Intensification: The Nightmare Machine

Intensification is a mandate created by the Ontario government that requires hundreds of thousands of new residents to be placed in Halton without expanding to additional land. This is potentially a positive idea, as increasing population density could bring new amenities to our communities. However, poorly implemented intensification is a potential nightmare machine transforming our communities on mass into congestion choked slums.

Serious problems exist with the current situation.

1) Nothing defends the standard of living of existing residents. Increasing the density of an area unwisely can lead to traffic congestion and over crowding of schools, parks, and green space. In some areas more people will not be better. Intensification as put forward seems to place us on an ever increasing density path without the ability to stop or even detect when enough is enough.

2) Nothing defends localized commercial space. When a developer converts commercial properties into housing, it's basically impossible to revert that space back later. Large commercial activity then concentrates into tight eco-systems far away. This prevents all sorts of active transportation possibilities and bakes in a transit problem for almost everyone.

3) Loss of local control of character. I've been told many times, we have to permit it - intensification. There are intensification “metrics” coming that will score how well areas are handling this pressure. Any universal metric of what is “good” has the potential to convert every community into the same grey generic place as the one next door. Halton should set it's own values not have a template imposed from above.

4) It has a great potential to create what it tries to avoid. People selected to live on the outskirts of Toronto partly because they don't like the feel and congestion of a large city. If you place them back into what they don't like, they will scatter outside the intensification zone again. Right now we just have an ever expanding city boundary, but this has the potential to create actual urban sprawl. It's critical that we create a unique, green and livable city.

What to do about this?

1) Halton needs a standard level of services set, promised to residents, and maintained over time. Let's say we decide that for every 150 children there should be allocated one sports field to play on. If you then build the area up to 300 children, we need a trigger that requires another sports field in the area.

2) We need to change zoning rules so that high value commercial space is required on ground level (flexible unit sizes, attractive parking, commercial venting, transport truck access, etc) in new residential buildings. This is resisted by developers as it is expensive, but localized high value commercial space brings amenities into our communities. I'd also like to see office space required on floors above the first depending on the building height.

3) Development fees need to be channeled into the local area where the development is taking place. Every time you see a new development you should be asking what you are getting in your local area to support these new residents. The developer is potentially paying hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in fees to the city to build in your community.  You should know what you are getting over and above your normal tax payments.

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