There has been a lot of media coverage and discussion in our city lately about the proposed Growth Management Strategy. This strategy is needed to guide how our city grows. The Province requires the city to maintain enough land to accommodate residential growth for at least 15 years. It is the city’s goal to grow in a way that minimizes the need to expand the urban boundary, by making the most efficient use of the urban land we already have.
By 2046, housing in Ottawa will need to accommodate more than 400,000 new residents, which is 40 percent of our current population. It is forecasted that 195,000 new accommodation units will be needed, which leads us to the question: How do we grow as a city to accommodate these new homes?
The Growth Management Strategy and report have consumed a lot of my time these past weeks. I believe that it is critically important that we get this right. I want Ottawa to be a place people want to live now and in future years.
I participated in the over 25 hours of presentations and discussions on this issue at the Joined Planning and Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee meetings.
After 18 months of work, city staff have recommended what they refer to as the Balanced Scenario approach. They recommend that 51 percent of new dwellings would need to be built in existing areas, with an intensification target rising to 60 percent by 2046 and a modest urban boundary expansion. These lands would be limited to those near existing or planned transit hubs and would be built on the model of the 15–minute neighbourhood.
Further, the plan specifies that new lands can only be brought into the urban boundary when needed which is anticipated to be close to the end of the plan, or possibly not at all if forecasts don’t pan out. There is also further guidance to ensure agricultural lands would not be considered for any expansion lands. I believe these are very aggressive intensification targets and an ambitious plan.
The alternative is no urban boundary expansion. This would mean that 64 percent of all new dwellings would need to be built in existing areas, and by 2046, 100 percent of all new housing built would be through intensification. I do not believe this will result in desirable and attractive neighbourhoods for future generations.
What does this mean for Kanata North?
The above means that for the next 20-25 years growth in our city is intended to happen via intensification of current neighbourhoods across the city, which means building up, building differently, and building more on the land we have. It will change our neighbourhoods. There are of course positives and negatives in each scenario presented, and many factors including climate change and affordability to be carefully considered in this decision.
I have listened, I have read, and I have analyzed what I believe is best for our community. I believe that the Balanced Scenario approach to growth is what is best for Kanata North.
Many of you have told me how much you value your existing greenspaces, parks, and pathways. You value this space as part of your community. We are in the midst of a fight against intensification with the proposed redevelopment of the Kanata Golf and Country Club. We are working hard to get a new, much needed park built in Arcadia and to ensure the Trillium Woods and South March Highlands stay as they are. I know these are spaces you value. They are worth fighting for.
These greenspaces help define our community. For many of us they are a refuge. They are the reason we chose to settle down in Kanata North.
However, intensification is needed as we grow as a city and we can’t stop that. We can, however, make responsible decisions about how we grow and strive to grow in a way that respects our current neighbourhoods and our greenspaces. I want the charm and greenery of our established neighbourhoods like Beaverbrook and Kanata Lakes to remain, and I believe you do too.
As we continue to grow as a city, we will likely need to build new complete 15–minute neighbourhoods and bring more lands in to the urban boundary, which results in costly investments in infrastructure and services. However, I choose to believe that if we build these communities well, connected to transit, with employment, the amenities and walkability needed, we can set them up for success. We have to build communities people want to live in and maintain desirability of our current neighbourhoods. It is a delicate balance.
Eventually, Ottawa will be a city of 1.5 million residents. I choose to build a city with a diversity of housing choices and diversity of neighbourhoods where everyone has a place to live and thrive. I strongly believe the Balanced Scenario approach is our best path forward to achieving this and to creating a city where our children and grandchildren will thrive.