Compact Communities

Respecting our land means using it efficiently.

Ag 044.jpgCompact communities have a smaller per capita footprint on our land base and keep our costs of servicing down. Compact communities allow us to absorb new residents and jobs without sacrificing our quality of life, our environment, or the fiscal health of our towns and cities.

Unfortunately, conventional development patterns over the past 50 years have relied upon the following strategies:

  • separating homes, jobs and shopping from each other;
  • connecting these uses by roads and parking lots;
  • building housing, retail, and office parks at low densities.

This is reflected in the fact that, over the last three decades, the rate of BC’s population growth was only about half of the rate of land urbanization (87% vs 162%). This inefficient use of land has severe consequences on our economy, our environment, our farmland, our health, and our safety. Now more and more, communities are experiencing the hard realities of this low-density, single-use pattern including:

  • traffic congestion and pollution;
  • few choices (other than car) for getting around;
  • loss of working farmland and green spaces to sprawl; 
  • high housing costs and low housing diversity;
  • unaffordable road and infrastructure maintenance costs;
  • increasing obesity, diabetes, asthma, and other health problems related to vehicle dependency.

Perhaps one of the most insidious results of conventional development is that every community ends up looking the same. Our heritage sites and our virbrant town centres are often the first victims of sprawling development patterns. 


Fortunately, there is a smart growth alternative: building compact, complete communities. Benefits include:

  • improvements to our health by providing safe and attractive ways to get around on wheels (bike, rollerblades, wheelchair) or on foot;
  • mitigation of climate change by providing shopping, schools, and other services within easy walking distance, thereby reducing our dependency on vehicles;
  • protection of our farmland by keeping the town in the town and the country in the country;
  • reductions in the costs of servicing (and therefore taxes) by extending infrastructure over shorter distances and are shared by more people through densification;
  • diversification of the local economy by allowing people to work from vibrant, mixed-use neighbourhoods that attract and keep residents;
  • more time with family as commuting times are reduced, which in turn allow neighbours and to get to know one another better and the social fabric of the community to strengthen.



Strategies for the Creation of Compact Communities 

  • establish and adhere to urban and rural containment boundaries;
  • offer housing diversity for all ages through affordable housing strategies and homes of all sizes for all stages of life;
  • limit service provision (no servicing above a certain elevation or outside the containment boundary). This includes roads, sewer and water lines, fire protection and policing;
  • allow natural places to continue to provide recreation, aesthetic, and health benefits by protecting them from prot. drainage.JPG

Goverments Can

  • Request a Smart Growth BC workshop for staff and elected officials to familiarize yourselves with smart growth principles. 
  • Define and adopt a containment boundary around your community as a part of the long-term community visioning process.
  • Use Smart Growth BC's policies when undergoing reviews of Regional Growth Strategies and Official Community Plans.
  • Utilize Smart Growth BC research publications for decision-making.


Citizens Can

  • Request a Smart Growth BC Community Assistance Program (CAP) workshop in your community.
  • Get involved with community groups that are concerned with community or sustainability issues – or, form a new one.
  • Advocate for an urban or rural containment boundary in your community's land use planning documents.
  • Support appropriate levels of densification and mixed-use initiatives in your neighbourhood and recognize that often the alternative to densification is sprawl on the outskirts of town.
  • Talk to your neighbours and friends about smart growth.
  • Write a letter to the local newspaper or call a local radio talk show.
  • Question your politicians and candidates at election time.


Smart Growth BC Resources


Other Resources


Case Studies

  • Coming soon...