Ontario Premier Doug Ford has committed to fast-tracking construction of thousands of homes including affordable housing at more than a dozen new transit stations.
Sweeping legislation designed to make it easier to build “transit-oriented communities” atop or adjacent to stations on the forthcoming Ontario Line, the Scarborough subway, and the proposed Eglinton West LRT and Yonge North subway extensions have been put forward, according to reports.
One potentially controversial aspect of the bill is a proposal to give transit projects an exemption from the “hearing of necessity” process. This would eliminate costly delays.
That complements measures announced in February’s Better Transit Faster Act that expanded the province’s power to expropriate land and reduce the need for environmental approvals.
It also gives the province more flexibility to enter into joint ventures with developers and landowners.
There are 15 proposed stations on the new Ontario Line, running from Ontario Place to the Ontario Science Centre; seven on the proposed LRT extension of the Eglinton Crosstown, the initial phase of which was supposed to be finished in September 2021, but has been delayed until 2022; three on the Scarborough subway and a number of stations along the Yonge North extension to Richmond Hill.
However, sceptics wonder if demand will be as high as it was before the pandemic. In recent months, more people than ever are working from home and companies are looking to make such working arrangements more permanent. This would in turn reduce the need to hold on to large offices and keep their expenses lower.
Already the ridership on public transit has fallen dramatically. It will bounce back, but that process could take years and with the advancement in technology, it is possible that an even larger number of people will be working from home instead.
There are reports that many Torontonians are already planning their exit strategy from the city and are instead opting for permanent homes in cottage country which is seeing a surge in cottage sales.
But regardless of whether or not there is an expected surge in demand for housing close to transit, it is clear that this mass construction will create thousands of jobs and support businesses in the next few years.