Toronto pilot project to examine ways to increase ‘missing middle’ in housing market

By Vlad Podvorny via Wikimedia Commons


Beaches-East York has been chosen as the location of a new housing pilot project aimed at expanding affordable housing options or the “missing middle” in the City of Toronto.

The “missing middle” is a term used by municipalities and developers to describe housing that is generally medium density and medium affordability. Examples include duplexes, laneway housing, low-rise walk-up apartments, and more.

It means that the city will look at all the land it owns in the ward and determine — with consultation from the community and developers — what kind of housing demonstration projects to build in an attempt to solve its housing affordability issues.

The pilot project is part of its city-wide initiative called Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods (EHON).

As per the city’s own reports in 2020, average market rents for a bachelor apartment in Toronto is $1,148 per month. The average market rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,591 per month. By building and offering “missing middle” types of housing, the city expects to inject new kinds of housing into communities.

Of all the land in Beaches-East York, 62 per cent is designated as neighbourhoods by the city, which means there are homes on it. It’s among the biggest percentages in wards across the city.

Beaches-East York also has a low proportion of the “missing middle” housing types as more than half of the ward’s residential options are either detached homes or apartment buildings higher than five storeys.

“The reality is, we aren’t building enough options in between,” Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford said.

“Whether that’s physically in between through things like duplexes, triplexes, or a four-storey apartment, or in between in terms of affordability.”

What this means is that for buyers, the majority of residential options are either expensive detached houses or relatively cheaper small condos.

“We just don’t have many options outside of the million-dollar home or the small starter condo, and that’s not sustainable for any city,” said Bradford.

City council decided in 2019 it would look at ways to expand zoning permissions for more housing options in the city, and at the time Bradford suggested Beaches-East York as a potential area for a pilot program.

In February 2020, Bradford and members of the city planning department engaged with the community door-to-door for input.

The EHON report outlining a plan and approving consultation was approved in July 2020, and the city’s planning and housing committee recently received an update on the pilot.

The pilot project as it stands right now is determining sites in the community and consulting with residents. Further engagement with community members is expected in spring 2021 via virtual meetings, roundtable discussions, and web content.

“The city’s making incredible progress on the housing file,” Bradford said. “There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. We need to talk to communities, understand what works, and what doesn’t.”

Neighbourhoods will be identified by city staff in consultation with Bradford, real estate services, CreateTO, and the Housing Secretariat.

The city hasn’t released any specific dates and the development procurement process is ongoing.

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