In his first day on the job, Ontario’s new Housing Minister Paul Calandra said the government will not only be conducting a complete review of the Greenbelt but will also implement other policies and measures aimed at getting shovels in the ground.
Calandra assumed the position after Steve Clark resigned Sept. 4 following two reports from the auditor general and the integrity commissioner that found the housing minister’s chief of staff favoured certain developers over others when selecting which lands would be removed from the Greenbelt.
“These are a whole suite of measures that we are bringing in place to ensure not only the highest level of accountability in the process, to build public trust, but at the same time to be able to live up to our commitment of building 1.5 million homes across the province of Ontario; working with our municipal partners to respect the work that they are doing; and putting the development community on notice that bad actors will not be tolerated,” said Calandra. “We will remove obstacles, but we will also remove those who do not want to live up to the standard that we are setting. We expect shovels in the ground and we expect our partners to work with us to get that done.”
Calandra said the review is mandatory and had to take place by 2025, but it’s being accelerated to begin almost immediately.
“I spoke to my deputy minister yesterday and asked her to put in place a fulsome review of the Greenbelt, to give me options for that review to ensure that it is a public, open and accountable process,” he noted. “It will look at the entirety of the Greenbelt. There may be lands that need to be added to the Greenbelt, there may be some lands that are removed.”
He didn’t rule out that more lands could be removed from the protected area.
“I’m not going to presuppose what the work of the review is,” he said.
“Shovels in the ground by 2025 is what my expectation is on those sites ,but if they don’t meet the requirements under the mandated Greenbelt review as well…then they will not proceed and we will remove those lands from the Greenbelt.”
The review will include the 14 parcels of land that were removed from the Greenbelt, he added.
“I have spoken to the provincial facilitator,” Calandra said. “I reiterated my commitment to ensuring that we get shovels in the ground but also to ensuring that on the 14 sites that she continue her work, but that work must include significant community benefits …roads, schools, community centres, hospitals and the protection of any natural heritage features within those sites.”
He is hoping the work of the facilitator will be completed by the end of the year at which point he would make the results public.
“We will ensure you have access to what it is that we are considering on those sites. That will then be fed into the full review of the Greenbelt that will be underway by that point,” Calandra said. “It’s two levels of accountability.”
He will also be moving to ensure there are additional accountability measures moving forward.
“I’ve asked the department to give me recommendations and options to revise the ministerial zoning order policy,” Calandra told reporters at a press conference. “I want to be able to restrict the transfer or sale of lands and make this retroactive to 2018. I want to ensure that any lands that have been rezoned using a ministerial zoning order for the purpose of meeting our goals of building 1.5 million homes are used for that purpose.”
He also suggested the need to look at a new policy of “use it or lose it.”
“We have heard far too often…the extraordinary, good work that our municipal partners do, the time and the resources that they spend in moving forward on development proposals only to have developers sit on those allocations of water and sewage,” said Calandra. “We are in a housing crisis. We have to put
shovels in the ground and we are relying on our partners in the development industry to get those shovels in the ground faster. I will be looking at options on that. I will also be looking at further options for speculation and cancellation penalties that will be implemented through the Fall Economic Statement.”
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