The Hamilton-Halton Home Builders’ Association recently posted on their blog some information regarding housing and development growth numbers in Burlington. The Burlington Post also did a news story on the information.
The association states that “According to the Region of Halton approved growth strategy, the City of Burlington is expected to add 8,300 units between 2015-2031 to accommodate for growth. This equates to a minimum of 519 units per year over this period. Since 2015, the City of Burlington has achieved an average of 421.5 units. At this rate, the City of Burlington will fall 1,556 units short.”
The numbers provided by the association are a snapshot in time and inaccurately portray the full story of Burlington’s growth.
Further, there are many units that are approved, but not yet built that would not be captured in the unit counts. There is no deadline to start a project once approved, and developers across the region and in Burlington have sat on approvals. For example, the 17-story Berkeley was approved in 2009, but only began occupancy in 2018 — almost 10 years later. The planned 8-storey medical centre has not started construction.
The number — of both people and jobs — count towards the downtown’s growth targets. The city has done its job of approvals, but can’t force developers to do their job and actually build them in a timely period. See the city’s latest report on the 2019 Development Charges Process.
These are the facts:
- According the Halton Region’s Best Planning Estimates, Burlington’s share of growth is 185,000 people by 2031.
- According to the 2016 Census, Burlington is at 183,000. With known and approved development underway (including almost 1,000 units being built at the Burlington GO station alone), we are already at our 2031 targets — 12 years early.
- With additional development being proposed, we will be well past our share of growth by 2031.
- The challenge for our community is that Best Planning Estimates (BPEs) are tied to infrastructure — everything from roads to community centres to transit investments. BPEs are also used to calculate Development Charges so that growth pays for growth. (Growth doesn’t pay for growth, even at the best of times — see a previous post on my website).
- When a community overdevelops by blowing past its BPEs, well ahead of schedule, we don’t have the infrastructure in place to support the population surge. The result is a congested city where traffic improvements, transit routes, seniors and community centres, and sports fields are at capacity or overcrowded.
- In addition, when we reach our BPEs well ahead of schedule, we’re not pricing our Development Charges (DCs) accurately. DCs are based on planned population, and we are growing faster than the planned targets. That means taxes go up to make up the difference. This is one reason why Milton — the fastest growing community in Canada — had the largest tax increase of all Halton municipalities last year at over 8%.
- So, city-wide, we have already taken our share of population growth out to 2031 and will be above our share by 2031.
- The downtown has specific growth targets of 200 people or jobs per hectare by 2031. According to staff analysis done in conjunction with a recent development application, we are currently at 174 people or jobs downtown. According to staff, we are well on track to meet or surpass our growth targets if we built only 60% of the units in known or anticipated development projects.
- Over-development, quite simply, is development that is well beyond the growth outlined in Official Plans, Zoning Bylaws and Best Planning Estimates. Over-development leads to a congested city that negatively impacts quality of life. Over-development leads to tax increases to make up the shortfall between the costs of community services for the new population and the Development Charges collected. For reference, staff used the word over-development more than a dozen times in describing the Adi development application at Martha and Lakeshore, which was rejected by staff, council and the majority of the community. It was ultimately approved by the old Ontario Municipal Board, further evidence the system is broken and undemocratic, and weighted in favour of “the sky’s the limit” projects — not community-based planning.
- The recent changes back to the OMB format by the current provincial government, are a huge step backwards for community planning and democracy — giving an unelected, unaccountable individual at the tribunal the authority to overrule elected councils and the citizens we represent.
- The Interim Control Bylaw is a pause in development while we get our planning framework right downtown. The projects impacted are not shovel ready. They are in varying stages of approvals, with some having months of planning work ahead of them.
We can take the time to get this right.