Ontario’s Housing Bill is Actually a Trojan Horse for Environmentally Catastrophic Rural Sprawl

“(The Ford government’s) Bill 23 ….  is an attack on Conservation Authorities, woodlands and provincially significant wetlands that aims to enable destruction of wetland habitats and conservation lands:” – Environmental Defence Canada

A Statement and Detailed Analysis of Bill 23 from Phil Pothen, Ontario Environment Program Manager, Environmental Defence

Posted November 1st. 2-22 on Niagara At Large

Toronto | Traditional territories of the Huron-Wendat, the Anishnaabeg, Haudenosaunee, Chippewas and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation – The Ontario government’s Bill 23 “More Homes Built Faster Act” includes only tepid measures to enable more badly needed home construction in existing cities, while diving deep into dangerous attacks on wetland habitat, woodlands and other conservation lands and encouraging even more of the expensive rural sprawl that caused Ontario’s housing crisis.

The most glaring feature of Bill 23 and its associated policy proposals is an attack on Conservation Authorities, woodlands and provincially significant wetlands that aims to enable destruction of wetland habitats and conservation lands:

Across Ontario, municipalities largely leave it to Conservation Authorities to use refusal of permits – and their authority to appeal land use decisions – to ensure that sprawl doesn’t destroy the ecological function of the habitat and water bodies they protect.

 

However, this Bill prohibits Conservation Authorities’ power to protect anything beyond managing floodwaters and erosion. It would leave vast swathes of Ontario’s most important habitats largely unprotected. This measure is useless as a spur to housing supply, because Ontario has more than enough room in existing neighborhoods and lands already designated for development than it will need for housing for many decades.

This Bill’s attack on regional planning is counterproductive for housing affordability – as well as being environmentally disastrous:

  • Devolving planning decisions to lower-tier municipalities would produce development that is more scattered and thus much more environmentally harmful, but also more uncoordinated and expensive.
  • This is precisely the opposite of what’s needed at a time when we need to preserve every acre of farmland and habitat, and use scarce construction materials, construction labour, equipment and supporting infrastructure to maximize the number of well-designed and low-cost homes, and transform existing post-WWII subdivisions into public transit-supporting complete communities.

One of the few bright spots in this Bill is a mandate for as-of-right zoning for building more densely near major transit stations:

A mid-20th Century Neanderthal’s Vision of Ontario’s future, with less than a wit of concern for climate crises or the value of a healthy ecosystem.

However, promised reforms to remove or reduce exclusionary “single detached” zoning, which is desperately needed to add compact and low-cost family housing to existing low-rise neighborhoods, were watered down to such a degree that, according to the government’s own documents, they would create just 50,000 of the 1,500,000 promised  homes.

This means that families would still be pushed out into low-density car-dependent sprawl.

The government seems to be using this bill to destroy many of the most effective measures that cities have created to ensure that development can go ahead smoothly without causing social and environmental problems, including ending the requirement for rental unit replacement when old buildings are replaced and putting restrictions on inclusionary zoning.

Unless the major flaws in Bill 23 are addressed, it will further the destruction of critical natural areas in a time of climate crisis, while also failing to  deliver the urban transformation – or the affordable housing – that Ontario needs.

For the full News Release, including background information,click on – https://environmentaldefence.ca/2022/10/31/ontarios-housing-bill-is-actually-a-trojan-horse-for-environmentally-catastrophic-rural-sprawl/

ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE ( environmentaldefence.ca ): 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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