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‘Laughable’: Vaughan council rejects Ontario’s ‘out of touch’ changes on planning

One suggestion included ‘incentivizing’ building beyond the congested GTA
March 11, 2022
Dina Al-Shibeeb

“Laughable,” “undemocratic,” “disaster in the making,” and “out of touch” are some of the adjectives used by Vaughan councillors during a March 2 meeting describing the 55 recommendations released by the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force early in February.

The housing task force’s report calls for changes to the “planning policies and zoning to allow for greater density and increase the variety of housing” to address its need to come up with 1.5 million homes.

The province says its recommendations will spur affordable housing and “depoliticize the approvals process to address NIMBYism and cut red tape to speed up housing.”

NIMBYism is a euphemism for “Not in My Backyard,” which refers to residents who oppose intensification of their neighbourhoods.

Vaughan councillors backed Coun. Marilyn Iafrate’s resolution to express their stance that municipalities should have the final authority for development planning following the release of the provincial recommendations that they say are hindering their ability to maintain that final say.

City staff also provided input for Ontario to ponder, including asking the province to define what affordable housing is.

Staff suggested that reducing costs to build, buy and rent could be achieved through exploring the municipal funding model and that development charges are essential in planning.

Staff explained that public consultation is a key component in the planning process and that decisions should be driven by local planning in coordination with all levels of government.

“There's nothing affordable that we can build in Vaughan,” said Regional Coun. Linda Jackson.

Jackson argued Ontario should think outside the box and incentivize building homes outside the Greater Toronto Area, referring to municipalities such as Barrie or Orillia, which weren’t previously heavily populated but are now highly coveted.

“I had the biggest laugh about the one of being able to build four units in your backyard,” Jackson said. “How many times do we get people complaining about a gazebo or pool hubs in the backyard?

“Imagine the type of hell we'd be under,” she added. “Like wake up, it's not creative.”

Coun. Tony Carella called the recommendations undemocratic.

“It's just a disaster in the making, and never mind the fact that it's completely undemocratic,” said Carella, who also described politicians at the top as not having an understanding of what’s happening on the ground.

“We are between a rock and a hard place,” he said, noting there are people who want less traffic gridlock, others have already accepted high intensification in their areas, and yet the government wants even more.

And, the pressure is intensifying still.

In 2021, Canada achieved an ambitious immigration goal, by bringing in 401,000 new immigrants, the highest total since Canada became a country in 1867. This has put greater pressure on municipalities such as Vaughan that have followed the rules and intensified and continue adding newer homes. The emerging downtown core in Vaughan is one mega project that is taking place to add more homes.