Greenbelts make cities more livable

A number of Canadians have argued recently that urban growth boundaries, such as greenbelts, ought to be abolished on the grounds that they can negatively affect housing affordability. This claim is largely based the argument, by a British economist, that the greenbelt surrounding London is at least partly to blame for new home prices being 40 per cent higher in that city than in comparable European cities with similar densities.

There is, however, no evidence to suggest that the same is true here in Canada. In fact, according to recent research released by the Pembina Institute, the cost of building a new house has not increased more rapidly in Toronto than in other major Canadian cities, despite the existence of one of the world’s largest greenbelts.
In fact, I would argue that greenbelts and other measures to restrict the outward growth of Canadian cities are essential and fiscally responsible policy tools, since they result in higher densities that make more efficient use of infrastructure investments.