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Fourplexes are here — now what?

The thing that we have been talking about for many months on this blog finally happened: Toronto City Council voted (18-7) in favor of allowing fourplexes as-of-right across all residential areas of the city. (If you’re curious, here is a map of which Councillors voted yes and which ones voted no. It’s not all that surprising.)

This is a major accomplishment and milestone for Toronto. So congratulations to everyone who has been working to make this happen. But of course, now is when the rubber hits the road: Will the market actually build this new housing typology (for Toronto) at scale? Is it actually feasible?

Jeremiah Shamess of Colliers came out this morning saying that the answer is no. These multiplexes aren’t feasible and it is “not going to solve our housing crisis or even come close.” He may be right, but I think a lot of people — myself included — are now looking closely at their feasibility.

In fact, this morning I ran into a lender on the street — look what happens when you come into the office — that is seeing if these can be built using CMHC financing. And this is just one example of the work happening all over the city right now.

There is also the question of scale. Small development projects are challenging. The general rule of thumb is that if you have the resources, you should build as big as you possibly can to drive economies of scale. So if these are actually feasible, who will want to build them?

The margins on a build like this are almost certainly going to be somewhere between negative and marginally positive. But I still think there’s something to be said about being directionally right. There’s more work to be done and these policies will likely get adjusted, but I think that’s just fine as long as we’re moving forward.

And that’s what we’re doing today.

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