Brownfield sites: Could development prove the key to improving housing affordability?

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“They’ve just never taken it up as an opportunity to say, ‘If we acted as an insurer, [knowing] about housing, finance and property, what could we do to encourage these lands to be developed?’ It’s really about finding an insurance solution.”

A prime example of an area that would benefit from enhanced development of brownfield sites is Hamilton, Ontario, Fettig said. The city has taken huge strides to transform those sites in recent times, cutting its total by half in the decade between 2008 and 2018 – but has plenty of polluted land remaining.

“They’ve done a lot of work as a city to remediate, to encourage the development of brownfields. But still there’s a lot of land available in Hamilton that can be developed as brownfields,” he argued.

“A lot of those properties are also going to be on or close to major transportation corridors, so it fits within most of the city’s desire to see densification. It fits – it’s just the challenge is that there really isn’t anyone providing the solution here to make it a type of land that could be easily, readily developed.”

Move would prove a worthy endeavour for agency, suggests executive

Some might point to the potential cost on CMHC’s part of implementing such an insurance measure targeted at brownfield sites, although Fettig said it could be put in place with relative ease.

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