Embracing Intensification is Part of Growing Up

Ottawa has a lot of growing up to do.

I’ve repeated this stat often in our updates and I’ll continue to do so – Ottawa is expected to grow by an additional 400,000 people over the next 25 years. This is a 40% increase over our current population of 1 million.

All of those people need homes to live in – about 195,000 new homes in fact.

The job of the Growth Management Strategy that was approved by Council last May and the draft Official Plan that’s out now for consultation is to figure out how and where we provide those homes for our growing population.

The Strategy that was approved calls for just over half of these new homes to be put in existing neighbourhoods through intensification, and the rest in new communities. By 2046 it foresees 60% of all new homes built that year to be in existing neighbourhoods.

This is, as noted by city staff in their report, an extremely ambiguous target.

And the only way we’re going to achieve it is with all of us getting on the same page about embracing intensification in our neighbourhoods.

And while it’s clear that most residents appreciate that there needs to be more intensification, there is only a certain amount of growth that they are willing to accommodate. We already have a number of communities who are actively pushing back on more intensification in their area.

That’s why it’s critical that we understand whether a sufficient amount of land (by designated Hubs, Corridors and Neighbourhoods in the draft Official Plan) is being targeted for rezoning, at sufficient heights and densities, to provide for those new homes.

If we fall short in our intensification targets, the growth strategy will not provide enough homes for the 400,000 people who will become new residents of Ottawa by 2046.

And, since I started this post with something I’ve already said before, I’d also like to end it by paraphrasing myself from an Ottawa Citizen column two years ago:

Let’s embrace making our neighbourhoods into more welcoming places, especially for new neighbours. Let’s remember that we were all once the new people moving in, and that our now-close neighbours and friends may have looked at our moving van with initial doubt.

Let’s embrace having mixed–use neighbourhoods and spreading out employment hubs across the city so that there’s more wide-ranging economic development and less concentrated traffic.

Let’s embrace diversity in our neighbourhoods, in all its forms, and recognize that diversity produces strong, vibrant and lively communities with unique shops and amenities.

And finally, let’s remember that our neighbourhood character is enhanced by new people and new perspectives.

It’s going to be a mighty struggle to achieve 60% intensification. The first step is actually wanting it to happen.