Growth of some three million new residents and two million jobs is anticipated in the Central Ontario Zone over the next thirty years.  The sheer magnitude of this growth is both a testament and potential threat to the region’s success.  Cities and regions that are not experiencing growth will have a much more difficult time in making improvements to their quality of life.  There is the opportunity – if not an imperative - to ensure that this growth improves the quality of life in the Zone. 

How can this growth be used to improve the quality of life in the Central Ontario Zone?  This opportunity will be realised when the positive opportunities associated with new growth are recognised and actively, deliberately, strategically pursued.  This in turn requires treating growth as a limited resource to be strategically deployed so as to create maximum benefit.  Not only will this approach provide the best chance of improving quality of life in the Zone, but it can help to improve the region’s competitive advantage over other North American urban regions.

Growth provides the opportunity to bring about positive change.  In particular, new growth provides opportunities:

  • To improve the performance of the urban form.  It is well known by now that urban form shapes a number of important outcomes and conditions in the region, such as the amount of daily travel by car, the proportion of trips taken by transit and the cost of hard infrastructure such as roads, water and wastewater networks.
  • To contribute to addressing areas of social need within the region, by improving the physical environment of areas in need for example.
  • To make the region more efficient, and therefore more competitive.  By reducing direct infrastructure costs associated with growth, this money can be reinvested in more productivity-or competitiveness-enhancing activities – or simply returned to the taxpayer or homebuyer.
  • To improve livability and reduce indirect costs.  Many of the factors mentioned above affect our daily lives. For example, the amount travelled by car affects how much free time we have, as well as the amount of emissions, which affect air quality.

This report presents a geographical analysis of some of the key indicators related to these considerations – relating to socio-economic factors, urban form, and existing infrastructure capacities. 

The focus of this report is on the already-urbanised areas of the Zone, not on those areas that will be urbanised in the coming years, or on the form of development in those areas.  In other words, this report is focussed on reurbanisation – adding new residential, employment and other uses to the already built-up portion of the Zone.

Reurbanisation has certain inherent benefits – by definition, it deflects new growth away from greenfields lands.  In the case of the GTA, in which the urban fringe is largely comprised of prime agricultural lands, this helps to reduce pressure for development of the prime lands, or other environmentally sensitive areas.

This report goes further, to ask – where within the already-urbanised parts of the zone could new growth be directed to achieve the greatest positive impacts?

While the focus of this report is on reurbanisation, it is recognised that not all growth anticipated over the coming decades can be accommodated within the existing urbanised area.  What is assumed, however, is that with a proper strategic focus and strong implementation, a much greater proportion of new growth can be accommodated within the existing urban envelope than is the case today.  There is a vast supply of under-utilised land across the zone that can be taken advantage of, if the proper conditions are put in place to do so.  This includes not only the large redevelopment areas, such as Downsview, but also the myriad smaller-scale opportunities that exist across the region, on main streets, former gas stations or industrial lands, low density retail strips, surface parking lots and the like.

Most recent data for the GTA shows for example, that as of 2001, there were about 260,000 residential units in the development approvals process in the GTA.1  Across the GTA, about 15% of these were slated to be developed on already-urbanised lands.  However, the City of Toronto accounted for 81% of these units on reurbanised land.  In the four regions surrounding the City, only 3% of upcoming units will be built on already-urbanised land.

As the region matures, and the existing urbanised area continues to change, there will be many more opportunities for reurbanisation in areas outside the City of Toronto in the GTA.  The Region of Peel, for example, has virtually no residential growth on already-urbanised land in the planning approvals process as of 2001.  Given that the City of Mississuaga is now almost completely urbanised, and with many already mature areas, and the City of Brampton significantly urbanised, it can be expected that redevelopment opportunities will emerge in these cities in the coming years.  There are also, of course, many opportunities for reurbanisation in surrounding cities and towns, such as Hamilton or St. Catherines.

This report focuses on opportunities for new growth, and identifying areas to which new growth could be directed to achieve positive benefits of various kinds.  It should be noted that for a more complete geographical picture, this analysis should be complemented with identification of the areas where significant constraints exist, and which should be protected from new growth.  This might include prime farmland, environmentally sensitive areas, green corridors or  other open space of local and regional significance.

Section 2 of this report presents the maps illustrating social needs; Section 3 discusses urban form characteristics and Section 4 presents analysis of existing capacities across the Zone.  Overall conclusions and implications are presented in Section 5.   The maps are presented following Section 5.  Detailed notes on the methodology used to create and map each measure are presented in Appendix A.

Notes on reading the maps:

  1. With the exception of the schools capacity map (Figure 4.5), the other non-composite maps present data shown by either census tracts, enumeration areas or traffic zones.  As a general rule, these units represent larger geographical areas as they get further away from the cores of urban centres.  A highlighted area indicates a census tract, enumeration area or traffic zone that is at a higher or lower end of the distribution – a larger geographic area does not necessarily represent a higher number of cases.  For example, on the High Unemployment map (Figure 2.1), a census tract barely larger than a dot in Toronto may actually represent more unemployed individuals than a much larger enumeration area in the north-eastern quadrant of the zone where, while the land area is larger, the total population is much lower. The Reference Map (Figure 1.1) illustrates the size differences of census tracts and enumeration areas across the Zone.
  2. In some cases data is not available across the entire Zone.  The inset maps in the top-right corner of each map page show the areas for which data is available for that particular indicator.
  3. The Reference map also shows the extent of the urbanised area and the difference between the Central Ontario Smart Growth Zone and IBI’s “Business-as-Usual” study area.2  The Business-as-Usual study was the basis for some of the data presented, with respect to transportation capacities.
1. Source:  Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, The 2001 GTA Residential Land Inventory Survey.  This data is only available for the GTA.  Units include those in draft approved development plans and additional supply (i.e. lands under application but not yet draft approved).
2. Toronto-Related Region Futures Study, Draft Interim Report:  Implications of Business-as-Usual Development, prepared for the Neptis Foundation by IBI Group in association with Dillon Consulting Ltd., June, 2002.