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Public supports balancing growth with environmental protection, survey shows


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 Many conversations about future growth and new housing in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) focus on the environmental impacts. An assumption that frequently underpins these discussions is that building new housing and protecting the environment are mutually exclusive goals. This inaccurate perception can prevent us from addressing our region’s housing supply and affordability crisis effectively. However, when people are made aware that it is possible to strike a balance and meet both goals, they show strong support for policies that enable growth, according to a public opinion survey conducted by IPSOS at BILD’s request.

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Most respondents understood the seriousness of the GTA’s housing challenge. The survey found near-unanimous agreement (92%) that the region is facing a housing affordability crisis, and 81% of respondents agreed that we have a housing supply crisis. Most respondents (81%) agreed that we must balance environmental regulation with the need to build more homes faster.

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Expanding municipal boundaries to enable more housing to be built at the periphery of GTA municipalities is vital to accommodate future growth. Councils of several large municipalities in the region have resisted, yet the IPSOS survey showed that 71% of respondents agree with municipal boundary expansion. Similarly, 78% of those surveyed support building more transportation infrastructure, such as roads and highways, to enable growth in the GTA.

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The survey revealed that less than half of GTA residents (44%) are aware of the regulatory framework that governs the environmental aspects of building new homes, despite the fact that land development and building in Ontario are highly regulated at both the provincial and municipal levels. Only about one third of GTA residents (35%) felt that building a new housing community is bad for the environment.

When these groups were made aware of the current regulatory requirements and industry practices that protect the environment, more than a third were less likely to believe building homes harms the environment. This rose to more than half when informed of the superior energy performance of newly built homes.

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This research demonstrates to our political leaders that the public favours the addition of more housing supply and transportation infrastructure to help address the GTA’s generational supply and affordability crisis, and that most people support the idea that growth and environmental protection can be balanced. The survey also points to a need for public education and debate informed by facts. By taking action now, our leaders can create a legacy to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population and preserve our collective quality of life.

Dave Wilkes is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), the voice of the home building, land development and professional renovation industry in the GTA. For the latest industry news and new home data, follow BILD on Twitter, @bildgta, or visit www.bildgta.ca.



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