Premier Doug Ford is justifying a proposal to build tens of thousands of new homes on land that is now part of Ontario’s Greenbelt by saying the province’s housing crisis has worsened — and that it will become more dire now that the federal government has unveiled a plan to bring in half a million more immigrants a year.
“We have a housing crisis that we didn’t have four years ago,” Ford said at a news conference Monday.
“We are going to make sure we get housing built.”
The proposal, which was released Friday, aims to build at least 50,000 new homes on more than a dozen tracts of land now in the Greenbelt, while adding roughly 2,000 acres of protected land elsewhere. It’s an idea that’s drawing criticism from opposition politicians and affordable housing advocates after a Ford government pledge last year not to cut the Greenbelt or do a land swap.
“I want to be clear: we will not in any way entertain any proposals that will move lands in the Greenbelt, or open the Greenbelt lands to any kind of development,” Housing Minister Clark said in February of 2021 when confirming plans to expand the protected area by adding a moraine south of Toronto and a series of urban river lands.
But the province now says it’s launching a 30-day consultation on removing about 7,400 acres in 15 different plots of land and adding 9,400 acres in other areas as part its plan to build 1.5 million homes over the next decade to alleviate Ontario’s severe housing shortage.
You can read the full government proposal for yourself below.
But More Neighbours Toronto, an advocacy group aiming to tackle the long-term political, social, and economic consequences of unaffordable housing, says the move to cut Greenbelt land is not justified.
“I think we’d probably take a different tune if the province said, ‘Hey, we’re going to open up parts of the Greenbelt but it’s going to be transit oriented, middle-density,’ the types of communities we want to see,” said Rocky Petkov, an advocate with the group.
“Just keep your promise. You promised that you would not touch the Greenbelt but now you broke your promise and that’s not acceptable.”
Petkov said if the goal is to house people, “ideally we’d be building on space we already occupy.”
Protected land a ‘no-go zone,’ Greens say
If the proposal is accepted, landowners will be expected to develop housing plans quickly with construction beginning no later than 2025.
Following the government’s announcement, Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said the protected land should be a “no-go zone.
“We do have a housing crisis, there’s no doubt about it, but we have land within our municipal boundaries to build homes for people,” Schreiner said in an interview with CBC Toronto Monday.
Schreiner said what the province is proposing will make life more expensive for people because they’ll have to commute farther to get to work. He said it will be costly for municipalities as well, because it’s “much more expensive to service sprawl and we’re all going to pay for it with our tax dollars.”
Here are the areas of land the Ford government wants to open up for development:
- King Township: east of Dufferin Street, south of Miller’s Sideroad and west of Bathurst Street.
- Vaughan: north of Teston Road, east of Pine Valley Drive.
- Richmond Hill: east of Leslie Street, north of Elgin Mills Road East and west of Highway 404.
- Whitchurch-Stouffville: 11861 and 12045 McCowan Road.
- Markham: 5474 19th Avenue.
- 10325, 10378 and 10541 Highway 48.
- 10379 Kennedy Road.
- Pickering: West of West Duffins Creek, between Highway 407 and the CP Belleville rail line.
- Ajax: 765 and 775 Kingston Road East.
- Clarington: Northwest corner of Nash Road and Hancock Road.
- Hamilton: South of Garner Road West, between Fiddlers Green Road and Shaver Road.
- Hamilton: Between White Church Road East and Chippewa Road East, from Miles Road to Upper James Street.
- Grimsby: Between the GO rail line and Main Street West, from Oakes Road North to Kelson Avenue North.
- 502 Winston Road.
- Hamilton: 331 and 339 Fifty Road.
Here is the full Ontario government proposal to cut Greenbelt land and open it for development: