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Any country that is experiencing population growth has to plan for building new cities but Canada has no plans nor capital investments to build new cities.

Egypt employed its military to build a new capital city 45km east of Cairo in addition to 36 new smart cities.

Pakistan embarked on the River Ravi Urban Development Project.

The Canadian government does not plan for building new cities. Yet Canada’s immigration policy is set to welcome 350,000 per year.

What government tools are available by legislation (or design) in Canada to deal with this planned population growth due to immigration? Can the government plan to build new cities or is the government not allowed to interfere in this activity of the private sector?

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    Why would you assume that building new cities is a governmental responsibility as opposed to something that can be handled by the private sector?
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 13, 2022 at 21:20
  • Rather than building new cities, in many countries they just grow existing cities.
    – gerrit
    Jul 21, 2022 at 9:09

2 Answers 2

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Planned new cities have a fairly long history of failures, though there have been some successes, like Almere near Amsterdam.

Townsend, Ontario

Born in the 1970s, the community just under an hour's drive southwest from Hamilton was pitched as an Ontario government-sponsored development that would transform a rural section of Haldimand and Norfolk counties into a "megalopolis" to house hundreds of thousands of people drawn to the area by industrial employers.

Now it's home to fewer than 1,000, said Ramsey, citing data from the 2016 census.

It boasts plenty of parkland and amenities, but not a single store.

UK. Milton Keynes

Not all new towns are the same, but the criticisms levelled at them generally are. They are still looked down upon, derided for their lack of place, their soullessness. Traditional British towns and cities grew organically around certain functions: a church or cathedral, a port, a university, a market, an industry. Their identities and culture accumulated over centuries. Building Rome in a day meant losing all that. You could drive anywhere in Milton Keynes within 15 minutes, planners claimed, but there was nowhere to go. And if you didn’t fancy driving, the car-centric grid plan condemned pedestrians to roaming miles of underpasses in search of civilisation.

Not to pick on Milton Keyes: (UK) Garden villages locking-in car dependency, says report - BBC News

The garden village concept was devised to overcome problems of local resistance to housing estates bolted on to small towns.

The government's prospectus said these should be largely self-sustaining and genuinely mixed-use, with public transport, walking and cycling enabling access to jobs, education and services.

But the report found that:

All settlements but one failed to provide access to amenities with safe walking and cycling routes and a railway station within a mile of all new homes Residents in one garden village may have to walk up to seven miles to buy a pint of milk None of the 20 settlements would provide all-week bus services to all households through the day Cycle routes from the garden villages into nearby towns would often be long and dangerous.

New towns created 50 years ago struggle to remain attractive (French language)

In use, the housing estates duplicated to infinity, these buildings on slabs, these shopping centers that emerged from the ground before the slightest inhabitant can turn out to be disembodied, difficult to renovate, to connect. “The initial error is not starting from a core, from a pre-existing city. Some have no center, are too spread out, poorly connected. They will never be cities! says Pierre-Marie Tricaud, project manager at IAU-IDF.

Another puzzle, the quality of the buildings and their simultaneous construction. “Twenty of my 59 schools must be rehabilitated at the same time,” says Stéphane Beaudet. “The question that will arise in the future is how to live there on foot? also points out Pierre-Marie Tricaud. The improvement of public transport focuses expectations.

Egypt's new capital: who gains?

And the military is not only “paying” for the project. It will also reap enormous financial benefits from this ambitious endeavour. The ACUD, in which the military has the majority stake, is in charge of selling housing units in the new capital. Moreover, the company is also responsible for selling or operating the buildings in Cairo that will be vacated after agencies, ministries and embassies move to their new locations. Some of these buildings are in the very heart of Cairo, overlooking Tahrir Square, and have significant value.

Besides, to a large extent, de-facto suburbanization of the countryside next to big cities is a form of new cities.

Why should Canada, which has pretty unique constraints in its land use (most cities are as South-positioned as possible) follow this? It would be a major policy change, but would it be good one?

There is one extra bit of British Columbia specificity to point out here, which is the Agricultural Land Reserve:

Basically, you can't convert from farmland without special permission, which is, supposedly, only granted when you convert an equivalent surface to farmland elsewhere.

Some other province have similar? regulations.

What is actually being done?

Vancouver, maybe, seems set to follow California's example and de-zone single-family only housing. (Personal opinion: about time!)

They cite Journal of the American Planning Association

Local planning in the United States is unique in the amount of land it reserves for detached single-family homes. This privileging of single-family homes, normally called R1 zoning, exacerbates inequality and undermines efficiency. R1’s origins are unpleasant: Stained by explicitly classist and implicitly racist motivations, R1 today continues to promote exclusion. It makes it harder for people to access high-opportunity places, and in expensive regions it contributes to shortages of housing, thereby benefiting homeowners at the expense of renters and forcing many housing consumers to spend more on housing.

(yes, this is wrt USA, but Canadian urban land use is quite similar)

Also, from SDH ZONING AND LAND USE

35% of all households live on single family and duplex properties making up 81% of Vancouver’s residential land, while the remaining 65% of households live on 19% of the residential land.

p.s. I used to live near Paris before moving to Canada and the "villes nouvelles" there generally weren't considered as that brilliant a government endeavor.

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  • I'm not sure if I'd count Columbia MD US as a success or a failure. Has aspects of both. One issue with planned cities is that the features of the city are determined in advance by the planners. In the case of Columbia, for instance, the planner decided that organized churches were a waste of space. This took the decision of where to worship out of the hands of the eventual residents. Other, less obvious, decisions, impact the community for years after the community is built.
    – doneal24
    Jul 13, 2022 at 19:35
  • One would expect that building cities on earth would have more success rate than building colonies in outer space. If not, then why do we spend huge budgets on space explorations? Should not we succeed first in the science of building housing on earth before we venture to build colonies on Mars or the moon? Jul 13, 2022 at 19:39
  • @doneal24 the success link, to Almere, a city near Amsterdam, seems to have been based on extreme decentralization of decisions in favor of letting the inhabitants themselves decide. Jul 13, 2022 at 19:40
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    @IbrahimKhalil Well, having humans live on the Moon or Mars is the daydream of a few billionaires like Elon Musk. Government space exploration programs are almost entirely uncrewed and do not have human habitation on other planets as a goal, instead focusing on performing basic science and taking pictures outside of Earth's atmosphere. They also may have some practical applications in terms of asteroid detection and so forth.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jul 13, 2022 at 20:29
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    It's a comprehensive answer but you're definitely unfair on some of the cities you brand failures. Milton Keynes is no uglier than most US cities, in my opinion, and while it lacks the picturesque aspects of ancient British cities, it is no different to many suburbs. You could equally argue that many old cities are a failure, e.g. due to deindustrialisation or climate change.
    – Stuart F
    Jul 14, 2022 at 9:57
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I just got a response from my Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) which has some answer to my own question in a 4 letter word named CMHC.

CMHC exists for a single reason: to make housing affordable for everyone in Canada.

The Canadian government primary tool for dealing with housing the growing population is CMHC - CANADA MORTGAGE AND HOUSING CORPORATION, a Crown corporation governed by a Board and responsible to Parliament through a Minister.

I will share only the relevant information highlighting the answers without quoting the entire email; so that it might help other people who have a question similar to mine.

Ensuring there’s enough affordable housing is a joint responsibility across all levels of government: federal, provincial and municipal. In 2017 the Federal government announced their National Housing Strategy National Housing Strategy | A Place to Call Home

Federally, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is responsible for research into the housing market and related topics Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation | CMHC (cmhc-schl.gc.ca)

Provincially, legislative requirements took effect April 16, 2019 that require local governments to collect data, analyze trends and present reports that describe current and anticipated housing needs in B.C. communities. Municipalities and regional districts in B.C. were required to complete housing needs reports by April 2022 and must file a report every five years thereafter. These reports will help local governments and the B.C. government better understand and respond to housing needs while helping to identify existing and projected gaps in housing supply by collecting and analyzing quantitative and qualitative information about local demographics, economics, housing stock, and other factors. A housing needs report is critical to developing a housing strategy or action plan.

The Housing Needs Report Guidelines are here: housing_needs_report_guidelines.pdf (gov.bc.ca) and here: summaryhnrrequirements_apr17_2019.pdf (gov.bc.ca)

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