Toronto policy allowing conversion of single-family homes welcomed

The new Toronto multiplex policy has received praise for expanding housing options – but affordability concerns remain

Toronto policy allowing conversion of single-family homes welcomed

A new policy in Toronto permits the conversion of single-family homes into low-rise multiplexes, aiming to increase housing supply in response to high demand.

While the policy is praised for addressing the housing shortage, experts caution that it may not immediately solve housing unaffordability in the city.

Penelope Gurstein, co-director at the Housing Research Collaborative, acknowledged the potential benefits of increased density but emphasizes the importance of ensuring affordability in an interview with CityNews.

She suggested allocating at least one unit as affordable housing in new multiplexes and expanding social housing and purpose-built rentals.

“Increasing density is good but it isn’t definitely the answer to everything,” Gurstein told the outlet.

Rising housing prices, low supply

April statistics from the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) revealed that the average home price in the city reached $1,153,269, with a low supply of new listings compared to previous years.

Karen Chapple, director of the School of Cities at the University of Toronto, highlighted the success of similar policies in Vancouver, Minneapolis, and Portland, emphasizing that further efforts are needed to ensure the success of the multiplex policy.

“Every city that has done this … has been really happy with the results,” Chapple told CityNews.

She suggested supporting individual homeowners in becoming "citizen developers" through access to capital, pre-approved templates, and education.

Meanwhile, David Amborski, an urban planning professor, noted that the policy will have a positive long-term effect by increasing the housing supply and providing more housing options. However, prices will still be influenced by market conditions.

“People are going to price their product at the market price,” he said.

Mixed reactions and concerns

While some, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, welcome the multiplex policy as a means to unlock the housing supply and create more homes, not everyone is thrilled.

Councilor Stephen Holyday raised concerns about tensions within neighborhoods, the potential disadvantage for individual homebuyers against investors, and the impact on housing affordability.

“If you look deeply into the proposals, you will find out that you can build a very, very large multiplex unit, next to a detached home … that is going to create friction within neighborhoods,” he told CityNews.

Industry insiders, such as realtor Anu Joshi, argued that the need for more housing in Toronto outweighs concerns. The policy is seen as a positive move targeting housing supply, even though not all homeowners may immediately pursue multiplex construction.

“The bottom line is that there are too many people and not enough housing,” said Joshi. “This is definitely a welcome measure.”

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