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How not to build missing middle housing

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.

7 Comments

  1. Randy Kerr

    At some point there is going to be pushback for the Developers who put profit ahead of Community (while extolling the Neighbourhood they are re-engineering). This is what pushback looks like.

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  2. Chad Hennington

    When you base all your information about a development on a Globe and Mail article, of course this is the opinion you’d come up with. The truth is these developers filed bad faith permits to injure protected trees, disregarded all community input into the development, and disputed the property lines of neighbouring lots. In addition, their development contained absolutely no parking, despite having 10 x 2 bedroom units, and left piles of garbage at the rear of property for over a year, much to the chagrin of the people in our community. Not only that, these are not “family-sized” units. These are 900 sq ft apartments that they intend to rent for $2800 a piece. That’s not creating “affordable housing” or addressing the “missing middle”. It’s actually making the problem worse by driving up rental rates throughout the community. This development also would have evicted a family who right now does have access to the “missing middle” ie affordable housing with green space and room to grow. If you’re the type of developer who thinks clear cutting properties of trees, plowing beautiful century homes into the ground, and evicting respected members of the community is “progress”, then you too deserve to fail. The people in our community are open to sensible development, not cramming 30 plus people on to a single lot with no parking, no trees, and shady business practices. Do your homework.

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  3. Pingback: The case for density transition zones (and why people will probably hate them) |

  4. Chad Hennington

    Public transit serves the area well, but it’s completely unrealistic to house 30+ tenants and expect none of the renters to own vehicles. Not only that, if these are to be “family-sized” units ( and by family I mean people with children ) it’s borderline impossible to live in this area without a vehicle. There are virtually no walkable grocery stores and people with kids don’t take public transit to buy groceries unless they have no other choice. And what family in their right mind is going to rent small units with no parking for $2800-$3000 a month? This isn’t progress or the missing middle. This is a craven cash grab that a) knocks down a beautiful house from the 1800s b) replaces it with over-priced units and c) congests the already congested streets. FAIL.

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  5. Pingback: 225 Brunswick Ave is yet another example of why the missing middle is so damn hard to deliver – BRANDON DONNELLY

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