Commentary: Making the Greenbelt Scandal and Housing Crisis even Worse
By Franz Hartmann
On Tuesday, Premier Ford spoke to reporters about the sudden resignation of his Housing Minister and the mounting scandals about the removal of lands for the Greenbelt that benefit a small number of select developers with an $8.3 billion windfall.
Many of us hoped he would announce the reversal of the totally unnecessary Greenbelt land removals. He did not.
Instead, he announced two new reviews that will likely lead to even more land being removed from Greenbelt protection, further turbocharging sprawl development and worsening the housing crisis.
The first review is in response to the disturbing reports by the Auditor General and Integrity Commissioner and will review the 14 parcels of land removed from the Greenbelt last December. It should be completed by the end of the year. The Premier made it very clear that while the review happens, he expects developers to move “full steam ahead” with their plans to build housing. As multiple media has reported, the review looks like a smokescreen that pretends to respond to the Greenbelt scandal but actually allows the small number of developers to move ahead with making over $8.3 billion by building the wrong housing in the wrong places.
The second review is of all lands currently under Greenbelt protection. The Greenbelt Act requires the Government to review the Greenbelt in 2025. The key goal of the review should be to make sure existing Greenbelt policies are working well to protect farmland and natural areas. But, as he made clear at Tuesday’s press conference, he wants this review to focus on removing lands from the Greenbelt. That’s why he told every developer to send in their requests for any land they want removed from the Greenbelt.
To date, no details have been released about what this review will look like.
But what is crystal clear is that the Premier dislikes the Greenbelt. In 2018 he told developers he would take land out of the Greenbelt and allow them to build the homes they wanted. Earlier this year he called the Greenbelt a scam. Earlier this week, he compared the Greenbelt policy to undemocratic actions in North Korea.
Most insidiously, he’s used the housing crisis to justify removing land from Greenbelt protection by falsely claiming there is a shortage of land. As every study has shown, we already have more than enough land set aside for development.
The most recent actions by the Premier and his government make it clear no lands in the Greenbelt are safe from potential development. As importantly, he has made it clear his priority is to build sprawl housing.
The impact this will have on the housing crisis is devastating. By focusing on building more sprawl, the already too few construction workers and building material will now be used to build homes most people can’t afford in areas most people don’t live in. People struggling to pay rent and people wanting to live close to where they work will get nothing.
Instead of addressing the housing crisis and Greenbelt scandal, the Premier has found a way to make things even worse.
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