After being off for most of July, Hamilton councillors will have their work cut out for them Wednesday as once again they tackle the issue of urban growth. The province estimates that Hamilton’s population will grow by over 230,000 in the next 30 years. This will necessitate constructing over 30,000 housing units for each ten-year period between now and 2051. The issue is where to put these people and what kind of housing will they live in.
“Ambitious density” will be hard to achieve
In March, staff recommended what they called an “ambitious density” scenario—one that would involve expanding the urban boundary by 1,300 hectares. Under the scenario only 25 percent of the units would be single-family homes—the remainder would be row housing, stacked townhouses or high-rise apartments. In recommending the growth scenario, staff admitted that it would be difficult to achieve, but in light of organized public opposition to expansion they felt it was a reasonable response to the issue of urban sprawl. Since council last looked at the issue in March, opposition has ramped up with a lawn sign and letter campaign calling for zero expansion of the urban boundary.
In their March recommendation, staff warned that current provincial policy would not allow a housing strategy that consisted entirely of high-rise apartments, which is the apparent goal of expansion opponents–that there had to be a suitable mix of housing types.
Two scenarios to be evaluated
The issue can’t be kicked down the road much longer. It has to be resolved and a recommended growth scenario submitted to the province by next year. Staff are now proposing that their recommended growth plan and the zero-growth plan be laid edge-to-edge for evaluation. The evaluation will involve consideration of the scenarios against the following criteria:
1. Growth Allocation
2. Climate Change
3. Natural Hazards
4. Municipal Finance
5. Infrastructure & Public Service Facilities
6. Transportation Systems
7. Complete Communities
8. Agricultural System
9. Natural Heritage and Water Resources
10. Conformity with Provincial Methodology
Ultimately number 10- Conformity with Provincial methodology—will carry the most weight, as it is the province which has devised the growth targets and will make the final call through the Ontario Land Tribunal where a lot of this stuff is inevitably headed.