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Published on Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Hazel McCallion urges province to open protected land for housing

But others disagree, saying developers are controlling the housing supply to increase profits

Hazel McCallion urges province to open protected land for housing
Premier Kathleen Wynne and Hazel McCallion
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion look over a copy of Bill 16, the act that proclaimed February 14 as Hazel McCallion Day at the inaugural celebrations at Mississauga's City Hall.
By Rachael Williams, Mississauga News
Former Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion is urging the province to consider opening up lands in the Greenbelt in an effort to curb skyrocketing housing prices.

“As it stands now, people in the GTHA are having a very tough time finding a home they can afford,” wrote McCallion in a press release issued Tuesday.

Her proposed solution to address housing affordability is for the province to consider tapping into protected Greenbelt lands to increase the supply of single detached homes.

The Greenbelt spans two million acres across the Greater Golden Horseshoe and is composed of green space, farmland, forests, wetlands and watersheds.

“With all the unbuilt land in front of us, there’s no need to ever go into the Greenbelt,” said Oakville Mayor Rob Burton.

A 2016 Neptis Foundation report found that less than 20 per cent of the land supply in the GTHA designated greenfield area had been built on since 2006.

“This means there are 45,660 hectares left to be developed - this is the size of Mississauga and Oakville combined,” said Mark Cripps, spokesperson for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

But Jason Bottoni, Peel chapter president for the Building Industry and Land Development (BILD) Association, disagreed.

“This high-level approximation of designated greenfield area provides little insight into the actual inventory of 'development-ready' land within the urban boundary,” he said, adding a portion of these lands lack basic municipal services.

And even if developers were to apply for the necessary building approvals, bureaucratic red tape holds up the process, resulting in seven to 10 year waits before developers can submit draft plans, he said.

Burton refuted the notion that developers don't have enough shovel-ready land, arguing there’s "unbelievable capacity" in the GTHA.

In Halton Region there are 10,000 fully serviced and permitted housing units that aren’t being built. In Mississauga, there are 28,000 ready units that could be constructed. This includes land that is vacant and zoned either residential or mixed commercial-residential. And in Toronto, city planner Jennifer Keesmaat said there are 118,610 units ready to be developed.

“It’s the building industry that’s controlling the supply,” Burton alleged.

Serving his third consecutive term as Oakville’s mayor, Burton admitted there could be some “sensible adjustments” made to the Greenbelt.

“But this morphing into a demand that we open up the Greenbelt to more affordable housing, that’s just crap.”

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie also disagreed with her predecessor.

“The way we used to look at growth has to change. We can’t continue to sprawl or the housing affordability crisis will only get worse.”

Supporting the province’s plan for transit-oriented growth, Crombie added, “We can continue to make the mistakes of the past or we can embrace our new reality and develop accordingly.”

McCallion, who is the ex-officio advisor to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne on GTHA matters, is also urging the province to meet with the Mayors and Chairs of the GTHA before finalizing their proposed amendments to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe and the Greenbelt Plan.

“They are too much, too fast, with an unrealistic one size fits all approach,” said McCallion, of the province’s proposed Growth Plan amendments.

The province’s plan calls for increasing population targets to 80 jobs and residents per hectare from 50 in areas pegged for development and to 60 from 40 per hectare in already built-up areas.

Cripps said the ministry has undertaken extensive consultation with municipalities and attended a summit of the GTHA mayors and chairs last September that was organized by McCallion.

No final decisions have been made at this time. A final growth plan is expected to be issued in early 2017.
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

Categories: News

Tags: Growth , Greenbelt , Halton Regional Municipality , Oakville Town Council

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