Intensification is a word we use at City Hall and around the community, but I have heard questions about what it means, especially as it applies to Burlington.
One of my priorities is engaging with residents on the topic of intensification.
To understand intensification, we need to understand what is driving our growth.
The Government of Canada has welcomed an average of 250,000 new immigrants per year since 2007.
Recognizing Ontario is a prime destination for many newcomers, the provincial government released the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe in 2006.
This serves as a tool for municipalities to plan for the projected residential and employment growth of an additional 3.7 million residents and 1.8 million jobs in the Greater Golden Horseshoe by 2031.
As a result of Places to Grow, Halton Region developed the Sustainable Halton Growth Management Strategy to manage growth for the anticipated 780,000 people and 390,000 jobs in Halton by the year 2031.
What does this mean for Burlington?
A key question is: What does this mean for Burlington?
Our population is almost 180,000. The City and Region determined it will grow to 193,000 by 2031.
In a city that is almost built out, where 50 per cent of our city is protected Greenbelt land, the next question is: Where do we grow?
One of the sites slated for intensification is the downtown core. This was established by the province as an Urban Growth Centre.
Our Official Plan also identifies other sites suited for intensification, such as Uptown located at Appleby Line between Mainway and Upper Middle Road.
We are also looking to Urban Growth Corridors, like Fairview Street and Plains Road.
As part of the Official Plan review, we are researching new opportunities for growth in the two provincially-designated mobility hubs, Burlington GO station and Downtown Burlington, as well as the two City-identified mobility hubs around Aldershot and Appleby GO stations.
We are also reviewing intensification opportunities at the city’s aging retail plazas.
It is important to remember why we are building within rather than sprawling out.
Council along with the Province through its Greenbelt Plan has been committed for decades to safeguarding our rural area, which makes up about 50 per cent of the land area of the City of Burlington. We are intensifying within Burlington’s urban boundary because protecting our rural land continues to be a priority.
What makes sense for Burlington?
Two questions I hear from some residents are, “Why do we have to grow? Why can’t Burlington stay the same?”
If we take federal and provincial policies out of the picture, what makes sense when it comes to residential growth for Burlington? Would we intensify regardless of growth policies?
I firmly believe shutting the door to growth through intensification is not a viable option for Burlington.
Since we are essentially at build out, halting residential growth within our urban boundaries means there would be little additional housing stock.
The low supply of housing could further increase residential real estate prices, making it even more of a challenge for our young people moving out on their own or our seniors looking to downsize to stay in the community.
Increased housing prices could lead to a decrease in the number of families in Burlington. This could impact school enrolment.
There could also be an impact on property taxes with little to no growth. Ten years ago we had three per cent assessment growth. Last year, we saw one per cent assessment growth and that is expected to fall to 0.5 per cent moving forward. As a result of a flat tax base, taxes could go up, services could be reduced or a combination of both.
We have the tools to manage our growth in a responsible way – in conjunction with community engagement. Let’s work together to continue to foster a made-in-Burlington approach to growth, creating a sustainable city for generations to come.
Engaging with you on intensification
As a result of a staff direction from city council, the City of Burlington is currently developing a communication program to provide community engagement, dialogue and participation with Burlington residents about why and how we will transition redevelopment in urban areas of the community.
An online survey was posted earlier this month, with more engagement opportunities coming soon.
I invite you to connect with City of Burlington about intensification through upcoming engagement opportunities that are part of our communication initiative. Learn more at: http://www.burlington.ca/intensification.
As mayor, I also welcome invitations from community groups, service clubs or organizations to come speak to you on this issue. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 905-335-7607 with your requests.
What are some of the benefits of intensification?
- Makes efficient use of scarce land resources.
- Is a viable alternative to urban sprawl.
- Fosters walkable neighbourhoods, decreasing reliance on the car and preventing increased traffic backlogs.
- Increases the number of residents in an area, providing the population base for augmented transit service levels.
- More efficient use of land can impact housing affordability by reducing land component of housing costs.
- Brings new families into existing neighbourhoods, filling school classrooms and making use of existing park and playground facilities.