15-Minute Communities

The 15-minute community (sometimes also called 15-minute ‘city’ or ‘neighbourhood’) is a vision for development that is human and community oriented.

15-minute communities occur where the basic things we need, like groceries, workplaces, doctor’s offices, community services and childcare, are all available within a 15 minute walk or roll from home.

SCGC, along with other organizations, has been advocating for a move towards establishing 15-minute communities in Simcoe County before development occurs outside of the built-up area.

What this would mean, in practice, is that existing communities would continue to be developed until residents are able to access basic amenities within a 15 minute walk. Only after that condition has been met would development to expand the community outward be allowed.

Read on below for reason why this makes sense, financially, for our health and safety, and for the environment.

What are 15-Minute Communities?

The 15-minute community (sometimes also called 15-minute ‘city’ or ‘neighbourhood’) is a vision for development that is human and community oriented. 15-minute communities are communities where the basic things we need, like groceries, workplaces, doctor’s offices, community services and childcare, are all available within a 15 minute walk or roll from home.

Many of us live in suburbs because this has been the norm since urban sprawl was adopted in the 50’s. But more municipalities are realizing that this is a really inefficient way of organizing our communities.

Developers give money to municipalities when they build that is meant to pay for infrastructure, but this up-front cost doesn’t cover repairs and upgrades needed later on.

When infrastructure is built in a way that is spread out, like with sprawl, the tax the municipality is able to collect on a per-person basis is also spread out, resulting in a tax-base that is much smaller, or spread out, in proportion to the larger infrastructure build.

Ontario's Infrastructure Deficit

Ontario’s current infrastructure deficit is estimated by the Financial Accountability Officer at $52 billion.

Roads make up the largest share, at $21.1 billion, with buildings and facilities at $9.5 billion, wastewater at $7.3 billion, potable water at $5.3, bridges and culverts at $4.3, storm water at $3.8, and transit at $1 billion.

Click on the image for a larger version, or click through here for the whole report.

Chart showing the state of Ontario's infrastructure, including the backlog or deficit. Credit Financial Accountability Office of Ontario.
Chart showing the state of Ontario's infrastructure, including the backlog or deficit. Credit Financial Accountability Office of Ontario.

Building more efficiently means we can do more

By building in a way that brings things closer together, mixing different elements that we all need, such as grocery and clothing stores, cafes and other local shops, into the same neighbourhoods, we maximize that use-value of the land.

This means, because it’s more efficient, that we can do more of what we want, such as funding public services like transit, building more playgrounds and parks, or funding community centres and theatres.

Sprawl hurts us all in ways that are often difficult to see, and the squeeze it puts on the public, the difficult choices municipalities are forced to make between maintaining a road into suburbia or building a childcare centre is just one example.

Did you know?

Canadians spend an average of $10,000 per year on owning a car. Multiply that by the number of cars your household has.

What could you put that money towards if you didn’t have to drive everywhere?

Would you retire early? Help with your child’s education? Take time to explore the world?

$ 0
Photo of a woman and child walking on a sidewalk, with a bush on one side and trees in the background on the other. The woman and child are holding hands. Photo by Sue Zeng on Unsplash
Photo of a woman and child walking on a sidewalk, with a bush on one side and trees in the background on the other. The woman and child are holding hands. Photo by Sue Zeng on Unsplash

And, there are more benefits...

These kinds of communities improve quality of life and make the places where people live more, well, livable.

As the places we need to go are brought closer to homes, our commutes and need to drive everywhere shrinks. We spend less time in traffic and more time being out in our community, interacting with neighbours, supporting local businesses, exercising and socializing. 

15-minute communities are also good climate policy. Low-rise density development produces the least emissions, while sprawl produces the most (with high-rise development somewhere in the middle). This is because these communities require less car and land use, and attached buildings are much more efficient for infrastructure and servicing (especially if this denser development is occurring in already-serviced areas, rather than undeveloped land). With about half of domestic carbon emissions being under control of municipal land-use planning, this is a pretty big deal for meeting our climate targets. 

An increasingly popular form of planning

We’ve seen a huge rise in popularity of the idea of the 15-minute community during the pandemic, as many people stopped having to commute for work and were spending more time in their own neighbourhoods. People are realizing what their neighbourhoods were missing and the potential of what they could be. 

15-minute communities have the potential to address so many of our current problems with the same planning approach, largely because of the density they require to make things walkable:

Climate Action

Cost Effective

Transportation

Public Health

Local Economy

Affordable Housing

Aging in Place

    • Mixed housing is required for Age-Friendly communities, so that seniors can downsize without having to leave their own neighbourhoods;

Social Health

    • 15-minute communities have higher social cohesion, while less traffic correlates to more friendships; this promotes a stronger sense of community, less isolation and loneliness, and stronger social networks;

Child-Friendly Communities

    • Denser neighbourhoods have less cars and more eyes on the streets, making these much safer for children to play outdoors and practice independence, which is a huge benefit for their development and health. 
An arial view of a mid-rise downtown area, with a park in the foreground. Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash
An arial view of a mid-rise downtown area, with a park in the foreground. Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

15-minute communities in Simcoe County

In Simcoe County, we’re not all big cities (Barrie and Orillia aside), but we do have Primary Settlement Areas, which are places where the province is directing a portion of population growth that we need to accommodate here. These are the perfect places to embrace the 15-minute community vision. 

In existing neighbourhoods, we can introduce gentle density to complete these neighbourhoods and give residents the nearby services that they deserve, while increasing the walkability and sense of community in these places. This means that less additional land will have to be developed and makes the direct and indirect cost (through taxes) lower for residents because it’s way more efficient for servicing costs. 

Where new neighbourhoods need to be built, in Designated Greenfield Areas or where an MZO has been approved, these neighbourhoods should be planned as 15-minute communities to give future residents the best quality of life while being the most affordable they can be – for residents and municipalities. If we absolutely need to use more land, we should use it as efficiently, sustainably and cost effectively as possible. Moving towards 15-minute communities improves livability for current and future residents in these existing communities and because they are compactly built, more people can live in these places, so that less people need to move into the more rural areas of the County. 

Learn more!

Share this article on social media.

Related Content

A photo of scaffolding on a construction site. Photo by Tolu Olubode on Unsplash.
Affordable Housing

Analysis: More Homes Built Faster Act

Recent moves by Ontario’s government seem likely to create conditions for a number of crises in the next few decades that, when combined, are greater than the sum of their parts. This is what’s known as a “polycrisis”, a term popularized by economic historian Adam Tooze.

Read More
Photo of an urban park, with benches on which people are sitting in the foreground and lawn and trees in the background. Photo by I Do Nothing But Love on Unsplash .
Planning

Simcoe County 2022 – 2051 Land Needs Assessment

…value in the context of a community is achieved through livability, which in turn drives economic and social dynamism. Propinquity, or the accessibility of the areas we inhabit, whether that’s for people we socialise with or for consumer good or employment, is the key metric to achieve in this regard. Build communities for people and good things happen.

Read More
Greenbelt

Province Rushing Bradford Bypass

Highways are the gateway drug for sprawl and the Bypass is a perfect example.  Developers own over 3000 acres of land around this highway waiting for the greenlight to destroy more farmland and wetlands.

Read More

Climate Anxiety and Youth: Prioritizing Mental Health When it Come to Climate Advocacy

With so many people experiencing disastrous events it makes sense that psychologists have seen an increase in anxiety, depression and post-traumatic-stress-disorder, especially in places that are feeling the effects of climate change right now. However, even those not directly affected by the disasters climate change is bringing are being psychologically affected by them.

Extremes are more common and more intense

If you have been following the development of climate change and the ongoing fight against it, you have most likely heard of climate anxiety. 

It goes by many different names, such as eco-anxiety, climate distress, climate change anxiety or climate anxiety, but they all describe the psychological effects of climate change brought by living during the climate crisis.

Especially in recent years, we have seen the disastrous effects brought by a changing climate. It seems every year temperatures are hitting extremes and severe weather events are more common and intense. 

With so many people experiencing disastrous events it makes sense that psychologists have seen an increase in anxiety, depression and post-traumatic-stress-disorder, especially in places that are feeling the effects of climate change right now. However, even those not directly affected by the disasters climate change is bringing are being psychologically affected by them.

The rabbit hole of bad news

With easily accessible, widespread coverage of these events on social media, it is easier than ever to see world events. With the increase in natural disasters and health concerns caused by the changing climate, there always seems to be a new video to watch of the world literally burning. That, paired with the reports scientists have been releasing explaining how the world is heading towards certain doom, makes it extremely easy to fall down the rabbit hole of bad news and become overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness and anxiety. 

Climate anxiety is born from these experiences, and because of their experiences growing up during the climate crisis, youth are especially susceptible to climate anxiety. We are constantly being shown images and videos of the effects of climate change, and many have taken it upon themselves to raise awareness on these issues by sharing on social media. Therefore, it is even easier for youth to get swept up in the flood of anxiety that comes with being immersed in horrifying news.

It leads to youth feeling hopeless, afraid and dejected. In fact, from my experiences talking to my siblings, classmates and friends about the climate crisis, there seem to be two responses.

Firstly: they are extremely concerned about the issue and want to know everything about it. They are constantly monitoring the situation and always have new (and oftentimes depressing) stories to share on social media or during conversations. 

Secondly: they are also extremely concerned about the issue, but the anxiety is so overwhelming that they completely avoid thinking about the problem. Though it is always in the back of their mind, they are convinced we are doomed, that it is too late, that the problem is too large and there are too many obstacles in the way. They hate hearing about new developments because it only adds to their anxiety.

It is apparent in both cases that youth are incredibly stressed about this issue. Climate anxiety is widespread and affects so many people, but youth are carrying the brunt of it.

“Climate anxiety is widespread and affects so many people, but youth are carrying the brunt of it.”

How can youth find a balance between mental health and advocacy?

For youth climate activists, this anxiety might have pushed them into getting involved with a local organization, or creating one of their own. However, being motivated by fear is not sustainable. It only leads to higher amounts of stress, burnout and causes youth to feel as if they are not accomplishing enough to make any difference. It leads to youth dropping out of the environmentalist scene before they can even begin to create change, creating a vicious cycle that quickly deteriorates our mental health.

Obviously, this is not healthy for youth’s development or the fight against climate change. How can youth overcome climate anxiety and find a balance between mental health and advocacy?

Community supported, advocacy for a safe and secure future.

Governments have failed to act to protect our communities and the futures of our children and grandchildren, and they continue to treat our environment as if it’s incidental to life, rather than a foundation for it.

We need strong community organizations to fight for our future, now more than ever.

Please consider donating to support our work. It’s people like you who make us possible.

Collaboration and community are key

Engaging in place based advocacy will grow the connection one has to their natural environments and community, and seeing the change you helped create be implemented where you live can be incredibly heartening. As well, activism is not an independent task. Use the support from your team and community. We do not have to solve everything or do everything ourselves – we all have a part to play. Climate activism is not a competition, and collaboration between different groups can produce amazing results and build lasting relationships along the way.

Celebrate the small wins

Climate change is a massive problem, and it is impossible to take everything on at once because it contains so many smaller issues. When your group or a nearby one makes a breakthrough in a campaign or accomplishes something, celebrate that win – no matter how small. We work so hard and are so passionate about what we do, it’s important we give ourselves credit for what we accomplish. This will also help build momentum within our groups and the larger community, increasing motivation and optimism.

Knowing when to step away

Climate activism, especially advocacy, is hard work. Sometimes the best thing for someone’s mental health is turning off their phone and taking some time to recover. This is especially important for young people as we are already leading the fight against climate change and will continue to for many years to come – we don’t want budding climate activists to be snuffed out by the stress of the work before any change can be created.

Sprinkle in some good news stories

Although we are constantly bombarded with the latest depressing news about the state of our climate, there are so many small wins that are overlooked. Take some time to read some good news stories regarding the environment. Negative news always takes precedence in our minds, so combatting it with plenty of optimistic stories will boost motivation and provide a much needed positive outlook on this work. 

Scientists have made it clear that even if we act now against climate change, it is inevitable that the situation is going to get worse before it improves. However, if we can develop the emotional resilience necessary to keep fighting, we can emerge on the other side intact – and in a greener world.

I’ve linked some good news stories about the environment down below – I think everyone needs some good climate news. As well, there is a link to SCGC’s Local Issues Map, so you can see which issues are being debated in your community and start making an impact in your local area.

Click the image for a link to the article.

Like always, let me know your opinions on this subject. Have you or anyone you know experienced climate anxiety, and do you have any other strategies to overcome these feelings? Let me know in the comments down below.

Take care of yourself, and I’ll see you next time,

Blythe

Picture of  Blythe Wieclawek

Blythe Wieclawek

Blythe is SCGC's inaugural summer youth advocacy intern. She is a high school student in Orillia, a competitive swimmer, and president of Sustainable Orillia's Youth Council.

Further Reading

Support Us and Join the conversation On Social Media

Related Content

A photo of the sun rising over farmland. The sky is clear blue. Credit Federico Respini.
News

Media Statement – Bill 23

…the changes in Bill 23 do not address the housing affordability crisis, rather they will simply put more money into the pockets of billionaire developers at the expense of Ontarians and the natural resources we depend on.

Read More »
Photo of an island in a lake with mist rising from the water. Photo by Juan Davila on Unsplash
Youth

Act Now to Protect Lake Simcoe

Very soon, the federal government will be deciding whether the Holland Marsh Highway (aka Bradford Bypass) poses enough risk to the health of our environment and communities to designate it for a federal impact assessment. The 25-year-old studies the province is using are woefully out of date and must be updated before work proceeds. The Holland Marsh Highway poses significant risk to the environment, Lake Simcoe, and our communities.

Read More »
Photo of a child reading with a flashlight under his blankets. Credit Klim Sergeev.
Youth

finding your place in the story​

I didn’t know what I was in for, but I knew that helping youth get engaged through a grassroots organization was something I couldn’t pass up. This is exactly what I was looking for – a chance to do something in my community.

Read More »
A photo of a young woman's reflection in a window. Photo by Tiago Bandeira.
Climate Change

Climate Anxiety and Youth: Prioritizing Mental Health When it Come to Climate Advocacy

With so many people experiencing disastrous events it makes sense that psychologists have seen an increase in anxiety, depression and post-traumatic-stress-disorder, especially in places that are feeling the effects of climate change right now. However, even those not directly affected by the disasters climate change is bringing are being psychologically affected by them.

Read More »

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

We send out a once-monthly newsletter full of information on what’s happening in Simcoe County and beyond, including information on how you can take action to protect the health of your community.

Hi there!


Use this form to send an email to our general inquiries address.

Photo of a giraffe's head against a clear blue sky. Credit Gary Bendig.
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Name

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Hi there!

Use this form to send Margaret an email.
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Name

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Hi there!


Use this form to send Adam an email.

Adam-2
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Name

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Hi there!


Use this form to send Julie an email.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Name

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Thank you for signing up!

Be the change!

You have more power than you think.

Make a choice for a better future.

Donating to SCGC means your impact is local, direct, and helps build better, more sustainable communities in central Ontario.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter!

A monthly missive, full of information on what’s happening in Simcoe County and beyond, community polls you can vote on, and deep dives into key topics.

Become part of our network. Stay informed. Take action. Protect Ontario.

Friends. Online censorship by unaccountable tech companies, combined with an all-out assault on the Greenbelt by Ontario’s developers/government, make this a perilous time for the future of democracy and the power of the people in Ontario.

We need to build new ways of empowering those who believe in accountability, in a healthy environment, and in communities ready to thrive in the economy of tomorrow.

Join our supporter network and stay informed about efforts and actions to protect the Greenbelt, to build communities that support the health and well-being of people, and to lay the foundations of a resilient, climate friendly future.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Name
Address (Optional)
How did you hear about us?(Optional)