Ottawa Construction News staff writer
Ottawa’s planning committee chair Jan Harder has provided GOHBA members with a peek into the future, when she discussed how the city is beginning to set the stage for its next Official Plan while looking beyond 2036.
Speaking in December to a Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA) breakfast, she said that, a year earlier, city council directed staff to undertake a planning study with objectives including identifying trends in housing and employment, identifying opportunities to “create complete communities” which are “affordable and sustainable.”
“The approach city staff are taking is to develop a number of possible long-term scenarios for Ottawa beyond the normal 20-year horizon,” Harder said. “These scenarios will be based on existing and emerging trends and disruptors that will change the city in the future.”
“We want Ottawa to be more resilient and adaptable to change – more able to achieve our goals of creating a liveable, prosperous and inclusive city,” she said.
Of course, it is challenging to determine the details when looking far ahead. While there are elements that are “known knowns” — such as demographics – there other changes “we know are coming but we don’t yet know the impact – the known-unknowns,” she said.
These changes include automated vehicles, the increasing importance of online shopping, building materials innovations, and greater automation at work.
And there will be some changes “we don’t even known are coming – the “unknown unknowns.” As an example, “40 years ago, who would have guessed the profound impact of the Internet on our lives or the emergence of the sharing economy?”
Issues that might profoundly impact the city could include mass migration because of climate change, greater global economic insecurity, and “what are the things that Canada, and Ottawa, offer to new residents, and are increasingly hard to find elsewhere in the world? And how do we capitalize on these to grow our city?”
Harder said the report to council “will lay out these scenarios and inform the development of not only the Official Plan but of the city’s long term planning in general, including the Transportation Master Plan and the Green Space Master Plan.”
She said a planning department team is leading the Beyond 2036 process, with support from consultants from the Urban Strategies and Planning Partnership.
“We have also established a sounding board made up of stakeholders representing a broad diversity of experience and perspectives to make sure we are on the right track,” Harder said. “Participants represent community associations, high tech, environmental organizations, cultural organizations as well as the City of Gatineau and the NCC (National Capital Commission).”
She said the GOHBA and the development industry are well represented, including David Renfroe, chair of the association’s Urban Infill Council.
The sounding board met in January to discuss and prioritize trends and disruptors. “City staff will take this input back and develop some draft scenarios for the sounding board’s review – likely in early March,” Harder said.
She said the study will be presented to the city’s planning committee in June.