Ontario is grappling with a shortage of about 500,000 homes, and needs another one million in order to satisfy forecasted demand created by a growing population by 2031, according to the Smart Prosperity Institute. Mike Moffatt, an economist with the Smart Prosperity Institute and the paper’s lead researcher, notes that a variety of bottlenecks will likely prevent the goal from being reached on time. With Toronto at the center of the housing supply crisis, factors such as affordability and high housing costs all contribute to the issue at hand.
The Greenbelt controversy
According to Emma McIntosh for the Narwhal, the Ontario government announced plans to open up “thousands of acres of land in the protected Greenbelt for development.” Led by Ontario Premier Dough Ford, the Progressive Conservatives would build 50,000 housing units in order to address the high cost of housing in the province. Planetizen highlights the fact that this plan is included in Bill 23, which is known as the “More Homes Built Faster, 2022” bill. McIntosh explains that the idea, according to the province, is that it can “drop some pieces of the protected area and add other, bigger pieces to make up for it.” It’s important to note, however, that opening up Ontario’s Greenbelt is a controversial move, with Jane Fogal, a Halton Region councillor explaining that the region already has enough land for housing development, going on to say that there is “no excuse for opening the Greenbelt, absolutely none,” Fogal stated in an interview with CBC Toronto.
An environmental concern
According to The Conversation, the proposal of Bill 23 comes at an environmental cost. The post highlights the benefits of the bill — like the removal of duplicate plan approval requirements, though notes that if implemented as tabled, the bill will “severely disrupt the province’s environmental housing regulations.” The Conversation goes on to note that poorly regulated housing can lead to more greenhouse gas emissions via energy loss, exposure to extreme weather, and increased energy requirements, which would contribute to accelerating climate change, according to the post.
In a time when Canadians are already grappling with the concerns of climate change, the loss of green spaces and trees in Ontario and the fact that green spaces are not evenly distributed brings even more concern to the table. In Ottawa, for instance, navigating the issue of tree removal cost following the May 2022 derecho has been a dilemma. While dead or dying trees are generally removed, the cost of tree removal can be complicated — especially when considering factors such as whether or not it’s still standing, location, and tree type can all factor in. For those dealing with storm damage, the matter can be even more complicated, and while the May derecho highlighted the dangers of severe weather as a result of climate change and the effect on trees already present (which left many destroyed), the proposed Bill 23 may bring a new concern for future homeowners altogether in regard to the environment. According to The Conversation, the removal of environmental regulations will leave many future homeowners with the costs of having to upgrade and repair their homes when the properties get flooded.
A positive outlook?
While Ontario’s housing crisis is an overwhelming issue, there is a positive sign worth pointing out, according to Kevin Crigger, president of the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB), who notes that the housing supply crisis has become a key conversation at all levels of government “for the first time in memory.” With the Greenbelt controversy a hot-button issue for many, it's important to recognise other efforts to address the province’s housing crisis. Toronto developers Hazelview and Fitzrovia, for instance, recently contributed $6.8M in order to create 122 affordable homes. According to Storeys, this marks the second of five annual payments, which goes towards a total of $17M affordable housing land trust, co-founded by Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area. Storeys notes that the contribution of grants and loans are expected to fund the development of at least 180 affordable housing units in the city, further going on to explain that the designated recipient of the funds is the Toronto-based Land Trust, Community Affordable Housing Solutions (CAHS).
Toronto’s housing supply crisis is undeniably a major issue. With measures such as Bill 23 highlighting hot-button issues such as the potential of opening up the Greenbelt, other efforts to address the crisis highlight a silver lining