After living in downtown Ottawa for nearly four years, my husband and I moved back to our home province of Alberta in August 2015. This time we would be living in Edmonton with our daughters (3.5 years & 9 months). We wanted to live in the centre of the city, but we kept hitting a road block in our search for housing: “Adult Only.”
We finally found a two-bedroom apartment in a building downtown that allows children, at least a building in our price range.
The consequences of age discrimination in housing are evident to us on a daily basis. Rarely do we meet other children while walking the streets of downtown; strollers are scarce, playgrounds virtually non-existent. Our four-year-old has verbalized that she misses meeting “friends” when we are out walking. Our neighbourhood is not yet the community we want to live in, but we are determined to stay and be part of the change. We want to raise our girls downtown, with all its grittiness and eccentricities, its varied architecture, and its diversity of people and experiences.
Age discrimination in housing affects how our cities are shaped. For example, this is part of a response I got from an email inquiry for an apartment at the David Thompson in Grandin (9717 111 St.):
The David Thompson is an adult only building, so unfortunately we would not be able to accommodate children under 18. The best thing would be to view our website again and look outside of downtown for our family-friendly buildings.
The perception that families shouldn’t or wouldn’t want to live downtown seems to be a perception held by a number of Albertans, but this is an entirely backwards way of looking at cities. A city centre with no families is short-changing itself of any long term growth. Jane Jacobs, writer and activist, wrote, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
For community renewal and downtown revitalization to be sustainable, growing families will be essential. When our lease ends, we may be pushed out of the neighbourhood we have chosen and want to invest in because we have children. This is discrimination and it is hurting families and our city.
Yvonne Epp is a member of the Downtown Edmonton Community League, and the founder of the Urban Kids Playgroup, a popular and growing playgroup connecting downtown parents on a weekly basis.