Almost 24 hours after Toronto Police rousted a homeless encampment in Trinity Bellwoods Party in Toronto, Green Party of Ontario leader and Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner revealed his party’s housing strategy. The goals of the plan focus on creating more affordable housing, more support for people experiencing homelessness, and additional funding to create more sustainable communities.
“Addressing the housing affordability crisis is a top priority for Greens,” said Schreiner. “We have a plan to build affordable and livable communities that work for everyone. Communities that are centered on people and connected by transit. Communities where no one is forced to live on the streets, and where there is equitable access to greenspaces, services, and vibrant local businesses.”
The plan includes a goal of building 100,000 affordable rental units and maintaining an affordable housing supply, creating 60,000 new permanent supportive housing
spaces, restoring 260,000 community housing units, and investing $5 billion in green building programs. Schreiner added that all this can be done without infringing on wetlands, farmland, or the Greenbelt, and that the plan can help solve homelessness while not contributing to the climate crisis.
“We’re not saying that we’re going to prohibit new growth on greenspace within existing urban boundaries, but we need to ensure that it’s done in a way that brings forward more density, and in particular distributed density or people-centred density,” Schreiner said.
The Greens, he added, don’t want to be in the business of “reckless sprawl”, meaning low density development that creates more infrastructure problems than solutions when it comes to preventing flooding and creating good quality of life.
“Continuing to sprawl and paving over vital greenspace, wetlands, and farmland increases our exposure and risk to flooding because it diminishes our soil’s ability to absorb excess water from extreme weather events,” Schreiner explained. “Low density sprawl also adds to the largest driver of climate pollution in Ontario, transportation emissions. Sprawl development forces people into long commutes, which also detracts from their health and quality of life.”
On quality of life, the housing strategy proposes the creation of 15-minute neighbourhoods, the idea that you should be able to navigate around your neighbourhood be it to work, school, parks, or other amenities just 15 minutes from your front step.
“I think one of the things that has really emerged out of the pandemic is a strong desire for people to live in connected, affordable, sustainable communities, and ensuring that you can quickly access amenities,” Schreiner said adding that creating better mobility is the key. “Part of that is improving public transit, part of that is improving infrastructure to make our streets safe for walking, cycling and wheeled mobility devices, and part of that is changing our zoning processes that enables more services and amenities in existing communities.”
Schreiner’s announcement comes one day after 20 to 25 people were forcibly cleared from Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto. Police have been heavily criticized for the force they brought to bear against the encampment and allegations that members of the press were blocked from covering the event. Photojournalist Ian Willms was detained, and his camera equipment was seized in a move that the Canadian Association of Journalists called a “complete overreaction.”
Schreiner said that the Green vision is for “inclusive and accessible communities that are welcoming for all Ontarians,” and that the time has come to think boldly about addressing the desperate housing needs of Ontario.
“I think there’s clear benefits for everyone by creating a plan that builds livable communities that are affordable for everyone, enhances the value for everyone, and increases the well-being and livability of our communities,” Schreiner said. “I think there’s growing awareness among the public that we have to do things differently if we’re going to ensure that everyone has an affordable place to call home.”
You can read the full plan here.