Markham has seen the future, and the future is dense. Last week, Markham council took a very bold step in adopting the most aggressive intensification target on the books in the GTA. Going forward, sixty per cent of new homes built in Markham will be within the existing built boundary. High-rise is coming to 905!
I attended that historic council meeting and spoke in favour of balanced growth, noting that Markham is not an island, and that if it is truly concerned about curbing urban sprawl, it has to accept its fair share of growth instead of trying to slough it off to the next municipality further afield.
I informed Markham council of the best-kept secret around, which is that if you add up all the available lots in all the low-rise housing projects currently on the housing market in the GTA, there’s less than six months supply at current sales rates, which is an all-time low.
I also encouraged Markham council to see the 60 per cent threshold for what it is – a gutsy and bold departure from past development patterns.
I have to admire the frankness of Coun. Jack Webster, who noted that it was past Councils, not developers, who determined what Markham looks like today. That said, neither Webster nor the majority of Council was prepared to do a complete 180 degree turn towards 100 per cent intensification, as proposed by some.
It’s a shame that the 100 per cent intensification option ever hit the table because it consumed vast amounts of time and energy while leaving Markham council unnecessarily divided 7-6 in favour of the 60 per cent option, still leading the rest of the GTA regions by far along the path towards sustainable development.
The debate itself revealed that even the proponents of intensification get fussy when they see what it looks like – somehow it’s always the right concept but never the right location.
I take my hat off to Mayor Frank Scarpitti and the seven councillors who voted in support of balanced growth in Markham. Their vote was implicitly in favour of housing affordability and choice. Coun. Carolina Moretti deserves a special shout-out as the only councillor to specifically highlight housing affordability as the reason for her vote in favour of balanced growth in Markham.
– Stephen Dupuis is president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD). He can be reached at email@example.com.