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Editorial: Other infrastructure needs to come with housing developments

A large building is going up right now on Garden Street in the heart of Duncan
The Friendship Trail is a good start on the kind of walking and biking infrastructure that needs to be developed alongside new housing. (Screenshot)

There’s a whole lot of building going on.

And Cowichan needs it.

As anyone who has tried to look for a place to rent will tell you, the vacancy rate in the Cowichan Valley is virtually zero.

This also helps to drive rental rates through the roof for those who are lucky enough to find a place to call home.

So the new apartment and condo buildings getting underway in the Duncan core and its outskirts are good news, and long overdue.

A large building is going up right now on Garden Street in the heart of Duncan, and another apartment building is proposed for Ypres Street. While it has been sent back by council for further work, it seems pretty clear that a development of some variety is all but assured for that piece of property.

In North Cowichan in the Cowichan Commons area off Drinkwater Road council has just approved two large apartment developments, one consisting of three buildings and the other of four. These will open up hundreds of new units in which people can live.

Why so many all together, you may ask? That’s actually one of the things they’re doing right. Densifying your core area, where services are within easy biking and walking distance is the smart way to develop. It will hopefully encourage people to get out of their cars and patronize the community’s businesses in their daily lives. This in turn helps to create a more vibrant community where people want to be, both to live and visit. More people out and about improves safety, health and encourages economic growth.

Which brings us to a key point for consideration by our local governments as they look at these projects: transportation. People will not walk or bike rather than drive no matter how close they are to amenities if we lack the infrastructure for them to do so safely and easily.

That’s why bike lanes (proper ones that are more than a line painted on the side of the road that cars don’t pay attention to anyway) and sidewalks, laneways and trails that take people from point A to point B are so important to consider alongside just putting up four walls and a roof.

These must be built in conjunction with the new housing for the optimal outcome of more liveable, desirable communities.

And let’s not let municipal boundaries be an impediment, either. We need to look at the area as the whole that people view it as, and make sure people can get from the Cowichan Commons development area to the city and vice versa without having to walk the side of the highway. The Friendship Trail is a decent start at this, but more is needed.