Maximize existing growth areas to save farmland and green space!
Durham Region needs more housing. Luckily, we have over 10,000 acres of developable lands (called "Designated Greenfield Areas”) that were previously opened up in our municipalities. Unfortunately, big developers who own land outside of the current urban limits are trying to reduce the number of homes we build inside these areas so they can build more sprawl in places that don't make sense. This is all part of a provincially mandated process called the Municipal Comprehensive Review, and locally known as Envision Durham.
We want to save farmland and natural heritage systems by developing inside these existing Designated Greenfield Areas (DGAs). The goal should be 15-minute neighbourhoods where more people walk, ride, and take public transit to access their daily needs. Until recent changes to Ontario's planning laws, new developments in DGAs had to have a minimum of 80 people and jobs per hectare. And that makes sense!
Lowering the density of developments on existing greenfield sites will:
- Force municipalities to sprawl outside city boundaries or build way up in our existing neighbourhoods!
- Add to traffic congestion because they can't support public transit!
- Increase our property taxes because new infrastructure and services have to be extended to far-flung areas!
- Put our climate change targets further out of reach!
We're urging Durham Regional Councillors to require a minimum of 80 people and jobs for DGAs. We’re asking them to resist the big developers asking for less housing and jobs so they can build more sprawling developments on unserviced farmland outside the current city limits. We’re asking them to protect our vulnerable watersheds, food security, and tax dollars.
We're also urging councillors to set a target of 5-10% of houses having second units like garden suites by 2051 (instead of the proposed 3%). This type of density strengthens communities by giving families the option of accommodating multiple generations, and the possibility of a new income stream.
Finally, we're asking councillors to direct planning staff to incorporate these changes during the Municipal Comprehensive Review to see if they reduce or even eliminate wasteful urban boundary expansions!
The Proposed Policy Directions, developed in an earlier phase of Envision Durham, present an appealing vision of the Region’s future and we want to ensure that our political leaders keep us on track!
Policy goals designed to help us design healthy communities have been established by Durham Region staff:
- affordable housing of at least 35% of new housing within strategic growth areas
- a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to ensure climate-resilience
- building lively community hubs with cultural and community services near frequent transit
- permitting a mix of housing options through inclusionary zoning
- protecting agricultural assets and recognizing that thriving farms contribute to the local economy while providing valuable ecosystem services.
What we need next is for Regional Mayors and Councillors to vote to support and amplify these policy goals.
Putting more people and jobs per hectare in DGAs will make this ambitious vision easier to achieve. Expanding our urban settlement area and sprawling further out into farmland and green space takes us further away from the goals!