The Ontario Municipal Board has made a decision that threatens our future. Fortunately, community members and governments are standing up against it.
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The Province of Ontario recently announced its Coordinated Land Use Planning Review. Taking a big-picture view, the Province has decided to include several related policies in the same review, and is including:
- the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe
- the Greenbelt Plan
- the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan
- the Niagara Escarpment Plan
The Province has released a discussion document for this stage of the consultations, which can be viewed here.
Most exciting for us, Waterloo Region has been selected as the site of the first regional town hall meeting. The meeting will take place on Wednesday March 25th at Bingeman’s Conference Centre in Kitchener. The open house will start at 6:00 pm, and the meeting will start at 7:00 pm.
If you’re able, please join us at Bingeman’s on the 25th. With Waterloo Region leading the way on smart growth, environmental and farmland protection, and more liveable communities, we need to make sure that local voices are heard in this review. The results of this review will have a huge impact here at home and across the province.
We’ve set up a Facebook page for the event, so let us know you’ll be joining in! We’ll also be tweeting at #LandUseON, so join in the conversation online, too.
And if you can’t make it, you can submit your comments online until May 27th, 2015.
One more note: the Province of Ontario is also holding consultations about its strategy for addressing climate change. A consultation will take place at the Kitchener Public Library on March 19th, and full details are available here.
Today, the Waterloo Region Record ran a new story about the ongoing negotiations between the Region of Waterloo and a handful of developers, whose appeal of the Regional Official Plan resulted in a 2013 Ontario Municipal Board ruling against the Region’s efforts to rein in urban sprawl. While it’s been public knowledge that such negotiations have been ongoing since early 2013, it is noteworthy that both Regional Chair Ken Seiling and a planner for some of those developers sound hopeful that a negotiated settlement is still possible.
Fortunately, our regional government is doing what it can, and isn’t simply relying on the outcome of negotiations to protect our future. The article reports that the Region is still pursuing a judicial review of that fateful OMB decision, and if a satisfactory settlement isn’t reached, court dates for the appeal are set for January of 2016.
You can read the full article on the Record’s website here.
There was a brief flurry of newspaper pieces early this year raising fears that Ontario’s plans for smart growth will damage the affordability of home ownership. In the Globe and Mail, Tom Curtis suggested that the Greenbelt is threatening social equity by increasing housing prices in the Greater Toronto Area. Locally, The Record’s editorial board expressed the same concern, and encouraged the Region of Waterloo to consider compromising its policies that focus more growth in accessible core areas.
These pieces suggest that housing affordability and smart growth are opposed: that our only chance for equitable and affordable housing is to compromise our farmland, our environment, and our plans for sustainable and affordable growth. Fortunately, informed and articulate voices have been explaining that this isn’t the case.
First, Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s chief planner, wrote a compelling piece in the Globe and Mail, pointing out that housing prices have gone up just as much in areas without greenbelts as in those with them, and that these smart growth policies are the affordable and responsible option for the long term.
More recently, several esteemed experts at the University of Waterloo, York University, and the University of Toronto wrote an extensive piece addressing questions of the housing market and smart growth. They point out that there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of new housing, and that new housing has a very small impact on prices at a given time. High prices are due to demand in accessible and central areas, and they argue that we need to consider the cost of transportation when looking at housing affordability.
We at Smart Growth Waterloo Region also contributed a letter to the editor, arguing that we need to focus on real solutions to protect housing affordability and choice, since sprawl won’t keep housing affordable.
While it’s unfortunate that some are drawing the wrong conclusions about the causes of increasing housing prices, we’re grateful that so many have taken the opportunity to so thoughtfully address these misperceptions about smart growth.
This recent debate has also drawn the attention of some insightful folks in the media. Michael John McGrath at The Agenda Blog has written a strong overview piece about the Greenbelt and housing prices. Hopefully these questions are drawing the attention of more and more members of our communities to the importance of forward-thinking policies on growth.
Last December, we were tremendously fortunate to partner with Environmental Defence and the Grand River Environmental Network to host a panel discussion about Smartening Up Growth. The event was a huge success, and more than 80 people packed into the multipurpose room at the Downtown Community Centre in Kitchener to learn more about the costs of sprawl and the benefits of Smart Growth in Waterloo Region.
We’re thrilled to be able to finally share a full-length video of the event:
We were lucky to have the assistance of the great Mike Farwell as our moderator, and our panel was comprised of:
- Aidan Grove-White (Planning Advisor, Environmental Defence)
- Rob Horne (Commissioner of Planning, Housing, and Community Services, Region of Waterloo)
- Kevin Thomason (Vice-President, Grand River Environmental Network)
- Kate Daley (Co-Founder, Smart Growth Waterloo Region)
Our sincere thanks to those who attended, to our participants, and to Seven Shores for their kind donation of refreshments. A special thanks also to Benton Leong for recording this event for your enjoyment.
Please share this post with those who couldn’t make it. You can also check out tweets from the event through our Storify.