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FORUM: Ford unleashes his sprawl agenda (Nov. 2022)

November 22nd, 2022 · No Comments

This sets province back to the 1940s

By Jessica Bell

Now that the provincial and city elections are over, the real Doug Ford has stepped out from behind the veneer of moderation. The Premier has unleashed his aggressive plan to spur suburban sprawl, parking lots, and highways across the Greater Golden Horseshoe area, at the expense of farmland, renters, municipal services, and all-important climate change goals.  

Ontario’s significant housing supply shortage and affordability crisis will not be solved by giving the market unfettered domination over where to build, what to build, and who to build for. That’s Ford’s plan.

—Jessica Bell

Here’s what he’s doing. 

Premier Ford is greenlighting sprawl on the Greenbelt. On a late Friday afternoon, the housing minister, Steven Clark, announced the government is permitting the construction of 50,000 homes on 7,400 acres of Greenbelt. Premier Ford has been publicly saying for years that he will never develop on the Greenbelt, while quietly trying to do exactly that and getting caught. Now that he’s won a four-year mandate, he’s stopping hiding his true plans. 

The Conservatives are gutting municipal official plans, like Hamilton’s, to permit sprawl on farmland. Every five years municipalities update and submit their official plan to the province for review and approval. An official plan documents how a municipality will use its land to meet housing, job and growth needs. Hamilton City Council voted to keep its current urban boundary and meet its growth needs by increasing density within areas already zoned for development. Hamilton’s plan should be lauded as an archetype, not mauled. 

The government also introduced Bill 23 which is a sweeping pro-development bill that undermines housing affordability, municipal budgets, and democracy. 

Bill 23 eviscerates Toronto’s rental protection bylaw that requires owners of big properties to return a tenant to their rent-controlled apartment for about the same rent once construction of the new, bigger condo is complete. Bill 23 will make it far easier for developers to evict tenants and demolish buildings to make way for condos. This is exactly what’s happening at 145 St. George St., and I am worried and angry that the residents of 145 St. George might lose their right to return to their homes because of Bill 23.  

Bill 23 weakens Toronto’s landmark inclusionary zoning law, the first of its kind in Ontario. Inclusionary zoning requires developers to build a percentage of affordable homes in all big buildings near transit stations. Bill 23 lets developers use a far weaker definition of affordable housing than was set by the city and exempts the developer from paying any development charges.   

Bill 23 also takes away conservation authorities’ authority to protect the environment and stop developers from building on flood plains and pretty much bans everyone but the municipality and a developer from appealing a project to the controversial Lands Tribunal.  

On the positive side, Bill 23 makes it easier to build homes in existing neighbourhoods. The bill requires municipalities to rapidly pre-zone areas near transit stations for higher density and permits three homes as of right on each residential property. Municipal approval is required to increase the property’s height or square footage.

Ontario’s significant housing supply shortage and affordability crisis will not be solved by giving the market unfettered domination over where to build, what to build, and who to build for. That’s Ford’s plan. A 600 square foot condo is great for an investor. A 1400 square foot accessible apartment is great for a family. The market isn’t building the latter.

Housing is for people first. That’s why I believe the government should play a greater role in shaping the housing sector to ensure home construction meets the needs of Ontarians, not investors.  I am calling for a public builder to construct homes at cost on public land, far greater investment in non-profit, deeply affordable and supportive housing, a clamp down on domestic and foreign speculation so more first-time home buyers can buy a home, and stronger rent control to stabilize rent for Ontario’s 1.4 million renter households. To ensure every Ontarian can live in a safe and affordable home, a bold and comprehensive approach like this is necessary. 

 Jessica Bell is the MPP for University-Rosedale and the Official Opposition’s Housing Critic. She can be reached at 416-535-7206. 


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