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Toronto’s expanded multiplex era is coming. But how much housing will it actually provide?

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Housing advocates have welcomed the recent decision by the Toronto City Council to allow the construction of mixed-use buildings across city districts that were previously dominated by single-family homes.

In Toronto, a multiplex is defined as a low-rise residential building containing two to four units in one building. Until recently, zoning ordinances restricted their presence in many parts of the city, Changed after City Council vote on May 10.

With its growing population, Toronto is adopting mixed-use housing as a means of increasing housing supply in Canada’s largest city.

But even if there is a desperate need for more supply and diversity of housing, how much new housing will this policy change actually create, and how affordable it will be? Questions remain.

“We need more diverse housing types to accommodate diverse households,” said Valerie Preston, an urban housing expert at York University in Toronto.

And while complexes may help provide more diverse housing options for large families and those in need, that doesn’t mean they’re cheaper to develop, rent, or buy.

“Affordability does nothing directly,” Preston said, and expected mixed-use developments to have a limited impact on citywide housing supply due to the high cost of acquiring and developing properties. ing.

Toronto is At least 700,000 new residents expected By 2051, many complain that they cannot afford a place to live, with the average home price exceeding $1 million.

demand and land

The increase in density outside of tower apartments, which typically offer smaller units, has been welcomed by many housing advocates.

The approach of adding moderate levels of density is something other jurisdictions are considering, both in Canada and elsewhere.

In British Columbia, the provincial government will introduce legislation this year allowing three to four homes on single-family lots. Similar housing strategies have been enacted in the following countries: some US citiesand new zealand.

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But building more homes on existing lots could increase the value of the land underneath.

“Obviously, the more units you can put on a piece of land, the more valuable it will be,” says Jane Launderville, a former associate real estate professor at the University of Guelph.

But not all suburban sites and buildings are suitable for this kind of development, she points out.

Toronto-based real estate broker Sabine Ghali said economics will largely determine where the complexes will be built, but some upmarket neighborhoods are unlikely to be developed due to high costs. said it may be low.

Ghali said in an email that investors and homeowners looking for extra income would take action “when the numbers make sense.”

Greg Lintern, the City of Toronto’s chief planner, said it was unclear whether the “missing middle” housing offerings, such as complexes, laneway houses and garden suites, would create significantly more affordable housing. admitted.

“This is private market housing,” he told CBC radio. metro morning last year. “Whether it creates more affordable housing, time will tell.”

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James White, a professor of planning and urban design at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, is skeptical that mixed-use development will lead to lower rents and prices.

“Who owns and rents this home?” White asks. He expects private investors, rather than institutional investors or public housing providers, to be most likely to be interested in building the complex.

These “hobby landlords” may be interested in such property developments, but their involvement may not be as beneficial to tenants, White said.

He said those concerns raised questions about whether such developments would affect rents and home prices “positively.”

complexity and cost

Ronald De Coteau, co-founder and CEO of Property Pathways, works with clients who want to convert their homes into mixed-use properties.

He said these projects are more complicated than some people think and require significant investment.

“It’s going to be really prohibitive for a lot of people,” de Cotteaux said recently. metro morningpoints out the costs associated with converting single-family homes into multi-unit structures.

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Cherrys Burda, executive director of Toronto think tank City Building TMU, said the scope of work in adding units to a home can vary widely depending on the extent of construction required.

She hopes the government will do more to encourage such development and make it easier for people to pursue it.

“If you expect homeowners to fix it themselves, that’s not going to work,” Burda said.

Despite the challenges, some people are already contacting construction professionals about building the complex. That includes his BVM Contracting specialists in Toronto, a family business that provides home construction and home improvement services.

BVM’s business development manager Ryan Meagher said the company is hearing from both real estate investors and their families about the potential of multiplex projects.

With more people looking to build low-rise buildings and more designers and builders working on them, the move to larger low-rise buildings will be a “learning curve for everyone involved,” he said. Stated.

Meagher said such projects could take months or years to complete, suggesting the complex won’t have a significant impact on Toronto’s housing supply this year or next.

more lively toronto

Burda, Londerville, and Preston have a lot to say about increasing multiplex development, even if there are limits to what can be done affordably.

“Will it solve Toronto’s affordable housing problem? No,” said Launderville, who still believes the complex will help make certain neighborhoods more affordable.

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Residential areas of Toronto, where such types of housing are scarcer, are also those with the most land available for this type of use, Burda said. Multiplex can handle imbalances.

“Most of the population density is crammed into a small lot,” Burda said of the skyscraper-filled downtown district. “The rest of the city is a sea of ​​low-rise housing,” she says, and the time is ripe for change.

For de Cotteaux, it’s easy to see the potential multiplexing offers.

“I Sesame street “The effect,” de Cotto said, describing the transformation of underused land on a street in the suburbs of Toronto and the transition to a more intertwined community life, “essentially a more vibrant community.” will be obtained,” he said.

More families living on the same property means more children playing and more life taking place nearby.

“That’s what will bring life back to Toronto post-pandemic,” said Du Coteau.

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