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Ontario Housing Bill Overrides Rural Zoning Laws

the Ontario government recently passed legislation that overrides municipal zoning laws and eliminates many housing development fees, to advance the largest Canadian province’s goal of building 1.5 million homes over the next decade. The development land in question is primarily on Southern Ontario’s long protected Green Belt space, a 200-mile-long, fragile drainage zone and farming area immediately adjacent to the Greater Toronto Area and Canada’s most heavily populated region.

The Bill 23 legislation, known as the ‘More Homes Built Faster Act’ was first proposed by the Ontario government last month on October 25. The bill passed immediately following a mandatory 30-day consultation process, to remove about 7,400 acres from the Greenbelt. Construction on land removed from the Greenbelt would be expected to begin no later than 2025.

Bill 23 received heavy criticism by farming, conservation and environmental groups across the province, but was easily passed by Ontario’s Conservative government. The conservatives won their second majority government earlier this year. Much of the criticism over this bill revolved around several large housing developers that stand to benefit from this legislation.

Ontario’s New Democratic Party was a vocal critic. NDP Housing Critic Jessica Bell addressed the Queen’s Park legislation in Toronto on Monday.

“Nine of the developers that own land being removed by the Green Belt, donated more than $572,000 to the Conservative Party. These developers bought the protected land at a very cheap price and now, with a stroke of your pen, they can develop that land at incredible profit.” 

While not addressing the developer accusations directly, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark said Ontario is facing an unprecedented housing crisis that needs immediate solutions.

“Our province, we’re in a housing crisis. We made a promise to Ontarians during the election that we’d put a plan in place to build 1.5 million homes over the next ten years.” 

The Greenbelt Act was created in 2005 to permanently protect agricultural and environmentally sensitive lands in the Greater Toronto area from development. Until quite recently the Ontario Conservative government has repeatedly stated that it would not touch the Greenbelt area.

Aiva Eek is a King Township municipal councilor whose family farms within the Greenbelt. She was shocked that Bill 23 passed so quickly.

“Put the brakes on this bill for now, let’s have a conversation. We’re all on-side, we all understand. We need more housing? We need agriculture. We need that natural space, we need that environment.”