August 12, 2011
Ontario reports progress of Places to Grow strategy
A fifth anniversary review of Ontario’s Places to Grow strategy reveals a series of infrastructure and residential construction opportunities have resulted from the plan.
The plan is at the fifth year of a projected 25-year rollout with the intent of sustaining Ontario’s diverse economy, building complete communities using land, resources and existing infrastructure efficiently and promoting healthy environments and conservation.
The first phase of the plan, under the Places to Grow Act, was released on June 16, 2006 and was geared for the Greater Golden Horseshoe area.
The plan established policies intended to help communities become more attractive and sustainable.
It identified 25 existing and emerging downtowns as urban growth centres, setting policies and minimum density targets.
Ultimately, these centres are planned to be “a focus for regional services and public institutions and will become hubs for local and inter-regional transit,” according to a provincial progress report.
This directive for downtown growth has resulted in numerous construction projects such as Oshawa’s new consolidated courthouse, the downtown campus for the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, a YMCA facility and the GM Centre arena and entertainment venue.
In downtown Kitchener, construction of a new Health Sciences Campus of the University of Waterloo was completed and the Waterloo Region Consolidated Courthouse is under construction.
The plan has also helped drive investments in cultural, recreational and civic infrastructure to help “create vital, mixed-use downtown communities”. Construction resulted across Golden Horseshoe communities such as the Pickering Recreation Complex, Brantford Civic Centre, Mississauga Civic Centre public square, Peel Heritage Complex restoration, Peterborough Market Hall restoration and Brock University’s School of the Performing Arts in St. Catharines.
Provincial investment in urban growth-geared projects ranged from $1 million for Brantford’s Civic Centre to $379 million for Kitchener’s Waterloo Region Consolidated Courthouse.
Other projects to receive provincial funding were Hamilton’s Lister Block receiving $7 million and Toronto’s Ryerson Student Learning centre which received $45 million.
Under the plan a shift toward a wider range of housing types was encouraged and has started to result in communities across the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the report said.
This growth has driven residential and ICI construction to create the framework for these new housing areas.
“Many cities in the region are reporting that in recent years development patterns are incorporating more apartments, condominiums and townhouses,” the report noted.
Significant increases in higher density housing forms have been seen in Burlington, Mississauga, Waterloo, Kitchener and Markham.
Denser forms of ground-related housing, such as townhouses and semi-detached homes, resulted in Oshawa, St. Catharines, Cambridge, Newmarket, Brantford, Guelph and Peterborough.
In Guelph in 2005, the percentage of medium density units constructed - which includes accessory apartments, apartments and townhouses — was 39 per cent of the city’s total housing mix. By 2008, this share had risen to 59 per cent.
In the Waterloo Region higher density development in its urban growth centres and new suburbs has resulted, according to the report, in “greenfield” subdivisions, more townhouses and fewer single detached houses are built.
Between 1998 and 2010, the housing mix shifted from single detached housing at 78 per cent of all new units built to 35 per cent of new housing being single-detached dwellings.
York Region has seen “a noticeable shift” toward higher density housing forms as well, apartments made up 14 per cent of housing completions.
In 2006 and by 2010, 25 per cent of housing completions were in multi-residential buildings. The second growth plan under Places to Grow was released on March 4, 2011 and is focused on Northern Ontario and is designed to guide decision-making and investment planning in the region.
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