How do parks and public spaces benefit from new housing and developments?
Over the last decade, almost all new parks and public spaces in the GTA are a result of new developments.
Under Ontario’s Planning Act, and as part of any new development, home builders and developers either contribute a piece of land for parks and public spaces in the community. If land is not available (e.g. because the project is a high-rise development or the community is too small) or not required (e.g. because the development is in an area of existing parks and there are other, more suitable, locations for a park), contribute funds to the city/municipality instead to support the construction and/or improvement of parks and public spaces.
Creation of parks through development is known as “parkland dedication.” Residential developments must contribute one hectare of parkland per 300 units or provide payment in lieu if providing land is not feasible. While there are two municipalities in the GTA that have caps on payment in lieu and specific instances where this rate may be adjusted lower. For example, at the end of 2017, the City of Toronto had $674 million in its parkland reserve fund (that’s parkland cash-in-lieu payments from residential and industrial development that has not yet been spent), while municipalities across the GTA had a combined $1.13 billion in reserve.
Creation of new parks does have a cost. The park fee can add almost $20,000 to the cost of a new high-rise condominium apartment unit in Toronto. And park fees are even higher in other municipalities in the GTA.
(If you want to read more about how the parkland fee works, it’s outlined in the Citizen’s Guide to Land Use Planning andOntario Planning Act.)