Policy changes can improve quality of life in urban Ontario and reduce sprawl: study

Jul 19 2012

TORONTO — A comprehensive study released today outlines key policies that would help improve the livability of Ontario’s communities, reduce sprawl and traffic congestion, and enable people to live where they work, go and play every day.

Live Where You Go: encouraging location-efficient development in Ontario (full report, summary) recommends five new tools to make it easier and more affordable for developers to build in locations where homebuyers prefer to live. The proposed changes also would address many of the downsides of urban sprawl, such as traffic congestion and long commute times.

“It’s not about downtown versus the suburbs,” said Cherise Burda, Ontario policy director at the Pembina Institute and lead author of the report. “It’s about building more affordable, family-friendly homes in mixed-use, walkable communities with good access to rapid transit throughout the Greater Golden Horseshoe region.”

A survey released earlier this week indicated that more than 80 per cent of residents in the Greater Toronto Area would give up a large house and yard to live in a neighbourhood where they could have the option to take rapid transit or walk to work and other destinations. However, the survey found many people can’t afford to live in these preferred locations.

“Our recommendations would help increase the supply of affordable homes in location efficient neighbourhoods, places our research suggests many Ontarians want to live,” explains Travis Allan, a partner at Zizzo Allan Climate Law LLP and co-author of the report

Location-efficient development means making it possible for people to live near workplaces, amenities and commercial hubs that are accessible by walking, biking or rapid transit. Research indicates that location-efficient communities can be cheaper to service, more affordable to live and do business in, and offer residents a higher quality of life and more environmental benefits than the current model of sprawling suburban development.

“Ontarians want to live in location-efficient homes once they realize it helps them save money and pollute less, and frees up time to spend with their families instead of sitting in traffic,” adds Theresa McClenaghan, executive director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association.

"As Ontario's population continues to grow, we are facing a unique opportunity to re-think urban sprawl and make policy changes today that will allow us to design and build communities where Ontarians really want to live, work and play," explains Dr. Anastasia Lintner, economist and staff lawyer with Ecojustice.

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Learn more:

Live where you go: encouraging location-efficient development in Ontario is also available at http://www.pembina.org/pub/2354

Contact:

Cherise Burda, Ontario Policy Director
Pembina Institute
416-824-0256 cheriseb@pembina.org

Travis Allan
Zizzo Allan Climate Law LLP
1.888.389.5798 travis@zizzoclimate.com

Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director and Counsel
Canadian Environmental Law Association
416-960-2284 ext 219 416-662-8341 cell theresa@cela.ca

Anastasia Lintner, Economist & Staff Lawyer
Ecojustice
416-368-7533 x530 alintner@ecojustice.ca

Background:

The Live Where You Go study is the result of a year-long “Cool Communities” project involving the Pembina Institute, Zizzo Allan Climate Law LLP, the Canadian Environmental Law Association and Ecojustice. The policy recommendations outlined in the report were developed through detailed consultations with key urban development experts and stakeholders, including planners, developers, realtors, municipalities and business leaders in Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe Area.

The report recommends five key policy changes to encourage location-efficient development in Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe area:

1. Develop a location cost calculator to inform and educate homebuyers about the cost of their location choices (including gas, insurance, parking, maintenance, car payments and mortgage expenses).
2. Change development charges so that location-efficient development costs less, while removing the subsidies that currently support expensive-to-service urban sprawl.
3. Tax surface parking at higher rates, making location-efficient developments more attractive and reducing the space wasted on surface parking and the subsidies for this type of land use.
4. Remove or reduce minimum parking requirements for new developments, cutting the cost of location-efficient development and ensuring that land-use matches the neighbourhood’s unique mix of needs and services.
5. Under the Metrolinx Act, use transit funding to support location efficiency and encourage densification.