The affordability of housing in the GTA is complicated and while many things have brought us to our current record high prices, no one should say that the Province’s growth policies are not contributing to the problem.
Major decisions around development, land use and housing supply must to be based on facts and evidence and to do that we need more information and better data.
A recent “brief” and commentary by the organization whose work informed the development of those very polices is not helping inform an evidence based discussion. The Neptis Foundiation has recently been in the news saying that there is ample land available for building homes in the GTA and therefor lack of land can’t be causing home prices to increase.
Neptis is focusing on the wrong things. Prices are escalating largely because there are not enough new low-rise homes being built to meet the demand of GTA residents. This is as a direct result of government intensification policies, lack of serviced land and ever growing amounts of red tape.
The issue limiting the GTA’s supply of homes is not the overall amount of land that has been set aside for development. The issue is how much of that land has the critical infrastructure that makes developing it possible.
The GTA has an acute infrastructure shortage due to decades of underinvestment and most land designated for development has no access to existing water and waste water services. Planning and building new infrastructure takes decades and we are already far behind.
The Neptis brief says that 45 per cent of the land that has been developed in the region in the last decade was in Brampton, Vaughan and Milton. That is not surprising since those municipalities had existing water and waste water infrastructure that made development to date possible. Neptis correctly pointed out that those communities still have a lot of land for development, unfortunately they did not look at how much of it has the necessary infrastructure and approvals in place to unlock it for building homes and businesses.
Oakville, Whitby, East Gwillimbury and Seaton are municipalities that Neptis identified as having used little of their supply of land.
There has been little development in East Gwillimbury and Seaton because of a lack of water and waste water servicing. Major home building in East Gwillimbury is contingent upon the completion of Upper York Sewage Solutions project. Originally approved in 2002 and slated for completion in 2018, that project now won’t be ready until at least 2024, and more likely 2028. The building of water and waste water infrastructure to service designated lands in Seaton are similarly far behind schedule.
Complex and lengthy land planning approvals are also thwarting the ability of the industry to bring new homes to market. Regulatory approval timelines and municipal phasing policies render much of the designated and available land in the Neptis study as undevelopable in the near term. In Whitby, the land in north Whitby is still going through a Secondary Plan process with no specific timetable to bring those lands forward for development. Meanwhile in Oakville there is lots of land designated for development in North Oakville Secondary Plan Area but much of it cannot be developed in the near term due to phasing policies and Halton Region’s allocation program constraint.
The land might be out there but 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.