Flaw in the Growth Plan – Neptis Foundation

On October 30,2013, the Neptis Foundation released a report detailing some significant flaws in the “Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe”.

The report outlined that Ontario’s award-winning Growth Plan, is under pressure, behind schedule, and faced with serious problems that undermine its stated goals. This report is also intended to inform the 10-year review of the Growth Plan by the Ministry of Infrastructure in 2016.

This report found that a total of 107,100 hectares (1,071 sq km) which is approximately half the size of the City of Toronto, is the amount of new land in total that will be urbanized to accommodate an additional 3.7 million residents in the region by 2031. This is slightly more than the amount specified in the government’s own call to action in 2004, an amount that would be urbanized under “business-as-usual” development patterns. The Growth Plan was established in 2006 to change these patterns.

Two troubling findings indicate how it came about that more land is being slated for urbanization than might have been intended by the Plan:

1. Nearly half of the land available for urbanization across the Greater Golden Horseshoe lies in the Outer Ring, outside the Greenbelt, even though the Outer Ring is expected to attract only one-third as many new residents and one-quarter as many jobs as the Inner Ring. What this means is that the Outer Ring municipalities (with the exception of Waterloo Region), many of which do not offer transportation alternatives to the private automobile and do not have well-developed water, sewer, and other infrastructure, will be permitted to replicate the kind of low-density, car-oriented development patterns that have led to problems in the Inner Ring.

2. Within the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton (Inner Ring), where of billions of dollars are being spent on transit and other infrastructure, only one regional municipality (Peel) is planning to exceed the minimum targets set out by the Plan. The targets consist of a minimum intensification rate (40% of all new residential development is to be directed to already built-up areas), and a minimum greenfield development density (50 persons and jobs per hectare combined) for currently undeveloped lands. Moreover, Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s Transit-Supportive Guidelines, published in 2012, suggest that 50 people and jobs combined can support only “basic transit service,” let alone frequent or rapid transit service.

Much work still remains to be done to address major issues during the implementation of the plan:

• Given the lack of clear guidelines on how municipalities must proceed and battles over the language of the Plan at the Ontario Municipal Board, the adoption process of the Growth Plan has produced a patchwork of differing approaches to growth management throughout the Greater Golden Horseshoe, rather than a coordinated regional approach.

• Variations in the way municipalities calculate land budgets have led to inconsistencies in the way the Growth Plan is being implemented.

• The Growth Plan has allowed some fast-growing municipalities to adopt lower intensification and density targets than certain smaller, slower-growing municipalities.

The report concludes that despite claims that the Growth Plan has constrained the land supply in the region, sufficient land has been set aside to accommodate population and employment at average densities similar to those that are typical today. If those densities were to increase, the current land supply would last even longer.

For more information and media enquiries about the report, please contact Marcy L. Burchfield, Director of Research Programming & Communications with the Neptis Foundation at mburchfield@neptis.org or 416-972-9199 x 2.

Read the full report here.

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