Contributed by Abdullah, resident of Pickering
As it stands right now, hundreds of thousands of people like me, millennials and Gen Z, in the GTA and Durham region will never be able to buy a home despite working good jobs and having above average wages. As a result, a lot of us are still living with our parents and putting off settling down and having families further and further into an uncertain future.
We are in fact in a housing crisis. There are no doubts about that fact. To resolve this crisis, we need to build truly affordable homes and complete communities, with a range of housing types and a mix of schools, stores, workplaces and parks, within our existing urban boundaries. To build these affordable homes and communities at the expense of our pristine and beautiful farmlands and heritage lands is imprudent and irresponsible.
To this end, I find the Durham Regional Official Plan to be problematic because a lot of unnecessary land is being made available for development that is not required based on the studies conducted by experts in the field. If approved, this plan would certainly would not be in the best interests of the people of Durham Region and Pickering.
Regional Council’s approval of a developer-originated, developer-friendly proposal called BILD Scenario 2A will only encourage more urban sprawl. The result will be more unaffordable homes, more cars on the road contributing to more greenhouse gasses, and more loss of prime farmland.
We need to focus on building within existing urban boundaries with a focus on the missing middle, or medium-density housing, which by their very nature are smaller homes making them more affordable for people like me. This would result in more young people moving to Durham, increasing population density which would in turn support greater investment into public transit and help keep taxes down as more people would share the tax base per acre of land while protecting land that will feed us and help mitigate the harms of climate change.
The provincial government has created a false dichotomy pitting the needs and wants of new homeowners against environment preservation. This is not a black and white issue with only two choices: protect the environment or build affordable homes. In fact, these are not mutually exclusive goals and for the provincial government to frame this issue as such is negligent.
We should all care about this as residents and community members because we all benefit heavily from the environment, particular the agricultural Greenbelt lands. From the abundant green spaces, to prime farm lands, we all benefit whether it’s through food production, flood mitigation, or recreation.
The unnecessary development of our pristine and heritage lands is a terribly short-sighted idea. Just as the decisions of the past got us to this point, decisions of today will have an indelible impact on the future that many of my generation will have to live and contend with. We must make sustainable and responsible decisions that balance the needs and wants of today without borrowing or irrevocably taking from our future.