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- Throughout our past, Londoners have responded to challenges with key decisions that have shaped our community into what it is today. How should we grow? Where will new investment come from? How can we protect what is most important to us? How should we expend our resources? How can we all prosper?
- London is on the cusp of a new chapter in its history where these and many more questions are again being confronted by its citizens. For two years, thousands of Londoners participated in the ReThink London process – a widespread community discussion which, at its core, focused on the fundamental question “what kind of city do we want to live in 20 years from now?
- With dozens of alternative ways to participate in this process, Londoners of all ages and lifestyles attended over 80 ReThink London events, responded to surveys, chatted on social media, provided their opinions and engaged their families, friends, work colleagues, and fellow citizens in this city building discussion. In doing so, Londoners collectively developed a vision for their future – one that they aspire to achieve by the year 2035.
- This Official Plan – The London Plan– emerged from this community conversation to set new goals and priorities and to shape the growth, preservation and evolution of our City over the next 20 years.
Planning for Change and Our Challenges Ahead
- Londoners made it clear that the way we plan our city for the future must change. The last plan set by Municipal Council in 1989 has served us well, but it is now time to create a Plan that responds to London’s new and changing context. The London Plan is designed to address and plan for the new challenges we face.
77,000 Net New People
- London’s population will increase substantially over the next 20 years. We forecast that our city’s population will grow by over 77,000 people and our employment will grow by 43,000 net new jobs between 2015 and 2035. It is possible that growth could be higher if London is able to exceed our forecasts of net migration. Where will these people come from and what opportunities will they generate? How will these new jobs be created? With this growth, what kind of housing will we need to accommodate all Londoners?
Managing the Costs of Growth
- Through the ReThink London process we learned that there’s a lot at stake in the way we plan to grow. It was illustrated that the costs of growth associated with a compact form of development over the next 50 years could cost us $2.7 billion less than accommodating the same population growth in a spread configuration. And, by the 50th year, the operating costs incurred for this growth in a compact form could be $70 million less per year than the operating costs for the same growth built in a spread pattern. Meanwhile, the compact city would reduce energy consumption, decrease air emissions, allow for quality transportation choices and significantly reduce our consumption of prime agricultural lands.
A Growing Seniors Population
- As the ‘Baby Boom’ generation enters into retirement, their collective impact will be pronounced. In 1996, 20% of the population, or 1-in-5 Londoners, were aged 55+. This number rose to 1-in-4 by 2011 and we forecast that 1-in-3 Londoners will be 55 years old or more by 2035. How can we build an age-friendly city that allows people of all ages and abilities to experience health, wellness and an exceptional quality of life?
Preferences of the Millennials
- A new age cohort is also having a major impact on cities across North America – the “Millennials” who were generally born between 1980 and 2000. Within North America, this age group is similar in size or larger than the “Baby Boomers”. The demographic is known for being less automobile focused, environmentally conscious, more likely to seek out highly urban environments and for placing a high premium on “staying connected” through their social behaviours and the use of technology. Their interests and demands will likely be much different than those that we have become accustomed to in association with the “Baby Boom” cohort. Recognizing the emergence of this segment, how will we build a city that provides this large population with the amenities they are looking for, allowing us to attract and retain them in London?
- About one-in-five Londoners are “new Canadians” and London’s population speaks about 100 different languages combined. The composition of those immigrating to London is changing, with more new Canadians coming from Columbia, China, South Korea, Iraq and India. This make-up will undoubtedly continue to evolve over the next 20 years as London becomes more diverse and provides a more attractive landing place for new Canadians. In turn, this will add a new energy to our city, new cultural opportunities and a new sense of international connectivity. What are the needs of our new Canadians and how can we accommodate those needs in the way we build and create our city of 2035?
The Critical Importance of Transportation
- Through the ReThink London process, Londoners told us repeatedly that transportation is a critical issue that must be addressed in our future. Our most recent Transportation Master Plan (2013) showed us that we can’t afford to resolve our growing transportation needs by focusing primarily on widening streets. Rather, we need to evaluate how to best build our city so that it can move large numbers of Londoners with real and attractive options to the car, such as walking, cycling, and transit. These options are cost-effective and also provide health benefits as active forms of mobility. Transit ridership in London has grown by 85% from 12.4 million in 1996 to 22.8 million in 2011. The London Transit Commission anticipates a further growth of almost 50% to 33 million riders by 2024. How can we best plan for a city that will truly support rapid transit, making it viable, cost-efficient and an attractive choice for mobility?
New Demands for Urban Living
- We know that public attitudes and expectations are evolving in favour of cities that offer quality urban neighbourhoods and business areas. A study by the Urban Land Institute and PricewaterhouseCoopers entitled, Canadian Edition: Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2014 stated that “…the population has clearly shown a desire to move back to the urban core”. How can we best continue to regenerate our urban areas and build residential environments within our downtown and its surrounding urban neighbourhoods?
- London’s economy has experienced a series of challenges over the past 20 years. Low-cost offshore manufacturing, fluctuations in the value of the Canadian dollar, changing labour policies in the United States, fundamental changes in the international business models of long-standing London employers, rising energy costs in Ontario and restructuring in the North American auto industry have all had major impacts on London’s manufacturing sector. Meanwhile, London faced further challenges as the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate industry has consolidated, and public funding to health care, education and government services has moderated. ReThink London discussions often focused on finding creative ways to revitalize these traditional economic sectors for London, while also exploring new economic opportunities where London has, or may develop, a competitive advantage.
- In 2013 a report entitled, State of Infrastructure Report, evaluated the London’s $10.9 billion worth of core infrastructure under direct City ownership and control. The report estimated that the City has a current infrastructure funding gap of $52.1 million. By 2022, if the City continues with current investment plans, the gap could grow to $466.1 million. How can we afford to maintain our existing infrastructure? Is it possible to utilize these services more effectively through infill and intensification?
- London is one of Canada’s most affordable mid-sized cities. However, housing prices have risen sharply over the past decade and there remains a pressing need to develop affordable housing for those Londoners who need it the most. Average market rent is out of reach for people earning minimum wage or receiving social assistance. Forty-five percent of tenant households spend 30% or more of their gross monthly income on rent. In 2013, the average rent for a bachelor apartment in London was $582, which is equal to 96% of the Ontario Works cheque for a single adult. Low income and poverty, often affecting children, is a problem that London must face as we build our City of 2035. How will we ensure that housing is affordable for all Londoners and how will we build a city that provides everyone the opportunity to experience prosperity and wellness on their own terms?
Protecting our Farmland
- London has some of Canada’s best farmland within its municipal boundary. Only 5% of the Canadian land mass is classified as prime agricultural land. And, only 0.5% is classified as Class 1 Agricultural Land. However, in London, this rare Class 1 Agricultural Land is prevalent, with the majority of our agricultural land considered to be Class 1. It is a precious commodity that may become even more critical in the future if energy prices rise dramatically and the cost of importing food goes up. How can we protect our agricultural resources for the long term, and build on our strength as an agricultural hub and agri-food industrial hub?