Photo: James Bombales

This week, Ontario PC leader Doug Ford floated the idea of opening up the Greenbelt for housing development, before quickly walking the idea back the next day. He cited conversations with developers as the genesis of the idea, before backing down after significant criticism from his political opponents. According to one expert, there are better solutions to Ontario’s housing affordability crisis.

“I don’t think that the answer to any of the urban planning issues we’re facing in Ontario is to develop the Greenbelt,” Ryerson Centre for Urban Research and Land Development senior researcher Diana Petramala tells BuzzBuzzNews.

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The Greenbelt, a 7,200 square-kilometre area in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) on the perimeter of Lake Ontario, has been protected from urban development since 2005.

One main reason developing the area would be a bad idea? It’s not a quick fix. Petramala says it would take over a decade to start to see a change in supply if the Greenbelt was opened up for development.

“It’s a 10 to 15 year trajectory, maybe even more, you can’t do development overnight,” she says.

Furthermore, Petramala says that many of the issues facing the GGH housing market lie outside of a lack of supply. She points to municipalities within the GGH that are having trouble attracting businesses as just one example.

“We have municipalities around the Greenbelt who are having trouble developing economic hubs, and developing the Greenbelt won’t do anything to address issues like these,” she says.

She also notes that issues such as walkability and mid-density housing would still need to be addressed.

“We still need to address the long commute times of people going into the city for work,” she says. “Ultimately, the better way to get density in the GTA is to adjust zoning rules to allow for development in the area of low-rise homes, or ‘the yellow belt.’”

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