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Waterloo Region continues to adjust plans for its future

The Region of Waterloo's administration building in Kitchener. Nick Westoll / File / Global News

Staff presented an updated version of the Region’s Official Plan for the area to Waterloo Regional Council on Thursday afternoon.

The region is making changes to the ROP for the first time since 2015 as the area’s population is expected to balloon by around 50 per cent to 923,000 people by 2051.

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Rod Regier, commissioner of planning, development and legislative services, told council that the plan was based upon the idea of “15-minute neighbourhoods.”

“We can accommodate a majority of our new residents through intensification while strengthening our neighbourhoods for everyone,” he explained.

“This plan envisions a new approach to community building where the priority is on the development of 15-minute neighbourhoods where the needs of all residents of all ages and abilities can be within a 15-minute walk cycle or roll, such as a mobility device and all other needs can be met by frequent access to transit.”

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He noted that the plans for the future will feature more high-density housing that also includes plans for transit.

“We simply must do a better job of building complete communities that are transit supportive from the outset,” Regier explained.

“It’s very difficult and expensive to provide transit services to low-density communities that are not designed for it.

The proposed amendment to the plan will see the addition of 121,000 new homes being built across the region which are intended for a wide range and mix of housing options. There are currently around 223,000 across the area.

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“It’s important to understand that we have already started to build the inventory of housing that we will need for the future,” Regier told council.

“Research from staff indicates that the region will need 150 hectares of land for community area growth and 456 hectares for employment area growth to meet its needs.”

A large majority of the development for community space will come from Kitchener which has 1,150 hectares designated to meet that need while Cambridge has another 664. Waterloo and the four townships would provide a further 942 hectares.

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The allotted land would not just account for the new homes, but also schools, grocery stores and personal services.

According to the plan, the region is also estimated to be home to 470,000 jobs by that time as well.

The region has added to its space designated as employment land as it currently has 1,072 hectares, which could house almost 40,000 jobs but Regier says more is needed.

He says that the region is planning to add 456 hectares which would accommodate another 13,000 new jobs.

A vast majority of the employment land, which would be for things like warehouses, factories and distribution centres, would be located in Cambridge as 552 hectares are in that city.

The other two cities and four townships would make up the remaining 520 hectares.

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