Listening to Hamilton City Councillors try to wrestle with the issue of future growth one is struck with the disconnect between what planning theorists want the public to do, versus what the public wants. Planner Antony Lorius who has prepared a massive report in an attempt to figure out, not whether Hamilton will have to expand its urban boundary, but by how much; was asked what would happen if Hamilton did not increase its urban boundary to accommodate growth. He replied that development would simply leapfrog over Hamilton to communities further out from Toronto like Brantford or Niagara. He suggested that it would be better for that growth to take place in Hamilton, where there has been more complete planning and infrastructure investment.
Intensification essentially means people choosing to live in smaller homes—choosing to live in high-rise apartments, stacked townhouses and the like rather than single family homes. Hamilton has seen significant growth in building condos in the core area but the trend has not had a significant impact on moving Hamilton towards an intensification target of 50 percent. In the last 11 years, despite all the condo development during that period, Hamilton’s rate of intensification is 35 percent over that period. The reason is that the number of single-family homes has grown even faster in Flamborough, Glanbrook Stoney Creek and south mountain areas. Consultant Lorius noted, “What these trends suggest is that consumers continue to trade travel time and financial savings for affordable ground-related, family-sized units. Where this demand outstrips the available housing supply, the market tends to respond by providing denser ground-related forms or moving location, rather than shifting into high-rise apartment units.”
From a jobs perspective the consultant says Hamilton is set to benefit. “Demand for industrial space in he GTHA is currently surging and expected to remain strong, driven by growth in e-commerce, logistics, professional services and technology-related uses. The City’s ability to provide large development sites is a major competitive advantage within this market and especially as the supply of high-quality sites in other GTA west locations becomes increasingly scarce. As the City’s industrial and business park development accelerates, employment will grow, making the City more attractive as a location for new investment and, in turn, driving population growth and increased demand for housing units overall.”
While the report suggests intensification is going to continue in the lower city, reaching a 50 percent intensification target or even 60 percent as some councillors are suggesting will be a challenge, because there will still be major housing and employment development in the major greenfield areas in the south of the city and in the suburbs. That being the case, one key point the study makes is the need to implement more transit like the BLAST network.
Despite the intensification challenges councilors endorsed a staff workplan towards planning that met a number of ambitious goals:
- Plan for climate change mitigation and adaptation, and reduce greenhouse
- Encourage a compatible mix of uses in neighbourhoods, including a range of
housing types and affordabilities, that provide opportunities to live, work,
learn, shop and play, promoting a healthy, safe and complete community.
- Concentrate new development and infrastructure within existing built-up areas
and within the urban boundary through intensification and adaptive re-use.
- Protect rural areas for a viable rural economy, agricultural resources,
environmentally sensitive recreation and the enjoyment of the rural landscape.
- Design neighbourhoods to improve access to community life for all, regardless
of age, ethnicity, race, gender, ability, income and spirituality.
- Retain and intensify existing employment land, attract jobs in Hamilton’s
strength areas and targeted new sectors, and support access to education
and training for all residents.
- Expand transportation options through the development of complete streets
that encourage travel by foot, bike and transit, and enhance efficient interregional transportation connections.
- Maximize the use of existing buildings, infrastructure, and vacant or abandoned
- Protect ecological systems and the natural environment, reduce waste,
improve air, land and water quality, and encourage the use of green
10.Maintain and create attractive public and private spaces and respect the unique
character of existing buildings, neighbourhoods and communities, protect
cultural heritage resources, and support arts and culture as an important
part of community identity.