The Government of Ontario has relinquished a proposal that would see farmlands in the province severed into smaller residential lots.
In early April, officials proposed a policy that would make it easier to build on farmland, including allowing more residential development in rural settlements and permitting up to three new residential lots per parcel of rural land.
The policy was one of several regulations included in the Provincial Planning Statement (PPS), a proposed amalgamation of the existing Provincial Policy Statement, which sets the rules for land use planning, and A Place to Grow, the long-term growth plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. The PPS was introduced alongside Bill 97, the Helping Homebuyers, Protecting Tenants Act.
The move was intended to support the “multi-generational” nature of farming by allowing children who are taking over the farm or parents who are retiring to live nearby and assist with succession planning.
However, the proposal was met with backlash from the farming industry, with 14 organizations, including the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and Dairy Farmers of Ontario, urging the government to reconsider the proposed actions, which they noted would “severely threaten local farmland protection.”
Creating residential lots in agricultural areas would increase conflict between farming and non-farming neighbours, fragment the agricultural land base, and drive up land values to a level that would make farming increasingly unattainable for future generations, the organizations warned in a joint statement.
As a result, the provincial government has decided not to move forward with the proposal on rural lot severances.
“We understand that farming is often a multi-generational family enterprise, and our government has been asked by many farmers to offer practical support to them and their families by making it easier for the next generation to live and work in the same place where they grew up,” Steve Clark, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, wrote in a letter to the OFA obtained by STOREYS.
“At the same time, we have clearly heard the concerns that have been raised about the need to preserve Ontario’s farmland – and we share that goal… We want to continue working with the agricultural sector to look at alternatives that would assist farm families in succession planning, but do not involve additional severances.”
In order to have more time to consider said alternative solutions, and to provide the public with an enhanced opportunity to comment, the government will extend the consultation period on the proposal by 60 days, Clark said.
The aforementioned agricultural leaders called the decision “extremely encouraging,” and thanked provincial officials for their willingness to find a shared solution.
“We understand — and support — the need to increase the housing supply in Ontario,” the leaders wrote in a statement. “But we also want to ensure that housing is developed without encroaching on Ontario’s farmland, which is our most precious natural resource.”
Zoe Demarco is a Staff Writer at STOREYS and was formerly the Urbanized Editor at Daily Hive. Born and raised in Toronto, she has a passion for the city’s ever-changing urban landscape.