Appendix A: Approaches to intensification in Vancouver, the United Kingdom, and Australia

Several jurisdictions have set targets for particular aspects of residential development and track progress toward achieving them. Vancouver, the U.K., and Sydney all document the location of residential development, but their methods and numbers do not resemble the approach to measuring intensification contained in the Growth Plan.

Under its 1996 Livable Region Strategic Plan, Metro Vancouver monitors the proportion of new population and dwellings built within a "growth concentration area" (GCA). Metro Vancouver has set a target that 68.4% of the total district population must live within the GCA by 2021. As of the 2001 census, 65% do.19 These figures do not represent an intensification rate comparable to that in the Growth Plan because, as Figure A.1 shows, the GCA includes opportunities for greenfield development. As a result, much of the development within it does not occur within the built-up urban area. Furthermore, the GCA excludes many rapidly growing population centres such as Richmond, Langley, White Rock, and the north shore, and it counts population, not dwellings. Metro Vancouver's proposed Regional Growth Strategy, which has not yet been enacted, replaces the GCA with an "urban containment boundary" that contains all existing urban areas and adjacent greenfield areas designated for expansion.20 (See Figure A.1.)

The U.K. government monitors change in land use at the parcel level, nationwide. In any given year, the government knows how many dwelling units were created on previously developed land, wherever it is located. In 1998, the government set a target that every year up to 2008, 60% of new dwellings must be built on previously developed land. This target has been exceeded in each year since 2000, up to 80% in 2008 from 54% in 1994.21 This approach differs from that of the Ontario government, because the U.K. government counts the construction of dwelling units on previously developed land in rural as well as urban areas and ignores construction on undeveloped land within the urban fabric.22 The United Kingdom's National Land Use Database also tracks the location and quantity of land currently in use with potential for redevelopment.

In Sydney, Australia, the Metropolitan Development Program of the government of New South Wales distinguishes between "established areas" and "greenfield release areas," the latter being lands opened up to development since the early 1980s. Over the last two decades, the proportion of development in established areas has averaged over 60%.23 While Sydney's approach is the most compatible with that in the Growth Plan, the numbers should be interpreted carefully. First, the built-up urban area has come to extend beyond the "established" areas, meaning that the number does not capture all development occurring within the built-up urban fabric. Second, Sydney has been able to achieve high rates of intensification because of its highly centralized planning system, which enables tight control of urban boundary expansions and aggressive residential redevelopment of postwar residential neighbourhoods (which are of much lower density than those in Ontario) and industrial brownfields. The high rate of intensification may be difficult to sustain, however, given the depletion of available brownfield lands.24 In the 2005 Sydney Metropolitan Strategy, the proportion of dwellings built in established areas is projected to fall from 76% in 2000-04 to 63% in 2014-31.25

Figure A.1: Greater Vancouver's Growth Concentration Area and Urban Containment Boundary

19. Greater Vancouver Regional District, 2005 Annual Report: Livable Region Strategic Plan (Burnaby: GVRD, 2005) 3.
20. Urban Containment Boundary adapted from Metro Vancouver, "Map 2: Urban Containment Boundary," Draft Regional Growth Strategy(Burnaby: Metro Vancouver, 6 Nov. 2009), see <
21. Ministry of Communities and Local Government (UK). Land Use Change Statistics (England) 2008 - provisional estimates (London: HMSO, 22 Oct. 2009).
22. In 1995, for example, while 53% of all new dwellings were built on previously developed land, almost 13% of these were in rural areas and just under 41% in urban areas. Redevelopment of mineral, landfill, and defence sites in rural areas counts, even if they are located in open countryside. See D. Adams and C. Watkins, Greenfields, Brownfields, and Housing Development (London: Blackwell, 2002) 213.
23. City of Cities: Planning for Sydney's Future (Sydney: Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources, December 2005) 10; correspondence with Dr. Patrick Troy, Australian National University.
24. Correspondence with Bob Meyer, advisor to the Sydney Metropolitan Strategy.
25. City of Cities: Planning for Sydney's Future (Sydney: Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources, December 2005) 133.