Monday, July 20, 2015

Strong regional governance and the ALR key to sustainable regional growth

The Neptis Foundation, who stated goal is to inform and improve policy- and decision-making around regional urban growth and management, recently released a report call “Growing Pains”. This report looks at the urban growth patterns of Metro Vancouver and Toronto since 1991. The report is really a call to action for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) to get their act together to slow sprawl and create accessible, sustainable communities.

Marcy Burchfield and Anna Kramer, the authors of the report, found that BC's Agricultural Land Reserve and regional district model are the keys to the success of building a sustainable Metro Vancouver. They found that even with changes in federal, provincial, and local governments, the ALR and region district model is what kept our region from sprawling.

Between 2001 and 2011, 69% of new residents were accommodated within existing urban areas in Metro Vancouver. The follow map shows the change in population between 2001 and 2011 in Metro Vancouver. It is interesting to see that most of the growth in places like Surrey has occurred within existing urban areas. In fact, Richmond has the distinction of having the most sprawl in Metro Vancouver.

Population gain and loss in established urban areas, Metro Vancouver, 2001-2011. Select map to enlarge.

The map doesn’t show the growth that has taken place in Willoughby in the Township of Langley post 2011.

For comparison, only 14% of new residents were accommodated within existing urban areas in the GTHA; the GTHA has more sprawl.

Even with the provincial government's auto-oriented transportation policies, almost 50% of our region’s new residents were accommodated near frequent transit routes. 23% of new residents were accommodated within 800 meters of SkyTrain. Between 2001 and 2011, 28% of population growth has been in walkable urban centres.

Again for comparison, only 23% of new residents were near frequent transit, and 11% near rapid transit in the GTHA.

The follow chart shows that over the last 20 years, Metro Vancouver has seen a change in housing stock. Single-family housing is on the decline. Row houses and townhouses seem to be the preferred housing type in the region.

Composition of Housing Stock in Metro Vancouver between 1991 and 2011. Select image to enlarge.

Burchfield and Kramer found that the follow are needed to build sustainable regions:

  1. A hard urban boundary and a clear regional structure can support growth management
  2. Planning for land use and for transportation should be coordinated.
  3. Support for regional growth management call for cooperation and monitoring

With the whole transit mess in our region today, I have to wonder if our region’s success in building sustainably is coming to an end, or if we are just at a bump along the sustainability path.

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