Housing advocates call on Toronto officials to change neighbourhood zoning laws

Expanding building options in neighbourhoods may be key to solving housing crisis

Housing advocates call on Toronto officials to change neighbourhood zoning laws
Duffie Osental

Housing advocates have urged officials in Toronto to enact “bold new zoning laws” to address the city’s housing crisis.

Areas in Toronto zoned for neighbourhoods are only allowed to contain detached homes – and yet a CBC News report showed that these zones make up over 35% of the city’s land. Now, several housing advocates are calling on the city to immediately start introducing significant changes to zoning laws that prohibit buildings like town homes and low-rise walk-ups from being built in neighbourhood zones.

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“We actually need to be brave,” Naama Blonder, an architect at the firm Smart Density, told CBC News. “This whole notion of protecting neighbourhoods is something that belongs to the past. This is a conversation that they should have stopped having in the 70s.”

Toronto’s planning office is currently working on a study that looks into expanding housing options in the city’s designated neighbourhoods that is scheduled to be presented to city councillors in spring. The study examines whether “missing middle” homes – between a detached home and a high-rise condominium – can be built in neighbourhoods without compromising on their identities.

“It will actually open up more possibilities,” real estate broker Kevin Yu told CBC News. “Instead of going for a condo in a big building, this might be the next step up, that middle ground.”

But for Toronto chief planner Gregg Lintern, any strategy must aim for a proper balance between increasing density and preserving the characteristics of Toronto’s neighbourhoods.

“That's a lot of land and we're looking at ways to see how we can gently increase the housing choice and options in those parts of the city, without changing fundamentally the way those neighbourhoods look and feel,” Lintern told CBC News.