SEVEN STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE LIVABILITY IN RURAL COMMUNITIES
Greenbelt Foundation Develops Resource to Support Municipalities in Creating Complete Communities
As Ontario communities recover from COVID-19, there is an opportunity to build back better. Imagine a vibrant rural town that has everything you need from shops and restaurants, to essential services like doctors and dentists, to leafy footpaths and connected bike lanes, to affordable housing and great jobs minutes from your front door.
With COVID-19 creating a renewed interest in staying close to home, complete communities that meet all the needs of their residents—without requiring long commutes to other areas for work, shopping or recreation—will be increasingly important.
A new report from the Greenbelt Foundation describes how rural communities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) are taking strides to become more ‘complete,’ attract diverse residents and businesses, and what other communities might consider to follow suit.
Growing Close to Home: Creating Complete Rural Communities looks at seven strategies for making rural GGH communities more livable and prosperous:
1) Prioritizing compact development that makes good use of existing infrastructure
2) Incentivizing diverse housing options, including affordable housing
3) Investing in active and public transportation infrastructure to reduce car-dependency and promote a healthy, active lifestyle
4) Maintaining and improving town character, through revitalization efforts
5) Preserving nearby natural areas and farmland, protecting local food systems and the agricultural economy
6) Building on existing major sectors, like tourism and agriculture, to promote economic development
7) Engaging residents in ongoing consultation.
“Complete communities offer residents of all ages, income levels, and abilities a range of options for living, working, playing, and moving all within one place,” says Kathy Macpherson, VP of Greenbelt Foundation. “Beyond their value to residents, complete communities offer benefits to municipal governments because they use infrastructure and servicing efficiently, attract a strong and diverse local workforce, spur economic development, and protect prime farmland, which in turn protects the local economy.”
Some case studies from the report include Grey Highlands encouraging affordable housing in their community, like secondary suites for local workers, by waiving fees and providing tax benefits. The Town of Erin is constructing a “Riverwalk” trail that provides active transportation infrastructure and promotes easier access to the town’s shops for residents and visitors. The Town of Pelham operates a bus service, allowing more residents without cars to get to work, go shopping and access services, something that is particularly important to seniors.
“Improving quality of life should be a core goal for all communities,” says Wayne Caldwell, Professor and Program Coordinator of Rural Planning and Development at University of Guelph. “Ensuring a diversity of housing, and improved opportunities for active and public transportation are key to this. Likewise, it is important to protect agricultural land and natural heritage. All of these things contribute to complete communities and enhanced quality of life.”
This report draws from a variety of examples to paint a fulsome picture of what a complete community in the GGH can look like and is an important resource for anyone who would like to learn more and get involved in improving their community. With COVID-19 creating a renewed interest in staying close to home, complete communities that meet all the needs of their residents—without requiring long commutes to other areas for work, shopping or recreation—will be increasingly important.
About Greenbelt Foundation
The Greenbelt Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to ensuring that Ontario’s Greenbelt remains permanent, protected and prosperous. We make the right investments in its interconnected natural, agricultural and economic systems, to ensure a working, thriving Greenbelt for all.
416-960-0001 ext. 311