Ontario Construction News staff writer
Building homes quickly in the province’s existing post-Second World War suburbs should be the top priority for municipal politicians, Environmental Defence said in a statement.
To adequately address the current housing crisis, the group says councillors should focus on building homes for 1.4 million in Toronto by 2051 while other communities quickly transform low-density suburbs into complete communities.
“Municipal and regional governments – including those like Toronto without “white belt” farmland and forests of their own – must fight climate change and prevent the loss of farmland and natural areas to sprawl by directing the province’s new homes and workplaces to their existing “single detached” neighbourhoods instead,” said Phil Pothen, Ontario environment program manager at Environmental Defence.
“Quickly welcoming a lot of new homes to established neighbourhoods is an essential tool to fight sprawl,”
However, Pothen added, planning to grow in existing Scarborough, Brampton, Orleans, Pickering and Oakville subdivisions is also key to delivering on other environmental commitments, like cost-effective top-quality public transit, a quick rollout of cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, and ultimately shifting the majority of our day-to-day travel away from cars and SUVs.
Environmental Defence has consistently opposed attempts by pro-sprawl politicians adding more housing in denser and lower-cost forms to existing low-rise and relatively low-density neighbourhoods.
“The tremendous environmental damage and environmental injustice caused by keeping residential streets off-limits for walk-up apartments and townhomes vastly outweighs any impacts of reduced building setbacks, increased pedestrian noise, interrupted “sky views”, shadows, or other local changes that might result from welcoming them,” Pothen said.
Environmental Defence’s proposals align closely with those advanced by housing advocates like More Neighbours Toronto to help address the shortage of urban housing, which has often dominated headlines in recent months.
“Enabling the wave of new market and non-market homes we’ll need to house people who want to live in Toronto, for example, is also looking like our last best chance to improve 416 and 905 suburbs from an environmental point of view,” Pothen said.
Environmental Defence is also calling on municipal governments across Ontario to reject mega-highways like Highway 413 and use bylaw and spending powers to oppose “climate change causing fossil gas electrical generation and fossil gas heating and cooking for new homes.”