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Proposed changes to the Growth Plan could help address housing challenges

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Proposed changes to the Growth Plan could help address housing challenges

If you hope to own a home in the GTA one day, you received some good news recently. The Ontario government proposed changes to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the policy that manages growth in our region. The amendments, if approved, would mean more housing supply and choice and, ultimately, better housing affordability.

The Growth Plan was introduced by a previous provincial government in 2006 and was revised in 2017. Both versions brought in new requirements in the planning process. The objective was praiseworthy — to encourage the development of compact, mixed-use communities that would make efficient use of transit, infrastructure and public services.

Unfortunately, many municipalities struggled to meet the new planning requirements, especially density targets that did not recognize the diverse character of our region and did not take into account the availability of transit and infrastructure. For instance, the 2006 Growth Plan called for 50 residents and jobs per hectare in areas that are not yet built up but are designated for future development. This target was already a challenge for many smaller communities that did not have the transit and other infrastructure to support it, yet the 2017 Growth Plan increased it to 80 residents and jobs per hectare. That’s about double the current density of suburban areas like Scarborough and Etobicoke. How would municipalities in rural areas achieve it?

The proposed changes take into account the differences between municipalities and call for varying numbers of residents and jobs per hectare: not less than 60 for Hamilton, Peel, Waterloo and York; not less than 50 for Barrie, Brantford, Guelph, Orillia, Peterborough, Durham, Halton and Niagara; and not less than 40 for Kawartha Lakes, Brant, Dufferin, Haldimand, Northumberland, Peterborough, Simcoe and Wellington. These new density targets are a lot more realistic for municipalities to meet.

The proposed changes to the Growth Plan would also give municipalities some flexibility to develop housing on lands that have previously been designated as employment areas and on small pieces of land that are currently outside their settlement area boundaries.

When municipalities have more flexibility about where and how growth occurs, they can build more housing and the right mix of housing type for their community, while making efficient use of land and maximizing their existing infrastructure. Ultimately, a healthier supply of housing means better housing affordability. That’s great news if you and your family are looking to live, work and own a home in your chosen community, because you are more likely to find the type of home you want and can afford.

Until these proposed changes are implemented, we will continue to face a different reality. The GTA is forecast to grow to 9.7 million people by 2041, yet we are not building enough homes to accommodate this change. We are falling short by about 8,000 to 10,000 homes every year. This supply shortfall drives up home prices and rents, creating pressures that are particularly felt by young families and first-time homebuyers.

The proposed changes to the Growth Plan would help us address this generational challenge. The government is to be applauded for taking these concrete, positive steps in the right direction.

Dave Wilkes is president and CEO of BILD (Building Industry and Land Development Association), and can be found on:

Twitter.com/BILDGTA Facebook.com/BILDGTA YouTube.com/BILDGTA and BILD’s official online blog: BILDBlogs.ca

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Delays in approval process contributing to housing affordability issue in GTA

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Delays in approval process contributing to housing affordability issue in GTA

Approval web

The former Ontario government’s growth policies have had the unintended consequences of lengthening the land development and approval process in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), negatively impacting housing supply and affordability.

This is among the key findings in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area Land Supply Analysis from the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) and Malone Given Parsons Ltd. (MGP).

“Growth policies implemented by the former provincial government from 2006 and 2017 have reduced the amount of available land for new housing communities, increased land prices and have caused home prices to skyrocket,” says Dave Wilkes, president and CEO, BILD, referring to the 2006 and 2017 Growth Plans.

Read more: 5 steps to solving the housing affordability issue in Ontario

Read more: Pent-up demand for townhomes building in the GTA

Read more: GTA new home market shows some improvement in September

“Land use in the province of Ontario is highly regulated  and the 2006 and 2017 Growth Plan changes have slowed down the approval process to bring new land on stream for new communities,” adds Matthew Corey, principal, MGP. “Increasing the supply of new land for housing is subject to a process that can take as long as a decade or more.”

The analysis is intended to provide an accurate accounting of greenfield land supply in the GTHA and Simcoe, to determine if the 2031 population and job forecasts of the Growth Plan will be achieved.

Key observations

  • The percentage of available land that has been approved for new housing communities in the GTHA is 4.5 per cent and decreasing.
  • Some municipalities in the GTHA have yet to conform to the 2006 Growth Plan requirements, missing the 2009 target by nearly a decade, resulting in less housing being built across GTA municipalities versus Growth Plan forecasts.
  • As land supply dwindles and as municipal delays increase, the value of serviced land has increased by more than 300 per cent since 2006.
  • Existing low density neighbourhoods in the GTHA are resistant to intensification, pushing density to urban cores and to new communities near the fringes of the GTHA. The latter are far away from transit and infrastructure, putting a greater reliance on cars and increasing traffic congestion.
  • More gentle density homes (stacked-townhouses and lowrise apartments) should be built within walking distance of transit in built-up areas of the GTHA. This will maximize investment in infrastructure and transit. However, community resistance to increased density makes building in this area time-consuming, expensive and subject to intervention at the municipal level.

Recommendations

BILD and Malone Given Parsons offer six recommendations to help solve the issues:

  1. Make more vacant land available for new communities
  2. Cut bureaucratic red tape and reduce duplication in the planning and approval process
  3. Avoid pushing too much density to fringe areas and away from transit and existing infrastructure
  4. Encourage moderate or gentle intensification across the region by clarifying and amending Growth Plan policies to encourage intensification across the GTHA
  5. Maximize investment in transit and infrastructure
  6. Provide greater certainty for future development by identifying the agricultural and rural lands in the inner-ring (Whitebelt) as future urban areas in the Growth Plan.

 

 

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