Employment, segregation of land uses, and jobs-housing balance

Policies promoting mixed-use development have emerged in reaction to the negative effects of planned segregation of land uses in the postwar era. As Grant (2002) notes, mixed-use development has been promoted as a way to reduce automobile trips and trip length by improving the jobs-housing balance in local areas, optimize infrastructure use by activating areas at all hours, and increase the range of housing types. This section considers the degree to which employment is segregated from residential uses and explores the potential for creating "complete communities" where people will, by virtue of living close to their workplaces and amenities, make fewer and shorter automobile journeys.

Literature review

Long-term decentralization of employment and segregation of land uses

Over the past half-century, the segregation of employment from residential land uses through zoning has led to automobile dependency as well as the spread of undifferentiated, low-density bedroom communities and employment lands. As industrial and office functions decentralized in North American cities following the Second World War, they were concentrated in large-scale, specialized, and comprehensively planned districts. Planned industrial districts, unlike industrial zones in the existing city, were seen to have several advantages: public opposition would be minimized, control over the development process would be increased, the need to deal with multiple landowners would be avoided, servicing costs would be lower than if the municipality were servicing plants in scattered locations, expansion would be easier, and the districts would have better highway access (Hackett 1956:10-11; Urban Land Institute 2001:3-6).

In the 1960s, the industrial park was adapted to office employment ("The Office Park..." 1965). Like industrial parks, planned office parks located close to highways provide flexible space for firms and better access to clients and employees living in increasingly dispersed locations. In a recent study of 13 American cities, Lang (2003) found that two-thirds of non-downtown offices were located in scattered locations such as business parks. Only New York and Chicago had more rental office space downtown than in these areas. The Toronto metropolitan region fits Lang's pattern. In a report for the Toronto Office Coalition, the Canadian Urban Institute found that of all gross leasable office floor space in the GTA, 20.7% was in the downtown financial district, versus 25.5% in office parks (Canadian Urban Institute with Harris Consulting 2005:11; see also Charney 2005).

For many people, the decentralization and segregation of office and industrial jobs has increased dependence on the automobile for the journey to work. Over the past four decades, retail activity has also decentralized and become segregated from the residential urban fabric as boutique-format retail on main streets and neighbourhood shopping centres has been overtaken by large-scale establishments and complexes disconnected from residential areas and designed to be accessed by automobile. Simmons et al. found that by 1994 in Metropolitan Toronto, the share of total retail floor space found in "planned shopping facilities" was 55.3%, up from 2.4% in 1953 (Simmons et al. 1996; Jones 2000:404-22).

Research shows that retail establishments have grown in size, market area, and product specialization over time. So-called "big-box" superstores are defined by Jones and Doucet (2000) as large-format stores specializing in a single category of product. Between 1990 and 1999, the number of superstores in the GTA increased from 93 to 445, largely at the expense of department stores, shopping centres, and traditional "main street" retailers (Jones & Doucet 2000:245; 2001:495). On average, these stores have large floor areas -- upwards of 60,000 ft2, or 5,574 m2 -- usually in a single-storey structure surrounded by surface parking.

Clusters of big-box superstores known as power centres are typically located on large, highway-accessible land parcels segregated from residential areas and often previously zoned for industrial use (Hernandez & Simmons 2006; Jones 2000:418; Jones & Doucet 2000:243). Power centres increasingly contain services previously located in "main street" neighbourhood settings, such as banking, dining, and entertainment. As a result, people not only depend on the automobile for the journey to work, but also for shopping, services, and recreation. Much so-called "population-serving employment," which is often presumed to be integrated into residential areas, appears to be increasingly located in specialized areas accessible primarily by automobile.

Along with the segregation and decentralization of employment and shopping -- in other words, the "unmixing" of the urban fabric -- have come larger employment and retail facilities serving ever-larger market areas. This means that one cannot assume a "normal" or "typical" amount of employment land, nor a standard number of jobs in absolute terms or in proportion to population, at the 400-hectare scale under analysis.

"Complete communities"

The notion that local areas should contain all the facilities necessary for pursuing the activities of everyday life -- work, family life, and leisure -- has a long history. Its origin can be found in Perry's neighbourhood unit concept, elaborated in his influential background study for the first New York Regional Plan in 1929, and before that, in Howard's Garden City model (1902).

Long before today's "complete communities" policy in the Government of Ontario's Growth Plan, provincial and municipal plans in the Toronto region sought to promote jobs-housing balance at the municipal or sub-municipal scale. The objective of achieving a jobs-housing balance is simple: to reduce the number and length of journeys by automobile, in two ways. First, putting jobs close to housing permits people to work near their homes. Second, it puts residents closer to amenities such as stores, restaurants, and other services. The more that residents travel to local employment opportunities and amenities, without resorting to the automobile, the more these areas can be said to be "self-contained."

The authors of the 1959 draft plan for the Metropolitan Toronto Planning Area proposed that urban form could be manipulated to reduce the number and length of commuting trips, stating that achieving a balance of employment opportunities and residential population would be "a principal measure of the validity" of the plan. They also recognized that this would not be easy:

While it is obvious that the mere presence of employment opportunities in any given municipality or planning district does not necessarily mean that a great proportion of the employed persons residing in that area will actually work there, it is nevertheless of public interest that for fairly large sections of the Planning Area, a rough sort of balance should be struck between employment and population (55).

This principle of achieving greater jobs-housing balance was retained and elaborated in subsequent plans and policy documents of the Metropolitan Toronto Planning Board (1965: objectives s. 13) and, later, the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto (1981: s. 5.A.3; 1990:48; 1994: 5). Other examples include the Provincial-Municipal Urban Form Working Group (1992:16), BLG (1992:31), and the 1976 Official Plan of the City of Mississauga (s. 3.4.1).

Two recent Toronto-area planning documents define an ideal geographic scale at which jobs-population balance should occur. The Regional Municipality of York, for example, defines a "community" in terms comparable to this report's study areas: a "planning area [of] about 400 hectares ... large enough to include employment, recreational and community facilities, as well as housing" (1994:48). The Official Plan of the Regional Municipality of Peel contains similar language (1996: s.

The 1991 Guidelines for the Reurbanisation of Metropolitan Toronto defined a "balance zone" -- an area defined by a 1-km radius (314 hectares) in which there should be an appropriate balance of jobs and residents. The Guidelines suggested that since, on average, every housing unit in the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto contained approximately 1.5 members of the workforce and each household 2.2 people, intensification policies should seek to achieve a target of 1.5 residents per job within the balance zone (BLG 1991a:22-28; 1991b:87-89). This can also be expressed as an employment-to-population ratio, yielding a value of 0.66 to 1. By this logic, a district is in balance if its employment-to-population ratio is equal to that of a broader area, such as the municipality as a whole.

A less specific version of this principle was included in the last Official Plan of the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto, which stated that as a matter of policy, "the balance between housing and employment on a local area basis, [should] be improved, taking into account that for Metropolitan Toronto overall, the target balance is 1.5 residents for every job" (1994:59). Both Metro's "balance zone" and York Region's "community" scale were and are intended to operate at a scale comparable to that of the districts analyzed in this report.

Local-area jobs-housing balance and self-containment: the evidence

In a 1989 study of jobs-housing balance in the San Francisco Bay area, Cervero (1989) asked why the suburbanization of employment had not reduced the volume and distance of commutes, since jobs, having followed residents to the suburbs in the postwar period, were now located closer to them. He posited that the increase in commuting was the product of a spatial mismatch between people and their jobs due to factors such as restrictive zoning, the increase in the number of dual-wage-earner households, job turnover, and a lack of affordable housing in proximity to employment centres.

In a 1993 study of Los Angeles, however, Giuliano and Small (1993) found little evidence that local jobs-housing imbalances affected commuting or, put another way, they found that commuting times had not become sufficiently onerous to become a dominant consideration in home location decisions. Cervero came to a similar conclusion in a study of new towns in Europe and the United States, finding that "jobs-housing balance and self-containment have little meaningful influence on commuting choices, at least among new towns. Supply-side factors, such as levels and quality of transit services, as well as demand-side public policies, like parking prices and vehicle taxation, are probably far stronger determinants of commuting choices" (1995:1159-60; see also Dieleman et al. 2002).

One study that showed a strong relationship between jobs-housing balance and commuting was Nowlan and Stewart's (1991) examination of Toronto's central area, where the 1980s office boom was accompanied by a rise in downtown housing occupied by downtown workers, but this study is of little relevance to existing suburban conditions. If policies succeed in building up activity centres or nodes in suburban areas, more people may live closer to their jobs.

In a follow-up to his earlier Bay Area study, Cervero (1996) found no correlation between jobs-housing balance and self-containment. Three municipalities in his sample had similar numbers of jobs and members of the labour force. Less than 30% of jobs in these municipalities were held by local residents, and less than 30% of residents worked locally. He concluded that "while jobs followed labour markets, housing capital did not follow jobs" because the workers could not afford to live in the municipalities where their jobs were located (506) -- a conclusion also reached by Levine (1998).

At the municipal scale in the GTA, only the City of Toronto and the City of Vaughan have at least one job for every member of the employed labour force. Of course, these data do not indicate the degree to which the residents of a district or municipality are actually employed there. Travel survey data indicate substantial intermunicipal work travel in the GTA. While more than 80% of workers living in the City of Toronto were also employed there in 2001, the Regions of Durham and Peel each achieved approximately 60% self-containment, and Halton and York about 50% (Miller & Shalaby 2000:70-71; Mitra 2007:80).16

Given these findings, the degree of self-containment is expected to be much lower at the lower-tier municipality and neighbourhood scales. Miller and Shalaby (2000) conclude that, despite policies promoting self-containment and mixed-use development, "in most respects the GTA taken as a whole is no different than other cities within North America (and, indeed, the world) in that virtually all the current trends are 'in the wrong direction' with respect to sustainability" -- increasing auto ownership levels, rapid population growth in areas poorly serviced by transit, and increases in the number and length of automobile trips (99).

Research questions

1. Do more recently developed areas have less land use mix than earlier ones?

2. Does a lack of employment land at the neighbourhood scale represent a constraint on employment growth and therefore increased mixing of uses?

3. What prospect is there for the achievement of greater jobs-housing balance and, therefore, the potential for greater self-containment, at the neighbourhood scale?


Regional and local segregation of residential and employment land uses

The 400-hectare district scale is too small to capture the metropolitan region-scaled dynamics of employment location. (For this reason, era group averages are not shown in all figures.) Although there is no "typical" amount of employment land or number of jobs within each study area, especially the more recently developed ones, it is still useful to analyze them, if only to gain an understanding of whether and how greater mix might be promoted by "retrofitting" employment into established areas.

In the postwar study areas, employment is consolidated into fewer, large-scale specialized parcels such business and industrial parks and retail centres. This is in contrast to an earlier type of urban form in which small-format "main-street" retail and services and small-scale commercial and industrial uses were mixed into the residential urban fabric. Redevelopment has introduced specialized employment zones into older urban areas. Oshawa West and Riverdale, for example, both contain suburban-style shopping centres. (It is not known whether these parcels were assembled by clearing existing residential areas or converting industrial land.)

Fig. 38: Number of jobs per 400 hectares (gross land base)

Constraints on future employment growth

Fig. 38 shows the number of jobs in each study area. (To compensate for the fact that gross land area varies from case to case, the numbers have been normalized to a land base of 400 hectares.) Generally, the more recently a study area was developed, the fewer jobs it contains.

There are three possible explanations for this finding. The first is delayed demand, in that peak employment cannot be reached until existing employment land located elsewhere has been saturated. The second is constrained supply, that is, the fact that the study area's employment land base may be too small to accommodate a significant number of jobs, now or in the future. Given the segregation of land uses in contemporary urban development and the strong regulatory limits on changes of land use, newly built subdivisions with small amounts of employment land will be limited in their capacity to accommodate future employment growth. A third explanation is that employment lands are fully exploited, but the activity occurring on them is not labour-intensive (or, alternatively, is land-consumptive) and therefore generates few jobs.

The first and third explanations could not be tested with the data available. Delayed demand cannot be assessed without detailed proprietary knowledge of existing employment lands and firm behaviour. There is also little evidence that employment lands fill up sequentially. Vacant parcels on employment lands are considered a normal part of market activity. Moreover, firms decide where to locate on the basis of many factors beyond vacancy rates in one or another location in the region.

Employment land intensity of use also cannot be assessed. Although the number of jobs by type is available for each study area, their location within the study area is not known. Meaningful job densities on employment parcels cannot be calculated because jobs located on employment parcels cannot be differentiated from jobs located in the residential urban fabric using available data. We do know, however, that home-based employment ranges from 1% to 46% across the 16 cases, with an average of 15%. This is especially true of the 1980s-90s group, where home-based employment accounts for between 15% and 46% of all jobs. (For the sake of comparison, the combined rate for the Toronto, Oshawa, and Hamilton CMAs is 6.2%.) Moreover, jobs in schools, parks, recreation centres, and residential buildings are not located on employment lands as defined in this study. Across the 16 cases, jobs in the NAICS education category account for between 3% and 16% of total employment, with an average of 9%. These jobs are most likely located in schools.

It is, however, possible to analyze with available data whether constraints on the supply of employment land may limit future employment. Fig. 39 shows the proportion of developable land consumed by employment parcels for each study area. It appears that for the post-1960 study areas, those that contain or are adjacent to highway or rail corridors have more employment land than those that do not. In the post-1980 study areas Vaughan, Richmond Hill, and Glen Abbey contain business and industrial parks associated with highway and rail corridors that account for 14.0%, 15.7%, and 11.1%, respectively, of developable. In Cachet and Markham Northeast, by contrast, single-use employment lands account for only 2.2% and 1.7%.

Leaving aside the Peanut and Meadowvale cases, the same pattern is true of the 1960-70s cases. Bronte and Milton both contain or are adjacent to highway or rail corridors and have industrial or business parks. Malvern contains employment areas associated with an adjacent rail marshalling yard. Mississauga Valleys contains some retail uses but no industrial or business parks and therefore employment land accounts for only a small amount of the developable land base. There is therefore little potential to "retrofit" employment into monofunctional residential areas because there is simply little or no land on which to do so.

Employment density

All things being equal, areas with few jobs will have a low overall employment density. Similar to Fig. 38, Fig. 40 shows that, on a developable area basis, study areas tend to have fewer jobs per developable hectare the more recently they were developed.

Fig. 39: Employment land as % of developable land area

Hatched columns indicate that the study area contains business or industrial parks associated with highway or rail corridors. Employment land quantities in Riverdale, Leaside, Old Oshawa, the Peanut, and Meadowvale are likely understated because the OGTA study included only industrial lands in its employment category.
Fig. 40: Developable area employment density (jobs per hectare)

Fig. 41: The contribution of jobs density to combined population and employment density

Employment makes only a minimal contribution to combined population and employment density in more recently developed areas (see Fig. 41). While employment density accounts for 27% to 41% of combined population-plus-jobs density numbers in the pre-1960 study areas, it accounts for less than 24% in 10 of the 11 post-1960 study areas. In the post-1980 group, it accounts for an average of 13%.

Jobs-housing balance and the potential for local-area self-containment

Another way of thinking about mix of use is jobs-housing balance. If there is a job for each member of the resident employed labour force within a district, however defined, the potential exists for the resident population to be locally employed. Fig. 42A shows the ratio of jobs to the resident employed labour force over age 15 for each study area. Fig. 42B shows the same for the municipalities in which the study areas are located. Only Old Oshawa, Oshawa West, and Bronte have more jobs than resident members of the employed labour force. In most postwar study areas, the ratio is very low, ranging from 0.15 to 0.54 in ten of the eleven districts built out after 1960. With so few jobs relative to resident workers, there is little potential for live-work self-containment at the district scale.

Fig. 42: Jobs-housing balance
A. Ratio of jobs to resident employed labour force over age 15 in each study area

B. Municipal labour force participation rate and ratio of jobs to resident employed labour force over age 15

Municipality (Study Area)



Resident employed

labour force over

age 15 (B)



Labour force

participation rate


labour force

ratio (B:C)

Toronto (Riverdale, Leaside, Malvern, Peanut)






Oshawa (Old Oshawa, Oshawa West)






Whitby (Whitby)






Markham (Markham Northeast, Cachet)






Oakville (Bronte, Glen Abbey)






Richmond Hill (Richmond Hill)






Vaughan (Vaughan)






Mississauga (Mississauga Valleys, Meadowvale)






Milton (Milton)






Source: A, B: Statistics Canada, Community Profiles 2001. C: Statistics Canada Place of Work data, 2001

Summary of findings

1. Do more recently developed areas have less land use mix than earlier ones?

Yes. In contrast to the pre-1960 cases, which feature small-format retail and services on pedestrian-oriented streets, employment in recently developed areas is consolidated into fewer, large-scale parcels such as malls and segregated, single-use employment lands. More recently developed study areas tend to contain fewer jobs, because most jobs are located in large-scale, specialized employment districts such as business and industrial parks, which are distributed at a larger scale than the 400-hectare scale can capture.

2. Does a lack of employment land at the neighbourhood scale represent a constraint on employment growth and therefore increasing mixing of uses?

Potentially yes. Many of the post-1960 cases contain only small amounts of employment land, especially those that do not contain or are not adjacent to a highway or rail corridor. This suggests that past policies seeking to create local-area job-resident balance have been ineffective and that there is little potential to "retrofit" employment into existing neighbourhoods.

3. What prospects are there for improving jobs-housing balance and, therefore, the potential for self-containment, at the neighbourhood scale?

The prospects are limited. A low ratio of jobs to resident employed labour force in most study areas indicates that the potential for neighbourhood self-containment is low, partly because of the lack of employment land within neighbourhoods.

Implications for policy

The analysis shows that jobs make only a limited contribution to combined population plus employment density, especially in the post-1960 study areas. This suggests that unless more employment land (and therefore employment) is interwoven into residential areas, most of the potential to increase combined density will come from the residential neighbourhood component.

The prevailing pattern of land use segregation also has implications for the Growth Plan's "complete communities" policy. A "complete community" must to some degree achieve live-work self-containment. With little employment land and few jobs, the recently developed study areas lack the potential to be self-contained, and fall short of achieving the level of containment expressed in the Metro Toronto and York Region policies. For the potential for self-containment to exist, the balance of residential and employment land would have to shift significantly in favour of the latter; for it actually to occur, the jobs themselves would have to be matched to the resident population. Both of these outcomes would require a major change from prevailing patterns of land and economic development.

Cervero's (1996) finding that in San Francisco, workers could not afford to live in the areas in which they were employed raises the question of what types of jobs are most likely to support some level of self-containment. The businesses commonly associated with mixed-use development -- cafes, dry cleaners, florists, and other soft services located on the ground floor of multi-unit residential buildings -- do not square with demographics of the Toronto region's relatively affluent new suburbs. (The median annual household income in 2001 of the post-1980 study areas ranges from $73,000 in Richmond Hill to $107,000 in Glen Abbey.) The data indicate that many residents of these areas are employed in the skilled, high-value-added jobs that tend to be located in business parks, central business districts, or office nodes (see Appendix A). Unless these sorts of activities can be relocated within the residential fabric, residents are more likely to be consumers of local businesses than employees of them. Moreover, maintaining a local-area correspondence between jobs and residents would be difficult over time as people's household structures and employment locations change.

While the Growth Plan's "complete communities" policy seeks to increase the degree of containment, powerful and perhaps irresistible social and economic forces are at work. Households with more than one member in the labour force now outnumber single-worker households (Miller & Shalaby 2000:58). Even if one household member could work locally, others probably could not. Travel behaviour surveys also reveal low self-containment at the level of upper-tier municipalities of the GTA. If jobs-housing self-containment cannot be achieved at the municipal scale, high levels are unlikely at smaller scales. However, even if the journey-to-work automobile mode share is relatively inflexible, greater intermixture of uses may change travel behaviour for other purposes, including shopping. The next section will take up the question of what motivates travel mode choice and the ways in which trip distance might be reduced.

16. The City of Toronto's high value should come as no surprise, as it comprises about half of the GTA's population. When divided into smaller submunicipal districts, the area corresponding to the inner core of prewar neighbourhoods is a little over 60% self-contained in 2001. The surrounding districts that make up the remainder of the City are about 40% self-contained (Mitra 2007:80).