This research is intended to be useful to municipalities everywhere, but especially to municipalities in Ontario's Greater Golden Horseshoe, which must comply with the provisions of the Growth Plan. For the first time ever, we have been able to calculate historical rates of intensification in a consistent way over the entire Greater Golden Horseshoe to provide context for the current intensification target of 40%. Despite the differences in the data used to derive the rates, the results from Neptis and the Province's procedure for deriving urban boundary are closely comparable for the purposes of measuring intensification.
We have found that in slow-growing municipalities, high rates of intensification do not necessarily translate into a large number of units, whereas in rapidly growing municipalities, even low rates of intensification may represent large numbers of intensification units.
We have also found that the location and patterns of intensification may affect the extent to which other goals of the Growth Plan are achieved by municipalities that are nonetheless achieving the intensification target. Moreover, unless intensification is strategically planned and located, the target may be easily to achieve at first, but over time, it may become more difficult for municipalities to comply, as the easy edge opportunities diminish. Finally, we discovered that expanding the urban boundary would make it easier for municipalities to achieve the 40% intensification rate, but would not serve the broader goals of growth management policies.
The intensification rate target is just one of a package of policies intended to achieve the goals of the Growth Plan. On its own it provides a necessary but not sufficient condition for creating a compact region that functions effectively, protects the natural environment, and ensures a high quality of life for the residents of the region. Monitoring other important indicators--from air quality to transit use--will help determine whether, in fact, the municipalities of the Greater Golden Horseshoe are actually making progress towards the goals that the policies of the Growth Plan are intended to achieve.