Housing variety is key to improving affordability Image

Housing variety is key to improving affordability

By Sam Reiss on Jul 10, 2019

They say “variety is the spice of life.” I’m not one to utter such lines of wisdom, but when it comes to Toronto real estate, maybe it’s true. 

The idea behind the saying is that many new experiences make life in general more interesting and exciting. The proverb came to mind when I was thinking about how a mix of housing in Toronto could make the market more interesting, exciting, and affordable. 

What types of housing immediately come to mind when you think of Toronto? There are rentals, single-family houses, and condos. Keep in mind condo is a form of ownership, so some low-rise homes you see could also be condos, just not as you recognize them. If you look hard enough, you’ll discover some co-op buildings.  

The low-rise houses are typically brick and stone. The high-rise condos are glass and steel. My question is: why aren’t we exploring more sustainable building materials, different forms of ownership, different living arrangements? 

There's a change in the air. There’s talk of prefab housing being piloted to combat homelessness. Laneway suites will soon be popping up across all of Toronto. Sidewalk Labs unveiled plans for mass timber building designs, prefab construction, and coliving suites. 

Dream Unlimited and Common have partnered together on Zibi Common in Ottawa, which will have coliving rental suites. Common has taken the U.S. by storm - they apparently receive 3,000 applications a week from people looking to live in a coliving suite. This is basically a glorified dorm room situation - it’s like having roommates that you don’t choose.  

Then we have the federal government creating an initiative to support shared-equity mortgages with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation for qualifying first-time buyers. There’s been some controversy about the First-Time Home Buyer’s Incentive, but I’ve seen it work through the Options for Homes program in Toronto, and it’s basically the same model. I think it will help a lot of buyers on the edge of affording a home. 

Even 3D printing is becoming commonplace. I feel like every week my newsfeed on my phone has some new story about a company 3D printing a home in a matter of a day or two. Usually it’s for disaster relief efforts, but why aren’t more builders, developers and architects in the GTA looking into this tech?

I feel like we’re so close to breaking through into this new era of residential development. If there were more coliving opportunities, more prefab and 3D printed housing, more sustainable building materials used, more purpose built rental, more mid-density in low-rise areas, more high-density units designed for families, just more units in general...wouldn’t the city be a more affordable place to live? 

If nothing else, it sure would be interesting. 

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