Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Ontario’s Housing Hurdles Remain Unaddressed
Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s recent decision to reverse the Greenbelt development scheme can be likened to finally putting a misguided plan through a paper shredder. This long-awaited step signifies the end of a contentious chapter, where valuable time and resources were expended on a proposal that offered nothing in terms of addressing Ontario’s affordable housing crisis.
While proponents of the Greenbelt scheme argued that it would increase housing supply by replacing farmlands with residential properties, it is now clear that this plan was never genuinely about providing affordable housing. Instead, it was akin to a convoluted blueprint with no substance.
The Greenbelt reversal should prompt us to reconsider our approach to housing. Expanding housing on the outskirts of urban regions often results in larger, more expensive houses, contributing to the unaffordability problem. These sprawling developments come with significant additional commuting costs and burdens on infrastructure, which, in turn, are funded by taxpayers.
Numerous sites have already been zoned for new subdivisions, some of which are held by developers, waiting to maximize their profits. There is ample land available without sacrificing precious farmland and natural areas.
To address the housing crisis effectively, we need genuinely affordable housing for all income brackets. Unfortunately, this type of housing rarely materializes when rural land is lost to development.
While increasing supply is essential, it’s equally crucial to ensure the affordability of existing housing. Regrettably, recent changes have weakened rent control measures, leaving tenants vulnerable.
The provincial government must take an active role in shaping housing policy. Initiatives to permit multiple units on residential plots are a start, but their effectiveness remains uncertain.
Public land, owned collectively by Ontarians, presents an opportunity to create genuinely affordable housing. Historically, such land was used for this purpose, exemplified by the St. Lawrence neighbourhood in downtown Toronto.
However, nowadays, surplus public land is often sold to the highest bidder without requirements for affordable housing. Recommendations to introduce a 20% affordable housing requirement for government land sales have been overlooked.
By reversing the Greenbelt-based housing policy, Premier Ford has made a decisive move towards dismantling a plan that offered no real solutions. It’s now time for the government to develop effective housing policies that genuinely address affordability issues, drawing from existing solutions while leaving behind the flawed Greenbelt scheme in the annals of history. (AI)