Could opening Greenbelt curb sprawl, help affordability?

by Neil Sharma19 Dec 2018

The Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act could open up the protected Greenbelt, and while opposition has been predictably strong, might it help curb urban sprawl and assist housing affordability?

“It has to specify how it will improve and affect employment in that area, and now that this bill has passed first reading, cities will have to sit down and consider better urban planning to decide how much development they’ll allow,” said Ron Sally, broker of record and owner of REMAX Millennium Real Estate.

“It provides an opportunity to create manufacturing, research and development jobs. It’s also better for housing development because more people could work in this area, and with more options for people working there, they’ll want to stay in the area. It has the potential to curb urban sprawl.”

Sally is cognizant of potential damage to the environment that could result from opening the Greenbelt to development, and says it would be a “double-edged sword.”

“One of the greatest things about Canada is the environment we live in, and how clean it is. We can’t turn our back on the environment. We have to protect our lands, but create an opportunity for the economy.”

One of the Greenbelt initiative’s purposes is to curb urban sprawl by containing development within the immediate Greater Toronto Area, but David Fleming, a broker with Bosley Real Estate, notes that the region is already overburdened.

“I’ve long been a proponent of opening the Greenbelt,” he said. “High density makes sense when equipped to handle it, but look at Toronto’s central core where it’s 30 years behind, in terms of subways and also where there aren’t many schools. How are the sewer systems and other infrastructure equipped to keep adding new condo units? We aren’t prepared for the density we have.”

Housing affordability is arguably the region’s most pressing need and Fleming believes more developable land is the first step towards an eventual panacea. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, housing prices in Hamilton have surged 70% over the last five years, which Fleming says is the result of Torontonians, priced out of their own housing market, moving west.

“People lament high prices in Toronto pushing them to the outskirts, but if we increase supply anywhere in in the Golden Horseshoe it would alleviate pressure on price.”

 

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