Even the Green Party embraces growth. Mike Schreiner, the Ontario Green Party leader, thinks the answer to the housing crisis arising from federal immigration policies is to end exclusionary zoning of single-family homes. He has introduced two private member’s bills, Bill 44 and Bill 45, to do just that. Taking a leaf from Premier Ford’s book, Schreiner’s bills “provide that there are no appeals.” The imperative of growth trumps people having any say in the future of their neighbourhoods. Just like the environmental groups, Schreiner has not said a word about putting the brakes on population growth by moderating immigration levels.
YIMBY: the tragedy of the conned?
But YIMBY-embracers notwithstanding, do most people living in densifying neighbourhoods really want densification? The “no appeal” approach of Ford and Schreiner suggests otherwise. Our neighbourhoods are where we spend our lives when we’re not at work. They are where we decompress. And not everyone finds high-density living to their liking. A European study found that a high biodiversity in one’s neighbourhood was as important to life satisfaction as income, with an additional 10% increase in the number of bird species providing the same increase in satisfaction as a comparable increase in income.
Living in a neighbourhood with a bit of nature can therefore be seen as a form of wealth. As neighbourhoods densify, residents lose that wealth. City residents in general are also losers when a city densifies, as little nooks of natural areas get developed. Children may be deprived of a “great outdoors” to play in. In fact, immigration-driven growth and the densification that results seem to be driving residents of big cities to seek their happiness elsewhere. In 2022, when Canada’s population grew by a record one million, a record number of residents of the Greater Toronto Area “fled to another part of Ontario,” according to Better Dwelling. Presumably, they’ll have a bigger back yard in their new, smaller city or town.
YIMBYism is getting people to agree to their own impoverishment. It is a clever way to guilt people into saying Yes to development they never asked for. It is a ploy to make those who are losers in terms of what made their neighbourhoods attractive think they are winners, because they are making sacrifices for the public good. But YIMBYers are not making a sacrifice for the public good. They are making a sacrifice to the god of growth for the good of the profiteers of growth. While residents are losing their neighbourhoods-as-they-once-were to growth and almost always face higher property taxes to boot, speculators, developers, bankers, and some cheap-labour businesses are getting richer and are likely to live in houses with nice back yards.