Paces to Grow

By Jason Leach
Published June 19, 2006

Friday's Hamilton Spectator had token coverage of the news that Ontario is working at curbing sprawl. They sliced and diced some great articles from the Toronto Star and didn't include any photos, graphs or “associated stories” that can be found on the Star's website.

Take a read through this main article and the five associated stories that were published in the Star for a much more complete picture on this issue.

As a side note (more will come on this in a future issue of RTH), Hamilton's mayor was quoted as saying, “Hamilton meets and exceeds the mandated intensification levels put forth by the province”. Actually, we don't.

The new provincial guidelines mandate that new greenfield sprawl projects have a minimum density of 50 people and jobs per hectare.

Figure 10 on Hamilton's GRIDS website states that 21,600 new units will be built on greenfield land outside of Hamilton's urban boundary on roughly 1,455 hectares of land. This works out to less than 15 units per hectare. To reach 50 'people' per hectare, this entire development area would need to have an average density of 3.3 people per unit. As we all know, Hamilton's average household size has been shrinking, not growing, in the past 20 years.

Further, the province mandates that 40 percent of new growth take place in the "built up area". Hamilton says it is accomplishing this by including yet to be built parcels of greenfield land such as the massive Summit Park complex on the southeast mountain and several parcels of land within the city that are still being farmed (Upper James, Upper Wellington, West 5th etc..). I don't consider farmland on the edge of town to be in the "built up area". Perhaps the province does. We'll find out.

Finally, the GRIDS final report states that just under 12,000 apartments will be built between now and 2031 in order to reach intensification targets. The same graph on page 68 shows that 2,240 of those apartments will be built between now and 2021. The remaining 9,420 are planned to be built in the following 10 years – between 2021 and 2031.

We'll start the betting at $50.00 that we won't even come close to seeing those 12,000 apartments built. In typical Hamilton fashion we are 'talking the talk' but not even remotely walking the walk.

The final numbers add up (just like my plan to make $800,000 in the final five years of my working life in order to retire a millionaire. No kidding. I've got it all planned out. Promise) but they won't even be close to reflecting the reality of our city in 2031. Based on GRIDS and the lack of any realistic timelines, and on the fact that Hamilton's development community and Chamber of Commerce all endorsed the plan (that's your first clue that it's more business as usual...which means less jobs, more sprawl and overall bleagh!), don't bank on seeing any grand change of pace in our city in the next 25 years.

No lie. It's all in GRIDS, go read it for yourself. Just be glad our province isn't implementing a carbon tax or Hamilton would go broke.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.


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