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Before Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie was in favour of more housing, she was against it.

In early 2022, a landmark housing report was presented to Ontario Premier Doug Ford, a wide-ranging blueprint of how to build a lot more housing. Mr. Ford shelved most of the big ideas.

Ms. Crombie at the time was mayor of Mississauga. She also didn’t like the report, specifically its proposal to allow four homes on lots long restricted to only one. Ms. Crombie warned against change, publishing exaggerated images, and asserted the proposal was “alarming” and could “dramatically change” neighbourhoods. This space criticized both Ms. Crombie and Mr. Ford.

One leader has changed – and one has not.

Ms. Crombie’s Liberals in March tabled a bill that would allow four homes on one lot across the province without onerous rezoning. She called it “gentle density.” This is not radical policy and in fact it’s only a basic first step. Given the housing squeeze, “gentle” is not a sufficient response. Still, it is an important initial move and one that is being implemented in cities across British Columbia, by NDP Premier David Eby, as well as in cities across Canada through the federal Liberals’ housing accelerator program.

Mr. Ford, however, called the idea a “massive mistake” and claimed there would be “a lot of shouting and screaming” among existing homeowners and renters. The next day, Mr. Ford cranked up his own personal hyperbole machine when he said: “If I put a four-storey tower beside you or your neighbours, they’d lose their minds.”

There may seem to be a bipartisan political consensus in Canada to build millions of new homes – from Justin Trudeau to Pierre Poilievre – but Mr. Ford’s sparring with Ms. Crombie is a reminder that loud opposition to new housing remains prevalent and an obstacle to overcome. It’s taken years to get to this point, yet to presume opposition would simply dissipate is a mistake.

The efforts to undermine new housing are widespread.

In Vancouver, a cadre of homeowners are trying to push the city to second-guess its breakthrough Broadway Plan, which took years to debate and approve. It allows for more housing along and near a busy street, close to the city centre, where a new subway opens next year. It is exactly the right strategy and its goals aren’t overly aggressive: population growth in the area should tick up to 1.7 per cent a year from 1.4 per cent.

Yet attention is being cast on opponents, even after a years-long debate was concluded. They say there should be a moratorium. They also trot out lazy arguments: one declares density doesn’t lower prices because prices in Vancouver are high.

The false assumption is Vancouver is a densely populated city. It is not. The fact is Vancouver hasn’t built nearly enough housing and city council thankfully still supports the Broadway Plan.

In Calgary, where city council is looking at modestly increasing density across the city – duplexes and townhomes – six councillors are trying to upend the process but recently failed in their push for a plebiscite.

Back in Ontario, Mr. Ford’s government has made some smart moves. The latest provincial budget includes funding for infrastructure such as sewers, which will help underpin new housing. Mr. Trudeau’s federal Liberals on Tuesday announced money for infrastructure to propel housing. (More on that later this week.)

And while Mr. Ford may believe people would “lose their minds” over new homes, polling suggests otherwise. It is true there are some staunch opponents – Mr. Ford is right about that – but they are the minority. A new Abacus poll shows more supporters than opponents for “gentle density.” In Ontario, 37 per cent say yes to gentle density on their own block, compared with 30 per cent who oppose it.

For every Mr. Ford, there are more political leaders who embrace change.

Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie and Barrie Mayor Alex Nuttall are just two examples of local leadership in Ontario that support four homes on one lot.

Opposition to new homes is fading but it is not gone. Mr. Ford’s bellowing made that clear. But change is happening. Ms. Crombie went from skeptic to believer. She’s part of the emerging majority that supports new homes.

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