I’m not quite sure how anyone is suppose too properly comment on the secondary plans when there is so much information missing in the Hemson Housing Analysis and Employment Land Needs Report. Without this information it becomes difficult to compare intensification numbers between secondary planned areas, and other intensification areas. There are a total of 6 intensification sites missing actual housing numbers. Instead these six areas are given a “to be determined” designation. What’s surprising is that even with the missing numbers Hemson is somehow able to manufacture a total of 9650 housing units which are unable to be accommodated in the City’s existing built boundary and must be located in the white belt. It’s disappointing that this council deems it appropriate to pay the consultant tax payer money to produce a draft document with so much missing information, unless of course, there was a benefit to leaving this information out.
One of the more problematic numbers is the 12 000 housing units being allocated for the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. There was no, Vaughan based growth forecast conducted by this consultant for the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. No analysis of how transit stimulates density. Instead the consultants have taken the minimum requirement for this Urban Growth Centre from the Places to Grow Act. If a proper housing analysis was conducted, it would become obvious that the Metropolitan Centre will easily attract double the density currently indicated by 2031, possibly more. Urban strategies have indicated this several times. How can I be so sure? One need only look north of the Metropolitan Centre to the Vaughan Mills Centre. Hemson has conveniently left out the housing units for this area in their draft report and for good reason as you will see.
In my analysis, I discovered that the Vaughan Mills Centre will become far denser then the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. If the numbers play out, the real downtown of the city will be located around a shopping mall and not the subway station. I used the city’s own study of high-rise applications from the 2007 document “Jane Street Corridor, Residential Potential Land Use Review” to prove this fact. This study takes existing applications for high-rise developments into account. These are not minimum numbers such as those used by the consultants. These are real applications by real developers recognizing a real demand in the market for high density housing. What these numbers show is that the density of the Vaughan Mills Centre will far exceed that of the City’s so called “downtown”.
Based on the applications in the report there are 6880 high density housing units on 18 hectares of land resulting in a density of 381 housing units per hectare. If we double the land area to generously accommodate for roads and open spaces we have a density of 191 housing units per hectare. If we double the land area again for the sake of proving my point the result is a density of 95 housing units per hectare. The Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, based on the consultant’s numbers gives us a density of 67 housing units per hectare. What does 67 housing units per hectare look like? 77 housing units per hectare will give you a neighbourhood of four storey row houses. According to Hemson’s forecasts, The Vaughan Mills Centre will be denser then the Vaughan Metro Centre, something doesn’t add up.
If the consultant used real high density housing demand to forecast growth in the Metropolitan Centre, the city would be unable to justify expanding onto white belt lands. This is how council and their consultants are colluding to play this elaborate shell game. Don’t reveal numbers in the Vaughan Mills Centre where there are real applications for high density development, low ball the numbers in the Metropolitan Centre to the minimum and then make sure there are plenty of housing numbers allocated to the white belt lands to justify an urban boundary expansion.
All the applications for development in the Jane Street Corridor study have been submitted after 2006. Hemson is using housing demand data up to 2006. The consultant is forecasting demand backwards. Hemson has adjusted the numbers produced in the Where and How to Grow document to a mid 2006 base. Council is prepared to adopt a plan containing demand numbers which are already severely outdated.
Hemson believes only 27,400 high density housing units will become a reality by 2031. If I take the 6880 units in application in the Jane street corridor and add them to the application on the former Al Paladini site at Weston Road and Highway 7, and the Royal Empress Gardens development east of Jane Street on Highway 7, I get a total of 9865 apartment units in existing applications. More than a third of your consultants forecasted high density numbers are potentially a reality 7 years before the introduction of the subway line.
The analysis is surprising when you look at the Hemson Report from October 2008 “Vaughan Development Charges Final Report” In this document, Hemson states “Growth in rows and other multiples and in apartments has been particularly strong over the last 10 years growing by 200 per cent and 125 per cent respectively.” (P. 44)
This statement seems odd when in the Housing Analysis and Employment Land Needs Report Hemson states “The key challenge to achieving intensification objectives… is to encourage a significant shift towards apartment units, one that the market on its own is unlikely to deliver.” (Hemson P. 58)
Which one is it? One report that concentrates on development charges recognizes a surge in demand for higher density housing, and the other, based on housing demand and growth suggests that there will be challenges in creating demand for high density housing. If this consultant is confused, then let me help shed some light on high density housing demand in Vaughan.
The demand for high density housing in Vaughan is already far higher then what Hemson are allowing in the official plan. The public knows this, the developers know this and council knows this.
The Places to Grow act was created to drag sprawling suburbs such as this one into becoming real cities. In an effort to help Vaughan accomplish this, the city has received the gift of a subway. Billions of dollars of tax payer money from across the country are being directed here. This city must show it’s grown up and accept, based on actual demand that 12 000 housing units in the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre will be exceeded. The actual secondary plan creates a build out for a density far exceeding 12 000 housing units.
The city’s consultants do not believe there is a demand for high density housing in Vaughan. It is imperative that the development industry prove this consultant wrong. Developers have been asked by the city to withhold applications for high density housing until the end of the official plan process. If I were a developer, I would be doing the exact opposite. The only way to prove to the province that the city is not using proper density and housing demand numbers is to in fact submit an application.
It is because development applications have not been submitted that this consultant can produce such flawed and outdated work. It becomes harder for the city’s consultants to low-ball density in intensification sites if there is already an application for high density housing submitted. This is precisely why there are no housing numbers for the Vaughan Mills Centre. Council hopes to hide behind consultant reports in order to justify its urban boundary expansion. Developers need to prove to the province that the intensification numbers the city is using are in fact too low. The consultants are being paid to hang the high density developers out to dry.