Jennifer Keesmaat, chief planner, City of Toronto, talks life and real estate – Part 2

City of Toronto Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat is a champion of making Toronto more livable, about “moving less,” the importance of urbanism and improving transit. To her, these are not just catch-phrases – they’re words to live by. They are words she lives by.Case in point: she commutes by TTC every day.These and other insights into how Keesmaat plans – and lives in – Toronto:RG: Residents today have some serious decisions to make, weighing considerations for affordability, housing type, location and commute to work. What insight or advice would you give them in terms of where to live, and property type?Jennifer Keesmaat: Think carefully about the quality of life tradeoffs that matter most. If you hate the idea of a long commute, are you willing to pay a bit more for a smaller home that is near transit and in a walkable community? It is important to think in terms of household costs, rather than simply the cost of housing. When we shift our thinking to household costs, adding the cost of travel to our decision-making, we get a truer picture of the implications of living in different places in the city.RG: How do you commute to work?Jennifer Keesmaat: Just before the birth of my second son, I moved to a smaller house that cost more than the house I was in, in order to be near rapid transit. I now take the TTC to work every day, which would be fabulous if it wasn’t so crowded. I also try to bike regularly when the weather gets better, and depending on my schedule. I also end up driving three or four times a month, depending on the demands of my family or where I need to be in the region.

Jennifer Keesmaat, chief planner, City of Toronto

Jennifer Keesmaat, chief planner, City of Toronto

RG: What’s your favourite neighbourhood in the city?Honestly, there are many places I love, but I don’t have just one favorite neighbhourhood. Toronto offers so many great places to live. I’ve lived in Etobicoke, High Park, in midtown, and I went to school in North York. But I fully expect to move around a bit more before I am through with this city!RG: Please complete this sentence: “What I love most about Toronto is…”The energy, the people. I lived in Vancouver for a few years and I was dreading moving to Toronto, but when I arrived I immediately felt at home. I love that you can come to Toronto from anywhere in the world and you are instantly a Torontonian.Toronto is changing so rapidly, its challenges are so intense, it’s tough not to get caught up in it. Cities have moments: I believe this is ours. We are really beginning to cultivate our cultural institutions in new ways, our universities excel, our parks, ravines and open spaces make the city liveable, we actually have a restaurant “scene!”, and we are a great city for entrepreneurs. All these factors make Toronto wonderful to me.RG: You’re from Hamilton, a city that is undergoing a transformation of its own, with similar but different challenges than Toronto. How is that city doing with it?Jennifer Keesmaat: There is a burgeoning excitement in Hamilton, driven by a growing community of urbanists and creative types who are really committed to making Hamilton a unique and liveable place. For the first time in a long time, private sector investment is returning to the core. This is great! My hope is that Hamilton can learn from our mistakes and build the transit investments it needs before it becomes a crisis point. Hamilton has ambition, and it’s going to be fascinating to see how that translates into creating great places to live and work.Jennifer Keesmaat, chief planner, City of Toronto, talks life and real estate – Part 1 


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