Affordability, equity, quality of life, and climate resilience are emerging as key objectives in sustainable land use practices being developed by municipalities across Canada—and those objectives are actually being achieved thanks to a strong evidence base, robust community engagement, and close working relationships within and between public and private sector partners.
A recent report produced for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Green Municipal Fund finds that jurisdictions across the country are working on land use practices that cut greenhouse gas emissions while prioritizing the social and economic well-being of the many, as opposed to the few. Cities are also taking steps to protect local ecosystems and prepare for inevitable climate impacts.
Examining the best of these strategies, the FCM identifies nine specific directions being pursued by municipalities, including the use of data to improve land use decisions, creating “market-based tools to encourage sustainable use,” and enhancing public engagement at all levels of planning and decision-making. Also high on the list: stemming sprawl; making housing “more affordable and communities more equitable”; creating, restoring, and protecting green space within city limits; and adapting to climate change.
The FCM report singles out 27 sustainable and high-impact land use practices. The 10 most promising include the deliberate coordination of land use and transit development, neighbourhood retrofit programs (for which local champions are “critical for successful implementation”), minimum intensification targets and infill guidelines, and “nodal development”, particularly in “growing communities with high-frequency transit and strong growth management plans”. Medium and large municipalities with “high land values and clear incentives and zoning requirements for developers” are also actively pursuing mid-rise developments, which tend to create greater housing affordability and “increased viability of transit services”.
Showing up in municipalities large and small across Canada are “complete streets strategies”, aimed at accommodating all modes of travel while prioritizing the health and safety of pedestrians and cyclists. Finally, the report notes a wealth of “green infrastructure requirements” whose myriad benefits include climate resiliency, energy savings, improved public health, and reduced stress on infrastructure.