Metro Vancouver approves regional plan focused on transit-oriented housing

Feb 25 2023, 5:40 pm

The years-long process for updating the Metro Vancouver region’s master plan, now called Metro 2050, culminated with Friday’s final approval of the strategy by Metro Vancouver Regional District’s board of directors, comprised of the region’s elected municipal officials.

“The adoption of this plan is a significant achievement. It represents a commitment by every member in the regional federation, TransLink, and neighbouring regional districts to work together in the spirit of collaboration for the sake of future generations. I know we all believe that together we make our region strong,” said George Harvie, chair of the regional district’s board, and the mayor of the City of Delta.

The master plan builds on the previous regional plans to outline how the region as a whole can accommodate the projected population growth of one million more residents over the next three decades through 2050. Such regional plans are updated about once a decade, with the previous plan, Metro Vancouver 2040, approved in 2011.

Extensive consultation was performed with the region’s municipal governments and TransLink to update this regional growth strategy, along with public consultation.

As well, in recent years, the municipalities and the public transit authority have been aligning their long-term planning efforts with the Metro 2050 timeline, such as the City of Vancouver’s Vancouver Plan through 2050, and TransLink’s Transport 2050 plan for outlining how public transit will be expanded.

The regional district will work with municipalities to modify their official community plans and other municipal policies and strategies to meet the goals of Metro 2050.

The newly revised livable region strategic plan differentiates from past plans by focusing on adding much-needed housing supply to the region — a wide range of housing types for different incomes, especially rental housing, and the generation of such new housing supply through transit-oriented development.

metro vancouver 2050 urban centres

Urban Centres in Metro Vancouver, Metro 2050. (Metro Vancouver Regional District)

metro vancouver 2050 frequent transit

Frequent transit areas in Metro Vancouver, Metro 2050. (Metro Vancouver Regional District)

The plan prescribes the number of housing units and jobs will grow by 40% and 50%, respectively, within urban centres, such as downtown Vancouver, Surrey City Centre, and municipal town centres, which are largely well-served by public transit. Areas along frequent transit services — such as SkyTrain and major bus routes — will be the location of 28% of the housing unit growth and 27% of employment growth. Furthermore, the region has set a goal of having at least 15% of all new homes within urban centres and along frequent transit centres be affordable rental housing.

As well, for the first time ever, the regional district is prescribing transit-oriented, mixed-use development for industrial areas surrounding SkyTrain stations, given that many SkyTrain stations are located in traditional industrial zones. The plan prescribes a possible combination of residential uses above industrial and commercial uses for such sites.

The plan identifies a need to protect traditional industrial lands from being converted to other uses, given the projected persistent shortage of industrial space.

metro vancouver 2050 regional land use

Land use in Metro Vancouver, Metro 2050. (Metro Vancouver Regional District)

metro vancouver 2050 industrial lands

Industrial lands of Metro Vancouver, Metro 2050. (Metro Vancouver Regional District)

Overall, the region’s housing and employment growth will occur within 98% of the land area that is designated as within the urban containment boundary — where urban development occur, outside protected farm land, green space, and other natural areas. The plan’s five overarching key goals are to create a compact urban area, support a sustainable economy, protect the environment and respond to climate change and natural hazards, provide diverse and affordable housing, and support sustainable transportation.

Metro Vancouver’s population is expected to grow by an additional one million residents from 2.8 million in 2020 to 3.8 million by 2050, necessitating the creation of about 500,000 additional homes  and 500,000 additional jobs — reaching 1.6 million housing units and 1.88 million jobs by 2050. This represents a growth pace of about 35,000 additional residents per year.

Furthermore, apartments are projected to account for 50% of the housing unit growth, followed by attached homes, such as townhouses, as the next most common type of new housing.

The Burrard Peninsula sub-region — entailing Vancouver, University Endowment Lands, Burnaby, and New Westminster — is forecast to account for about one third of the region’s entire population growth. Its population will increase from 1.07 million to 1.39 million over the next 30 years, while employment will grow from 644,000 to 820,000 over the same period.

Continued strong growth is also expected to occur in the South of Fraser East — consisting of Surrey, Langley City, Langley Township, and White Rock. Over the next 30 years, this sub-region will see its population increase from 783,000 to 1.185 million, and employment from 310,000 to 465,000.

With such growth projections, major investments in water supply and sewage connections/treatment will also need to be made over the coming decades.

metro vancouver 2050 population forecast

Population, housing, and job growth forecast in Metro Vancouver through 2050. (Metro Vancouver Regional District)

metro vancouver

Metro Vancouver sub-region map: Yellow – North Shore; Red – Burrard Peninsula; Green – South of Fraser West; Blue – South of Fraser East; Purple – Tri-Cities; Orange – North East. (Metro Vancouver Regional District)

This region, as of 2016, has a land base of 2,870 sq km, with only 837 sq km allowed for development, including 701 sq km for urban areas and 136 sq km for industrial and mixed-employment areas.

Metro Vancouver is a major urban area in North America, but it is also amongst its smallest geographically. Metro Vancouver’s total developable area is equivalent to the City of Calgary’s entirety of 825 sq km, and is not much bigger than the City of Toronto’s entirety of 630 sq km or the city state of Singapore’s entirety of 729 sq km.

The vast majority of Metro Vancouver’s tiny geographical land base is deemed undevelopable, including 554 sq km for the protected agricultural land reserve (ALR), 1,347 sq km for conservation and recreation areas (North Shore mountains and reservoir watersheds, regional parks, floodplains, and other ecologically sensitive areas), and 114 sq km for rural areas.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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