The report on the City of Hamilton's population, household and employment projection scenarios was received by Council on November 27, 2002, and directed staff to use the projections prepared by the Centre for Spatial Economics (CSE) as an interim input to GRIDS.
The interim projections prepared by CSE were received by Council prior to the release of 2001 Census data and for that reason could not be adopted as the new "official" growth forecasts for the City. The official population projections for the City of Hamilton are those projections prepared in February 2000 and ratified by the former Region of Hamilton-Wentworth. 2001 Census data now generally confirmed the accuracy of those official forecasts for population and household growth. However the City's employment performance continued to lag significantly behind our planning aspirations.
|Projected Propulation Growth|
Among Hamilton Communities by 2031 (B4a)
In mid-2003 staff began work on comprehensive growth forecasts using updated Census data. This will produce up-to-date forecasts for Hamilton that Council can consider for adoption as ‘new' official targets for planning purposes. That project has been jointly undertaken with all the GTA upper/single tier governments (Toronto, Durham, York, Peel & Halton) and the Ontario Smart Growth Secretariat, supported by Hemson Consulting. The original schedule was to complete the technical work by March 2004. That would have allowed the next phase of GRIDS to start with completely up-to-date information consistent with our neighbours.
However, in December 2003 the Province's Smart Growth and Greenbelt initiatives (Bill 26 & 27) were released. These initiatives were initially thought to have a significant potential impact on the GTA & Hamilton (i.e. Toronto, Durham, York, Peel, Halton and Hamilton) forecasting project. In January, 2004, it was agreed by all parties involved in the growth forecasting project to put the project on ‘hold' until the Province's growth planning intentions became clearer. In recent months a consensus has emerged among Provincial and municipal staff that municipal and Provincial decision-makers will still require accurate estimates on the scale and nature of population, household and employment change before the Smart Growth and Greenbelt policies are resolved. This data will permit the GTA & Hamilton municipalities to proceed and/or finalize their respective official plan reviews. Work on the GTA & Hamilton forecast project resumed on May 27, 2004. It will now produce a final draft for the consideration of all Councils in the GTA & Hamilton by early fall, 2004.
In the meantime, technical studies on the various components of GRIDS must continue to move forward if Council's time schedule for completion of the GRIDS project and component parts are to be met. The CSE report, entitled "City of Hamilton Population, Household and Employment Projections", presents three alternative growth scenarios for Hamilton: "Slow Growth", "Current Growth", and "Aggressive Growth" alternatives, as presented below:
|Slow Growth||Current Growth||Aggressive Growth|
The growth scenarios prepared by CSE are based on the assumption that Hamilton will be under pressure to grow more in the next 25 to 30 years than it has grown in the past, due in part to the City's strategic location in the south end of Ontario's Golden Horseshoe.
For the purpose of the moving forward now on the GRIDS study, the use of the Aggressive Growth scenario is not supported because it presumes stringent growth constraints elsewhere within the GTA producing a rapid spill-over into the City of Hamilton and an unprecedented rate of job creation. Working with staff of the GTA municipalities in recent months it is quite evident that those assumptions are not realistic. The Slow Growth scenario is equally unacceptable as it presumes Hamilton will never resolve its employment challenges and its population and housing supply will thereby fail to grow according to its aspirations.
Based on the City's historical growth rates, the supply of residential land and current provincial infrastructure plans, the Current Growth scenario is considered most likely for the 2001-2031 time period. The Current Growth scenario is based on the assumption that the City of Hamilton will grow by about 4,000 people per year, which is consistent with our growth rates in the 1996-2001 period and its associated housing starts (approximately 2,000 units on average between 1988-2003). Staff has reviewed the technical assumptions behind the CSE forecast with preliminary data from the GTA & Hamilton growth forecast project and concluded that they are very similar. When the final GTA & Hamilton population and household growth estimates are resolved later this year, staff anticipate they are most likely to be ‘within the ballpark' of the CSE's Current Growth estimates. However, it is most important to emphasize that the Current Growth scenario requires the City to increase its rate of local job creation by well in excess of 1000% to achieve fully balanced growth.
This raises a central issue for a final resolution in the GRIDS exercise; the feasibility of achieving fundamental changes to the City's historical pattern of household versus employment growth in coming years. The scale of the performance required to reverse those trends will be a significant challenge, no matter which growth scenario is ultimately selected. Staff suggests that it is not likely to be achieved without an enduring commitment to future social and employment development targets.
It is noted that for the GRIDS process, the merits of accommodating the projected population growth for all the various growth scenarios will be assessed using the Triple Bottom Line methodology.