Ontario reversing urban boundary expansions for Hamilton and other communities
Published October 23, 2023 at 1:30 pm
Ontario is reversing its expansion of urban boundaries for several communities after finding that processes used by the previous housing minister’s office did not meet the government’s standards, the new housing minister said Monday.
Paul Calandra said he is reversing course on changes to official boundaries for Barrie, Belleville, Guelph, Hamilton, Ottawa and Peterborough.
He is also winding back changes through legislation to official plans for the regional municipalities of Halton, Niagara, Peel, Waterloo, York and Wellington County.
“Since becoming minister of municipal affairs and housing, I’ve made it a priority to review past decisions to ensure that they support our goal of building at least 1.5 million homes and to ensure that the decisions that we made were done in a manner that maintains and reinforces public trust,” Calandra said.
“This includes decisions on minister zoning orders and official plans. Now, when reviewing how decisions were made regarding official plans, it is clear that they failed to meet this test.”
He said the previous housing minister’s office was too involved in changes for those plans.
Calandra said the province will cover costs incurred by municipalities on work done.
Many municipalities, including Hamilton, have said the boundary expansions were not needed to build housing.
Ward 1 Coun. Maureen Wilson is putting forward a motion at Hamilton’s upcoming Oct. 25 council meeting calling on the RCMP to investigate the urban boundary expansion. On Nov. 2022, the province announced it would remove 2,994 hectares in 15 different areas of the Greenbelt, including the hectares from Hamilton, and also extend Hamilton’s urban boundary by 2,200 hectares.
Wilson’s motion says that the decision would have resulted in the permanent loss of 1,630 to 2,190 hectares of largely prime agricultural areas, as well as impacts to natural heritage and water systems.
Calandra replaced Steve Clark as housing minister last month after the former minister resigned in the wake of two legislative watchdogs’ probes on the decision to remove land for development from the protected Greenbelt.
Calandra recently reversed course on that move and 15 parcels of land are being returned to the Greenbelt. The province had planned to build 50,000 homes on that land.
“This really is a reset for me as a minister to work with my municipal partners so that we can remain focused on working together,” Calandra said.
The province maintains its goal on housing is to build 1.5 million homes by 2031.
Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser was incredulous about Calandra’s comments that Clark’s office was too involved in the changes to municipalities’ urban boundary changes.
“There is no way on God’s green Earth that the premier’s office didn’t know about these urban boundary changes, didn’t know about MZOs, didn’t know about the Greenbelt,” he said.
The RCMP is investigating the province’s decision to open up parts of the Greenbelt for housing development.
Allison Jones and Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
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