The long weekend is behind us and I finally had a chance to sit down with Sidewalk Labs’ Master Plan for Sidewalk Toronto. All other controversies aside, I’m excited about the housing strategy.
I’ll just get this part out of the way - when it comes to data privacy I feel mostly indifferent. I have a Gmail account, I use Chrome and Google every day, I click on ads (mostly by accident), and New Home Buyers Network has had Newinhomes.com up and running since before Google was even a thing.
I understand that my online activity is being tracked and used for advertisements. As the Internet of Things blossoms, our online activity is more and more in sync with our tangible surroundings. Our location is already tracked and used to promote nearby stores and restaurants. I realize there’s a line that has to be drawn somewhere, but when it comes to advertising, I just don’t mind advertising being targeted at me based on my life. It’s actually convenient sometimes.
Back to the housing in Sidewalk Toronto. In a time when provincial governments are shutting down green energy Acts, I can’t help but feel inspired by Sidewalk Labs’ ambitious plans to use mass timber and materials like shikkui plaster (made from seaweed, eggshells, and other natural materials).
I also see a lot of potential in prefab housing. If the amount of red tape and delayed construction timelines are what’s contributing to soaring housing prices, then let’s build high quality prefab housing from mass timber that’s manufactured in Ontario. Create jobs, build more affordable housing, and do it all quicker.
Sidewalk Labs proposes that 40% of the housing be below market value and 50% of the units be purpose built rental. Perfect. Bring it on. There’s also mention of shared-equity mortgages and co-living arrangements. Let’s do it.
There’s also a plan to include modular loft spaces, so certain levels in buildings will be more flexible for a wider range of uses, like working, living, and entertaining. Imagine having a living space that easily transformed into your own pop-up art gallery.
Is Sidewalk Labs’ housing strategy ambitious? Yes. Is it unrealistic? Maybe. But that doesn’t matter. As important as it is to not get sucked in by these pretty renderings, it’s also essential that we start thinking big. Let’s break some rules, set new ones, and do something as a city that’s unprecedented.
Despite the negativity and backlash surrounding the Sidewalk Toronto project, I’m happy there’s a proposal like this on the table that’s making us talk about all the potential routes we can take to make Toronto an amazing place to live.