Growth Scenario Evaluation Technical Brief - Recommended Scenario

Did you know, according to Provincial projections, Waterloo Region is expected to reach 923,000 people and 470,000 jobs by 2051? Growth is coming to our Region, and over the past few months, the Regional Official Plan Review (ROPR) team has been working to determine "how" the Region should grow to meet our projections.

To determine how we grow, we first need to know exactly how much land we need to support our growth. The amount of land needed is a critical input for the next stage of planning - to determine "where" growth will be directed.

So, how do we figure out how much land we need?

In June, 2021, the ROPR team put forward three potential growth scenarios for Waterloo Region for public input. Each growth scenario presented different numbers in terms of the percentage of new growth that should be within the Built-Up Area (BUA) and the density of new development within Designated Greenfield Areas (DGAs). These two numbers are the critical inputs required to determine how much land the region needs.

Based on the feedback received during the public consultation this past summer and based on an analysis of these preliminary growth scenarios by our consultant and staff, the Growth Scenario Evaluation results will be presented for information to the Region's Committee of the Whole on November 9, 2021. The Growth Scenario Evaluation Technical Brief (October 2021) provides a more in-depth explanation of the analysis.

Staff will be recommending Scenario 2 (60% intensification rate and density target of 60 people and jobs per hectare, explained below, and would require approximately 1,028 hectares of land) as the preferred growth scenario (available on November 2, 2021 at Figure 2.1, starting on page 8 of the Growth Scenario Evaluation Technical Brief, summarizes each growth scenario.

A lot of detailed technical background work and analysis, all of which is posted on Engage, has gone into the identification of Scenario 2 as the preferred growth scenario. The identification of a preferred growth scenario, and the identification of an initial intensification rate and density target is required in order to complete the Land Needs Assessment (LNA), which tells us how much land is needed to support our growth. A LNA is essential in order to keep the ROPR process moving forward, and will include many more opportunities for the public and area municipal staff to provide feedback of the draft LNA. The results of the draft LNA are anticipated in December 2021.

The Growth Scenario Evaluation Technical Brief builds on the following:

Additional Background Information

What is a Land Needs Assessment?

A LNA is a technical study that determines how much land is needed in the region to accommodate growth to the year 2051. The LNA must be completed based on a methodology developed by the Province and is required as part of the ROPR process. The LNA identifies how much of the forecasted population and job growth can be accommodated in the region's existing urban area boundary through intensification in the Built-Up Area and existing Designated Greenfield Area lands. If there is more growth forecasted than can be accommodated in the Region's existing urban area boundary, then the LNA determines how much urban expansion area may be required and generally where growth would be directed. Where this expansion might take places is considered through the next phase of the LNA.

What is an Intensification Target? What is a Built-Up Area? What are Designated Greenfield Areas?

An intensification target means that 60 percent of all new residential development will be directed to what we refer to as the Built-Up Area (please scroll through the Storymap for a visual and written description of specific terms referred to in this paragraph). Designated Greenfield Area refers to land that is not yet built upon, but that is set aside for building future residential and/or employment related to the residential development (e.g., grocery stores, medical buildings, home-based business and neighbourhood plazas).

In the Region of Waterloo's case, the population is expected to reach 923,000 people and 470,000 jobs by 2051 - this is a population and job projection provided by the Province. One of the first steps in figuring out how much land is potentially needed for possible expansion is to "input" an intensification and density target in into the LNA calculations.

As a summary, Scenario 2 has been identified as the preferred growth scenario and as the recommended input into a draft LNA. This growth scenario would:

  • set an initial Regional minimum intensification target of 60 percent in the Built-Up Area, and a minimum Designated Greenfield Area density target of 60 people and jobs per hectare for the purposes of the land needs assessment; and,
  • result in the need for a preliminary urban boundary expansion of approximately 1,028 hectares of land (i.e., 230 hectares for community (residential) area growth, and 800 hectares for employment area growth).

The subsequent step, based on the results of the draft LNA, is to then determine which areas of the region are best suited for future growth based on already identified candidate areas (please refer to slide 7 in the presentation from June 10, 2021 for the map) using criteria identified in the Provincial Growth Plan (policy, the ROP, and the Region's Strategic Plan.

Within this Growth Scenario Evaluation Technical Brief, you will be able to follow how each of the long-term growth scenarios considers progressively higher targets with respect to residential intensification and greenfield (i.e., additional residential land) density. Regional staff welcome any further feedback and are working towards setting up a more fulsome, comprehensive public consultation period regarding the upcoming Draft Land Needs Assessment, anticipated for January and February 2022.

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