns have faced this challenge. Do some research to see how some have tried and succeeded, many have tried and failed, and others are still fumbling forward with uncertain results. Your plan is going to involve lots of minor goals and lots of minor changes.

One subgoal for revitalizing a dead downtown might be to encourage and expand outdoor dining and drinking. This could be framed in various ways to various interests. Restaurants will be for it if it means they can expand seating and increase sales. Local residents, on the other hand, will be afraid of increased noise and so on. What if you found a way to let restaurants convert parking into outdoor seating? Or help adjacent restaurants to share outdoor seating?

Another subgoal might be to close certain blocks to car traffic every weekend during the summer and turn the street into a place for music and food. Or do it during the weeks leading up to Christmas with lots of holiday-related stuff to bring in shoppers and diners. If you do it right, shoppers are happy, businesses are happy, and they want to do it every year.

Unspoken goals: get people used to walking instead of driving, get them used to losing some streets to pedestrian traffic and liking it, and make friends with the business and government people you need to have on your side."\

Boom. X-ratedcheese. Dropping urban friendly advice. Think incrementally, play nice in the sandbox, recognize it's going to take time. A similar pattern to the Montreal case study. It's taking time, slow but small changes are the best ones.

Last up this week, an article by Jared Brey from

What I’ve Learned After Two Years on the Housing Beat. I can related to Jared. It's been almost a year where I've been intentionally studying our cities, doing webinars, public speaking (pre covid), this podcast, a news letter. There's patterns and I want to share what Jared's identified:

  1. All solutions are partial

This from Jared, "I have heard local officials describe a new initiative or law as “a tool in the toolbox” more times than I care to remember. Often it sounds like a caveat, employed to lower expectations about how much the initiative will really accomplish. But it’s an apt metaphor for urban policymaking. There is no single thing that cities are equipped to do that can end the crisis of affordable housing."

I'm aligned with Jared here. There's so many things that need to be done. And city staff, bankers, citizens, and developers need multiple tools in the toolbox.

  1. Cities need help

Many urban problems, like racial segregation, the isolation of low-income neighborhoods, and the backlog of maintenance in hundreds of public housing properties, have roots in federal policy.

  1. Organizing makes the biggest difference

Talk to y'all soon...