KITCHENER -- Waterloo Region's population is expected to grow at an astounding rate over the next 50 years.

Regional officials are working to determine how to deal with that growth. They've already started public consultations to deal with significant population growth, focusing on how cities and townships can or should expand to accommodate the increase.

The City of Kitchener's Planning and Strategic Initiatives Committee heard a presentation Monday from a senior planning breaking down that process.

Officials discussed possible intensification and urban sprawl, which could see zoning changes around the city.

Coun. Paul Singh said it's a serious decision about the future.

"I think landowners may have sold their lands based on guidance by the region," he said.

The plan indicated the population will grow by 360,000 by 2051, but said that's an estimate that doesn't necessarily take into account people moving from the GTA during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We're an inbound area, Guelph is an inbound area, Barrie and basically up to the Muskokas, anyone who has decent internet, has become an inbound area going forward," said Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic. "That added to some of the challenges we're dealing with right now."

Officials added the region will need new transportation hubs. They're also considering types of housing and environmental impacts.

The plan is in its preliminary stages and needs provincial approval by July 2022.