Like Kae Elgie in this article, I also support the idea of the city and Region adopting a climate budget to help us better understand the environmental impact of municipal actions and decisions. Without such a budget, environmental decisions can be unclear or even worse, ignored altogether.
In regards to the proposal for 16-20 Queen St N, the article notes that Ms. Elgie “says the implicit carbon costs of demolishing and then constructing a new building in its place are high.” I think a carbon budget could better help us understand the impacts of new buildings, but the fact that new homes have an environmental impact is one of the reasons I often advocate for more density, not less, especially when demolition of existing buildings is needed.
Which is why I am somewhat perplexed by the ACO’s advocacy regarding the Mill St proposal. The development originally proposed nearly 200 homes, though several existing buildings would be demolished. Many neighbourhood residents and members of the ACO advocated for a reduction in height and density on this site. Given the environmental costs of demolishing buildings to create new housing, shouldn’t we demand that we make full use of that space and build more homes for our community?
A carbon budget could also help us better understand the totality of the impacts of a new development. For example, one of the things that I see as a real win both for affordability and sustainability is that no new parking will be built. The developer has a partnership with the City of Kitchener who will share a municipal parking lot with residents requiring parking. The article says “the building’s expected carbon footprint is low, mainly because residents will be able to use the city of Kitchener’s nearby parking garage. This means the company does not need to construct a new parking lot. This will save 4,400 tonnes of concrete.” Those kinds of environmental benefits would be factored into a carbon budget.
The article states, “Developers should be pitching their ideas in better ways, says Elgie. “Sell it to us on the basis of what you can do for the environment, pitch it to us that way.” It feels to me that the developers for the 16-20 Queen St N development have at least started that conversation. In addition to shared parking, given this proposal’s location, near transit and amenities, many residents may choose not to have any parking at all. Creating dense, walkable communities is another win for environmental sustainability.
And lastly, I have mostly focused this discussion on the environment, but we can’t forget that we are in a housing crisis. As noted in the article, “These 238 homes have to go somewhere in the city.” Also, building 238 single-detached homes at the edge of our city would have huge environmental impacts as well.
I absolutely believe that we are in a Climate Emergency and must take significant and important actions to address that. One way to do that is to create neighbourhoods that reduce our reliance on a vehicle and help us to build up so we don’t have to build out.
Kitchener Council discussed an ‘intent to designate’ for 16-20 Queen St North on June 28th, 2021. The development proposal from Momentum Developments actually falls within existing zoning rules so it would not normally require council approval. However, at the June Heritage Kitchener meeting, the committee decided they wanted to pursue an ‘intent to designate’ this property, which requires the approval of council.
Many people on social media weighed in with arguments for and against designating this building as heritage. Those in favour of full designation believe that there are few examples of such a well-maintained and intact building from over 100 years ago. Many people suggested that if we don’t designate this building, what other building could even qualify for such a designation? Those who opposed full designation wondered what benefit to the community there was in keeping such a building when it is not accessible to the public for the vast majority of the time, and wouldn’t this space be better used for housing and community space?
I spoke as a delegation at the meeting in opposition to designating the entire building and I’d like to outline a few of the reasons why. It is not because I am ‘devoted to developers’ as Councillor Gazzola referred to those who opposed this designation. Nor was it that I am convinced by the ‘red herring’ (another comment by Councillor Gazzola) that this development contributes significantly to affordable housing locally. Instead, here are some of the reasons that I think this development proposal should proceed.
First, the proposal will maintain the front façade and some of the ‘returns’ (the sides of the building). I understand that is not the same as keeping the entire building in tact. But I still think there is value in this and I’ll explain more on that shortly.
While I am certain this proposal will not solve the housing crisis in our Region, it does offer what I consider to be some positive actions that will help in some way. 21 of the units in this proposal meet the Region’s definition of ‘affordable housing’. No, it’s not a lot, but it is much more than what I am seeing in other development proposals. In addition to that, the developers have entered a partnership with a local non-profit who will receive $500,000 to build affordable housing that includes supports for residents. Why not build those units in their own development? It is likely the non-profit builder can leverage these funds in a way that will allow them to build nearly 10 times the amount of housing than the developers could for the same price. So, the developer could include 5 units in this build of deeply affordable housing (likely with no additional supports available to those residents) or they could earmark those funds and allow the non-profit to create nearly 50 affordable homes with needed supports.
Many of the delegations and some councillors suggested that we can save the building as well as add more housing to this space. Now, I have heard some heritage supporters express concerns over that model as they believe it hides or diminishes the original building. But leaving that aside for now, I agree that I have seen some examples (mostly in Toronto) where a building is preserved and housing is built on top of it. However, it is far more expensive to do that and those costs will be passed on to future residents. While it may be possible to maintain the existing building and add new housing, I don’t see how that can be done in a way that ensures some of the homes remain affordable, while also building additional deeply affordable and supportive housing.
I am also left wondering how our community truly benefits from saving the entire building instead of just the front. Currently, many heritage designated buildings are not accessible to most of the public, much of the time. We are fortunate to have a local annual event, Doors Open, that allows us access to some of these buildings one day a year. In fact, 16-20 Queen St North was one of the buildings open to the public in 2012 and over 600 people attended. However, allowing 600 members of the public to access this space one day nearly a decade ago, doesn’t feel like a true community asset. The Momentum proposal would add 2800 sq. ft. of community space – a wonderful place to showcase some of the stories and saved contents of this building. That plan feels like more of a community asset than preserving, but locking away, the entire building.
One of the biggest challenges with city-building discussions is that there are certain losses that feel very visible if we go in one direction, but proceeding in a different direction may very well also have losses but they may not be as obvious. For example, a recent neighbourhood information meeting had many residents saddened about the loss of trees with proposed denser housing in one area of the city. However, the alternative is to build ‘out’ where we lose much needed natural and farmlands. I think we have a similar situation here. Not designating this building seems like a loss to some. However, if we don’t add density to our existing neighbourhoods, we put pressure on our countryside line, on housing costs, and limit who may be able to live in this neighbourhood.
I concluded my delegation with the following statement: This development will bring much-needed housing to our city, provide funding for affordable homes through a partnership with a local non-profit, save the façade of a beautiful building, and through the creation of the community space, will increase access to this building. Additionally, this development proposes a great parking arrangement that allows residents to park in an existing municipal lot, without needing to build new parking spaces - that sounds like a big win both for sustainability and affordability. While I understand the desire to preserve beautiful buildings like this, I think that this project provides a balance of that preservation, even increasing access to it, while also creating more homes for our community.
Council voted 6-4 in support of a partial designation (saving the façade and some of the returns).
Over the last few years I have become quite interested in housing issues, especially those related to affordability. I also love learning about various housing models that exist, including land trusts and housing co-operatives. I don't consider myself an expert by any means, but as someone who is quite passionate about housing, I have come to the conclusion that we have a land problem.
And this land problem is not simply an issue of what can or should be built where. It's much deeper than that. I believe it's rooted in our beliefs about our relationship with the land.
In many of the housing discussions I follow, there is some debate about who can do what with a certain parcel of land. One property owner wants to build something that a nearby property owner objects to. As we see our city grow and build, there are no shortage of examples of disagreements about what can be built where.
Concerns from neighbours about what's being built near them often seem heightened when what's proposed involves providing shelter or services that support those who are often pushed to the margins by our existing systems - those without shelter, those who use drugs, those who are dealing with mental health challenges, and so on.
We are seeing that play out right now as the residents of A Better Tent City are in search of a new location for their homes. They have been told they must leave their current space by June 20th. After many discussions, a possible new location has been found in Woolwich Township. Waterloo Region residents are divided on the issue with supporters seeing this as a good location that will work for ABTC residents, and opponents fearful of how their existing community will potentially be impacted by new neighbours.
While I fall squarely into the supporters category because I don't believe that we have a right to choose who gets to live near us and who doesn't, I still can't help but wonder if we might be looking at this issue with the wrong lens. And it all comes back to land and our relationship with it.
In almost every discussion I hear regarding objections to a proposed development or change, opponents reference the fact that they are a home owner, a property owner, and that they pay taxes so they should be listened to. Let's put aside for a moment the many, many problems I have with those arguments, and just take a look at the bigger issue here around the assumptions about land - that we 'own' it and therefore get to decide how it should be 'used'. I am starting to see how that may be at the root of many of our housing challenges.
I think we have a lot to learn from Indigenous Peoples in this (and many other) area(s). I am no expert in this area either, but as I read more about Land Back and the relationship Indigenous Peoples have with the land, I see value in that. It seems to me the relationship with land should be less about ownership and more about stewardship - how can we take care of the land so it can provide for generations to come?
If we view our housing discussions through the lens of stewards of the land, how will that change those discussions? I suspect it will lead to more compassionate and caring decisions around 'land use'. An 'ownership' lens may require that Woolwich demand planning applications and processes are followed before deciding if these residents can access this space. A stewardship lens may instead see the urgency in finding these residents a place to live and not demand that the 'planning rules must be adhered to at all costs'.
Perhaps, using that stewardship lens, will allow us to see the value in having a small community of people put up some tiny homes on a small piece of rural land and build a garden and a home.
If you follow conversations about affordable housing at all, you are likely familiar with IZ, or Inclusionary Zoning. Locally, we are hearing the term fairly often as many local municipalities are in various stages of considering or implementing IZ. Inclusionary zoning allows a municipality to require all new developments to have a certain percentage of affordable housing, and as I mentioned, many local municipalities are looking into it.
I became quite familiar with the term when I ran for local council in 2018. And I felt that it was definitely one tool that we should be implementing as a way to address the housing crisis. It seemed obvious to me at the time - we need more affordable housing and lots of new homes are being developed, so why wouldn't we put rules in place to require at least some of those new homes were affordable?
Three years later and I am less certain that IZ is the solution many of us had hoped it could be.
I definitely get the appeal, especially for elected officials who are hearing constantly from the community about the need for more affordable housing. Requiring a minimum amount of affordable homes from all new builds definitely feels like we are doing...something. But doing 'something' is not necessarily doing the 'right thing'. And to be clear, I am not convinced that inclusionary zoning is necessarily the wrong thing, but here are some of the reasons my thinking has shifted over time...
I believe strongly that one thing we need to address housing affordability is more housing supply. Supply on its own won't solve the problem, of course, but lack of supply seems to make everything worse. There is at least some evidence that inclusionary zoning can reduce new housing builds. Here is just one example from Portland. And, I know it feels like there is so much building happening, however, as this recent report states, "In the three years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, population grew nearly twice as fast as new housing units were being built."
I'm also becoming less certain that we should expect private developers to get us out of the housing crisis, for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, new housing is the most expensive way to provide affordable housing. We have seen locally that any developments that include some affordable housing, well, you can likely count on one hand how many units are added. Even with IZ, it seems that 5-10% of units, at most, would be added. At least it's something, right? Perhaps. But I can't help but wonder if there is a better way to fund the affordable housing we need. Just one idea would be the creation of a levy of sorts that developers pay which is dedicated to maintaining or creating affordable housing in the community. I have a lot more to say about what that could look like, but will save it for another day.
Secondly, while I know that housing is essential in providing stability in one's life, having access to other supports is often beneficial as well. Simply having developers add a percentage of homes below market rent, may not meet the needs of many in our community, However, we have lots of non-profits doing great work in this area. What those non-profits often need however, is money. If instead of having builders build new affordable units, we had them contribute (significantly!) to these non-profits, might we come away with more homes that include any needed supports as well?
Lastly, I think one of the most important things we should be discussing in regards to affordable housing, is that we must have governments get back to providing social/community housing. It feels to me that the focus on inclusionary zoning shifts responsibility away from governments to drastically increase social housing, and on to private developers. While I think there is an important role for developers in providing the much needed supply of housing in general, I'm not convinced they are ever going to solve the housing crisis. We need governments to do that.
So, those are a few of my thoughts on inclusionary zoning, but I am definitely open to learning more. My thinking has shifted a lot in the last few years on this, and I suspect it will continue to do so. What do you think about inclusionary zoning?
At the May 11th Regional Council committee of the whole, council will discuss the "Affordable Housing Framework: Building a Better Future for All". I have outlined some of the main issues from the staff report (begins on page 61 of the agenda).
Firstly, the report states that more work must be done in order to provide the much needed affordable housing in our region: "The growing need for affordable housing has highlighted the importance of strategic Regional investments to create housing stability and achieve affordability for all. The amount of affordable housing within the Region of Waterloo is currently inadequate and addressing this issue is a major focus of Council."
Staff note that this work can't be done alone: "Region staff has been working collaboratively with area municipalities, housing and service providers, and the development community to identify sites and resources that will maximize the number of new affordable and supportive homes created through the Framework."
And addressing the housing crisis requires a multi-pronged approach. Staff believe this approach could involve: the creation of an affordable housing land portfolio (where the Region leverages lands they own for the development of affordable housing); a "Requests for Proposals Plan"; and an annual "plan to facilitate the engagement of Regional Council, community members, those we serve, and our partners in realizing the vision and meeting the objectives in the Framework.
This 5 year strategy seeks to create 2500 new affordable homes by 2026. In order to achieve that goal, the next steps, as outlined in the report, include:
• secure the right staff team to implement the Framework;
• Develop a community engagement plan;
• Complete site readiness assessments of existing Regionally-owned lands; and
• Finalize the elements of a land acquisition and disposition strategy.
This approach prioritizes people experiencing homelessness for housing based on their
needs and preferences using the Region’s coordinated access system. Staff believe that such an approach "enables targeted, multi-pronged approaches to supporting people into stable housing."
Staff note that affordable housing options should be paired with support measures which "promotes recovery from homelessness and longer-term housing stability. There is an urgent and growing need for housing support funding to address the unmet support needs of people experiencing homelessness in the region."
The report states that consistent provincial funding is essential to offering all of the needed services and supports. From the report: "As a social determinant of health, housing is foundational to promoting a healthy community for all. While affordable homes are essential in achieving this vision, the need for directed and sustained health funding for housing supports through the provincial government is vital to the ability of the Region and partners to end homelessness."
The report outlines the $20 million capital funding (2021-2022) for affordable housing here:
The committee of the whole meeting is May 11th, beginning at 9am. You can watch the live webcast here.
The agenda for the May 11th #RegionalCouncil Committee of the Whole meeting lists the temporary COVID bike lanes an an agenda item. The report starts on page 100 of the 122 page package. I assume that not everyone has the time or interest to review that report in its entirety, so here are a few things that stood out to me from the report.
As a quick reminder, the temporary bike lanes were installed during summer 2020 on the following Regional roads:
•King Street/Coronation Boulevard/Dundas Street: Bishop Street to Beverly Street, Cambridge (this was removed early due to opposition);
•Westmount Road: Block Line Road to University Avenue, Kitchener and City of Waterloo;
• Frederick Street: Weber Street to Lancaster Street, Kitchener;
• Erb Street: Westmount Road to Caroline Street, City of Waterloo;
•Erb Street: Peppler Street to Margaret Avenue (one direction only), City of Waterloo; and
•Bridgeport Road, King Street to Margaret Avenue (one direction only), City of Waterloo.
In the report, staff note: "previous surveys reflected a majority opinion representative of drivers for the most part, who were against temporary bike lanes and the minority opinion representative of cyclists who supported these temporary installations."
So, in this "wrap up survey, more specific questions were asked to determine which particular locations respondents used, what mode of transportation was used, how often that mode was used, and for what purpose. The survey also asked specific demographic questions to determine what sort of participants were responding and gave respondents the ability to complete the survey as a user of more than one type of transportation."
Staff broke down the data based on 'user' type, and the report summarizes the main takeaways for each of those groups. Note that a single survey respondent could be classified as more than one user (for example, someone may be both a driver and a pedestrian). Here are the details taken directly from the staff report:
Cyclist Responses: 209 of the respondents identified as cyclists and the overall satisfaction rating cyclists gave the bike lanes was 7.4/10. The top positive responses indicated that cyclists liked being able to stay off the sidewalk, they understood how to use the bike lanes, the lanes made it easy to travel quickly and they also made it easier to share the road with drivers. Most of the respondents indicated that they used the temporary lanes primarily for errands, exercise or leisure, and most did so a few times weekly or a few times a month.
Driver Responses: 622 of the respondents identified as drivers and the overall satisfaction rating drivers gave the bike lanes was 3.5/10. The top negative response was that the bike lanes did not meet their needs as a driver. Most drivers also noted that they had to drive more slowly while beside the temporary bike lanes. Most of the respondents indicated that they travelled on roads with bike lanes daily, or a few times a week. Westmount Road was the most used location. Of note, 61% of drivers perceived that the bike lanes added delay to travel time, and 56% indicated that they are not willing to increase travel time to include bike lanes for cyclists on the existing roadway.
Pedestrian Responses: 191 of the respondents identified as pedestrians and the overall satisfaction rating pedestrians gave the bike lanes was 5.5/10. The top positive response from pedestrians was that they felt safe or comfortable walking beside the bike lanes and they also understood the purpose of the bike lanes. The top locations for pedestrian activity were Westmount Road, Erb Street and Bridgeport Road. Of note, the pedestrian usage pattern was well dispersed with users indicating daily, weekly and monthly usage.
Public Transit Responses: 36 of the respondents identified as Public Transit users and the overall satisfaction rating this group gave was 4.3/10. The highest scores in this audience relate to the fact that there was good understanding as to the purpose of the bike lanes. This category of respondents reflect the highest daily use of the road ways where bike lanes were located with Westmount Road being reflected as used most often.
As part of this survey, staff also wanted to hear from residents living in homes fronting onto roads where the temporary bike lanes were installed. In this regard, there were 47 respondents with the largest number indicating residence on Westmount Road or Coronation Boulevard. The overall satisfaction rating from this group was 4.4/10. This audience understood the purpose of the bike lanes and the most positive response in this group was that they felt that the bike lanes caused traffic to drive more slowly in front of their homes. (end of report summary)
The issue of 'drive times' is fascinating to me. It seems to me that there is simply too much emphasis on not negatively impacting drive times. However, as someone who watches an awful lot of council meetings, I hear councillors often say the issue they most often hear from residents on is traffic concerns, mostly speed. This CBC article says that the temporary bike lanes led to an average decrease of 13% in driver speeds. The Region's report suggests that cyclists, pedestrians, and residents saw reduced speeds as a positive, but drivers view it as a negative. In addition to feeling less safe with speeding vehicles on our roads, we know that collisions that happen at higher rates cause more harm and deaths.
I am most concerned about this statement found in the report (noted above): Of drivers that responded to the survey, 56% indicated that they are not willing to increase travel time to include bike lanes for cyclists on the existing roadway. I feel like residents advocating for safe active transportation options are asking for such a small slice of the pie, but this statement doesn't give me much hope that we'll even receive that.
What does give me hope though, are the many residents who are calling for safe transportation for all road users. Thank you to everyone who takes the time to stay informed on these issues and make your voices heard!
Anyone who follows local housing discussions will know that certain issues are bound to arise in these conversations. Common issues are affordability, heritage, and urban design. Some of these are considered 'hot-button' issues that can draw in passionate voices on all sides.
This recent Slate article dives into several of these concerns around affordability, aesthetics, and heritage. Beginning with heritage issues, the article refers to a "new wave of housing activists" that argue "the ostensible interest in cornices, mullions, materials, rooflines, massing, and setbacks on new buildings serves as a convenient excuse for neighborhoods to keep everything the same—except for the socioeconomic diversity that once filled their sidewalks."
That's the unfortunate irony of this issue - in an attempt to maintain some of the things we love about 'heritage homes' or districts, we exclude what often made those neighbourhoods so desirable originally - things like walkability, a mix of uses, and the social and economic diversity of the community. "This status quo has preserved the shape of older places, but not the kinds of people who once lived there."
The article says that in more recent times, the preservation coalition's "focus has shifted from protecting the old to policing the new." There seems to be less an emphasis on simply preserving certain buildings, to opposing or demanding changes to anything new that is proposed. The article says, "What was really driving these cities [with conservation districts], from Boise to Nashville to Charlottesville,” says Lemar, “wasn’t about what was ugly, per se. It was concern about density and increasing population.”
We know too that building new housing is expensive - and some of those costs are related not to materials and labour, but to the amount of time it takes to bring housing to market. As the Slate article notes, "Housing is more expensive, and less abundant, in the name of good looks. Not everywhere, but often in the high-opportunity neighborhoods and cities where it would mean the most."
But can't we have affordable and beautiful buildings without density? "Alain Bertaud writes that the decision to build tall or short buildings is not the choice of an architect, developer, or planner, but a natural result of the land values, “purely an economic decision depending on the price of land in relation to the price of construction.” Requiring shorter buildings, as many places do, is tantamount to requiring expensive homes." The article also states, “We have a housing crisis, not an aesthetics crisis,” Bertolet says now. “Giving residents veto power over design will slow homebuilding and make housing more expensive.”
Whatever you believe about how much influence neighbours, developers, councillors, and city staff should have in housing decisions, the slow, drawn-out process we have right now, is not working well for most of us. It adds time and cost to housing developments, and "embitters residents who double down on strict zoning."
Here's what the article's author suggests for a way forward:
"Better zoning laws could avoid these kerfuffles in three ways. First, zoning that actually anticipates what neighborhoods need would give developers and residents a better understanding of what’s expected and permitted, building trust and obviating site-by-site stand-offs. Second, reforming the code around issues like parking and setback requirements would cease to precipitate many of the ugly designs residents say they don’t like. Third, much of what is sometimes considered an aesthetic preference—making sure a project doesn’t include a big, blank street wall, or a cavernous garage opening—can be codified rather than negotiated later."
However, the author notes that won't solve every issue:
"There are drawbacks. The buildings, obviously, look pretty similar to each other. It’s also hard to build a code that vanquishes the back-and-forth. “If you could create a by-right process where you didn’t have the same argument over and over again, I’d be willing to sacrifice diversity in architecture,” said Laura Foote, the executive director of YIMBY Action, a housing-growth group. “But people just want it both ways. Having a giant code and still having a design charrette where people argue—those things are correlated!”
I'd love to know what you think about this - comment below!
I have been working with the CKMS Radio Waterloo newsroom for the last 6 months or so on a show called the Waterloo Region Weekly Round-up. That show takes a bit of a deeper look at local council meetings and discussions, especially on issues around housing, policing, and poverty. I have really enjoyed sharing these issues with listeners. Many of the episodes are on topics that I am also very interested in, especially those on housing and development.
The work can be tedious at times as it involves listening to hours and hours of council meetings and reading through hundreds of pages of staff reports. But, as I said, I often find the information interesting and I am happy to offer one way for residents to more easily access this information.
Recently, I focused on the issue of Consumption and Treatment Services (CTS) as Cambridge council was discussing whether the city should move forward on community consultation for two candidate locations for a CTS site in Cambridge. The discussion ended up occurring over 2 different meetings as so many delegates registered to speak to the issue. In fact, my coverage of the discussion extends over 2 episodes because there is a lot to cover.
I did want to say though, that this episode (WRWR ep. 10) has been the most challenging episode to produce to date. I do my best to present what's happening in these discussions without sharing many of my own opinions on any given issue. That proved particularly challenging with this episode as I had to listen to many delegations say thinks about people who use drugs that I found to be inappropriate, not compassionate, and often misinformed. I often found myself thinking "I don't want to listen anymore." Yet, I included quotations from them as I think it is important for us to fully understand these discussions. I was very thankful for those delegations that spoke in support of harm reduction strategies in general, and for a CTS site specifically.
If, like me, you feel that Consumption and Treatment Services are a compassionate and necessary support for people who use drugs, this may be a hard episode to listen to. Perhaps it will help to know that eventually council does vote in support of continuing with community consultation.
As our Region's population continues to grow, we are seeing many more condos being developed. And it seems everyone has an opinion on them, which usually falls somewhere on the spectrum from 'I never want to see another condo built again' to 'Build as many condos as possible, as tall as possible'.
No matter one's penchant or not for condos, I have heard more people calling for larger 'family-sized' condos to be developed. Most development proposals, it seems, are largely 1 and 2 bedrooms. If we want to provide real options for denser living, should we not build larger options so families can remain in condos, even if their family grows larger?
One developer in North York thinks we should. Fan Yang is the general manager for a new condo development which "addresses a major “gap” in housing in Toronto — a shortage of family-oriented units." His personal experience of living in a downtown condo, close to amenities that allowed his young family to walk everywhere influenced his desire for a development that may better accommodate families.
“We found that it’s very difficult to find a family-focused community and a three-bedroom unit in an urban area, because at that time most of the supply in the condo market was mainly one bedroom or one bedroom and a den and most of them are investor driven,” says Yang.
He continues, "We believe this will be very good for the children, very good for the parents and for the whole family, and we also believe this family-focused community will be good for the whole neighbourhood because we think this will make the community more livable, more stable and more harmonious.”
Sounds pretty great, right?
Of course, the question remains, will these units actually sell?
"Jim Ritchie, chief operating officer for major developer Tridel says one reality of the condo market is smaller units just sell faster." And, "Jane Renwick, vice-president marketing and sales for Diamond Kilmer Developments, another significant firm in the building industry, says 10 per cent of the new housing projects that do come to market are providing three-bedroom units, but from her experience that has “exceeded” demand."
But why? If we are hearing calls for these larger units, why don't they sell? It seems to come down to cost. "Larger units, even in a mid-market-priced building, are expensive simply because of their size. You run into fundamental arguments of the bigger the unit the more it costs,” she says.
So where does that leave us? "Developers say families don’t want to live in urban areas, while families say there isn’t sufficient family-focused product there, so Toronto is stuck in a vicious circle, or a “loop,” as Yang calls it." The plan for the North York development is to offer 3-bedrooms that are much smaller but more efficient in their design than what we tend to be used to in the North American market. "M2M also touts its “unique” floor plan: three-bedroom, three-bathroom units that include two master bedrooms at only 1,003 square feet – compared, Aoyuan says, to the more common 800 square foot two-bedroom units in Toronto."
It will be interesting to see what happens as these units go to market. Will there be demand for the 3 bedroom condos? Locally, I would love to see some sort of housing registry that would allow residents to understand what is available on the market currently, which units sell and which don't, along with trends on rental and housing prices.
Do you think larger 'family-sized' condos are needed in Waterloo Region?
(You can read the (pay walled) article here.)
WR YIMBY, a group with which I am very involved, recently announced a gofundme in support of oneROOF. This was driven by a desire to assist oneROOF with legal fees resulting from some neighbours appealing a recent approval for additional affordable housing for youth. A resident from that neighbourhood, hearing of this fundraiser, reached out to me to provide additional context. That neighbour also encouraged me to watch the 3+ hour Committee of Adjustment meeting where over 20 residents spoke out against this proposed expansion. I have watched that meeting (and you can do so as well, here, starting around 1:10:00) and I have a few thoughts.
As someone who watches many neighbourhood and council meetings, I was not surprised by many of the concerns shared by these delegations. There were concerns about density, crime, and oversaturation of similar community services and supports. Many residents said that they no longer feel safe in their neighbourhoods.
As the meeting wrapped up, I couldn’t help but think that there has to be a better way of doing all of this. As someone in favour of building up and not out, I don't often share concerns around height, density, and the like. However, I think all of us want our community to feel safe. And I think most of us see value in organizations such as oneROOF to offer care and resources to our community. Yet, at times, it can feel like we are all fighting against each other on city building issues. It has me yearning for a better way.
With that in mind, I have listed a few potential ways of moving forward that could benefit our community as a whole.
Those are a few of my ideas. I'd love to hear what you think of them, as well as any other ideas you would add to that list. Feel free to comment!