August 17, 2016
PLAN TO ACHIEVE: NEW REPORT RAISES CONCERNS OF SPRAWL UNDERMINING THE GROWTH PLAN
Report finds that outdated Land Needs Assessment method leading to over-designation of greenfield land in the Greater Toronto Area
As the Province undertakes a review of the Growth Plan and other land use polices, a new report finds that a flawed approach to Land Needs Assessments (LNAs) is leading to continued sprawl which is undermining the Growth Plan. The report, Plan to Achieve: A Review of the Land Needs Assessment Process and the Implementation of the Growth Plan, from the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation was prepared by Kevin Eby former Director of Community Planning for the Region of Waterloo. The report recommends the Province freeze urban boundary expansions until growth forecasts can be updated with the 2016 Census data.
The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe envisions the region growing sustainably, with walkable, mixed use communities, vibrant main streets, and a diversity of housing choices and transportation options including rapid transit. This new report shows that the methodology used to determine how much additional land is needed to accommodate growth is fatally flawed, and incapable of delivering the results of the Growth Plan.
Density and intensification targets are the foundation of the Growth Plan and must be met if the GGH is going to grow sustainably and minimize sprawl. Unfortunately, many municipalities used an out-dated LNA process designed to meet historic demand for specific housing types, rather than designed to meet the density targets. The result is a continuation of the low-density suburban sprawl growth model of the past and a failure to account for changing demographics, housing needs and preferences.
A major area of concern is the interpretation of “planned to achieve” – whether municipalities need to achieve density and intensification targets within their planning horizon or merely plan for those targets to be met at an undetermined point in the future. Combined with the outdated LNA methodology, this means boundaries are expanded even though density targets haven’t been met yet. As a result, more affordable choices for new buyers like townhomes or condos are not being built where and when they’re needed. The overdesignation of land is still happening and communities are not being built densely enough to support transit or achieve Growth Plan goals.
“The Growth Plan envisions a desirable, sustainable future for the region,” says author of the report, Kevin Eby, RPP. “This report shows that inconsistent implementation and the use of outdated population forecasts are compromising that vision. To ensure the goals of the Growth Plan are realized, the Province needs to place a freeze on urban expansions in the GGH until a standardized, simplified land needs assessment methodology has been developed and the population forecasts have been reviewed following the release of the results of the 2016 Census."
Without a new approach to LNAs, municipalities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) will continue to over-designate land, leading to:
- failure to achieve the density targets of the Growth Plan;
- loss of prime agricultural land and countryside;
- lack of housing choices to meet changing needs of boomers and millennials; and
- continued unsustainable, car-based suburban sprawl.
“The report is a real eye-opener, especially on ‘planned to achieve’” said Friends of the Greenbelt CEO Burkhard Mausberg. “My daughter is starting university in a few weeks and she is planning to achieve her degree at the end of four years. She’s not going to call me up in spring 2020 and say ‘here’s my plan for getting my degree’. It should be the same in planning for growth – the idea is you achieve the targets by the planning horizon so people can move in to those homes.”
The report puts forward a number of recommendations for the Province to explore if the vision of the Growth Plan is going to be realized. Critically, the Province needs to freeze urban boundary expansions in the GGH until after population and employment forecasts can be updated with the 2016 census data. Other recommendations include:
- Develop a standardized, simplified LNA methodology
- Do not allow LNA calculations to be appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board
- Clarify meaning of “planned to achieve”
About the Greenbelt:
Ontario’s Greenbelt is the solution for fresh air, clean water, healthy local food, active outdoor recreation, and a thriving economy. At nearly 2 million acres, it’s the world’s largest permanently protected greenbelt, keeping our farmlands, forests, and wetlands safe and sustainable. The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation works to help keep farmers successful, strengthen local economies, and protect natural features. Learn more at: greenbelt.ca.
Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation
Phone: (416) 960-0001, ext. 306