The Growth Plan states: “Population and employment growth will be accommodated by … directing a significant portion of new growth to the built-up areas of the community through intensification … [and] building compact, transit-supportive communities in designated greenfield areas.” As explained in Chapter 2, the following policies are key in determining the location and form of growth:
- “A minimum of 40 percent of all residential development occurring annually within each upper- and single-tier municipality will be within the built-up area.”
- “The designated greenfield area of each upper- or single-tier municipality will be planned to achieve a minimum density target that is not less than 50 residents and jobs combined per hectare.”
- Municipalities in the Outer Ring may request the use of an alternative minimum intensification target that is lower than 40%, given the size, location, and capacity of the built-up areas.
- The Plan also allows for minimum greenfield density targets that are lower than 50 people and jobs per hectare combined in the Outer Ring, in order to respect “the characteristics of the municipality and adjacent communities.”
- Municipalities may choose to (and are encouraged to) set higher targets and, if they are already achieving higher levels of intensification, those higher levels are required to be maintained.
In the seven years since the introduction of the Growth Plan, municipalities have updated or are in the process of updating their official planning documents to incorporate these new policies, targets, and forecasts. Many municipalities in the Outer Ring have received permission from the Minister of Infrastructure to use alternative targets for intensification and greenfield area densities that are lower than the minimums stated in the Growth Plan. In this section, we will summarize the variations across the region and the potential impact on growth management in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
This may appear to be a dry exercise in numbers, but the numbers ultimately have implications for the way in which the region develops and how municipalities plan for growth, because the numbers eventually become communities where people live and work. The purpose of setting a minimum target for intensification is to limit the amount of greenfield land needed to accommodate population and employment growth and the need to expand the urban boundary. The purpose of setting a minimum target for designated greenfield area densities is to ensure that new communities can be served by transit and that infrastructure can be provided efficiently and cost-effectively, and to limit the need for the designation of new greenfield lands for growth. The numbers really do matter.