When it comes to Toronto’s red hot housing market, we’ve heard the same news for so long, we take it as a given: demand outstrips supply. But there’s more to the story, and a recent report features an original angle.
Cited in a Toronto Star article this week, “Protecting the Vibrancy of Residential Neighbourhoods,” a report by recent urban planning grads at Ryerson, seeks to debunk the too-much-demand story. According to the report by Cheryll Case and Tetyana Bailey, the populations of the majority of the city’s 140 neighbourhoods have actually declined or remained consistent over the last three decades.
The authors compared city zoning boundaries with Census information and discovered that 65 neighbourhoods had gained less than one person per kilometre between 2001 and 2016, compared to overall growth of 7.6%, while 30 neighbourhoods declined. While the average household size in 1986 was 5.22, it was just 3.85 in 2001. Using the pre-megacity municipal boundaries, the report shows that in Scarborough, for example, the number of people per kilometre rose minimally (between 0.01% and 2% from 1986 to 2016), while in Etobicoke, many neighbourhoods have experienced a decline of similar proportions. The big growth, increases of persons per kilometre of between 8% and 11.58%, happened downtown and in some increasingly dense midtown neighbourhoods.
As factors, the report points out that while many single-family detached homes in the city have been razed and rebuilt, the new structures are generally bigger than the old, although we’re having fewer babies and families are smaller. Household sizes, though, don’t vary much among detached homes as compared to townhouses, apartments and duplexes, which means the folks living outside of downtown have a lot more space.
Schools in the “inner suburbs” meanwhile are experiencing declining enrolment and seniors who want to downsize have to leave their neighbourhoods to do so. Case and her mentor, private planner Sean Galbraith, pointed to the restrictive zoning enacted before we leaned towards densification, so residential detached is still the only option available for development. In nearly 40% of the city’s land mass (62% of residential areas), zoning laws restrict even taking one unit and making it into two.
As a result, Galbraith told the Star that “essentially everybody in the housing market is stuck where they are.”
Anecdotally, I know a few elderly couples and at least one widow who live alone in three-plus-bedroom single detached homes in the east and west ends. Why? Because their friends are there, their kids are there, they’ve lived there for decades and they don’t want to live in the downtown core, but I know several of them would consider a move to a smaller unit if one were available in their neighbourhood.
While planners have by necessity focussed on central neighbourhoods with new transit lines, it seems the time has come for our (admittedly under-resourced) city planners to look beyond the city centre for more innovative ways to offer a variety of housing options.
Congrats to the BILD Awards Winners!
I also want to take a few moments to congratulate all those honoured at the recent 37th annual Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) Awards. The awards “recognize the astounding achievements of developers, new home builders, architects, designers as well as sales and marketing professionals across the region.”
This year’s top honours went to Mattamy Homes (Home Builder of the Year, Low-Rise) and Tridel (Home Builder of the Year, Mid/High-Rise). Minto was named Green Builder of the Year, Low-Rise and Tridel won Green Builder of the Year, Mid/High-Rise.
The Low-Rise Community of the Year award went to Friday Harbour by Geranium and Pemberton Group; the Mid/High-Rise Community of the Year went to Tridel for Aquabella (as did the People’s Choice Award).
On the architecture and design side, Best Suite went to Devron Developments Inc. for The Vanguard Condos and Tridel scored again with Aquabella, named Best Luxury Suite Design. Best Innovative Suite Design went to Laurier Homes for Upper Beach Club – The Kingswood. The Best Mid-Rise Building Design award went to the Rockport Group for George Condos + Towns; Minto Westside earned Minto Communities the High-Rise Award. The Best Single-Detached Home Design award went to Kingsview Manors’ The Beaumont.
Tribute Communities’ founder Al Libfeld was honoured with a lifetime achievement award, and the Losani Family Foundation was honoured with the Stephen Dupuis Humanitarian Award. Awards were also handed out for best sales offices, customer care, salesperson/team, best logo and brochure, and a host of others. There’s little doubt in my mind that the people who power GTA development are some of the hardest working people around — they live and breathe the industry they love. It’s always great to see them recognized. Congratulations to all.