With the window rapidly closing on changes to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe through the Co-ordinated Land Use Planning Review, and with continuing frenzy in the real estate market, there is no end to the hyperbole on who and what is to blame for rising house prices in the Toronto region.
A recent commentary in the Globe and Mail used work by the planning and development consulting firm Malone Given Parsons (MGP) to support the claim that the Growth Plan is to blame for a land supply shortage and runaway house prices in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area. Unfortunately, the commentary contains egregious errors. Among other things, a false comparison was made between the work of MGP and the Neptis Foundation to further a specious argument. Since the author is not the only person to make this kind of mistake, Neptis wants to set the record straight on this matter.
Marcy Burchfield, Executive Director of the Neptis Foundation appeared on the TVO news show The Agenda to discuss the issues around the decision by the Town of Innisfil in Simcoe Couty to become the first town in Canada to officially partner with Uber as a method of solving its public transit woes
Ontario's Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe states that "population and employment growth will be accommodated by... directing major growth to settlement areas that offer municipal water and wastewater systems and limiting growth in settlement areas that are serviced by other forms of water and wastewater services."
This brief shows that a contradiction in wording between the 2006 Growth Plan and a 2008 supplementary provincial document has created a policy gap and decisions made during Growth Plan implementation allowed municipalities to direct growth to rural settlement areas that do not have full municipal services and further, that municipalities are allowed to count this growth as "intensification." The settlements across the Greater Golden Horseshoe potentially affected by this policy gap contain a total of more than 31,000 hectares of unbuilt land.
This brief describes how the contradiction came about, discusses the effects on infrastructure and costs, provides examples of new subdivisions in rural settlements that are being counted as intensification, and notes that the proposed 2016 revision to the Growth Plan may entrench this contradiction.
The analysis raises the question: do we direct growth to settlements in which it contributes to cost-effective infrastructure investments or do we continue to allow growth in rural settlements in ways that increase infrastructure demands and costs?
Neptis researchers have updated an estimate of the total supply of unbuilt land to accommodate housing and employment to 2031 and beyond across the Greater Golden Horseshoe as 125,560 hectares. The analysis involved using satellite imagery to identify and measure the 2016 urban footprint for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
While a 2013 Neptis report focused on estimating the extent of the Designated Greenfield Area (DGA) to 2031, the latest research updates the original DGA estimate. Four categories of land are now included:
1. The Designated Greenfield Area: this land totals almost 103,200 hectares, fairly evenly split between the Inner Ring (Greater Toronto Hamilton Area) and the Outer Ring; about 87,440 hectares remains unbuilt.
2. The undelineated built-up area: 31,250 hectares of unbuilt land lie within the settlement boundaries of small towns, villages, and hamlets across the region.
3. Land added through Municipal Boundary Adjustments: More than 5,000 hectares have been added to the Cities of Barrie and Brantford as the result of boundary adjustments and annexation.
4. Land added in Amendment 1 to the Growth Plan: Almost 1,900 hectares of employment land have been added in Simcoe County.
This represents a considerable supply of land for growth. In future, it will be important to monitor supply, particularly when further boundary adjustments or annexations are proposed.
Martha J. Shuttleworth, the President and Founder of the Neptis Foundation, is this year's recipient of the David Crombie Award and will be honoured at the 13th annual Urban Leadership Awards hosted by the Canadian Urban Institute. The David Crombie Award recognizes individuals who engage community, government and private sector partners to help regenerate and enhance the public realm in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. The awards committee noted that Martha's philanthropic contribution in establishing the Neptis Foundation has revolutionized the way we make decisions in the Toronto region.
This report takes a closer look at the Airport Megazone, one of the three suburban employment megazones identified in the 2015 report, Planning for Prosperity, and the second largest concentration of employment in Canada. That research report was intended to contribute to the Province of Ontario's Coordinated Review of the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, Greenbelt Plan, Oak Ridges Moraine Plan, and Niagara Escarpment Plan. The report described the changing economy and economic landscape of the Greater Golden Horseshoe, identifying important considerations for the Growth Plan.
This Brief examines the question of serviced land in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). The first looked at how much land has been built on in the past decade in the GTHA and concluded that only 20% of the total greenfield land supply until 2031 has been built on.
In a column published in the Globe and Mail, Marcy Burchfield, Executive Director of the Neptis Foundation argues against disingenuous suggestions that Ontario's Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe is responsible for a shortage of land and rising house prices. Burchfield writes that the argument deflects from the real policy solutions needed to address the pressing problem of housing affordability. It also has the potential to further weaken a provincial policy that is at best a modest attempt to bring a more co-ordinated approach to planning across the Toronto region and address the problems associated with low-density urban sprawl.
New analysis shows that since 2006 (the year the Growth Plan was established), only a small portion of the GTHA's land supply for greenfield development has been built on. Neptis researchers have estimated that only about 10,800 of the 56,200 hectares was developed between 2006 and 2016; less than 20% of the total supply. That leaves 80% of the designated land supply to accommodate another 15 years' worth of growth to 2031 and possibly beyond.
The proposed amendments to the 2016 Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe represent an important revision of the original 2006 Plan. But to succeed, loopholes must be filled and the province must step up to its role as regional planner.
Unlike the Greenbelt Plan, which is about where development will not occur, the Growth Plan is about where and how growth will occur across the Toronto region. In that sense, getting the Growth Plan right is critical, as the Greenbelt alone will not stop sprawl.
The proposed amendments - which are open for discussion and comment until 30 September 2016 - include language to manage growth and address issues that were not on the horizon in 2006. These include the Metrolinx Big Move regional transportation plan and the anticipated Climate Action Plan.
The Neptis Foundation was cited recently as an example of How hilanthropy Funds Sustainability by Sustainable City Network (SCN) as a leading funder in scholarly reserach in public policy issues on land use, transportation and environmental issues.