Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary
By Keith Currie, OFA President
Affordable housing is a very hot topic in the lead up to the provincial budget on April 27. The increasing housing prices in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) are also attracting plenty of media attention. But what if the real story lies outside of the city? The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) believes the solution to high cost housing could be found in our surrounding rural Ontario communities.
Short-term solutions to solving the high housing costs and create affordable housing in the GTHA are on the table right now with city officials and the provincial and federal governments. We expect to see a suite of measures in the upcoming provincial budget to try to stabilize the market. The Minister of Finance is in a tough position and has vowed to avoid any unintended consequences like bursting a housing bubble.
There may or may not be some short-term solutions that have impact, but OFA believes that the real long-term solution lies outside the GTHA. It is time to recognize that Toronto and the surrounding metropolis will never catch up with its infrastructure and housing needs at the current growth rate. The viable, long-term solution is to stabilize Toronto’s growth rather than just the housing market. This can be done by distributing economic development initiatives across the province – build up and invest in our rural communities. Only then will we relieve the pressure on the housing market for the long term.
The solution lies in increasing investment in our rural areas to strengthen communities and provide new economic opportunities for families. Infrastructure investments like widespread broadband, access to affordable energy with natural gas and increased social infrastructure including local schools and medical care are needed to attract new businesses and new residents.
The recent Barton report to the federal government highlighted agriculture and agri-food as an important and viable growth sector. It is time for the federal and provincial finance Ministers to start talking to the agri-business sector and mayors outside the GTHA to drive our economy forward while alleviating the GTHA housing crisis.
Our rural municipalities are eager to attract new businesses, repair roads and bridges, bring in reliable broadband and install natural gas pipelines, but to do so we require a concerted effort on the part of business and governments. The Barton report provides the general objectives for growth, but we need to collectively focus efforts in the right direction.
OFA and our partners across agriculture will be looking for the types of rural investments in the upcoming provincial budget that address the fundamental problem rather than just applying band-aid solutions to the GTHA housing problems. With the proper investments, our rural communities could relieve the strain on the GTHA housing market and offer less painful long-term economic growth.