Days after reporting a family of prominent Ontario developers are primary owners of protected Greenbelt land that could soon be opened for housing development, CBC Toronto has linked additional properties to the De Gasperis family.
The Ford government is currently consulting the public on a plan to remove approximately 2,995 hectares of land from the Greenbelt, which was created in 2005 to permanently protect agricultural and environmentally sensitive lands in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area from development. The government says it’s needed to build 55,000 homes.
The biggest parcel of land on which the province is proposing to allow housing construction includes around 1,900 hectares of mostly farmland in and around the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve (DRAP) in north Pickering.
CBC previously reported that companies listing brothers Silvio, Carlo and Michael De Gasperis as directors own land in three of the 15 areas proposed for removal in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), including 16 properties in the DRAP.
However, following additional research into property and corporate records, CBC has now identified 28 properties in the DRAP, covering a total of 718 hectares, that are owned by seven different holding companies controlled by the De Gasperis brothers.
The 28 lots were bought for more than $21.5 million, and 24 were purchased before the Greenbelt was created.
The four properties bought after the Greenbelt’s creation include two purchased together for $1.7 million in 2016 and two others bought separately in 2020 for $7.9 million and $3.5 million each.
Long fight over DRAP
The De Gasperis family founded the Tacc Group of companies, which includes Tacc Developments, Tacc Construction, Arista Homes, Opus Homes and Decast Ltd., among others, and are known for building homes in planned subdivisions across the GTA.
The brothers and their companies have been prolific political contributors to Ontario political parties, with the majority of donations made since 2014 going to the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario and its politicians, Elections Ontario records show. Tacc companies have also hired lobbyists with tied to the PC government, the lobbyist registry shows, although none of the records indicate they were hired to influence decisions on the Greenbelt.
CBC reached out to Tacc Developments to request an interview but did not immediately receive a response.
Last week, the Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA), of which Tacc is a member, issued a statement voicing its support for the government’s plan.
“We are in the midst of a housing crisis. When the Greenbelt was created, its boundaries encompassed not just environmentally sensitive lands but also farmland and land that had previously been designated for growth for housing and employment spaces,” the OHBA said in an email statement.
“The lands being removed from the Greenbelt are close to, and in some cases adjacent to, existing developments and servicing. The lands will be subject to strict timelines for building to commence, which will enable the timely addition of desperately needed additional supply.”
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CBC reported earlier this week on how Silvio De Gasperis started buying up parcels of farmland in the DRAP in 2003 with hopes of one day transforming them into subdivisions. But those plans were dashed when then-Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government included the area in the Greenbelt and later passed a law protecting the land’s agricultural status.
De Gasperis undertook a campaign to hinder plans for the Greenbelt, working with Pickering to develop the preserve land anyway, and eventually took the province to court. His efforts failed and the agricultural land has remained protected ever since.
It’s unclear what the fate of the preserve lands will be going forward, but if it is removed from the Greenbelt, the Ford government has said it expects landowners to prepare housing plans quickly, with construction to begin no later than 2025.