Request for Proposals: Housing Needs and Actions for the Agricultural Sector in Rural Greenbelt Communities

Apr 09, 2024   •   Featured , News

Request for Proposals: Housing Needs and Actions for the Agricultural Sector in Rural Greenbelt Communities 


As Ontarians focus on building housing across the province, the Greenbelt Foundation is interested in understanding housing needs in rural areas and the impact of housing challenges on rural economies, in particular housing priorities that support agriculture and the agri-food economy and jobs. 

The need for housing in rural communities and the relationship of housing policies to Ontario’s important agricultural sector is not well understood. What is known is the importance of the agriculture economy to rural communities.  Within the Greenbelt, there are over 4,000 farms and 40 town, villages and hamlets. In 2020, the Greenbelt's agri-food sector alone generated an estimated $4.1 billion in GDP and close to 59,000 jobs.  The surrounding Golden Horseshoe region also supports the largest agri-food cluster and food and beverage processing sector, in Canada  A key aspect of protecting the Greenbelt’s and other rural communities’ agri-food economies, and even realizing growth opportunities in this sector, are dependent on having the right mix of housing in rural areas that are aligned to the needs of farm families, on-farm workers, and more generally workers and their families that support the larger agricultural sector and vibrant rural communities.   

Key Issues 

There are unique needs for additional housing to support certain agricultural operations. The size, type and intensity of farm operations are some of the factors that determine housing needs and challenges for agriculture. For examples, historically, farm families were the major source of labour, but increasingly additional labour is required, either on a seasonal or permanent basis and operations may require additional labour beyond what can be provided by farm families. Housing needs may also be more acute where farm operations are typically based on smaller land holdings, such as in the fruit and vegetable sector. Housing solutions must avoid or limit constraints on farming and agriculture in the short and long term and consider cumulative impacts.  

In most of Ontario, a farm residence is typically permitted by local zoning by-laws as of right on farm parcels. There is a growing interest in municipalities permitting additional residential units (ARUs) on farm parcels.  ARUs can be a useful policy initiative to allow for the potential of significant additional capacity for on-farm housing (and on other rural properties). It is important, however, to consider the potential implications of these developments over time including servicing and financing issues, future lot severances and conflicts that could impact local agriculture. 

In addition, rural businesses are an essential component of the success of agricultural system.  They provide goods and services ranging from carpentry to grain handling to equipment sales and repairs. The employees of these businesses also share in the need for housing. While some of these businesses are housed on rural properties, they are often located in settlement areas. Rural businesses and services are included in this research to highlight the importance of their workers (and their related housing needs) to a vibrant agricultural sector.   

Addressing the above outlined housing needs is necessary to ensure the Greenbelt and Ontario’s agricultural sector and economy continues to thrive and enable opportunities for growth. Supporting the right housing supply mix that is aligned with rural and agricultural needs, and policies such as the Greenbelt will require considerations for on-farm housing and development in existing rural settlement areas. Solutions should prioritize development in the existing rural settlement area, leveraging existing infrastructure, and contributing to the socio-economic health of rural communities, while minimizing disruption to agricultural operations and ensuring no loss of farmland.  

Project Objective and Research Questions: 

The Greenbelt Foundation would like to undertake a research project to better understand the role of rural communities in strengthening the agricultural sector, with a focus on meeting housing needs that support a thriving agricultural and agri-food sector in the Greenbelt and surrounding rural areas. In particular, the Greenbelt Foundation has identified the following research questions: 

  • What are the current rural housing and land use planning policies within the rural countryside and rural settlement areas, including policies in the Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine, and Niagara Escarpment Plans? 
  • What are the housing needs of farm families, agricultural workers, and rural community workers at-large within the Greenbelt and surrounding rural communities? Where is the greatest need for more housing and where can or should housing be accommodated on farms and in rural settlement areas?  
  • What are the impacts of above policies on agricultural operations and the growth of the agricultural industry? This will include (but is not limited to) examining lot severances, additional residential units, estate homes, Land Needs Assessments, settlement area boundary expansions and housing strategies/action plans in rural settlement areas.  
  • What is the tax, servicing, and environmental implications of scattered rural residential development? 
  • What are the policy options or directions that would address agricultural needs for housing, while at the same time enhancing agriculture in the Greenbelt and surrounding regions?   

Scope of Work 

Stage 1: Draft a work plan including research questions and methodology, review relevant Foundation reports, and consult with Foundation staff to finalize the work plan.  

Stage 2: Draft a short literature review based on an environmental scan of provincial and municipal policies and existing work of academic and NGOs including the following:  

  • Define various terms that are used connected to agriculture and housing (such as farm labour residences, farm help dwellings, accessory farm residences, seasonal farm work housing, accessory seasonal employee residential uses).  
  • Outline the relevant provincial and municipal policy context.  

Stage 3: Case study research with key informant interviews. This stage would include the following:  

  • Selecting three case studies looking at how municipalities are addressing the issue of housing needs for the agricultural sector. Three case studies in Southern Ontario would be examined, including one case within the Greenbelt.  
  • Key informant interviews for each case study would be conducted. Interview participants could include municipal or provincial planners, housing experts and representatives from agricultural organizations, along with potentially the real estate, construction, and insurance sectors.   
  • Develop interview protocols based on research questions and the literature review. Interview protocols and case study selection will be reviewed by Foundation staff.   

Stage 4: Analysis of Statistics Canada data about farm structure, farm labour and farm operational characteristics.   

Stage 5: Preparation of questions for an online survey to farmers to get an in-depth understanding of the housing needs of the agricultural community, including different sized farm and their relative needs. The survey questions will need to be revised based on feedback from Foundation staff and Advisory Committee members.  

Stage 6: Based on the research outlined in the above stages, prepare recommendations for actions to address housing needs for the agricultural sector in the Greenbelt by the provincial government, municipalities, agricultural organizations, and other key stakeholders.  

Stage 7: Draft and lead a presentation of the draft research findings to the Advisory Committee, and review of Committee members’ feedback. Revise the report based on that feedback. 

Stage 8: Draft report and submit to Advisory Committee members and Foundation staff for review (including up to two rounds of revisions), presentation to Foundation staff on research findings.  

Stage 9: Finalizing and submitting the report.  

Stage 10: Preparing and delivering a presentation of report findings in a webinar hosted by the Greenbelt Foundation.   


Based on the scope of work and the project phasing above, the deliverables include:  

  1. Workplan with agreed upon deadlines.  
  2. Literature review.  
  3. Case study research with key informant interviews. 
  4. Questions for online survey of farmers.  
  5. Recommendations for actions to address housing needs for the agricultural sector in the Greenbelt. 
  6. Presentation of draft report findings to the Advisory Committee.  
  7. Presentation of report findings to Greenbelt Foundation staff. 
  8. Draft of final report.  
  9. Final report of approximately 50 pages (October 31, 2024). 
  10. Presentation of report findings in a webinar.  

Proposal Requirements 

Interested parties should submit proposals by April 30 at 5:00 pm including the following information:  

  • the candidate’s or team’s strengths and experience, as they pertain to this project, 
  • the proposed approach to be taken to meet the purpose of the project, 
  • roles and level of effort for each team member (if more than one), 
  • deliverables and timing, 
  • detailed budget,  
  • CV(s), 
  • three relevant references. 

The Greenbelt Foundation reserves the right to choose any or none of the vendors responding to this request for proposals. 

Any questions and completed proposals should be directed to: 
Sara Macdonald 
Senior Research and Policy Analyst 
Greenbelt Foundation 
[email protected]  

Note: This Request for Proposal (RFP) was developed in part with the assistance of a third-party vendor who may choose to bid on this opportunity. This vendor received no information that is not available to any other potential bidder through the RFP document. All bids are welcome and will be assessed based on the RFP requirements and proposal merits.