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Province bypasses Region of Waterloo planning to open more land for development


The province is making space for development within Waterloo Region in an effort to ease the housing crisis but to do so, it is overriding the Official Plan agreed to by regional councillors.

On Tuesday, the province sent a letter to the Region indicating hundreds of hectares of land not currently set for development until 2051, are now open to developers.

It was a surprise decision that has the Region working to determine the full impacts.

“I would tell you that’s why we’re still delving into exactly what the plan entails,” said Karen Redman, regional chair.

Even in overriding the Official Plan, Redman said the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, affirmed the Region’s planning principles as it works to build 15-minute communities.

Though, Redman said it’s a balancing act to address the housing affordability crisis.

“It’s not just infill. It’s not just building up,” said Redman. “We recognize that there will still be people who will be looking for the kind of Greenfield, suburban development that currently exists in the region.”

Berry Vrbanovic, the mayor of Kitchener, also stressed that key boundary lines drawn by the Region are in tact.

“I think the main parts of the Regional Official Plan have been adopted and that includes things like protecting the Countryside Line, things like protecting things like the major transit areas in the city of Kitchener,” he said

Brian Doucet, with the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo, believes the move is unnecessary to meet the demand of a growing community.

Waterloo Region is projected to grow to nearly one million people in the next three decades.

“We can build denser,” said Doucet. “We can build on sites that are underdeveloped, parking lots for example. We need to maximize that because in the long run, that’s far cheaper. That’s cheaper for municipalities to service and that also means people’s property taxes don’t have to rise as much.”

Premier Doug Ford was in Kitchener on Thursday for a funding announcement but also addressed the topic of housing.

“People just can’t keep saying no, we don’t want people. It just doesn’t work,” said Ford. “We have to grow. If we said no to everything, one time or another, years back, I’m sure this was farming as well, but we have more land than we know what to do with in Ontario.”

When asked by CTV News if there were any other plans for the province to step in and change the Region’s planning further, Ford said it’s up to the minister of municipal affairs, who will work closely with local mayors. Top Stories

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