Phil Pothen, Land Use and Land Development Program Manager

Toronto | Traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabeg, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat – Let’s be clear: if the Ontario government chooses to “focus” new building on single detached houses and townhouses, as Premier Ford says it will, it will be choosing to make the housing shortage worse. There’s no path to quickly delivering the vast numbers of homes we need without shifting to building multi-unit homes inside the existing neighbourhoods and settlement areas of our towns and cities.

Every detached house that sprawl developers build on farm land and forests  –especially in the Golden Horseshoe and Ottawa– means construction labour and materials are diverted away from creating a larger number of family homes on existing lots in the neighbourhoods where families actually want to live. That’s fewer homes, slower.

Every policy this Ontario government announces is further confirmation that its statements about the housing crisis are only cynical rhetoric. With overwhelming public, municipal and evidentiary support –not to mention his own hand picked “Housing Task Force”– coalescing around key policy changes that really would deliver “more homes faster”, the Premier is now actually using his political influence to thwart them.

At a press conference in Richmond Hill on Thursday, Premier Ford attempted to pass off his decision to leave in place bans on even modest, 4 storey, multiplex homes, as a concession to affluent, anti-density house owners (often referred to as NIMBYs). However, that excuse doesn’t hold water. Polling has shown strong support for apartment buildings of up to 4 storeys in existing neighborhoods even before the housing crisis became Ontario’s dominant issue. Residents from all over Ontario who might once have been “NIMBYs” are now speaking out in support of fourplexes, and more, as vital to saving farmland and habitat, and improving quality of life in their own neighborhoods. The Provincial government has all the power it needs to deliver.

It is sprawl developers and land speculators, desperate to maintain a market for sprawl, who are the real source of opposition to densifying neighborhoods. If Ontarians want to understand what is behind the Premier’s refusal to welcome denser housing, they should look to the same group of  “friends” behind the proposed Highway 413 and attacks on the Greenbelt.

ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE ( Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian environmental advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

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