Over the past year, our team at Ryerson CBI has been working on a report called Density Done Right, which explores how communities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe can sustainably accommodate projected population growth while disrupting the prevailing “tall and sprawl” development pattern that has led to a lack of choice in the housing market, ever-lengthening commutes and rising carbon emissions, and a loss of farmland and natural areas, among other challenges.
In researching and writing Density Done Right, we sought to highlight opportunities for municipalities to add housing via distributed gentle- and medium-density development throughout the region’s already urbanized footprint, so that new growth isn’t pushed outwards or hyper concentrated.
But just as we were putting the finishing touches on the report design and preparing for a mid-March release, COVID-19 struck in Ontario. We put the launch on hold as it seemed inappropriate to release a report promoting density amidst necessary physical distancing measures and growing impacts of the virus.
However, in recent weeks, a lively discussion among urbanists, planners, policy watchers and city builders on the topic of density in light of COVID-19 has emerged. Experts across North America—the world, even—have been sharing predictions for how the development pendulum could swing back to sprawl, with others refuting density-reversal and putting forth ideas on how good density and urban design can ease crowding and create more room for people (rather than dedicating most public space to cars), among other benefits.
Given all the timely discussion and debate on this topic, we have decided to release our Density Done Right report—while working from home like so many others. Our goal is to add to the discussion of what “good density” could look like, and how it could support the environmental efforts and recent gains to curb sprawl, improve walkability, boost business and access to local services (including health services), support neighbourhood vitality, and reduce cost burdens on municipalities and residents.
We hope you find it a constructive contribution to this important issue as we move forward in a new era of city building.