Several Ottawa City Councillors authored a letter to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing concerning intensification.
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
17th floor, 777 Bay St.
March 30, 2022
To the Honourable Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing:
In the spring of 2020, Ottawa City Council voted to expand its urban boundary under the “balanced option” scenario proposed by city staff; a decision that was further confirmed by the adoption of the Official Plan (OP) in the fall of 2021. This decision was predicated on a gradually increasing intensification rate reaching 60 percent during the 2041 to 2046 period, resulting in 51 per cent of overall residential growth within the built-up area through intensification for the 28-year period. The “balanced option” scenario was contrasted with a “no growth” scenario in the initial staff report, which would keep Ottawa’s urban boundary as is, such that 100 per cent intensification would be achieved during the 2041 to 2046 period, resulting in 64 per cent of overall residential growth.
According to the 2020 Annual Development Report from the City of Ottawa, the City is intensifying at rates far greater than the intensification targets outlined in the ‘balanced options’ scenario. Using the intensification methodology of the new OP, the City achieved a 58.0% intensification rate from mid-2019 to mid-2020, and a 53.0% intensification rate since mid-2018. This intensification rate is 13% points greater than the OP target of 40% for the five-year period from 2017-2022. An important component of housing that these percentages do not capture is the missing middle - the number of ground-oriented units large enough for families. Future reports will provide a more nuanced picture of where and how intensification is taking place.
The information on actual growth as compared to target intensification warrants a re-evaluation of the decision to expand the urban boundary, or at minimum, a re-evaluation of what a “balanced” scenario looks like. The no expansion scenario for growth supports a policy direction where most growth occurs through intensification, growth uses existing infrastructure most efficiently, and GHG emission reductions are maximized. In addition, extensive research from Hemson Consulting shows that outward growth does not pay for growth, and instead represents a net-cost to taxpayers. Intensifying within existing boundaries, however, represents a net-benefit to taxpayers, making it the more fiscally prudent choice.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing also previously raised questions about the inclusion of the Tewin lands within the urban boundary. These lands, a 445.35-hectare parcel to the southeast of the City, were not part of the original staff recommendation for expansion, due to significant environmental concerns and high costs around extending infrastructure and transit to the area. The Ministry raised some valuable questions around how this decision aligned with policies in the Provincial Policy Statement and noted that development in that area would be environmentally costly and could exacerbate flooding that would threaten public health and safety. The inclusion of the Tewin lands also does not align with the City’s own goal of 15-minute communities and will create pressure to expand the current highway network. This direction is antithetical to the City’s long-term objective of reducing car dependency and carbon emissions and the PPS objectives.
Due to the most recent data on intensification, and the serious concerns with the inclusion of the Tewin lands within the urban boundary, we urge the Ministry to approve the official plan while instructing the City to review expansion scenarios based on the most recent growth rates. It is essential that the City of Ottawa base its Official Plan, which will govern planning for decades to come, on the intensification data which was only released after the Official Plan was approved. The unanswered questions around the cost of expansion and the environmental impact of the Tewin development merit reconsideration of these expansion lands. If the Ministry approves the Official Plan, they should direct the City to refine their growth scenarios and reject expansion that does not follow city of Ottawa nor Provincial Policy Statement objectives.
Catherine McKenney, Councillor, Somerset Ward
Shawn Menard, Councillor, Capital Ward
Rawlson King, Councillor, Rideau-Rockcliffe Ward
Theresa Kavanagh, Councillor, Bay Ward
Riley Brockington, Councillor, River Ward
Dianne Deans, Councillor, Gloucester-Southgate Ward