Another week, another development-related woe for Doug Ford.
The Premier is already under fire for taking land from the Greenbelt, for messing with local planning measures and for being too cozy with developers, as witnessed by activities surrounding his daughter’s wedding. That several developers may have known in advance of the Greenbelt plans has prompted investigations by the Auditor-General and Integrity Commissioner.
Now, there’s a new report this week maintaining that Ontario already has enough land in the pipeline to more than cover Ford’s goal of 1.5 million new homes over the next decade.
The report, commissioned by the Alliance for a Liveable Ontario and carried out by the former regional director of community planning Kevin Eby, says enough land has already been designated for two million new homes.
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There is no need to dip into the Greenbelt, the report finds.
Likewise, pro-development policies adopted by the province are also unnecessary, the organization argues. Those provincial measures include overriding municipal official plans, expanding urban boundaries, fast-tracking planning reviews and building permits and the use of Minister’s Zoning Orders to allow new development.
Member groups, including Environmental Defence and Ontario Nature, certainly have a bias in opposing greenfield development.
The government accuses them of an anti-growth, anti-housing ideology. It, too, exposes a bias, one for growth that also provides benefits to developers. Just how closely those developers are tied to the Progressive Conservative Party remains the question. Certainly, there are ties to Ford himself, as seen in the attendance list of the stag-and-doe event – where money was donated – and the wedding of the Premier’s daughter.
Clearly, there are grounds for concern around the government’s actions, especially in relation to any possibility of developers having inside information ahead of the Greenbelt announcement.
The bigger picture is more troubling, however, as policies pushing for widespread construction are dooming the province to an unsustainable growth scenario.
The current push is linked to the housing crisis, one that persists despite the rapid cooling of the market due to inflation and the resultant interest rate hikes. It won’t make a difference.
That’s because the target of 1.5 million is likely unreachable – there just isn’t the capacity to build that much, that quickly. And, more ominously, population growth is primed to outstrip the capacity to construct enough housing to match today’s needs, let alone 10 years hence.
And none of that deals with the affordability crisis.
Government efforts to provide affordable rental housing do little to help. While small amounts of new housing can be of benefit to the most-vulnerable residents, such projects have no impact on the market rates paid by the vast majority of Ontarians.
That said, even government attempts to provide new social housing are doomed to failure, as growth ensure that the number of people seeking such housing will grow much faster than supply ever could.
The numbers are simply too small. Building affordable housing on a scale large enough to impact the private sector would require resources well beyond the conceivable.
At current growth rates, we simply can’t build our way out of the lack of housing, where demand outstrips supply and drives up prices. That’s true of the market as a whole, public and private.
Suggestions from developers that increased supply – the result of cutting red tape and planning restrictions, for instance – would ease rising prices are clearly unrealistic. There’s simply no capacity to match population growth, particularly in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Still, there are some in government willing to listen, as we’ve seen at Queen’s Park, Greenbelt or not.