Toronto to get taller residential buildings, but is it a smart move? Image

Toronto to get taller residential buildings, but is it a smart move?

By Sam Reiss on Jun 12, 2019

Doug Ford just can’t seem to let go of his obsession with Toronto. First he cut the size of council nearly in half, and now his government is changing official development plans. 

Last week, it was announced that Ontario was making significant changes to development plans affecting new residential in midtown and downtown Toronto. The changes are to allow for taller residential buildings to be built near major transit hubs. 

An example of one of the changes to Toronto’s Midtown in Focus strategy will permit new residential buildings to rise 20 to 35 storeys near Eglinton and Bayview where the Eglinton Crosstown is under construction. The strategy currently allows for a maximum of eight storeys, so the province is more than quadrupling the max.

While I agree that municipalities need to build higher density around major transit hubs, I disagree with the way this whole situation is being handled. The City spent years formulating these plans, consulting with communities and experts. There’s likely a reason a maximum of eight stories was set at Eglinton and Bayview (probably preventing shadowing and preserving some views). 

I’ll be the first to say that I have my own criticisms of the Midtown in Focus and TOcore strategies, but swooping in and making broad changes with seemingly zero research seems irresponsible. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I do believe in the need for more supply in Ontario and especially the Greater Toronto Area, but it has to be done responsibly. The Ford government seems to be fixated on controlling the City of Toronto, and the only reason seems to be to feed egos. 

All levels of government should be working with professionals in order to form planning policy. Urban planners, architects, engineers, public realm specialists, landscape architects - these are the people who should be consulted and making recommendations. Then our elected officials should be creating the policy based on expertise. 

A government undoing years of work at the stroke of a pen makes zero sense. This news came out approximately around the same time that Ontario passed Bill 108, also known as the More Homes, More Choice Act, which Toronto council has voted to oppose

Ben Myers of Bullpen Research & Consulting Inc. shared a guest post on our website at the beginning of this week, and he made some strong points about how Bill 108 is mostly just a temporary fix. 

He mentioned two things that I think need to be more widely discussed within the industry; the flaw with decreasing development costs via lower development charges, as well as the availability of trades to build more homes.

The example he gives is that if a landowner discovers a developer is saving $2 million on development costs, then the land will eventually be priced $2 million higher. So lowering development charges really just benefits landowners in the long run. 

When it comes to building more supply (or higher towers), more skilled tradespeople are needed. We already struggle with a lack of trades. When the demand for trades is higher, the work becomes more expensive. 

So, if we quadruple height limits and start building a bunch more housing right away, who’s going to build it all? It’s only a matter of time before prices start shooting up again because thousands of units will be pre-sold and need to be built, but there won’t be enough people to build them. 

To me, it seems like politicians and members of the new home industry just want to keep going back and forth blaming each other for our housing affordability crisis. What’s the solution? That’s another blog post. 

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