Going from Greenbelt to a ‘Swiss Cheese belt’...
On Monday March 20th, the development industry hosted a lobby day at Queen’s Park to drive home the message that land in and around the Greenbelt is essential to avert the growing housing crisis in Toronto and the GTA. However, we know this is not accurate.
The problem is current loopholes in the proposed new legislation, due to pass into law around end of April, will allow the developers to win. If we fail to convince the province to make necessary last minute changes, hundreds of acres of prime farmland and irreplaceable natural areas - both surrounding and within the Greenbelt - will be paved over and devoted to sprawl.
What we do know:
Last week, a Neptis Foundation report revealed that over 400 small villages and hamlets in the Greater Golden Horseshoe do not have formally identified boundaries and are free to host unlimited housing development, despite not having the infrastructure, roads or employment opportunities needed to support this growth sustainably. The Greenbelt can become encased in sprawl that encroaches on sensitive areas, limits options for future growth, and wipes out large tracts of irreplaceable farmland.
This process has already started. Municipalities are allowed to count this sprawl as part of their intensification targets.
Last week, a report from Ryerson City Building Institute placed the primary blame for run-away housing prices in the GTA on Demand factors, not Supply. It indicated that extra land would not fix the problem, and recommended practical alternative solutions. This report reconfirms earlier Neptis research, clearly showing that more than enough development land is already set aside.
Another major loophole in the proposed legislation allows municipalities within the Greenbelt itself to apply for boundary expansions every five years, negating the ten year boundary protection promised when the Greenbelt was first formed, and potentially reducing the Greenbelt to a ‘Swiss Cheese belt’.