hamilton-city Photo: Ken Lund/Flickr

Ontario’s government announced today it was working toward expanding four land-use plans that guide development in the province’s Greater Golden Horseshoe region, drawing a critical response from at least one major homebuilding group.

“The changes we are proposing would promote compact, vibrant communities that support jobs and public transit, and reward us with an expanded Greenbelt,” says Ted McMeekin, Ontario’s Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister, in a statement.

“Together, these would be major steps in boosting our economy, furthering smart, sustainable living, protecting our environment and addressing climate change,” he adds.

The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Greenbelt Plan, The Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and the Niagara Escarpment Plan are the policies the government is looking to alter.

Among the changes, the province proposes that 60 per cent of new residential development each year occurs on built-up land, rather than undeveloped greenfield in municipalities.

The government would also mandate “zoning along transit corridors to provide adequate density to support transit,” it said in a news release.

As McMeekin noted, the updated framework would see the Greenbelt — which currently encompasses 1.8 million acres of protected land — expanded as well.

Some 21 urban river valleys and seven coastal wetlands would be added to the Greenbelt’s protected lands, alongside several parcels the City of Hamilton and Region of Niagara suggested.

Following the government’s announcement of the proposed changes, the Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA), a development industry lobby group, issued a statement arguing intensification policies will make housing more expensive.

“The provincial government’s announcement to dramatically increases [sic] both intensification and density requirements in the Provincial Growth Plan, means less housing choice and higher prices for home buyers,” reads an OHBA statement issued today.

The provincial government will allow the public to provide feedback at open houses later this month and next, it says.

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