While the growing challenge of housing affordability in the GTA is complicated, no one should say that the Ontario government’s growth policies are not contributing to the problem.
Housing supply, development and land use all have a direct bearing on the price of housing and decisions about them should be based on facts and evidence.
Commentary by the organization whose work informed the development of the Province’s growth policies is not helping inform an evidence based discussion. The Neptis Foundiation has been in the news recently saying that the GTA has plenty of land available for home building and therefor lack of land isn’t causing prices to rise.
Neptis is focusing on the wrong things. Home prices are increasing mostly because there are not enough new low-rise homes being built to meet demand and that is due to government intensification policies, ever growing amounts of red tape and a lack of serviced land.
The overall amount of land earmarked for development is not the issue limiting our supply of housing, rather it is how little of that land has the critical infrastructure in place to make developing it possible.
Due to decades of underinvestment, the GTA has an acute infrastructure shortage and most land designated for development has water and waste water servicing in place. Planning and building such infrastructure takes decades.
The Neptis says that 45 per cent of the land developed in the GTA in the past 10 years was in Brampton, Vaughan and Milton. Not surprising since those municipalities had the necessary water and waste water infrastructure that has made developing them to date possible.
East Gwillimbury, Seaton, Oakville and Whitby are municipalities that Neptis identified as having used little of their land supply.
There has been little development in East Gwillimbury and Seaton due to a lack of water and waste water servicing. Major home building in East Gwillimbury is contingent upon the completion of a major waste water project which was approved in 2002 and expected to be complete in 2018. However the project is delayed and it won’t be ready until 2024 at the earliest and more likely 2028. In Seaton, construction of water and waste water infrastructure to service designated lands is similarly far behind schedule.
Complex and lengthy land planning approvals are also negatively impacting home building. Regulatory approval timelines and municipal phasing policies make much of the land that Neptis identifies as designated and available, undevelopable anytime soon. That is the case for land in both Whitby and Oakville.
So while land might be out there, it is not available for use. No developer or builder is sitting on land when they could be building and selling homes so that GTA families can fulfill their dreams of home ownership.
About the author: Bryan Tuckey is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) and is a land-use planner who has worked for municipal, regional and provincial governments. He can be found on Twitter (twitter.com/bildgta), Facebook (facebook.com/bildgta) and BILD’s official online blog (bildblogs.ca).