The Time is Now
Nov. 9, 2016
By Andrew Cohrs
Chronic underinvestment that has historically plagued transit in the GTA, the cost of gridlock and the need to catch up with population growth, pose serious problems for GTA municipalities. But it is not only infrastructure projects that are needed but a change in mindset.
“If we do things as we have always done, if we don’t attempt to be more creative ... simply building more transit ... more options for active transit and more highways will not solve the problem. We actually have, as it relates to commuter patterns, a cultural challenge that exists in the GTHA,” provincial transportation minister Steven Del Duca told over 100 participants at the Vaughan Chamber of Commerce event yesterday morning.
Joined by fellow panelists York Region chair Wayne Emmerson and Vaughan mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua, Del Duca pointed to the current alignment of all three levels of government as providing the right timing to get shovels in the ground.
“For far too long in [the GTA], as it relates to transportation, we’ve talked a lot, we’ve analysed a lot ...This is the unique moment which we need to strike, that we have to get it right and we have to get [transit] projects started.”
Bevilacqua said that both the increase in Vaughan’s population and its growing business sector is putting pressure on transportation networks and housing supply. Recalling his first home in Canada - a basement suite on St. Clair Avenue in the City of Toronto - the mayor stressed the linkages between inequity, transit availability and access to affordable housing.
“For me it is not just an issue of housing itself, it has got to do with making sure that you’re building societies that are not exclusionary ...it is about building a just and fair city,” Bevilacqua said. “This region is really a story of two regions... the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer ... housing is a part of the solution.”
Panelists discussed ways to boost rental housing, citing local examples such as a successful rental project in downtown Newmarket where the payment of development charges was delayed and progress on secondary suite official plan and zoning bylaw amendments in Vaughan. Emmerson also noted that while York Region has put policies and strategies in place to intensify regional centres and corridors, getting developers on side is imperative. The time is right to establish partnerships with the private sector and develop creative solutions.
“I think [private sector developers] understand that rental housing is crucial ... It is coming, we will get more,” Emmerson said. “[Affordable housing] will come, it is just going to take some more innovative ways.”