When it comes to housing, the middle doesn’t have to be missing

Sep 14, 2022

How Tory’s housing plan could benefit Parkdale-High Park

The phrase “affordable housing” has almost lost all meaning in Toronto. So what are we really talking about when we talk about creating housing affordability?

In Parkdale-High Park, I believe affordability comes from creating and protecting the right mix of housing options so that everyone can afford to live here. When neighbourhoods and cities get too expensive, we push people out of town or into poverty. Our communities suffer and our vibrancy declines.

So what do we do? That’s the number one question I’m hearing at the door when it comes to housing. How do we affect markets and create affordability? How do we increase density without overwhelming roads, parks, services and infrastructure and changing the character of our neighbourhoods?

There’s no one answer. We need to protect tenants, improve building standards, and incentivize rental stock in our neighbourhoods. We must encourage development that benefits communities and creates homes, not commodities.

And we should build more types of housing, and no, that doesn’t just mean towers.

Higher buildings are not the only way to increase density. Many cities have addressed their  housing needs through infill and mid-rise development. 

In case you didn’t know, infill housing fits within an existing neighbourhood without significantly altering its character or appearance. Laneway housing is an example of infill. Mid-rise development means buildings that are bigger than houses but smaller than towers. And Parkdale-High Park doesn’t have much of these two types of housing.

One of the things I’m most excited about is making Parkdale-High Park a model for addressing the missing middle through smart density. And the five-point housing proposal recently released by Mayor John Tory addresses many barriers to the creation of missing middle housing in the city, and I believe it creates big possibilities for Parkdale-High Park.

Tory Proposes: Expanding housing options by permitting “missing middle” housing. Allowing greater mid-range density on major roads and in areas served by transit.

What it could mean for PHP: Smarter density is possible along Queen, King, Roncesvalles, Dundas West and Bloor West. Building above retail will reinvigorate our retail strips and increase housing options for families.

Tory Proposes: Cutting red tape and speeding up approval times by creating a Development and Growth Division to streamline the process and get more housing built faster.

What it could mean for PHP: We don’t have to wait forever to make some progress on housing. So many families need places to live right now, and expedited approvals will speed up efforts to keep people in the neighbourhood.

Tory Proposes: Making sure projects move forward and ensuring that land that can be used for housing does not sit idle. Tory’s plan asks the province to allow the City to enact a “use it or lose it” policy for developers sitting on approved, but undeveloped, land.

What it could mean for PHP: We have many chronically undeveloped spots in this ward, from the Giraffe building at Dundas and Bloor to the former LCBO site in Parkdale. While lack of action hasn’t always been the fault of developers, a new urgency on housing development will help keep our neighbourhoods affordable and incentivize partners to think differently about the projects they propose.

Tory Proposes: Enabling more co-op, supportive and affordable housing by allocating a portion of city-owned land to be developed by not-for-profits.

What it could mean for PHP: This is great news, as publicly owned and operated housing options must be a part of a healthy solution. Our ward is already a model for supportive housing and innovative solutions like the Parkdale Land Trust, and Tory’s plan will scale those efforts.

Tory Proposes: Incentivizing the construction of purpose-built rental housing by reducing fees and charges, as well as prioritizing those applications.

What it could mean for PHP: More developers will be interested in creating rental units as opposed to condos, creating affordable options in the neighbourhood.

I want Parkdale-High Park to be the place where we figure out how to keep neighbourhoods inclusive, affordable and vibrant. I want us to optimize, not maximize our space, so that we create new homes that make sense in the local context.

We need a City Councillor who can work with the Mayor, developers and not-for-profit partners in their efforts to create the right mix of housing in our ward.

There is so much that is possible here. And we are going to be the place that gets it done.