ANTI-RENTER AT­TI­TUDE

Neigh­bour­hoods fight­ing apart­ment build­ings are alien­at­ing peo­ple — espe­cially the young.

Toronto Star - - GTA&BUSINESS - Mi­callef,

Toronto has a grudge against apart­ments, a sen­ti­ment ex­pressed in var­i­ous ways.

A few weeks ago, a group in Park­dale held a pub­lic meet­ing on de­vel­op­ment in their com­mu­nity and in­vited speak­ers from other neigh­bour­hoods to share knowl­edge on how to in­flu­ence good de­vel­op­ment.

The Byzan­tine plan­ning process is dif­fi­cult to ne­go­ti­ate, so shar­ing knowl­edge is crit­i­cal to be­ing ef­fec­tive.

Good de­sign, af­ford­abil­ity and com­mu­nity ameni­ties are all part of what peo­ple want.

The prob­lem is the way this wellmean­ing group and count­less other lo­cal cam­paigns are po­si­tioned. This par­tic­u­lar one fo­cused on the “900 lux­ury units” com­ing to the area. That’s an in­cred­i­ble way to re­fer to the tiny units that are most con­dos built in Toronto to­day, hardly “lux­ury.”

Mak­ing it even more re­mark­able is some of the in­vited speak­ers were sin­gle-fam­ily home­own­ers.

So warped are per­cep­tions in Toronto that even pro­gres­sive folks con­sider tiny condo apart­ments, the first rung of the prop­erty lad­der that peo­ple claw their way into, as “lux­ury,” but homes in the mil­lion dol­lar range or more are some­how not.

There’s also a per­cep­tion that those home­own­ers “con­trib­ute” to the neigh­bour­hood and, in this case, the 900 apart­ment dwellers some­how wouldn’t.

To be sure, own­ing a house in Toronto is also a feat of eco­nomic gym­nas­tics for many peo­ple.

“The bank owns my house” is a fre­quently heard phrase and the state of be­ing “house poor” is com­mon. It isn’t easy.

But this dam­ag­ing way of look­ing at how we live, when the sin­gle fam­ily home is val­orised so pas­sion­ately, ul­ti­mately means much of the city is nearly im­pos­si­ble to get into un­less you can af­ford a house.

Sean Gal­braith, an ur­ban plan­ner, shared a re­veal­ing map on so­cial me­dia last week that he cre­ated by pulling in­for­ma­tion from Toronto’s open data sets.

Though the phrase “ugh, more con­dos” is a pan-Toronto ral­ly­ing cry, the map shows that such things are ac­tu­ally al­lowed in rel­a­tively few parts of the city.

“I think that it re­veals the prob­lem with es­sen­tially us­ing a 40-year-old zon­ing by­law, al­beit up­dated,” he says. “It is still a prod­uct of out­moded, decades-old ideas about sep- ara­tion of uses and it rigidly en­forces Of­fi­cial Plan poli­cies that strongly dis­cour­age do­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent, even if com­pat­i­ble, in neigh­bour­hoods.”

The map high­lights the vast parts of Toronto where only sin­gle de­tached homes are per­mit­ted and a smaller area where semi-de­tached are al­lowed.

“I have res­i­den­tial clients who would like to do du­plexes and triplexes, but are stymied be­cause of zon­ing or de­vel­op­ment and park­land charges, mak­ing them un­af­ford­able,” Gal­braith says.

“As a re­sult, neigh­bour­hoods with de­clin­ing pop­u­la­tions are robbed of the op­por­tu­nity to have new neigh­bours, peo­ple who will spend money in lo­cal shops.”

Cou­ple this with ratepayer and his­tor­i­cal preser­va­tion groups in places where mixed-use in­fill is al­lowed, but who loudly op­pose not just six, eight or 10 storey mid-rises on main streets, but nearly ev­ery at­tempt at gen­tle den­sity in­side neigh­bour­hoods.

In the old city of Toronto such groups have op­posed town­houses, base­ment apart­ments, lot split­ting and du­plex cre­ation.

This tac­tic may ap­peal to those al­ready in, but it alien­ates every­body else, espe­cially younger peo­ple.

Is kick­ing the lad­der out once you’re in re­ally the Toronto way?

The anti-apart­ment sen­ti­ment has sadly been strong in Toronto for a long time. The old city of Toronto long-re­sisted apart­ments and to­day lacks the wealth of 1920s “walk ups” other cities en­joy.

Streets that do have them were of­ten in for­mer mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, such as Vaughan Rd. north of St. Clair Ave., in what was the old city of York, and on nearby Lons­dale Rd. that was lo­cated in the Vil­lage of For­est Hill un­til a 1967 amal­ga­ma­tion with Toronto. These are both good apart­ment streets, but they’re rare.

To­day, amal­ga­mated Toronto needs hun­dreds more of these kinds of apart­ment build­ings, espe­cially rental and af­ford­able units, but the re­stric­tions, both of­fi­cial and com­mu­nity led, re­sult in tremen­dous pres­sure placed on the places that do per­mit apart­ment growth, such as Lib­erty Vil­lage, where they tend to sprout up quite high.

Lib­erty Vil­lage is of­ten vil­i­fied by peo­ple in sin­gle-fam­ily homes as be­ing a “slum in the mak­ing,” but it’s one of Toronto’s hero neigh­bour­hoods, help­ing the city live up to its self-con­grat­u­la­tory “You Be­long Here” motto while it whis­pers, “stay out.”

The stakes are high. Old Toronto missed out on build­ing apart­ments when it could and now we’ve con­spired to make apart­ment liv­ing a bad thing in much of the city.

Don’t like tall build­ings? Then fight for den­sity to be spread across the city. In­clu­sive ratepayer and his­tor­i­cal preser­va­tion groups that do this will be the new civic he­roes.

“Ev­ery­one com­plains about tall tow­ers down­town and ev­ery­one wants midrise, but part of the prob­lem is an in­abil­ity to un­lock ad­di­tional small-scale in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion in ex­ist­ing neigh­bour­hoods,” Gal­braith says. “Af­ford­able hous­ing is al­ways a hot-but­ton is­sue and com­bined with both the in­abil­ity to cre­ate and re­sis­tance to in­fill, I think the an­swer is ob­vi­ous: we should pro­vide more smaller scale hous­ing op­tions ev­ery­where in the city.” Shawn Mi­callef writes ev­ery Satur­day about where and how we live in the GTA. Wan­der the streets with him on Twit­ter @shawn­mi­callef

“Ev­ery­one com­plains about tall tow­ers down­town and ev­ery­one wants midrise, but part of the prob­lem is an in­abil­ity to un­lock ad­di­tional small-scale in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion in ex­ist­ing neigh­bour­hoods.” SEAN GAL­BRAITH UR­BAN PLAN­NER

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