Greenbelt needs housing because of immigration says Doug Ford

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Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford is justifying his proposal to take land out of the environmentally-protecting Greenbelt to build homes, saying the housing crisis has gotten worse and will get worse in due to increased immigration.

Mr Ford said he welcomed a recent Federal Government announcement that it was seeking to increase immigration levels, bringing in 500,000 people by 2025.

But, he said, if hundreds of thousands of additional new residents arrive in Ontario each year, there will be nowhere to house them.

“I am here all the time to say that we need more people (…) we need 385,000 people to fill the jobs,” Mr. Ford said Monday at an independent press conference, delivering his oft-quoted message about Ontario’s labor shortage.

According to Mr. Ford, some 300,000 of these newcomers will settle in Ontario.

« Where are we going to put 300,000 people a year, almost a million people in three years, because of the inaction of previous governments who were unwilling to take bold steps to get housing built? » he asked.

« We’re going to make sure we get housing built. »

The province announced Friday that it is proposing to remove land from the Greenbelt, which was created to protect environmentally sensitive areas from development, with the goal of building at least 50,000 new homes there, while adding new land elsewhere.

This is a step that the government pledged last year not to take.

Mr Ford said on Monday the situation had changed.

“We are in unprecedented times when it comes to housing,” he said. We have a housing crisis today that we did not have four years ago.”

The province has launched a 30-day consultation on removing approximately 7,400 acres from 15 different areas of the Greenbelt and adding 9,400 acres elsewhere. This decision comes as the province has set itself the goal of building 1.5 million homes in 10 years.

Opposition politicians and environmental groups criticized last week’s announcement, saying it would harm the Greenbelt and its role in stopping urban sprawl and protecting farmland, forests and drinking water.

« The government should be ashamed and the people of Ontario should be outraged, » Phil Pothen, Ontario environmental program manager for Environmental Defence, wrote in a statement.

Green Party leader Mike Schreiner said on Monday that now that Mr Ford has backtracked on a law that imposed contracts on education workers – promising to repeal it – he should now turn his attention to the Belt of vegetation.

« The Prime Minister has shown he can admit when he’s wrong – and carving up Greenbelt tracts as giveaways to pro-sprawl developers and wealthy land speculators is the definition of wrong, » he said. he writes in a statement.

Ontario created the Greenbelt in 2005 to protect agricultural and ecologically sensitive land in the Greater Golden Horseshoe from development.

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