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Committee focus Turns to 15-Minute Neighbourhoods

The City’s Planning Committee received a report on the state of 15-minute neighbourhoods in Ottawa, establishing baseline scoring for properties across the city.

The new Official Plan introduced the concept of 15-minute neighbourhoods, where people can live viably without a car because daily needs are located within a 15-minute walk of home. The report is based on a list of nine amenities that should be within a 15-minute walk of any residential property inside the urban boundary, as well as within rural villages. The list includes grocery stores, parks, retail stores, bus stops, LRT stations, health services, recreational facilities, schools, and childcare facilities.

The report includes a simplified map that distils scoring to three categories. High-access areas are those with between seven and nine items from that list. Moderate-access areas have four to six items and low-access areas have one to three.

By establishing baseline scores, the City will be better able to evaluate how these neighbourhoods evolve in the future and how the City might encourage that evolution. Mapping will also help identify where new housing might be served by existing amenities and where there is opportunity for additional services to grow and thrive.

The Committee also approved a zoning amendment concerning the establishment and placement of outdoor commercial patios and retail pop-up spaces on private property. While screening would be required, the amendment would eliminate the minimum separation required between a patio and a residential zone, offering more flexibility for potential patio operators.

The City introduced these measures on a temporary basis in 2020, to make it easier for businesses to earn extra revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic. The amendment approved today would make the changes permanent, in part to further encourage more of the types of businesses that will foster 15-minute neighbourhoods across Ottawa.

The Committee received the annual development report for 2020, which tracks a variety of demographic information. Ottawa’s employment record did show signs of weakening, although COVID-19 likely played a significant role. Despite the pandemic, there were positive indicators as well with Ottawa seeing a 1.6%t increase in number of households. To accommodate a growing population, Ottawa also had 9,239 new housing starts in 2020, which is a 30.7% increase over the previous year.

Ottawa has continued to achieve intensification targets as well. While the Official Plan target is 40%, more than 57% of housing growth was achieved through intensification in 2020, making the four-year average 52%.

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