Here is a good example of why “missing middle” housing is so challenging to build in Toronto, despite everyone talking about how great it would be if only we could build more of it.
It’s the story of a minor variance application that was asking to sever a 50-foot lot at 2165 Gerrard Street East so that two semi-detached buildings and two laneway suites could be built. It would have added 10 family-sized rental units to a site that is on a streetcar line and that is within walking distance of both the subway and regional rail. And yet the consent to sever was denied.
How come you ask?
“I don’t believe dividing the property is in the best interest of the community,” said committee member Carl Knipfel, himself an architect and planner who complimented the beauty of the existing house and critiqued the design of the new buildings. “What is proposed is too dense … I really have serious concerns as to where this consent may lead us.”
The last sentence is the best part.
The article then goes on to argue that this is really all about the supremacy of single family homes and the desire to keep renters out of these neighborhoods. (Hey Airbnb, it’s not just short-term rentals that people have a problem with; it’s also long-term rentals.)
The kicker, for Mr. Galbraith [the project’s planner], is he knows if he wanted to sever the lot for two single-family homes he could get that permission without delay and likely also get permission to build more than local zoning allows.
“I can get variances for a one-unit McMansion every day of the week,” he said. “Lot coverage variances are very common; you want to take a bungalow down and make some big ugly house with a weird roof and a high first floor? You see those all over East York and Etobicoke.”
If missing middle-type housing is “too dense” for sites that are endowed with every form of fixed rail transit that we have available in this city, then your guess is as good as mind as to where the hell it’s supposed to go. It’s time to grow up Toronto.