Land Use History


The City of Windsor, Canada's southernmost city, is situated on the south shore of the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair. The city is strategically located at the centre of the Great Lakes basin directly across from Detroit, Michigan. As the chief port of entry between Canada and the United States, Windsor is an international gateway for people and commerce.

Windsor is the main employment, population and cultural centre in the Essex Region consisting of the City of Windsor, Essex County and Pelee Island. As such, the well being of the region is closely linked to the activities that occur within Windsor.

Windsor's relatively flat topography lies with the Little River, Turkey Creek and Detroit River watersheds. The mild climate of the area provides Windsor with a natural environment of Carolinian forests and prairie ecosystems that is unique in Canada.

Recognized as one of Canada’s most diverse and multicultural communities, our city was developed on land that is the traditional territory of the Anishnaabeg people of the Three Fires Confederacy (Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and Odawa). Before Europeans arrived, the land along the Detroit River was referred to as Wawiiatanong by the Indigenous populations. Due to Windsor’s unique location along the Detroit River many different groups have called this area home including: Haudenosaunee, Attawandaron (Neutral), and Huron (Wyandot) peoples. Today, many indigenous people and Métis across Turtle Island call this area home.

Windsor is the oldest continuous European settlement in Ontario, with roots going back to 1728 and the founding of a Jesuit mission near present day Assumption Church. From these beginnings, Windsor grew from a collection of French farmsteads along the Detroit River into four major communities. Museum Windsor details this history in exhibitions at both the Chimczuk Museum and the François Baby House, including through the Original Peoples Culture & Legacy Gallery and the Windsor’s French Roots exhibitions (

In 1797, the original townsite of Sandwich was established as the new British seat of government and courts for the region. By 1836, regular ferry service from Detroit to the foot of present day Ouellette Avenue led to the development of the area's second community, the Village of Windsor, which rapidly overtook Sandwich as the largest community in Essex County with the arrival of the railroad in 1854. To the east, Hiram Walker founded Walkerville in 1858 as a company town complete with a distillery, farms, stores and houses. Less than 50 years later, the Ford Motor Company of Canada created Ford City just east of Walker's distillery establishing Windsor as the automotive capital of Canada.

The City of Windsor currently covers approximately 145.3 square kilometres. The present boundaries of the municipality are the result of amalgamations and transfers of land from adjacent communities, principally in the 1930s and 1960s as well as the recent Tecumseh land transfer of 2003. Windsor is a city of well-defined neighbourhoods with greater future opportunities for community development.

To facilitate future planning within Windsor, the municipality is currently divided into a total of 19 planning districts. The 19 existing planning districts range in size from slightly more than 200 hectares to almost 1,135 hectares. These planning districts or parts of them, and the newly transferred lands will provide the basis for developing more detailed planning policies. The recently transferred lands from Tecumseh (2,532 hectares) fall under the jurisdiction of the former Official Plan for Sandwich South.


Statistics Canada conducts a national census every five years and represents the primary source of demographic data used to prepare population, housing and employment projections.

The City of Windsor’s population was 210,891 in 2011 and increased to 217,188 in 2016. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Windsor has experienced a substantial building boom that is hypothesized to be related to lower housing costs relative to the Greater Golden Horseshoe area of Ontario, the opportunity for remote work, and an influx of recent immigration. The 2021 Canada Census population for Windsor has increased to 229,660. Steady population and job growth levels are anticipated through 2041. Between the years 2021-2041, Windsor-Essex is projected to grow by about 39,559 persons.

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As of 2001 approximately 49 percent of housing in Windsor was constructed prior to 1960. These homes are being maintained or renovated to ensure that they continue to provide adequate shelter for many years to come.

The average number of persons per household in Windsor has steadily decreased from 3.0 to 2.42 between 1976 and 2006. This change is primarily a result of a decrease in the average number of children per family and an increase in the number of single parent families. In the Ontario context, the average household size has declined at a rate of approximately 0.05 per household every five years for the past two decades. In 2020 the average number of persons per unit was 2.35, it is projected that the size of households in Windsor will decrease further to 2.27 persons per unit in 2041.

In 2016, the total number of available dwellings in Windsor was approximately 97,777, and by 2021 the number of dwelling units increased to 99,803. A factor in the future demand is that Windsor-Essex is one of the most affordable places to live in Ontario and Canada.

Windsor is the major employment centre for the census metropolitan area. More than 78% of the labour force in the census metropolitan area work and live in Windsor. Over the next twenty years, Windsor will continue to provide a significant amount of new employment opportunities to persons living within the census metropolitan area.

Windsor is the centre for Canada’s automotive industry and is an emerging green energy manufacturing centre. Windsor has had considerable success diversifying its employment base, with traditional heavy manufacturing, light and advanced manufacturing, logistics and the tourism and hospitality sector. As the restructuring of the North American economy continues, significant employment growth is anticipated to occur in the light and advanced manufacturing and logistics sectors with total employment expected to increase from about 120,000 jobs in 2006 to 142,000 jobs by 2026.

Major employers within Windsor are clustered in manufacturing and commercial nodes across the city. It is anticipated that this trend will continue with additional nodes being developed to accommodate new and expanded employers particularly in the Forest Glade and Devonshire Planning Districts. The addition of the transferred lands from the Town of Tecumseh in the southeast should result in the establishment of a major new area of industrial and commercial development.

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Land Supply

In 2006, housing projections identified residential land needs of approximately 935 hectares over the twenty planning period. In 2006, Windsor had 1,495 hectares of vacant designated residential lands. These 1,495 hectares of land represent a 32-year supply of residential land that can accommodate between approximately 28,000 to approximately 34,000 new units, depending on the density of residential development.

In 2006, employment projections identify employment land needs between 400 to 500 hectares over the twenty-year planning period. The addition of 1,036 hectares of future employment area lands transferred from the Town of Tecumseh should be sufficient to accommodate growth through the 20-year planning period.

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For general information, please call 311. For detailed inquiries, contact:

Planning & Building Services Department
Planning Division
2nd Floor, 350 City Hall Square West
Windsor, Ontario, Canada N9A 6S1
Phone: (519) 255-6543
Fax: (519) 255-6544