Are there incentives for one to move a family from a large metropolitan environment like Toronto, to a more rural setting like Barrie Ontario?
For my parents and many others back in the early 70's when Barrie had a mere 30,000 population, that incentive was comparatively affordable housing.
For my father, driving north from the big city to the under construction Holiday Inn in Barrie was a daily contrast for six months between a bustling city with horizons hash-marked by industrial smoke stacks and Barrie's unfetid sunsets where the tempo of living was more self determined. Incentives that for the most part still apply today.
New homes on near football field sized lots being constructed off of Big Bay Point Road for around half the price of comparable Etobicoke homes were the final push for my parents and a steady stream of families to step away from life in an urban bubble and start anew.
At the time we moved to Barrie the make up of many who were leaving the big cities for the surrounding towns and villages was sons and daughters of European immigrants who came to Canada for the promise of a new life away from the stigma and struggles of 2 world wars and the great depression. On arrival to Canada they settled for the most part in larger Cities across the country where growing communities of fellow immigrants provided a security buffer for their life changing transitions.
That immigration wave, and the waves of immigration that came in the 50's, 60's and 70's are miniscule by number in comparison with the predominantly Asian and Indian immigration to Canada that has taken place over the past 30 years, and continues at an even greater rate today with about 1/4 million new immigrants landing here each year. More than 20% of our current population, close to 7 million people, were born outside Canada, and more have settled in the greater Toronto area than any other of our major cities.
Just as so many sons and daughters of European immigrants ventured away from the relative security of the ethnically enriched big city communities their parents raised them in to raise their own families, the same can be seen happening right now and the demands, incentives and opportunities to do so are greater than ever.
The sons and daughters of today's newer Canadians tend to be more education focused and dependent upon the larger urban centers in meeting their career expectations and the majority who do venture out, are re-settling within 100 miles of the larger cities they were raised and schooled in.
With this reality, the Barrie area is at the tipping point of its next, and predictably largest, most concentrated wave of population growth to date over the next 20 years, which will see the area population grow by another 50,000 to 100,000 residents. Well represented will be a generation of educated, high earners, less fearful of commuting 2 to 3 hours a day for their spoils, and many more who will spearhead Barrie's next wave of industry and commerce. At some point in this transition Barrie could well become a favourable landing point for new immigrants as new communities evolve and services sought by many new Canadians increase locally.
"The times they are a changing."
This brings growing pains to some pre-existing Barrie residents with their propensity for big back yards, pools and fire pits to sit around with our neighbours on the weekend. A new generation of Barrie residents more adjusted to higher density living and the practicality it offers is a transition that devlopers are catering to more and more.
Resistance to higher density development proposals from previously settled Barrie residents has become a regular part of the agenda at City Hall General meetings. Higher density living at one time was viewed primarily as the option of the financially limited and in the preconceived minds of some, will allways be imprinted with images of lower income housing and increased crime.
Such automatic assumptions are no longer valid. Many new developments are geared towards quality of living over quantity of living space. Housing expectations of a new generation are shifting from the traditional. Developable lands continue to shrink in supply, and increasing costs command higher intensity planning to make economic sense. Higher density development is going to alter the overall physical texture of Barrie's landscape in ways many are aprehensive of as it contrasts with the long existing comfort levels of seemingly eternal status quo living we have come to expect.
Government is a step ahead in regard to the growth of our Cities and towns and higher density living is the application going forward, reassuringly, with more carefully thought out detail and consideration for the future than the previous century of urban planners and politico's provided us. That future will offer more than it will take for most. It will bring opportunity and renewed economic vitality to the area. Demand often supersedes sentimentality, and Barrie, like it or not, will once again look as different 20 years from now, as it does today to a kid who moved here in the early 70's.