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Places To Grow Act

The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe

Blueprint for Where to Invest In Ontario

Key Points

The Importance of the Greater Golden Horseshoe
What Is the 2006 Growth Plan?
The History of Canada’s Growth
Why the Growth Plan Was Created
The Benefits of Growth
How the Growth Plan Affects the Real Estate Market
Why You Should Buy Now

Learn How You Can Invest in One of the 25 Urban Growth Centres


How the Places to Grow Act Affects Real Estate

If you've ever looked around your city and found yourself wondering where all these condominium buildings under construction came from, you might be interested to know that a lot of it stems from Ontario's Places to Grow Act, legislated in 2005, which was followed closely by the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe in 2006.
The Act was designed to stimulate urban growth and population density in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region while simultaneously curbing urban sprawl.

The Greater Golden Horseshoe is a dynamic and diverse area and one of the fastest-growing regions in North America. By 2051, this area is forecast to grow to 14.8 million people and 6.3 million jobs. The magnitude and pace of this growth necessitate a plan for building healthy and balanced communities and maintaining and improving our quality of life while adapting to the demographic shift underway.

This Act is the Ontario Government's plan to encourage growth and development in a way that fosters economic prosperity, protects the environment, and helps communities achieve a high quality of life. As part of this Act, the government has developed regional growth plans that help guide government investments and policies.

What Are Urban Growth Centres?

The GTA is seeing tremendous growth!

One prominent reason this Act was implemented was to help curb unmanaged growth commonly seen throughout some suburban areas where neighbourhoods aren't connected, pedestrian-friendly, or easily accessible by public transit. Since the GTA is currently one of the fastest-growing communities in North America, many of the large lots and even larger homes aren't always the best option for housing this new growth. This Plan is about accommodating forecasted growth in complete communities. The Plan has designated 25 Urban Growth Centres across Southern Ontario. The result is monumental growth in the Greater Toronto Area, where many Designated Growth Centres were appointed.

What do Urban Growth Centres mean for communities?

It means you're likely to see more vertical growth, which means more condominiums. Condominiums will be the most popular and affordable type of new housing built throughout the Greater Toronto Area.

Urban Growth Centres
Image courtesy of the Government of Ontario

It also means you'll see many more master-planned communities where you can live, work, shop, and play in a vibrant, self-sufficient neighbourhood. This makes for healthier communities where residents are encouraged to walk, shop locally, and mingle with their neighbours. It also decreases gridlock and traffic congestion.

This focus on urban growth means that there is an increased demand for condo developments and master-planned communities. The plan has already transformed how we live in the GTA, evidenced by looking back to 10 years ago, when 80% of the newly built homes were low-rises, while only 20% of homes were in high-rise buildings.

This is a stark contrast to development today as 70% of new homes are high-rise communities while low-rise homes only account for 30%. This balance will continue shifting towards high-rise communities, making condos the homes of the future. To address these challenges and ensure the protection and effective use of finite resources, A Place to Grow Plan, together with the Greenbelt Plan, Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, and the Niagara Escarpment Plan, builds on the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) to establish a unique land use planning framework for the Greater Golden Horseshoe that supports the achievement of complete communities, a thriving economy, a clean and healthy environment, and social equity.

The Growth Plan Comes With Certain Restrictions

The Growth Plan also comes with certain restrictions intended to preserve regions of the province designated as "greenbelt" areas. This means that developers are restricted not only to building in certain areas but also to what kind of structures they can build. Anticipating exponential growth in population and employment opportunities in the GTA, these structures are encouraged to be mostly condominiums. With these vertical communities, the act focuses on:

  • Revitalizing downtown to become vibrant and convenient centres.
  • Creating communities that offer more living, working, shopping, and playing options.
  • Providing housing to meet the needs of people and families at any age.
  • Preventing sprawl and protecting greenspace.
  • Reducing traffic congestion by improving access to a variety of transportation options.

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The Details of the Places To Grow Act
Image courtesy of the Government of Ontario

The Details About the Places to Grow Act

This Act aims to build walkable neighbourhoods with superior access to public transit and local amenities. The Province of Ontario has been working closely with municipalities in these efforts, and the effects can already be felt. New light rail systems have been planned in Midtown Toronto and Mississauga and are concentrated around the designated urban growth centres.

At its core, this Act hopes to accomplish three things:

  • Sustain a robust economy.
  • Build thriving communities that use land, resources, and existing infrastructure in a responsible and efficient way.
  • Promote a healthy environment with a focus on conservation.

The 2005 Places to Grow Act was quickly followed by the 2006 Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, which has been further revised with the 2020 Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

This came after two years of consultation with members from the respective communities, stakeholders, Indigenous communities, and an advisory panel chaired by former Mayor of Toronto David Crombie.

The most significant conclusion from this updated plan is the intensification of Designated Greenfield Areas.

The current benchmark for greenfield areas is to have 50 residents and jobs per hectare, and they aim to increase that number to 80 residents and jobs by 2031, with an interim target of 60 residents and jobs per hectare starting in 2022. For areas closer to urban centres, the targets are 150 residents and jobs per hectare for regions with GO Transit, 160 residents and jobs per hectare in regions with an LRT or bus rapid transit, and 200 residents and jobs per hectare in regions with a subway.

The update also focuses on building diverse housing options in urban centres. It is vital that there's a variety of housing choices for differently-sized families and incomes. It's up to the municipalities to supply a spectrum of condos, apartments and townhomes with various unit sizes. This Act is as much about land conservation as it is about urban densification. Preserving our province's natural history and resources is a concerted effort. This is why specific provisions explore issues like protecting water sources, growing the greenbelt, supporting a viable agricultural sector, and building a response to climate change.

The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe in 2019

The Growth Plan Act consists of 3 significant components that have changed how the building and development industry builds today:

  • 2 million acres of land are reserved and protected in the Greenbelt area. This means that the building and development industry has to operate in accordance with the provincial plan. Developers are restricted from building on these preserved lands until 2041.
  • Design complete communities. The Growth Plan has identified and targeted "25 urban growth centres" as regional focal points for accommodating population and employment growth. They will prioritize intensification in high-density areas to efficiently use the land and infrastructure while supporting transit viability.  At least 40% of this new intensification will be done in the downtown core.
  • Housing demand issues play a big part in many communities facing housing affordability concerns. Sustained population growth, low rental vacancy rates, and other complex socio-economic factors drive demand. The Growth Plan addresses this challenge by encouraging a mix of housing types, particularly affordable and high-density housing, that can accommodate various household sizes in locations with good access to transit and other amenities. This will make condos more attainable — and more affordable.

Where Are We Doing Most of the Growth?

Most of the growth will happen in the Delineated Built-up Areas, A minimum of 50 percent of all residential development occurring annually within each of the Cities of Barrie, Brantford, Guelph, Hamilton, Orillia and Peterborough and the Regions of Durham, Halton, Niagara, Peel, Waterloo and York will be within the delineated built-up area. By 2051, 40 percent of the population and employment growth will occur in the City of Toronto, while 60 percent of the growth will be spread across Peel, York, Durham, Halton and Hamilton regions.

Also, in the Urban Growth Centres as planned:

What Does the Places to Grow Act Mean for Investors?

With a focus on urban density and building vertically, there will be many condo developments in the near future. Municipalities and the province are working with developers to create vibrant communities where people can live, work and play. In addition to the sheer wealth of condos springing up, there are terrific opportunities for profit and equity growth as neighbourhoods surrounding condo projects work to increase the property's values.

A prime example of this is the development of the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, which is striving to create the new 'Downtown North.' Soon, this will be regarded as one of the most dynamic employment centres in the GTA and a lively residential community. Homes here will be judged by their merits instead of their proximity to Downtown Toronto.

The shift from low-density to high-density housing has been directed by provincial intensification policies encouraging a more sustainable approach to urban development. Homebuyers want to choose the type of home that suits their lifestyle throughout the various stages of life - and choice in the low-rise market is diminishing. Prices for the low-rise market are the highest they've ever been, driving buyers towards the high-rise market. Condos seem to be the only option for the first-time homebuyer.

This means condominiums are the way of the future and will be in high demand.

With a growing population and employment opportunities, many families, professionals, and students will be seeking places to rent, and they'll likely turn towards condominium units in vibrant, mixed communities. In some parts of the GTA, such as Markham, we've already seen conditions where a huge employment boom combined with a lack of rental housing has led to wait lists, even bidding wars, for condominium rentals. Once you factor in the green space, walking paths, and lifestyle amenities at your fingertips, these urban communities aren't just fantastic places to live but great places to invest in for the future.

The Places to Grow Act offers a rare opportunity to be part of a significant urban renewal effort in Southern Ontario. Some regions throughout the GTA have been identified as new urban centres, and they will entice homebuyers and employment opportunities soon. The time to invest in these areas is now before the market heats up.

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