A dynamic approach to land use planning

Understanding the drivers and dynamics of economic change in the GGH is fundamental to more informed, effective land use planning. We make an important distinction between a dynamic approach and one based on linear growth "trends" that is common in land use planning. A dynamic approach recognizes that longer-term urban processes are not linear, but characterized by cycles of growth, change, decline, then growth again. The focus should not just be solely on accommodating growth - as has been the norm in planning and the Growth Plan - but also on responding to change, transition, and, in some cases, decline. This dynamic will continue to unfold over the planning period (and beyond).

This dynamic can be illustrated by "the Kings" districts that border Downtown Toronto. These were formerly vibrant areas of manufacturing industry in prewar factory buildings - especially textiles and clothing -that lost employment and businesses, and declined post-1970, because of globalization pressures and free trade agreements. The Kings experienced a prolonged period of stagnation and underutilization (exacerbated, many argue, by a lack of a timely planning policy response). In recent years the factories have been occupied by 21st-century industries and reinvigorated - but this time, with firms in different industries, including some that did not even exist a few decades ago - such as information technology, app development, software, and digital advertising.

As other employment areas of the GGH age over the next 25 years, this dynamic will play out across the region. Restructuring will affect different districts within the region differently, depending on (1) their current makeup of economic activities; (2) where these industries fall within the trajectory of long waves of growth, stagnation, decline, and regeneration; and (3) in relation to key drivers like globalization or automation. The analysis of the current geography of the Archetypes in Chapter 3 of this report is intended to help illuminate these changes.

Land use planning in the GGH needs to consider proactively where and how growing activities will be accommodated. As some districts age, there are opportunities to accommodate and support new kinds of economic activities through proactive land use planning. We could expect, for example, that arts and design-related industries are likely to experience continued growth. But the kinds of places that those industries have been inhabiting - former factory spaces in prewar urban areas, for example - are increasingly limited in supply and face demand and rent pressure from other industries and from residential growth. Where can we plan for the next wave of growth for these industries?

As noted earlier, agglomeration economies drive urbanization and geographic concentration, and their effects are intensified with the rise of knowledge-based activities. But the agglomeration benefits that often drive investment and new development in a particular district are also accompanied by agglomeration "dis-benefits" or costs - such as congestion, air pollution, income inequality, or high house prices and commercial rents, for example.

The balance between agglomeration benefits and dis-benefits can shift over time. As development and workers continue to be attracted to an area, mounting dis-benefits may outweigh benefits. At this point, firms, employees, new development and other investments may be compelled to seek other locations - within the region, or even beyond the GGH.

For example, agglomeration benefits have been drawing new office development to Downtown Toronto in recent years, and this trend is expected to continue. However, this growth brings intense pressures on an already straining transportation system. Without public investments to keep up with development pressures, dis-benefits in the form of congestion and inaccessibility could begin to shift some types of businesses to other locations. This shifting balance between agglomeration benefits and dis-benefits is an element of the dynamic approach that should be kept in mind in long-range planning.