Let’s Walk the Talk on Intensification

Last year GOHBA presented information about the then-forthcoming Official Plan, the intention to accommodate more homes through intensification in existing neighbourhoods and the need for everyone to understand the profound changes Ottawa is going to see as its population grows by 400,000 people to 1.4 million by 2046.

Now the draft Official Plan is out (ottawa.ca/newop) but perhaps more importantly so is the mapping that outlines the areas and streets across the City where intensification (labelled “regeneration” in the document) is expected to go.

As anticipated, there are areas around major transit stations (“Hubs”) that are targeted for taller intensification with apartment buildings and complete communities, major and minor roads (“Corridors”) that’ll serve as the centres of future walkable, 15-minute neighbourhoods, and “Neighbourhoods” that are expected to transform more rapidly into denser, urban-styled housing.

From my perspective the critical gap right now is connecting the intensification targets adopted earlier this year to the proposed zoning.

City Council’s approved growth management strategy calls for intensification to increase from 40% now to 60% by 2046 – meaning 60% of all new homes built that year should be in existing neighbourhoods.

Over the next 26 years, that means 92,000 homes are expected to be added in neighbourhoods across the City.

What the mapping doesn’t tells us is whether a sufficient amount of land (by designated Hubs, Corridors and Neighbourhoods) is being targeted for rezoning, at sufficient heights and densities, to provide space for those 92,000 new homes.

This is critical to know as the City needs to ensure that there is a sufficient supply of homes to accommodate its population growth – everything hinges on providing those 92,000 homes within existing neighbourhoods.

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

It’s important to keep in mind that the homes that the Official Plan concerns itself with are not the ones that are going to be built tomorrow, or even next year. They are the ones that will be built 10, 20 years from now. They are the new homes that will be built for our children, and for our grandchildren.

The City has to be aggressive in revising its zoning in order to achieve its intensification targets, and all neighbourhoods need to become denser. Now is the time to take bold steps to increase density and the variety of infill projects that can be created, and truly push the envelope for as-of-right development.

Everyone – the City, the residential construction industry, the public and communities – has a role to play in supporting intensification.