Getting the Growth Plan Right
On Friday March 31, 2017, MGP released a paper entitled, Getting the Growth Plan Right. The paper summarizes the key issues with implementation of the 2006 Growth Plan, and the consequences of implementing the proposed 2016 amendments.
Our conclusion is that the proposed Growth Plan will fail to achieve its objectives, will direct significant growth to areas furthest away from transit, and prolong delays in municipal implementation and the delivery of serviced land to a supply-starved market. We note, contrary to the flurry of media reports suggesting many thousands of hectares of land is available for housing in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) (ranging from 50,000 – 100,000 ha), that MGP’s mapping is more accurate and concludes that 17,200 hectares remain in vacant Community Greenfield Areas to accommodate residential growth.
We provide the following recommended actions to correct these unintended consequences:
PUT DENSITY IN THE RIGHT PLACE
- Reinstate a policy of intensification throughout the Built-up Area.
- Require the highest densities along BRT/LRT and subway routes, where municipalities must delineate corridor and station areas under MTO’s Transit Supportive Guidelines, and support the development of these areas with hard and soft infrastructure strategies.
- Apply any increase over a 40% intensification requirement only to lower-tier municipalities with existing higher-order transit.
EXPEDITE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE GROWTH PLAN
- Do not increase the Greenfield density target for existing Designated Greenfield Areas with initiated studies – preserve the 10 years of 2031 implementation work already completed/in progress
- Calculate the proposed 80 residents and jobs per hectare Designated Greenfield Area density target as a net community housing target, providing a more predictable community planning outcome by excluding other features such as stormwater management facilities, arterial roads, and employment lands from the density calculation.
- Expedite provincially-led implementation work and remove new proposed studies best completed by municipalities/conservation authorities so as not to further delay implementation of the Growth Plan.
- The Province should lead on economic development and the creation of jobs to support the plan by preparing a regional economic analysis and identify provincially significant employment areas as originally proposed in the 2006 Growth Plan.
In discussions with staff at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and the Ontario Growth Secretariat, it became apparent that the Province is not relying on up-to-date land use mapping in recommending policy changes in the proposed Plan. To support an evidence-driven approach, we are providing our land use and Designated Greenfield Area mapping files to the Province for consideration in preparing a final Plan. This mapping has previously been shared with the Regions of Halton, Peel, York, Durham, Niagara, and Waterloo, and Simcoe County, some of which have since verified that their own work aligns with ours.
As professional planners that have supported the goals of the Growth Plan, and have been engaged in its implementation since 2006, we believe it is critical to get the Growth Plan right. There is opportunity to improve its policies to adjust for the lessons learned over the last 10 years of implementation experience. We believe this paper and recommendations can inform positive policy improvements to ensure the Growth Plan delivers growth and economic prosperity to the Greater Golden Horseshoe for the years to come.