Today, Doug Ford is going on the offensive, peddling the old canard that Greenbelt land is needed if Ontario is to meet the challenge of building 1.5 million homes over the next decade.
The Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk, tackled that one head on. She said there was sufficient land outside the Greenbelt to meet housing targets.
She pointed to the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force, set up by Ford, which reported in February 2022:
… a shortage of land isn’t the cause of the problem. Land is available, both inside the existing built-up areas and on undeveloped land outside greenbelts.
Greenbelts and other environmentally sensitive areas must be protected, and farms provide food and food security.
Planning Approvals given but not acted on
The Task Force went on:
Municipal leaders also shared their frustrations with situations where new housing projects are approved and water, sewage and other infrastructure capacity is allocated to the project – only to have the developer land bank the project and put off building.
They then came up with this non-solution:
Enable municipalities, subject to adverse external economic events, to withdraw infrastructure allocations from any permitted projects where construction has not been initiated within three years of build permits being issued.
There must be thousands of sites across the Province where full planning approval has been given but the developer is sitting on the land, doing nothing. Withdrawing sewage and water allocations means absolutely nothing. Why would it?
If developers go on strike then municipalities should have the power to rescind planning approval if spades aren't in the ground after, say, four years. This is what happens in the UK and the sky hasn’t fallen in.
York Region has asked its nine constituent municipalities to supply figures showing the number of approvals they have given that have not been acted upon.
I’ve been blogging about this land-banking scandal for a decade – to absolutely no effect.
A car park where the condo should be
Here in Newmarket we have egregious examples. A 280 unit 20 storey condo where planning permission was granted in 2009. Today it is a car park. Next door a 12 storey condo with 115 apartments where planning approval was granted 28 years ago. Today, it is still a patch of bare earth. The land, sterilised for decades, is owned by Tricap.
If Ford really wanted to do something useful he would abandon his plans to build on the Greenbelt and persuade his friends, the developers, to end their strike.
A one-cause Bill would do it – sunsetting planning approvals that are not acted on within four years.