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Where and how to grow

2.1 Context

The GGH is one of the fastest growing regions in North America. By 2031, the population of this area is forecast to grow by an additional 3.7 million (from 2001) to 11.5 million people, accounting for over 80 per cent of Ontario’s population growth. The magnitude and pace of this growth necessitates a plan for building healthy and balanced communities and maintaining and improving our quality of life.

To ensure the development of healthy, safe and balanced communities, choices about where and how growth occurs in the GGH need to be carefully made. Better use of land and infrastructure can be made by directing growth to existing urban areas. This Plan envisages increasing intensification of the existing built-up area , with a focus on urban growth centres , intensification corridors , major transit station areas , brownfield sites and greyfields . Concentrating new development in these areas also provides a focus for transit and infrastructure investments to support future growth.

The revitalization of urban growth centres is particularly important, not only because they can accommodate additional people and jobs, but because they will increasingly be regional focal points. They are meeting places, locations for cultural facilities, public institutions, major services, and transit hubs. These centres are not all at the same stage of development: some are the downtowns of older cities, while others are newly planned suburban centres. They all have potential to become more vibrant, mixed-use, transit-supportive communities.

Better use of land and infrastructure can also be achieved by building more compact greenfield communities that reduce the rate at which land is consumed. Communities will need to grow at transit-supportive densities, with transit-oriented street configurations. Compact urban form and intensification efforts go hand-in-hand with more transit: not only do they support each other, they are all necessary. This correlation is fundamental to where and how we grow. Communities will also need to provide a mix of jobs and housing to create opportunities for people to work close to where they live. 

Providing opportunities for businesses to locate in the GGH is fundamental to using land wisely and ensuring a prosperous economic future. Therefore, it is important to ensure an adequate supply of land for employment areas and other employment uses.

There is a large supply of land already designated for future urban development in the GGH . In most communities there is enough land to accommodate projected growth based on the growth forecasts and intensification target and density targets of this Plan. It is important to optimize the use of the existing land supply to avoid over-designating new land for future urban development. This Plan’s emphasis on intensification and optimizing the use of the existing land supply represents a new approach to city-building in the GGH , one which concentrates more on making better use of our existing infrastructure, and less on continuously expanding the urban area.

Strong, healthy and prosperous rural communities are also vital to the economic success of the GGH and contribute to our quality of life. This Plan recognizes and promotes the traditional role of rural towns and villages as a focus of economic, cultural and social activities that support surrounding rural and agricultural areas across the GGH . Healthy rural communities are key to the vitality and well-being of the whole area.

This Plan is about building complete communities , whether urban or rural. These are communities that are well-designed, offer transportation choices, accommodate people at all stages of life and have the right mix of housing, a good range of jobs, and easy access to stores and services to meet daily needs.

2.2 Policies for Where and How to Grow

2.2.1 Growth Forecasts

  1. Population and employment forecasts contained in Schedule 3 for all upper- and single-tier municipalities will be used for planning and managing growth in the GGH .
  2. The Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal will review the forecasts contained in Schedule 3 at least every five years in consultation with municipalities, and may revise the forecasts.

2.2.2 Managing Growth

  1. Population and employment growth will be accommodated by –
    1. directing a significant portion of new growth to the built-up areas of the community through intensification
    2. focusing intensification in intensification areas
    3. building compact, transit-supportive communities in designated greenfield areas
    4. reducing dependence on the automobile through the development of mixed-use, transit-supportive , pedestrian-friendly urban environments
    5. providing convenient access to intra- and inter-city transit
    6. ensuring the availability of sufficient land for employment to accommodate forecasted growth to support the GGH ’s economic competitiveness
    7. planning and investing for a balance of jobs and housing in communities across the GGH to reduce the need for long distance commuting and to increase the modal share for transit, walking and cycling
    8. encouraging cities and towns to develop as complete communities with a diverse mix of land uses, a range and mix of employment and housing types, high quality public open space and easy access to local stores and services
    9. directing development to settlement areas , except where necessary for development related to the management or use of resources, resource-based recreational activities, and rural land uses that cannot be located in settlement areas
    10. directing major growth to settlement areas that offer municipal water and wastewater systems and limiting growth in settlement areas that are serviced by other forms of water and wastewater services
    11. prohibiting the establishment of new settlement areas .

2.2.3 General Intensification

  1. By the year 2015 and for each year thereafter, a minimum of 40 per cent of all residential development occurring annually within each upper- and single-tier municipality will be within the built-up area .
  2. If at the time this Plan comes into effect, an upper- or single-tier municipality is achieving a percentage higher than the minimum intensification target identified in policy 2.2.3.1, this higher percentage will be considered the minimum intensification target for that municipality.
  3. If at the time this Plan comes into effect, an upper- or single-tier municipality has established in its official plan an intensification target that is higher than the minimum intensification target identified in policy 2.2.3.1, this higher target will be considered the minimum intensification target for that municipality.
  4. The Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal may review and permit an alternative minimum intensification target for an upper- or single-tier municipality located within the outer ring to ensure the intensification target is appropriate given the size, location and capacity of built-up areas .
  5. The Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal, in consultation with affected municipalities will verify and delineate the built boundary .
  6. All municipalities will develop and implement through their official plans and other supporting documents, a strategy and policies to phase in and achieve intensification and the intensification target . This strategy and policies will –
    1. be based on the growth forecasts contained in Schedule 3, as allocated to lower-tier municipalities in accordance with policy 5.4.2.2
    2. encourage intensification generally throughout the built-up area
    3. identify intensification areas to support achievement of the intensification target
    4. incorporate the built boundary delineated in accordance with Policy 2.2.3.5
    5. recognize urban growth centres , intensification corridors and major transit station areas as a key focus for development to accommodate intensification
    6. facilitate and promote intensification
    7. identify the appropriate type and scale of development in intensification areas
    8. include density targets for urban growth centres where applicable, and minimum density targets for other intensification areas consistent with the planned transit service levels, and any transit-supportive land-use guidelines established by the Government of Ontario
    9. plan for a range and mix of housing, taking into account affordable housing needs
    10. encourage the creation of secondary suites throughout the built-up area .
  7. All intensification areas will be planned and designed to –
    1. cumulatively attract a significant portion of population and employment growth
    2. provide a diverse and compatible mix of land uses, including residential and employment uses, to support vibrant neighbourhoods
    3. provide high quality public open spaces with site design and urban design standards that create attractive and vibrant places
    4. support transit, walking and cycling for everyday activities
    5. generally achieve higher densities than the surrounding areas
    6. achieve an appropriate transition of built form to adjacent areas.
  8. Ministers of the Crown and municipalities will use infrastructure investment and other implementation tools and mechanisms to facilitate intensification .

2.2.4 Urban Growth Centres

  1. Urban growth centres for the GGH are identified in Schedule 4.
  2. The Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal, in consultation with municipalities that have urban growth centres , will determine the approximate size and location of the urban growth centres .
  3. Municipalities will delineate the boundaries of urban growth centres in their official plans.
  4. Urban growth centres will be planned –
    1. as focal areas for investment in institutional and region-wide public services, as well as commercial, recreational, cultural and entertainment uses
    2. to accommodate and support major transit infrastructure
    3. to serve as high density major employment centres that will attract provincially, nationally or internationally significant employment uses
    4. to accommodate a significant share of population and employment growth.
  5. Urban growth centres will be planned to achieve, by 2031 or earlier, a minimum gross density target of –
    1. 400 residents and jobs combined per hectare for each of the urban growth centres in the City of Toronto
    2. 200 residents and jobs combined per hectare for each of the Downtown
    3. Brampton, Downtown Burlington, Downtown Hamilton, Downtown Milton, Markham Centre, Mississauga City Centre, Newmarket Centre, Midtown Oakville, Downtown Oshawa, Downtown Pickering, Richmond Hill/Langstaff Gateway, Vaughan Corporate Centre, Downtown Kitchener and Uptown Waterloo urban growth centres
    4. 150 residents and jobs combined per hectare for each of the Downtown Barrie, Downtown Brantford, Downtown Cambridge, Downtown Guelph, Downtown Peterborough and Downtown St. Catharines urban growth centres .
  6. If at the time this Plan comes into effect, an urban growth centre is already planned to achieve, or has already achieved, a gross density that exceeds the minimum density target established in Policy 2.2.4.5, this higher density will be considered the minimum density target for that urban growth centre .

2.2.5 Major Transit Station Areas and Intensification Corridors

  1. Major transit station areas and intensification corridors will be designated in official plans and planned to achieve –
    1. increased residential and employment densities that support and ensure the viability of existing and planned transit service levels
    2. a mix of residential, office, institutional, and commercial development wherever appropriate.
  2. Major transit station areas will be planned and designed to provide access from various transportation modes to the transit facility, including consideration of pedestrians, bicycle parking and commuter pick-up/drop-off areas.
  3. Intensification corridors will generally be planned to accommodate local services, including recreational, cultural and entertainment uses.

2.2.6 Employment Lands

  1. An adequate supply of lands providing locations for a variety of appropriate employment uses will be maintained to accommodate the growth forecasts in Schedule 3.
  2. Municipalities will promote economic development and competitiveness by –
    1. providing for an appropriate mix of employment uses including industrial, commercial and institutional uses to meet long-term needs
    2. providing opportunities for a diversified economic base, including maintaining a range and choice of suitable sites for employment uses which support a wide range of economic activities and ancillary uses, and take into account the needs of existing and future businesses
    3. planning for, protecting and preserving employment areas for current and future uses
    4. ensuring the necessary infrastructure is provided to support current and forecasted employment needs.
  3. The downtown Toronto office core will continue to be the primary centre for international finance and commerce of the GGH .
  4. Major office and appropriate major institutional development should be located in urban growth centres , major transit station areas, or areas with existing frequent transit service, or existing or planned higher order transit service.
  5. Municipalities may permit conversion of lands within employment areas, to non-employment uses, only through a municipal comprehensive review where it has been demonstrated that –
    1. there is a need for the conversion
    2. the municipality will meet the employment forecasts allocated to the municipality pursuant to this Plan
    3. the conversion will not adversely affect the overall viability of the employment area, and achievement of the intensification target, density targets, and other policies of this Plan
    4. there is existing or planned infrastructure to accommodate the proposed conversion
    5. the lands are not required over the long term for the employment purposes for which they are designated
    6. cross-jurisdictional issues have been considered.

For the purposes of this policy, major retail uses are considered non-employment uses.

  1. Policy 2.2.6.5 only applies to employment areas that are not downtown areas or regeneration areas. For those employment areas that are downtown areas or regeneration areas, Policy 1.3.2 of the PPS, 2005 continues to apply.
  2. In recognition of the importance of cross-border trade with the United States, this Plan recognizes a Gateway Economic Zone and Gateway Economic Centre near the Niagara-US border. Planning and economic development in these areas will support economic diversity and promote increased opportunities for cross-border trade, movement of goods and tourism.
  3. Through sub-area assessment, the Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal, in consultation with other Ministers of the Crown, municipalities and other stakeholders will identify provincially significant employment areas including prime industrial lands.
  4. Municipalities are encouraged to designate and preserve lands within settlement areas in the vicinity of existing major highway interchanges, ports, rail yards and airports as areas for manufacturing, warehousing, and associated retail, office and ancillary facilities, where appropriate.
  5. In planning lands for employment, municipalities will facilitate the development of transit-supportive, compact built form and minimize surface parking.

2.2.7 Designated Greenfield Areas

  1. New development taking place in designated greenfield areas will be planned, designated, zoned and designed in a manner that –
    1. contributes to creating complete communities
    2. creates street configurations, densities, and an urban form that support walking, cycling, and the early integration and sustained viability of transit services
    3. provides a diverse mix of land uses, including residential and employment uses, to support vibrant neighbourhoods
    4. creates high quality public open spaces with site design and urban design standards that support opportunities for transit, walking and cycling.
  2. The designated greenfield area of each upper- or single-tier municipality will be planned to achieve a minimum density target that is not less than 50 residents and jobs combined per hectare.
  3. This density target will be measured over the entire designated greenfield area of each upper- or single-tier municipality, excluding the following features where the features are both identified in any applicable official plan or provincial plan, and where the applicable provincial plan or policy statement prohibits development in the features: wetlands, coastal wetlands, woodlands, valley lands, areas of natural and scientific interest, habitat of endangered species and threatened species, wildlife habitat, and fish habitat. The area of the features will be defined in accordance with the applicable provincial plan or policy statement that prohibits development in the features.
  4. Policy 2.2.7.3 is provided for the purpose of measuring the minimum density target for designated greenfield areas, and is not intended to provide policy direction for the protection of natural heritage features, areas and systems.
  5. The Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal may review and permit an alternative density target for an upper- or single-tier municipality that is located in the outer ring, and that does not have an urban growth centre, to ensure the density target is appropriate given the characteristics of the municipality and adjacent communities.
  6. Municipalities will develop and implement official plan policies, including phasing policies, and other strategies, for designated greenfield areas to achieve the intensification target and density targets of this Plan.

2.2.8 Settlement Area Boundary Expansions

  1. The policies in this section apply only to the expansion of a settlement area within a municipality.
  2. A settlement area boundary expansion may only occur as part of a municipal comprehensive review where it has been demonstrated that –
    1. sufficient opportunities to accommodate forecasted growth contained in Schedule 3, through intensification and in designated greenfield areas, using the intensification target and density targets, are not available:
      1. within the regional market area, as determined by the upper- or single-tier municipality, and
      2. within the applicable lower-tier municipality to accommodate the growth allocated to the municipality pursuant to this plan
    2. the expansion makes available sufficient lands for a time horizon not exceeding 20 years, based on the analysis provided for in Policy 2.2.8.2(a)
    3. the timing of the expansion and the phasing of development within the designated greenfield area will not adversely affect the achievement of the intensification target and density targets, and the other policies of this Plan
    4. where applicable, the proposed expansion will meet the requirements of the Greenbelt, Niagara Escarpment and Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plans
    5. the existing or planned infrastructure required to accommodate the proposed expansion can be provided in a financially and environmentally sustainable manner
    6. in prime agricultural areas :
      1. the lands do not comprise specialty crop areas
      2. there are no reasonable alternatives that avoid prime agricultural areas
      3. there are no reasonable alternatives on lower priority agricultural lands in prime agricultural areas
    7. impacts from expanding settlement areas on agricultural operations which are adjacent or close to the settlement areas are mitigated to the extent feasible
    8. in determining the most appropriate location for expansions to the boundaries of settlement areas, the policies of Sections 2 (Wise Use and Management of Resources) and 3 (Protecting Public Health and Safety) of the PPS, 2005 are applied
    9. for expansions of small cities and towns within the outer ring, municipalities will plan to maintain or move significantly towards a minimum of one full-time job per three residents within or in the immediate vicinity of the small city or town.

2.2.9 Rural Areas

  1. Rural settlement areas are key to the vitality and economic well-being of rural communities. Municipalities are encouraged to plan for a variety of cultural and economic opportunities within rural settlement areas to serve the needs of rural residents and area businesses.
  2. Development outside of settlement areas, may be permitted in rural areas in accordance with Policy 2.2.2.1(i).
  3. New multiple lots and units for residential development will be directed to settlement areas, and may be allowed in rural areas in site-specific locations with approved zoning or designation that permits this type of development in a municipal official plan, as of the effective date of this Plan.
  4. For lands within the Greenbelt Area, the applicable policies in the Greenbelt, Niagara Escarpment and Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plans apply.
Updated: July 04, 2022
Published: July 17, 2019