CUTA Calls for Addressing the Housing and Public Transit Mismatch in This Country

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Canada, a country known for its breathtaking landscapes and diverse cities, is currently grappling with a housing and transportation dilemma that’s impacting the lives of its citizens. Housing and transportation, two pivotal facets of daily life, are proving to be major financial burdens for Canadians. The issue of affordability and accessibility is hitting hardest for those with lower incomes who rely heavily on public transit.

In a recent study conducted by the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA), it was revealed that a glaring mismatch exists between planning for housing and planning for public transit. This misalignment stems from the fact that these two vital components are typically approached separately, creating a significant challenge.

The Problem Unveiled

CUTA’s study highlights the urgent need for improved integration when it comes to planning for Canadian housing and public transit infrastructure. One pressing concern is the missed opportunities for transit-oriented development, where communities are designed around public transit hubs. The report emphasizes that the main issue with this approach is that it often results in new housing developments with limited or no access to transit services or new transit projects that fail to attract the residential density needed to optimize ridership and maximize transit investments.

Recommendations for a Way Forward

In response to these challenges, CUTA has devised 17 policy recommendations under five key themes:

  1. Activating Land for Transit-Oriented Development: This involves creating designated zones for transit-oriented development.
  2. Developing More Housing Near Existing Transit: Building housing closer to existing transit hubs promotes accessibility and reduces the need for personal vehicles.
  3. Ensuring Inclusivity with Affordable Housing and Rentals: Making sure that housing is affordable and accessible to a wide range of individuals.
  4. Streamlining Approval Processes: Simplifying and accelerating the approval of development projects.
  5. Prioritizing Investment in Housing and Ridership Growth: Focusing on initiatives that boost both housing availability and public transit ridership.

One significant development is the proposed federal Permanent Public Transit Fund for 2026. This fund aims to enhance the integration of Canadian housing and public transit. It is set to address housing supply issues by incentivizing municipalities and provinces to increase the availability of housing.

Case in Point: Ottawa’s Bold Move

Ottawa, one of Canada’s growing cities, is taking strides to address this issue. With a surge in population growth expected, the city is actively zoning properties adjacent to its new Light Rail Transit (LRT) stations. Avison Young’s vice president, Gillian Burnside, describes this move as “transformative for Ottawa.” The city’s new Official Plan prioritizes creating “15-minute communities” that seamlessly blend housing and transit access. An example of this vision is the proposed Falcon Ridge Village, the city’s only development-ready residential area near rapid transit.

A Call to Action

CUTA’s study sends out a strong message to municipalities across Canada. It urges them to allow higher density and expedite the review and approval of transit-oriented development applications. The association points out that sometimes municipalities intentionally delay rezoning to negotiate fees or amenities from developers. This delay, however, hampers the availability of transit-adjacent housing for several years.

Moreover, many local governments maintain a lower housing supply to keep land values high, ensuring a steady flow of revenue from development. CUTA’s president, Marco D’Angelo, emphasizes that their report is not merely a checklist but a call to action. With a growing population and persistent housing supply and affordability concerns, inaction is not an option.

In summary, the issues surrounding housing and public transit planning in Canada are critical and need immediate attention. The recommendations put forth by CUTA, alongside the proposed federal fund, offer hope for a more integrated and accessible future for Canadians.

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