Builders seek urban expansion
The Hamilton Spectator The Hamilton Spectator September 28,
2004 - Mark McNeil
Hamilton home builders say the city needs to expand its urban boundary
to handle projected population growth for the city.
The province's discussion paper Places To Grow: Better Choices, Brighter
Future forecasts Hamilton's population will grow by 200,000 people by
the year 2031. It doesn't rule out further city expansion into the countryside
but it argues for greater intensification to accommodate growth and
raises caution about urban sprawl.
The Hamilton-Halton Home Builders' Association (HHHBA) fears when municipal
official plan deliberations are completed and provincial plans for a
greenbelt are put in place, that there won't be enough new development
A HHHBA submission to the province's ministry of Public Infrastructure
Renewal argues "intensification alone will not be able to accommodate
Hamilton's housing needs for the next 30 years. The province must ensure
there is enough land allocated for future growth which will be unaffected
by the proposed greenbelt."
The home builders group, which is being supported by the Hamilton-Halton
Construction Association and the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington,
is urging the province to authorize Hamilton to designate "sufficient
land within the City of Hamilton for future urban growth through its
official plan that are outside of the proposed Golden Horseshoe greenbelt."
But expanding the urban boundary is controversial. The boundary is
a line to which city water and sewer services are currently provided
and urban development is allowed. Municipalities decide their official
plans but decisions can be appealed to the province.
Another expected curb on growth is a proposed greenbelt through the
Golden Horseshoe, which could also contain development. Boundaries for
that are still being worked out.
"It is our position that the creation of greenbelt around the Golden
Horseshoe will have a disastrous impact on both urban and rural areas,"
the HHHBA report says. "Experience has demonstrated that urban growth
boundaries severely affect housing affordability, and dramatically increase
the price of land. This, in turn, encourages 'leap frogging' into rural
communities that are unable and unprepared to handle the increase in
But Don McLean, of the group Citizens at City Hall (CATCH) disagrees.
"For someone to say Hamilton needs room to grow is absurd."
He contends the city can handle growth for many years without going
into rural areas. He says Census figures show the population fell almost
45,000 in the lower city between Red Hill Creek and Dundas from 1971
to 2001. Mohawk Road to the edge of the escarpment lost 20,000 people.
He says Hamilton could at least accommodate 65,000 people moving back
into those sections of the city. And he says there are all kinds of
greenfields that have not been developed in the urban boundary.
But Fred Toy, president of the HHHBA, says "we need to be able to work
with the municipality to have that urban boundary expanded to allow
for this growth. The concern is if the greenbelt goes in place and it
freezes the urban boundary where it is, then we are not going to be
able to attain the population growth that they are looking at."
The HHHBA submission also seeks Ontario infrastructure funding to help
revitalize the downtown core. It wants Ontario to designate Hamilton's
airport as a Provincial Employment Node and allow it access to provincial
infrastructure financing. HHHBA also calls for Ontario to commit to
the construction of the proposed mid-peninsula highway and make a timetable
for its completion.