The Ontario government yesterday released four updated land use plans aimed at balancing protecting the environment and promoting vibrant communities as the Greater Golden Horseshoe grows. The region is projected to see its population increase to 13.5 million between now and 2041 as it absorbs an estimated four million people.
“This region will continue to experience a lot of growth in the coming years, so we need to be wise about the way we plan and build our communities,” said Minister of Municipal Affairs Bill Mauro.
The updates come as part of broader reforms of the province’s land use planning system, which include a proposal unveiled Tuesday to replace the Ontario Municipal Board. Two years of consultation and study informed revisions to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, Greenbelt Plan, Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and Niagara Escarpment Plan.
Collectively, the updated plans are aimed at bolstering the agri-food sector, complete communities, jobs attraction and retention, and public open spaces, as well as improving safeguards for natural and water resources, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting municipalities in mitigating the effects of the extreme weather caused by climate change.
“These revised plans provide a much smarter approach — by making more efficient use of land, resources and infrastructure — so we can protect our environment, preserve precious farmland, boost our economy, address climate change and develop smart, sustainable, transit-supportive communities,” said Mauro.
In a statement yesterday, Tim Hudak, CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA), welcomed the attention paid to expanding the housing supply and range of options available on the market in the updated plans.
“Municipalities that have the space will now be able to accommodate ‘missing middle’ housing types like townhouses, stacked flats or mid-rise buildings, creating more affordable choices for first-time buyers, young families and down-sizers,” said Hudak.
While the Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA) credited the province for factoring the diversity of the Greater Golden Horseshoe’s communities into its updated plans, the OHBA cautioned that persisting delays in approval and red tape could jeopardize housing supply, choice and affordability.
“Our short-term concern has always been that without appropriate transition, the implementation of the update land use plans could undermine current housing in the pipeline,” said Joe Vaccaro, CEO of the OHBA. “Our industry is currently fighting the delays created by the previous plan, which prevented bringing much-needed housing supply and choice to Ontarians.
“We need provincial funding and approval to deliver public transit, clean water and infrastructure and build complete communities.”
The OHBA further underscored that the updated Growth Plan will deepen the decade-long trend toward density in the mix of newly built housing, which has seen a drop in low-rise supply and surge in high-rise supply.
“This new Growth Plan will not alleviate either the housing supply crunch or escalating housing prices,” said Vaccaro. “However, we believe that new interim targets and the recognition by the Province for needed local flexibility will provide a smoother transition.”