No More Buts

Posted in In The News

Philip Mills, Habitat for Humanity Waterloo Region CEO

No More Buts:

By: Phil Mills

We try to build housing. It’s our thing.

When we received the news last week that the Ontario Land Tribunal had ruled in our favour regarding our Shantz Hill project, it was an incredible relief.

We’ve been working on this project for years. This project was brought before council back in 2022 and since that moment we’ve heard a chorus of buts.

“We need more housing but…”

“I’m not against housing but…”

“We all agree we need affordable housing in the city but…”

That word has really started to irritate me.

Whenever I hear some form or fashion of “I’m not against affordable housing but…” all I can think of is when someone says “no offense…” then proceeds to be incredibly offensive. That but changes everything.

In that moment, whatever good intentions someone has, they are acting against affordable housing. They may not see themselves that way but they are.

It is not the start of a dialogue or a conversation, it’s a hard pivot. And we see it over and over again when it comes to almost every development. It’s parking, it’s neighborhood character, it’s height, it’s setbacks, it’s amenity space, it’s questions about what “affordable” means, it’s unending the buts that come when someone tries to build homes.

Last year, talking about this very project, I wrote about how we cannot prioritize parking over people. We cannot prioritize cars over houses. We cannot continue to say we need affordable housing in one sentence only to follow it with reasons why not this housing. We cannot prioritize neighbourhood character over families. We cannot prioritize setback and amenity space over the economic viability of this Region.

And these buts aren’t just frustrating, they’re costly.

Because of all of the buts on Shantz Hill that led us to the OLT we’ve lost well over half a year. That’s over 6 more months families don’t have a safe and decent place to live. That lawyers’ fees and planner cost to defend the need for housing during a housing crisis.

It’s so much more than just a but.

Do you ever think about what all the buts really mean though? I do.

Not in my back yard.

 And until we accept that the solution to the biggest crisis facing our community right now is our backyard, we’ll never get this issue under control. 


Philip Mills, CEO Habitat Waterloo Region

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