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Community Hubs and the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

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InfoSheet, Spring 2016

  Graphic representation of a school that also operates as a community hub.

Purpose of this InfoSheet

This InfoSheet will assist municipalities in the implementation of Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 (PPS, 2014) policy 1.6.5, to enable the development of community hubs. This supports the PPS, 2014 goals of developing “strong, livable, healthy and resilient communities”. Municipalities should use this InfoSheet to develop local policies that support up-front coordination and planning for community hubs. It may also be relevant to other organizations interested in hub development.

Provincial Policy Statement, 2014

The PPS, 2014 plays a key role in Ontario's land use planning system. It provides policy direction on matters of provincial interest related to land use planning and development.  The PPS, 2014 includes provincial policy direction on building strong healthy communities, wise use and management of resources, and protecting public health and safety.

As an integral part of building strong, livable, healthy and resilient communities, the PPS, 2014 includes specific policy direction on community hubs, encouraging co-location of public service facilities to facilitate service integration, and to promote cost savings and accessibility. There also are other policies that support community hub development (See Policy Section).

What is a Community Hub?

Community hubs are places where people can access a range of services, programs and activities. Community hubs can be virtual or physical, co-located or integrated. They can provide access to a variety of health, education, recreation and sport, cultural, government, community or social services and programs. There is no single definition for community hubs; each hub is as unique as the community it serves and is focused on meeting local needs. A community hub can be a school, a community centre, an early learning centre, a library, an older adults’ centre, a youth centre, a community health centre, a government service centre, a business incubator, or any combination of these or other spaces that offers programs and services to the public.

“Whether virtual or located in a physical building, whether located in a high-density urban neighbourhood or an isolated rural community, each hub is as unique as the community it serves and is defined by local needs, services and resources”. - Karen Pitre, 2015. Community Hubs in Ontario: A Strategic Framework and Action Plan

Policy Direction Provided by the PPS, 2014:

Policy 1.6.5: Public service facilities should be co-located in community hubs, where appropriate, to promote cost-effectiveness and facilitate service integration, access to transit and active transportation.

Other policies can help facilitate community hub development by encouraging or requiring:

1.1.1     healthy, livable and safe communities  efficient use of land and resources  intensification and redevelopment  healthy, integrated and viable rural areas

1.2.1     coordination across jurisdictions, with other agencies and boards

1.3.1     compact, mixed-use development
1.5.1     public facilities and spaces, community connectivity
1.6.3     optimal use of existing facilities, adaptive re-use  transportation connectivity  active transportation and transit- supportive development  integration between transportation and land use planning
1.7        sense of place, well-designed built form, and community character
1.8.1     energy efficiency and conservation

Other enabling policies include:

4.7        keeping official plans up to date
4.8        keeping zoning by-laws up to date

PPS, 2014 Related Definition:

Public Service Facilities: means land, buildings and structures for the provision of programs and services provided or subsidized by a government or other body, such as social assistance, recreation, police and fire protection, health and educational programs, and cultural services. Public service facilities do not include infrastructure.*

*Infrastructure is also a defined term in the PPS, 2014

What are Some Outcomes of Community Hubs?

Some commonly recognized outcomes of community hubs include:

  • Improved access to a greater range of person-centered services due to collaboration 
  • Optimized use of existing buildings and land, to create more complete communities and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Capital and operating cost savings through facility sharing or integration
  • Improved health, social and economic outcomes for newcomers, seniors, children, and families
  • Reduced stigma that may be associated with single-purpose facilities (e.g., mental health or addiction services)    

Words often used to describe the community hub concept: 

…integrated, seamless, one-stop shop, wraparound, client-centred, accessible, responsive, “right care, at the right place, at the right time”…

Source: Evidence-Based Foundation for Community Hubs


Bathurst-Finch Community Hub. The hub is located on high school land in the Bathurst and Finch area of Toronto. The hub is a partnership between Unison Health and Community Services and several community organizations, providing  primary heal

Bathurst Finch Hub


How Land Use Planning Can Support Community Hub Development

Proactive, collaborative land use planning can play an important supportive role early in the community hub development process, and can be part of a broader, integrated strategy. This InfoSheet recognizes that the successful development of community hubs goes beyond land use planning. Other elements such as financing partnerships, adaptive-reuse and joint-use agreements, and governance models also play an important role. Still, local policies that require up-front planning for hubs can help break down barriers and facilitate hub development. Some land use planning tools of relevance to community hub development are described below.

Official Plans

A municipal official plan is the primary land use planning tool describing a community’s vision and overall planning policy direction. Municipalities should incorporate policies and supportive land use designations into their official plans to pro-actively promote community hub development, collaboration and service integration in their communities.  These can be further supported by policies promoting accessibility and community connectivity, and can complement other municipal objectives to address community needs in an integrated manner.

Sample Official Plan Policies:

6.6.1… This Plan anticipates the expansion of this public service facility-like campus through the addition of uses such as a high school, curling rink, cultural centre and similar community facilities. In designing the facilities, consideration should be given to pedestrian linkages in an attempt to encourage walking and cycling among and between facilities and the community. Facilities will be integrated with parks and open space areas wherever feasible. Urban design principles will apply to ensure energy efficient design, connectivity with other community facilities, barrier-free access …creating a liveable winter environment. Dubreuilville Official Plan (Northeast)

F.2.2.  Where appropriate, establishing community hubs allows the co-location of public service facilities to provide convenient, integrated, and cost-effective services. City of Kenora Official Plan (Northwest)

4.0 Public service facilities should be co-located in community hubs, where appropriate, to promote cost-effectiveness and facilitate service integration, access to transit and active transportation. County of Frontenac Official Plan (East)

2.3.9 Where opportunities exist, the Township will encourage the co-location of public service facilities into community hubs.

3.5.3 Schools within the Township … are community hubs where all people can gather to learn and participate in a range of activities offered by community organizations. Council supports and encourages partnerships between local community organizations and local school boards to use the schools as community hubs … Township of Alnwick/Haldimand Official Plan (East)

4.8.4 The development of private sector recreation facilities and joint use with educational and other institutional uses is encouraged. City of Dryden Official Plan, Office Consolidation (Northwest)

Zoning By-Laws

Zoning by-laws implement the objectives and policies of the official plan by regulating and controlling the use of land. Zoning by-laws achieve this by stating: what land uses are permitted; where buildings and other structures can be located; what types of buildings are permitted; and specifying such factors as maximum and minimum lot sizes and dimensions, parking requirements, and maximum and minimum building heights and setbacks.

The PPS, 2014 requires zoning by-laws to be kept up to date. They should also be flexible enough to facilitate and not pose barriers to community hub development – the types of facilities should be identified as permitted uses in a wide range of zones.

Every community’s zoning by-law is unique. However, the types of public service facilities often co-located in community hubs (community recreation, education, institutional, etc.) are commonly identified as permitted uses in a range of zones, including residential, institutional, commercial, parkland and open space, and mixed-use zones. 

Community Improvement Plans (CIPs)

The CIP approach offers a flexible and strategic framework for dealing with land use change in a coordinated manner. CIPs target parts of a community for strategic development or redevelopment. Municipalities can acquire, hold, clear, lease and sell land in designated areas and provide grants or loans as incentives for specific projects that benefit the community.

CIPs can cover areas that range from specific properties to streetscapes, neighbourhoods and entire communities. Program coverage can span a wide spectrum of municipal objectives including, for example, community hub development, preservation and adaptive reuse of heritage buildings for community use, or provision of affordable housing and related services.

What Community Hubs Offer

Some of the amenities hubs can offer to meet the unique needs of a community include:

  • A convenient location to access a broad range of services, such as recreation and sport, library, education, community health, legal, employment, newcomer settlement, addiction, counselling, and affordable housing services
  • A gathering place or meeting place for community members
  • A place for social interaction and sharing of skills and knowledge
  • A place where people of different ages, cultures, and backgrounds can come together to learn and grow
  • A place to connect newcomers and existing community members to available services
  • A place to host events or showcase local talent, culture, art, food, etc.

Community Hub Facility Models

Community hubs can take a variety of forms, such as permanent buildings at a single location or in a campus, “mobile” hubs that serve smaller or transient populations (i.e., as found in some Northern and rural communities), “virtual” hubs that provide services from a central electronic access point, or hubs that occupy temporary spaces. When hubs occupy physical buildings, they may be located in existing facilities redeveloped or adapted to meet local needs, or built new with specific objectives in mind.

Graphic representation of the first floor plan for Rexdale Hub, which is a 77,000 square foot community facility located in a former secondary school in the Rexdale neighbourhood of Toronto. The facility provides space for community resident-led initiativ

Rexdale Community Hub


Physical buildings that serve as community hubs often involve the following design elements:

  • Energy efficient, sustainable design
  • Accessible, bright, welcoming facilities with seamless access to services through way finding and signage
  • Flexible, multi-use programming spaces and patron-oriented services (age or culturally appropriate)
  • Spacious common areas with seating and reception areas that provide facility orientation
  • Connections to parkland/greenspace/trails and a variety of outdoor spaces that extend the range of offerings
  • A central location within the service area, with easy access to arterial roadways, transit and active transportation networks

What are some “best practices” for community hub development?

This InfoSheet has been developed primarily for municipalities as the main implementers of PPS, 2014 policies. However, the list of best practices could be relevant for any organization interested in hub development (e.g. social service agencies, not-for-profit organizations, community groups). Best practices for hub development include:

  1. Thoroughly assess community needs and priorities, existing resources and opportunities and hub-supportive assets
  2. Define and engage the target user(s) or client group(s), to assist in planning and decision-making around goals and objectives for hub development
  3. Identify and recruit local leaders and community champions, and bring together potential service providers [1] early in the process
  4. Develop a solid understanding of the mandates, needs and requirements of potential service providers/partners
  5. Where physical buildings are required, review opportunities for adaptive reuse of existing spaces before building new
  6. Review siting considerations such as access to public transit and active transportation networks, adequate parking, and community connectivity
  7. Review relevant planning documents, policies and intensification targets, and ensure appropriate planning, zoning and servicing requirements are met
  8. Assess funding models and partnerships, governance models, and opportunities for service integration, shared programming or joint-use
  9. Develop performance monitoring measures and an evaluation framework

[1] Can include public sector, non-profit, and private sector providers.

 Indigenous children attending a Friendship Centre program 

Indigenous children attending a Friendship Centre program

Helpful Resources on Community Hubs:

 Dryden Regional Training and Cultural Centre, in the City of Dryden in Northwestern Ontario. The Centre is a school board operated facility that was developed through a partnership with a community college, the local municipality,

Dryden Regional Training and Cultural Centre

For More Information, Contact:

Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing

Provincial Planning Policy Branch
(416) 585-6014

Municipal Services Offices
Central (Toronto)
(416) 585-6226
Toll Free: 1-800-668-0230

West (London)
(519) 873-4020
Toll Free: 1-800-265-4736

East (Kingston)
(613) 545-2100
Toll Free: 1-800-267-9438

Northeast (Sudbury)
(705) 564-0120
Toll Free: 1-800-461-1193

Northwest (Thunder Bay)
(807) 475-1651
Toll Free: 1-800-465-5027

A high school cafeteria that can also be used as a community meeting, event and program space

High School cafeteria/community meeting and program space

Image of The Common Roof in Downtown Orillia. This multi-tenant nonprofit centre provides professional office and program space for human service organizations, offering stability, visibility and financial sustainability for tenant organizations.
The common roof™, Orillia Location

Note to User

This InfoSheet summarizes complex matters and reflects legislation, policies and practices that are subject to change.  It should not be relied upon as a substitute for specialized legal or professional advice in connection with any particular matter and should not be construed as legal advice.  The user is solely responsible for any use or the application of this information.  As such, this Ministry does not accept any legal responsibility for the contents of this InfoSheet or for any consequences, including direct or indirect liability, arising from its use.

Community Hubs Ontario hubs

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