OFA pleased with Bill 97 amendments

OFA pleased with Bill 97 amendments
Jun 06, 2023

The provincial government isn’t moving forward with farmland severances

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

The Ontario ag community is happy to hear the provincial government isn’t moving forward with a portion of Bill 97.

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark announced in late May the Ford government would remove the farmland severance part of the Helping Homeowners, Protecting Tenants Act.

The original draft of the legislation would’ve allowed farmers to build up to three new homes on existing property.

“We firmly believe that (the severance) part of Bill 97 was not a good thing for agriculture in this province,” Peggy Brekveld, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), told Farms.com. “That would’ve been a huge challenge for the agricultural system across Ontario and we’re thankful those things have been removed.”

The OFA led an advocacy group that included multiple members of the province’s ag community like the National Farmers Union, Ontario Farmland Trust and various commodity groups.

Part of the advocacy efforts focused on highlighting what severance looks like and how it can stifle agriculture, Brekveld said.

“Part of the information was to demonstrate what severance looks like,” she said. “It was a conversation to show what it’s going to do to the agricultural system and to highlight the challenges of farming with neighbours who are non-farmers and the pressures that come with that.”

In addition, removing acres of farmland in favour of homebuilding increases the cost of farmland.

Farm Credit Canada’s 2022 Farmland Values Report has farmland in the province ranging from $2,500 to $39,000 per acre, depending on the region.

Fewer acres mean higher land prices and that means younger farmers can’t acquire land, Brekveld said.

Though the severance portion of Bill 97 is no more, the OFA will continue to keep an eye on the rest of the legislation.

The bill passed at Queen’s Park on Monday and is on its way to receiving royal assent.

“We’ll be engaged with the government on the best way to build enough houses while also protecting farmland,” Brekveld says.

Planning experts believe Ontario has enough land to achieve its housing target of 1.5 million homes without encroaching on farmland.

A report from professional planner Kevin Eby suggests “no additional overall housing capacity was required in the (Greater Golden Hoseshoe) to meet (the government’s) share of the 1.5 million housing target.”

The housing issue doesn’t appear to be a land issue, but a developer issue, said Martin Straathof, executive director of Ontario Farmland Trust.

“Eby’s report found that we have about 1.25 million homes approved in this province for development, but developers aren’t putting shovels in the ground,” he told Farms.com in an earlier interview. “So, when you hear the rhetoric about there being too much red tape stopping home building, or that we have to open up more land, you have to wonder how true that is.”