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Published on Friday, March 31, 2017

Mayor says developing greenbelt won't cool housing market

Oakville mayor says developers are running a 'cartel economy' limiting housing supply

Mayor says developing greenbelt won't cool housing market
Ontario Greenbelt
The Greenbelt is a swath of protected wetland, forest and farmland that surround the GTHA, moving north to the Bruce Peninsula.
By Amanda Grant, CBC News

Oakville's Mayor Rob Burton says developing the greenbelt isn't the solution to Toronto's fiery housing market.

The greenbelt is the swath of protected wetlands, forests and farmland that runs around the GTHA, extending north to the Bruce Peninsula. It was created by Dalton McGuinty's Liberal Government in 2005 as a way to limit urban sprawl and preserve green space in the Golden Horseshoe.

Since then, the Ontario Real Estate Association, among others, has argued that as it stands, the greenbelt is limiting the supply of potential homes.

But Burton says it's a false claim.

"The line that we're being asked to believe is that they need more serviced land in order to supply this voracious demand for housing," said Burton. "But we've given them serviced land they're sitting on."

"These developers own land that was caught in the greenbelt back in the day when it was created, that they were planning to create more sprawl on, and they've been trying to get it out ever since," Burton said.

Instead, Burton says municipalities need to put pressure on developers to build in pre-approved areas around the GTA.

Mayor of Oakville Rob Burton say it's a myth that developing the greenbelt will solve the GTA's housing woes.

"In Halton, where I live, we have 6,000 housing units permitted, serviced, and not being built."

In Toronto, that number jumps to over 100,000, according to Toronto's chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat. When Burton took to Twitter to discuss his frustration with developers, Keesmaat responded saying 118,610 housing units have been approved and not yet built in Toronto.

Developers run a 'cartel economy,' Burton says.

"Builders control supply in this region," said Keesmat, and Burton agrees.

"We live in a cartel economy," he said.

Burton says as long as developers don't feel the pressure to develop within existing boundaries, the greenbelt will remain threatened in Ontario.

On Wednesday Premier Kathleen Wynne said she has no plans to re-evaluate the greenbelt's boundaries, but Burton says it's not enough.

"When the real estate industry and the builder developer industry ... continue their unrelenting attack on the greenbelt, yes, I think the greenbelt is under threat, even if the Premier says 'I'm not going to give into it.'"
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