Expanding Housing Options: How can we improve housing diversity in our cities?
A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation
1. Flipping the narrative
Toronto’s Chief Planner Gregg Lintern notes that, “the City of Toronto’s Official Plan contains areas that we call Neighbourhoods. They take up a large portion of our city. This is a real opportunity, I believe, for gradual evolutionary change.” The Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods (EHON) initiative aims to guide that change. Lintern says EHON is about adding, not taking away. More housing choice means more opportunities for families to remain in the neighbourhoods they grew up in and for employees to live close to work. Moving forward on progressive change will require flipping the narrative on neighbourhood character, focusing more on people and less on physical change.
2. Pre-pandemic & post-pandemic cities
According to Michael Lane of SPUR, the pandemic has created a moment where we have become more attentive to climate change, sustainability, housing crises and the impacts of systemic racism. Conversations around density and neighbourhood character are tough but necessary to have for Canadian cities to truly become places of diversity and opportunity. Toronto’s Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão foresees a pre-pandemic and a post-pandemic Toronto. As the city attracts people, investment and economic growth will have long lasting social impacts.
3. Dig into the worry
Adding density has spurred polarizing conversations across Canada’s major metropoles, but climate change has revealed we cannot avoid it. Amanda Gibbs, Engagement Advisor with the City of Vancouver, calls on city-builders not to be dismissive of the concerns and fears of low-density neighbourhood residents and to dig into the worry. City-builders must listen with empathy to determine the overlapping interests between residents and incoming populations. This will be essential to shift attitudes around neighbourhood change in a way that mitigates residents’ worries.
4. Mapping joy
Gibbs and the City of Vancouver have begun to map joy. Dubbed “joy data,” city planners are using it to get a sense of where people connect to each other and their environment. Gibbs calls this non-traditional form of data absolute gold. Neighbourhoods consist of complex webs of social relations and physical features. Joy data will allow city-builders to develop a better sense of the common ground that different segments of the population enjoy, whether they are newcomers or multigenerational Canadians.
5. Tying in equity
At the core of expanding housing options in Canadian cities is the moral imperative to improve equitable outcomes for entire communities. There was consensus among the panel on the need for leadership as well as grassroots engagement. “Leadership matters on this and moral clarity for people who are willing to stand up on this to bring our community together,” says Lane. Lintern speaks to the importance of bringing in historically marginalized voices. Community organizations are already tackling issues of housing at the ground level. Equity can be improved by tapping into this leadership and their existing initiatives. Lintern calls for having those champions at the table in order to build a city for all.
Opticos Design, Inc – Missing Middle Housing: https://missingmiddlehousing.com/
Urbanarium – The Missing Middle Competition: https://urbanarium.org/missing-middle-competition-completed
Uytae Lee’s About Here: https://www.abouthere.ca/
Toronto’s Pro-Housing Movement: https://www.moreneighbours.ca/
Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to email@example.com with “transcription” in the subject line.
Mary W. Rowe [00:01:02] Hi, good morning, everybody, or good afternoon, I should say to some in the eastern part of the country, and it’s bright and early for the people on the west coast of which we have two this morning who were surreptitiously sipping their coffee, just sayin. And you can see there also they’ve got sunshine, big sunshine. How will you do have a coffee, Michael? I thought so. Big sunshine happening in the West. Thanks, guys. I know that, Amanda, you’re appreciative that there is some moment of sunshine because God knows B.C. is not getting very much. You’re not catching a break as they say. As I said, I Mary Rowe. I lead the Canadian Urban Institute. We’re in the connective tissue business. We’re really, really enthusiastic about having opportunities for us to share experience across this country and across North America. And so we encourage people to go into the chat. Tell us where you’re coming in from. That’s always great for us to see where the audience is being drawn from. Toronto is the traditional territory of a number of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Annishnabec, the Chippewa, the Wendat peoples and the Haudenasaunee. And we are continuing to struggle as urbanists with the legacies of exclusion and how colonialism has influenced urban planning, how properties were assessed. It’s it’s built into the built form and certainly in Canadian cities, and I don’t know whether Americans identify quite the way we do, but we are very seized with this about how are we actually going to undo these colonial practices and the implications they have had not only on First Nations but on people of colour, racialized communities. And so this is a continues to be an ongoing, urgent conversation about how we actually conduct ourselves in a much more equitable ways and ways that engage the whole community and particularly equity seeking communities.
Mary W. Rowe [00:02:40] So that is central to this conversation, which is why I’m appreciative we have so many people coming on from across North America to join us to talking about this topic, expanding housing options. How can we improve housing diversity in our cities? And the City of Toronto has stepped out on this through this EHON program, E.H.O.N., and really coming to terms with some of the barriers that have existed historically that we’re now trying to tackle. And so I’m appreciative that we have both perspectives coming in on this session with the City, someone from the staff bureaucracy side and someone from the political side. And I’m assuming that they are going to talk a little bit about some of the interplay that exists in and how we address these challenges because it needs to involve both people on the staff side and the political leadership and local council members. So and I know that’s a challenging dynamic and I’m I see Michael nodding from San Francisco, and I know that Amanda will chorus into what her experience has been in Vancouver. This is a massive challenge, and it requires all sorts of balancing and trade offs and consensus building and tough decisions and, you know, perception challenges and data challenges and all that. So I don’t want to speak too much to the specifics because I’m going to trust that Gregg Lintern, the Chief Planner for Toronto, is going to take us through that. Talk to us a little bit about what they’re trying to do with the city. Then I’m going to come to you, Deputy Mayor Bailão, to give your perspective. And you’ve been in the trench on this for some time through your whole tenure as a council member. This has become kind of your thing and you’re active in the national conversation of which we’re appreciative at CUI because we see you championing this nationally, which is terrific. And then I’ll probably go to Michael in San Francisco, and then I’ll go to Amanda to pull up, pull up the rear, as they say, and then we’ll talk collectively. So folks, if you want to put something in on the chat, by all means, do you know we record these sessions and people watch them afterwards so I’m always ask the panelists to focus the conversation here. The chat is really active. And so by all means, folks put your comments and your questions in the chat. And then often the chat has a whole parallel universe over there. They answer each other’s questions. They they put resources in there and again, we publish the chat. So this is really as much of a collective conversation as you can manage in a Zoom world, as we’re appreciative that the City is embarking on this and with us to do the CityTalk. So over to you, Chief Planner Lintern.
Gregg Lintern [00:05:06] Thank you so much, Mary, I’m going to share my screen, but first, I’ll just thank Michael and Amanda for joining us from the west coast of North America. Lots going on in this space and really looking forward to having a conversation with you and hearing your perspectives. And of course, welcome to the Deputy Mayor and and thank you CUI for hosting us. I just share my screen. And you can give me a thumbs up if it’s all good. Thumbs up. So the the I’m just going to try to level set us a little bit from a Toronto, Toronto perspective. We have a very fast growing city on in on the Lake Ontario and the Great Lakes in North America. I look back, you know, 1991, our population was 2.3 million and 30 years, that’s 30 years ago. It’s two point, it’s three, it’s three million now. So, you know, another 700,000 people have joined us in 30 years. And hey, we’re projecting for 2051 at least 700,000 more people by 2051. So over the span of 60 years, adding 1.4 million people to an area that hasn’t grown an inch, a square inch. That’s that’s urban planning wonderland for you if you’re if you’re a planner. The the the image here is is a screenshot of the of the inner part of our city. But really, this is about not whether we grow because housing is a human right. I think this is about how we grow and it’s a conversation about about how we figure that out together. Just move my slide here. So focusing in very quickly on the missing middle, because that’s what we’re talking about today. This slide just gives you a sense of the spectrum of housing that occurs in North American cities, and people are familiar, certainly with single detached houses. We’ve got lots of those. They’re familiar with towers and mid rise housing. We’re doing quite well at those. We’re just not building very much in the middle between those two extremes. And it’s interesting when you look at Toronto, actually 30 percent of our residents actually live in a form of missing middle. So it’s not exactly brand new. It’s just that we’re not building anything new in any great quantity in this, in this typology. And it isn’t a panacea to all of our housing issues. It’s not a panacea to growth. It’s one tool in a whole in a whole series of tools which we have to deploy to to get after our our housing challenge. Level set for the non-Toronto folks in the audience that are we have an official plan in the city. Again, three million people live here, 1.5 million jobs, very diverse economy, diverse land use characteristics across the city, and we kind of approach it as a growth strategy. We say that areas of the city grow more and differently than other areas of the city and very and very in a very plain sense. That’s what the direction of our official plan has been. And in some respects, and for many people, it sets up a very polarized view of the city where they’re talking about areas that don’t change very much at all and areas that that change completely and sometimes and sometimes overnight. The the official plan contains areas that we called Neighbourhoods. They take up a large portion of our city. This is a real opportunity, I believe, for gradual evolutionary change. And this program that we’re we’re looking at, Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods, is really focused in on what we can do differently, gently and in an evolutionary way in our neighbourhoods. I already said the city’s 630 square kilometers, it’s not growing. Being more creative about how we grow is part of the solution. In the region around us we have farmland, we have ecologically sensitive areas. We are growing as a region as many as many cities are. And looking at what we can do at home, so to speak with our population challenges, I think is is a big responsibility, has always been a responsibility of the City and and continues to be a responsibility.
Gregg Lintern [00:10:08] Now, why the frown? I love my city. I love our city. But you know, inside inside the city, we’ve got kind of two slightly different worlds. We’ve got 35 percent of the city is is is designated for low scale neighbourhoods. Yet two thirds of this is zoned for single detached. And one third is more permissive, it tends to correlate with areas of the city that are older, that the so-called pre-war city, it’s pre-zoning as well. It all developed before zoning and it and it is juxtaposed with the post-war city with an area of the city that was planned with zoning. Interestingly, we studied how these areas are increasingly different from a population and income point of view. The more permissive areas of the city have stable or growing populations and have more diversity in their income profile than the other areas of the city. So kind of interesting to get at what’s going on here, and I said, you know why the frown? I think it’s because there is some opportunity to turn this into more of a smile. Kind of tortured metaphor, but I think there is something there that we can that we can do about this. Now I turn to Drake to help me figure out what or help me unpack this a little bit. And we’re getting questions. A lot of questions, a lot of debate about scale and about character. It’s it’s not just a character versus scale debate, but we I think we all agree that the that a city that has in its urban repertoire low scale neighbourhoods, that’s a good thing. I mean, I don’t see much debate that we should take it all down. So that isn’t what this is about. It’s about finding more ways to work inside that scale. And sometimes the issues of character have dominated the conversation. They’ve taken away the opportunity. Maybe, maybe, maybe they’ve been, new meaning and new importance has been ascribed to character, which I think is challenged and blocked potential over time of of of what’s been happening in our neighbourhoods.
Gregg Lintern [00:12:27] So you look at this graphic and you look at it closely and you see hidden clues about expanding housing options. They’re on the ground now. You can walk around Toronto streets. You can if you look hard, you can see multiple mailboxes. You can see multiple doors. You can see a lot of activity. Maybe it’s three green bins that are out front. You can see lots of clues that it’s already part of what this city is about. And and when you think about dropping more into that environment, when you when you apply that gentle density lens, walk ups, garden suites, laneway suites, maybe the odd multiplex, maybe the odd low scale apartment building, you can immediately see the potential of gradual evolutionary change, which really does not alter in any way the overall scale that that I think people really love. And when you turn off all of that and you look again at what you see, I think you focus on the people. You quickly change your mind and you think about, wow, maybe my friends, maybe my family, maybe my employees can find a place to live in the city. So is it less about the physical change and more ultimately about the people who are going to be accommodated over time in our in city? And I’ll just conclude by saying that the ongoing review of the City’s official plan does offer an opportunity to reassess objectives around equity and inclusion, around public health, around climate adaptation for our city. You’ve got to think again, 2051, what are we going to wake up to? What kind of city have we got? Are we going to be proud of our accomplishments? We’ve got all of these people to accommodate. And I think being a more inclusive city, providing more choice from a planning point of view. Strictly speaking, the social cohesion that comes with that is a pretty powerful planning device that really accommodates many more people in a way that is, as I said, much more inclusive and adapted and gives people a chance to to find that housing option, to live a less car dependent life perhaps, to to really be able to get at the potential of their future. So with that Mary, I’ll turn it back to you.
Mary W. Rowe [00:15:07] Thanks, just have to unmute myself. Thanks, Gregg. I can already see a bunch of themes emerging in what you’ve presented and also we can see people, as predicted all the housing wonks are on the chat and they are already solving all your problems for you. Just so you just so you know, and they’re putting links in there and they’re having their own conversation, which is terrific because it’s going to take a lot of smart thinking about how we’re going to actually get the solutions we need. So keep those chats going. And thanks so nice to see Carolyn and Nathan and Michael and a whole bunch of people out here who spend their days thinking about this stuff smartly. OK, Deputy Mayor Bailão over to you.
Ana Bailão [00:15:42] Thank you, Mary, and thank you to you and the Canadian Urban Institute for putting this conversation together. The only way we’re going to get this done and we’re going to get it done right is if we engage everyone in our city, from academics to our residents. It really engaged in this conversation. I came at it not as a planner, I’m not a planner, even though I usually say, you know, if I could go back to school now, I probably would because I love it so much. I’m fascinated by all this. I think I come from somebody that, you know, my background is sociology. So I love the social outcomes of how we plan our city and how it impacts our city. And I don’t know if most people do, but I feel like we’ve had certain periods in our history that really had a big impact in our cities. You have the pre-war, the post-war, the you know, the all that housing that happened in the 70s, in the 80s. I do think that we’re going to have a pre-pandemic and a post-pandemic Toronto. I really do. I really think that people have experienced our public spaces, our city. Some of the challenges that we had that were very real in the quality, equity, lack of housing, lack of affordability, they’ve all these issues were there pre-pandemic. I think people are just said, “Enough! We can’t go back to that. We want other solutions. We want to bring these things to the forefront.” And and so I think they will. This is a time in our city that we need to have the courage to have these conversations. They’re not easy conversations, but nothing good is ever easy, I think. So, you know, I think it’s time that we have the conversations because the fact that, as Gregg mentioned, the city is growing so much and we need to grow, we want to attract investment, we want to attract economic growth, we want to attract all that. But to do that in only twenty five percent of the land and exclude that growth or change or anything into the seventy five percent of the remaining of the city is going to have social impacts. So when we talk about that, Toronto is a city of diversity and opportunity, that we want to create neighbourhoods when we live, work and play right. We all had all politicians say this. I don’t think there’s any politician that haven’t said these sentences. But will we if we don’t address this, will we have walkable communities? Will we be making the best investments in transit, in community services, in recreation if we keep 75 percent of this land? It’s not even the same amount of density. We are actually in some of our neighbourhoods in Toronto reducing that. There’s less people, there’s less population in some of these neighbourhoods. So I think we can’t ignore this fact and have to realize that the way that we’re going to plan our land is also going to mean the kind of city that we’re going to have. And if we truly want to have a city and neighbourhoods that are as diverse, that have our workers living in here, that are, you know, with vibrant main streets that have small businesses that are supported, that has a city that people don’t have to spend two hours on TTC, we’re going to have to have this conversation. And I think people are ready because, you know, sometimes it’s there’s I think there’s two mistakes that we need to make sure that we don’t do. One is keep it too much on the abstract that people don’t really see how this is going to touch them. And the second one is only have the conversation when there’s a building they don’t like being built beside them. You know, that’s why we need to do the conversation now. I remember when we did laneway housing, Mary, and I had somebody walking into one of the community meetings that we had when we were doing the policy, and she came in with her daughter and she said, “I don’t come to meetings, I don’t speak English, but I needed to come here to just share this with you. I’ve never had a politician that did anything that is going to impact my life as much as this.” And I was like, totally blown back. This is right at the beginning of the presentation was a few years back. And I said, “howcome?” And she explained her daughter had just graduated. She could not afford anything in that neighbourhood, but she was going to build the laneway house for her because she could help to do that. And if she was going to be lucky enough, then they would switch and she would even take care of the grandchildren when she got married to to live. So when people start seeing that this has real impacts in the way that they live in the neighbourhoods that they live, I think there’s a change of tune. And so I think that we have to identify that common ground in this issue. What are really the things that are going to move people and what kind of city they want to build. So I’m looking forward to having this conversation as easy or difficult as many have been warning me, this is going to be a tough one. But I think it’s a much needed one.
Mary W. Rowe [00:20:48] Mm hmm. Thanks. Thanks, Depuy Mayor. You know, I appreciate that you guys are up for the the intensity of the conversation because we know people react very strongly if it’s going to be right, right in there. Hence, the phrase that’s now everybody is familiar with, you know, 30 years ago, did people know what NIMBY meant? Now everybody knows what NIMBY means. So I think it’s a but it’s also, as you just pointed out, it’s about much more than just housing. And actually in the chat, this is coming out. It has to do with affordability generally of whether or not workers can live in the city in which they’re working. Can they get there and people are raising the issue about transit. So it’s really sort of a metaphor for what kind of city are we building, an inclusive one that provides opportunities across a whole spectrum or are we going to reinforce or patterns? I’m also interested to hear from, I’m going to go to you next, Michael, because I think the San Francisco experience is sort of emblematic of a lot of these challenges, even though your history is obviously different. But the observations that both Chief Planner and Deputy Mayor have made about pre-war, post-war and and the impact of zoning, zoning, no zoning. So I’m interested for you to step in now and tell us a little bit about San Francisco’s experience and the struggles that you continue and not just, also the Bay Area, because I would say both Gregg and Ana are familiar that this is not just a City of Toronto issue. They are embedded in a much larger region and people are choosing to live across the whole region as we know they do in the Bay Area. So I’ll pass to you. Great to have somebody from SPUR here. We love SPUR and we love Alicia. So glad Michael, that you were able to join us. Over to you.
Michael Lane [00:22:21] Thank you so much for your kindness. I’m really thrilled to be here, and I want I’ll need to step back a little bit and even beyond the Bay Area and talk about the California experience because we do have structural problems that we’re trying to to solve now. But in many ways, we created those for ourselves. We had major down zoning in the 70s and 80s in major jurisdictions, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, which created under production, and of course, that was under the guise of quality of life, etc. But obviously those are exclusionary policies that were adopted and in over time it’s only gotten worse due to the cost of land and construction, certainly in the in the Bay Area in particular it’s exacerbated, our affordability problems. We also passed a constitutional amendment which capped local property taxes. And so that became a disincentive in some ways to do to build housing. Prior to the the late 1970s, it was actually a way to generate revenues, was to sprawl out with major subdivisions and continue to raise property taxes and build infrastructure. There were some city managers that was there. That was our business model as it were, and I actually live in the city of San Jose in the Silicon Valley, and it’s over 180 square miles of sprawl. And you can imagine over time just the cost to maintain.
Mary W. Rowe [00:23:37] And we we feel your pain. You know, you can you can see your Toronto colleagues here are resonating because the the fiscal structure for Canadian cities is it makes municipal governments extraordinarily dependent on the property tax. And, as you say, city administrations in other parts of the country have do see it as a way to generate revenue because they don’t have many other choices. So carry on, we’re appreciating the perspective.
Michael Lane [00:24:00] What I would say is that once you get to 40 or 50 dwelling units per acre, it really does pay its way. It’s this is the sprawl subdivisions which need police and fire, et cetera, infrastructure, water, sewer that really become expensive and become exclusionary because the types of impact fees you need to place on that housing really determines what kind of housing you’re able to build and who can afford to live there. And so those are some of the structural problems. So how are we finally making a dent in this? I mean, you know, the New Urbanism has been around now for decades and smart growth. So why just now? And I think there are a few reasons for that. We’ve obviously become more attentive to climate change sustainability than ever before the affordability crisis. The median home price now in California. California, not just the Bay Area, is $800, over $800,000. Bay Area, of course, is much even even higher. And then this issue of equity and inclusion, I think, you know, books like the Color of Law and others have really begun to penetrate into the social conscience. I think that we really need to address all these issues. So that’s why it’s it’s a time when the time is now to be able to step in and really address all these issues and bring that bring along stakeholders to really build a better, a better community going forward in the of the great work that you’re doing as well. And that’s what we’re trying to trying to do in the Bay Area. But there are some other structural issues in California as we try to move away from what we call a fiscalization of land use where, you know, sales taxes was the way to go. And now obviously that’s a whole new world now with all the all commerce moving online. What’s going to happen to all the shopping malls and the commercial uses that we have been pursuing for decades as well? That’s going to be a major shake it, otherwise you repurpose and have their adaptive reuse to take some of that, those buildings and allow for for housing as well and mix in a mixed mixed use kind of an environment. So we’re looking at things like that. But but, you know, the cost of land is driving a lot of this too. Can be up to $10 million an acre in the Bay Area for housing. And I think, as Gregg mentioned, too, we’re facing issues statewide. Three quarters of our land is zoned for single family homes. In San Jose it’s even higher. It’s like ninety four percent of our residential land is on single family only. And so but because of the California Constitution, we have doctrines of home rule and municipal affairs, which really enshrines in our constitution local control over land use and zoning under what we call police power. And so what we’ve actually had to do is move the state level. And that’s why I’ve got the Capitol here in Sacramento behind me to preempt some of this local land use and zoning authority. And obviously, those are been difficult conversations and political upheaval to be able to do that. But we really had to move in that direction because I think, you know and Gregg had some great graphics there. But if you only permit single family homes, which you know, the median home price, like I said the bear is $1.2 million, but in other places that’s been like in Palo Alto, for example, it’s over over four million or Class A type one kind of towers, you know, steel over concrete. Those are the most expensive building typologies. And those are the only things that our zoning code basically allowed post-war. Prior to that is as renters know that we had in our neighbourhoods here, we’ve had, you know, duplexes and triplexes and quads and neighbourhood multifamily buildings, but we really don’t have that because we don’t have the zoning. And as a result, because we haven’t haven’t scaled that, we don’t even have the contractors who even do that work anymore. So we’re going to have a lot of work to do that, to try to bring back that that economic development piece as well. And I think we can do that if we scale it and we make it as easy as possible. So we did. Californians began at the state level was with accessory dwelling units, kind of low hanging fruit, but still controversial. We have, you know, statutes on the books for decades that allowed for ADUs with local jurisdictions down ways with, you know, large setbacks or lot size minimums, minimum lot sizes. Ways to thwart even accessory dwelling units from known as granny flats. And so we began to to pass legislation to to allow that by right and to expand and limit the fees that can be charged on those units as to get it some of that general density. To to try to address this issue can we bring building typologies online that can create more affordability by design? Now, these aren’t deed restricted, you know, for very low income families, necessarily, but it just expands the housing stock and maybe frees up other rental units for lower income families who need them by being able to do that. And our next move in California was really to to allow duplexes by right. We just passed legislation this year, which was signed into law to allow that and then also neighbourhood multifamily smaller buildings of 30 to 40 units. That could be potentially by right as well through zoning. You need the zoning. And then of course, we have to deal with our environmental laws. We had one, we had legislation was passed that would allow for 10 units or less with an expedited environmental review and on a by right basis if the local if the local city council adopts in that way. And I come at this from from both sides. I served as a local city councillor but also an affordable housing developer. So I know the the challenges from both sides is to get that the political will to be able to get the zoning and to approve the property. And we’ve really found that we had to really go to a state level to get some of this done because there just aren’t enough incentives at the local level for local electeds to do this on their own. And they need that cover to say, look, we’re going to set a basic framework. As you know, we already have a housing element process in California where jurisdictions are required to zone based on the projected need for housing. But particularly in the Bay Area right out after the Great Recession, and we came out of that very strongly. We had a great recovery in terms of jobs, but not in terms of housing, as we were producing like eight jobs for every new housing unit. And over the past 20 years, we’ve actually, you know, there are over 300,000 families earning $100,000 or less have left the Bay Area, but 600,000 households making more than $100,000 have moved in. And that’s that’s just the economics and the job creation without the ability to provide the housing for our workforce. And some of those have become super commuters and they travel back in or others have just had to leave the region altogether. So there’s I think that on the one hand, there’s more political will, but we’re also seeing a backlash from from neighbourhood groups and homeowners associations and others who don’t want to any change in their in their neighbourhoods, even that the general density that that’s been described here. I also just want to note I did put in the chat a link to missingmiddlehousing.com and many of you probably have seen that in Karen Parolek’s work and they’re actually here from the Bay Area, one in Berkeley. But they also have released a new book recently on missing middle housing. There’s some great graphics, and they’re similar to what Gregg had showed as well. And so if you haven’t seen that, I would encourage you to take a look because we really think that’s got to be part of the solution. We still need to build the the towers in the downtowns, and we still need to build single-family homes and create more affordable homeownership opportunities when we can do that with, you know, smaller, smaller lots and new new models for construction. But we also need to get some of that at general density in our existing neighbourhoods because they take up so much of our of our of our of our our built, built up environment, our footprint. So I’ll stop there.
Mary W. Rowe [00:31:06] Well, we’re we’re crushed, crushed to learn that you don’t have the silver bullet solution, Michael. We assumed Silicon Valley and San Francisco in the Bay Area would have already figured this out. But damn, you haven’t. But we appreciate the complexity that you’re raising. There’s so many issues. I’m quite sure that the Deputy Mayor and the Chief Planner will want to reply around the extent to which they see a strategy going to the next order of government as you’ve gone to the state. We can talk a little bit about that in terms of there is no regional government for Toronto anyway. We don’t have that layer. And so it would mean going directly to the province, which would be the jurisdiction you just referred to. Storied history on that here. But before I ask, I might go to you after that on that Councillor Bailão, Deputy Mayor Bailão, but I’m going to go to Amanda next. So Amanda, let’s talk if we can. You have years and years of engagement experience and Vancouver I would say in the in the popular imagination is the most storied city in Canada, struggling with housing, diversity of choice, homelessness, everything is unaffordable. There’s tons of memes that have come out of your town about housing, housing, housing. And so can you share with us a little bit about what your perspective is and you’re and the project you’re embarking on now because it’s so critical to the future sustainability of Vancouver and also just to remind everybody. Vancouver is at the epicenter of an extraordinary series of weather events that have completely seized that whole province and our climate change on a plate that we’re hearing every morning on the news. So with all that context, thank you for coming on. I’m glad you’ve got a day of sun today. And can you share with us a bit of a perspective about how you’ve been approaching this diversity of housing choice and missing middle in your jurisdiction.
Amanda Gibbs [00:32:46] Yeah, absolutely, and thank you, Mary. And I just wanted to say quickly that I’m coming to you today from the unceded and traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh people. And yeah, I am not a planner. I worked on now planning projects for and engineering projects for nearly 20 years. I would say that it’s very interesting to hear what my colleagues are saying here. We’re kind of coming to the end of a planning process that has tried to map out what the next 30 years of Vancouver will look like. And we were starting this process with a lot of scenario planning. Well, a lot of those scenarios, we’re living those scenarios. We don’t need to imagine the worst. The worst is happening. So this complexity, this peak complexity of this moment, not only in the planning issues, at a at a civic level, but all the other levels of sort of palimpsest of these complex challenges we’re living in. So it has been a huge challenge to try and have a meaningful conversation in the midst of these sort of weathering these pieces of change. I’ll just do a quick bullet on why Vancouver is different, and in many ways we’re having similar challenges. Vancouver does not is not governed by an official community plan. We are one of the few major cities in Canada that does not, and that is a result of our governance, a relationship with the province. We’re governed by something called the Vancouver Charter. And so in many ways, that has been a challenge and a blessing for us because what we’ve had are community plans, neighbourhood plans that have really kind of reflected the diversity of the different needs. But what we haven’t had is this overarching vision or story. And so what we have for those who do follow planning in Vancouver is a Byzantine set of regulations. You know, zoning and that has really been difficult in many ways to kind of have a comprehensive approach. And when you’re looking to the future, that again becomes more difficult. What I think I can contribute to this conversation today is talk about, and have to be careful because we’re actually just closing out of a layer of engagement, but we’re starting to have those conversations. And here’s what I maybe offer a few kind of thoughts or provocations that maybe will help in the dialogue. What I’m seeing is that we have an extremely polarized conversation that’s happening here like other cities. And what I’m seeing is a way to shoot that gap. And what I’m seeing are opportunities where people are coming together. Climate has really shown everyone that we can no longer avoid density. We have 15 percent of the housing in the city is on half of the land, and in many cases, we’re also still building on floodplains. So we actually have to start looking at that climate is here. And that has in fact, really, as I’ve heard in conversations over the last few months that has really shifted the conversation that we’ve been hearing around neighbourhood change or neighbourhood character. The other is that what we’re hearing is a conversation where people are truly concerned about losing the things that they love in their neighbourhoods. They’ve told us they love green spaces, they love neighbourhood serving business. They love having opportunities for their kids and family members and friends to live together. Folks in low density neighbourhoods are feeling that loss. They’re losing the local serving businesses because they’re seeing the fact that there isn’t enough density to support them. So what we’re seeing is and folks are talking about choice. You’re talking about why is it that I’m only able to rent on a busy arterial? Why can’t I live in a different form of housing in any part of this city? And just one other piece to flag: Vancouver’s RS zoning. We allows for laneway housing secondary suites in every neighbourhood. But this and duplexes, but we’re starting to see this this idea of where’s the creative opportunities? Now we know with land values, I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on this, but we know that that is the case that the Gordian knot of land values, density, the different levels of funding, government. Like that’s not, there’s no easy solutions. Missing middle housing is not going to fix that. But the dialogue is now turning into that people who maybe once would say, “No, never.” They’re saying, “I want more and I want to see how, you know, my neighbourhood could be more vibrant.” So I think there are opportunities here. I think the that the pandemic, what it has shown people, is that this conversation around the 15 minute city or the ten minute city, having what you need closer to you, that has impacted everyone. So, you know, I think we really have tried to think of the idea of equitable housing, housing choice across the city and really understanding this is the key piece for us. We’ve really listened closely for where people have problems. So we really said we wanted to dig in to where the mitigation or the worry or the fear is, and that’s maybe counterintuitive. We want to say let’s appreciative all the time, but we’re saying where where is that point of concern and what can we do to address that? So that’s a few things that I would just hopefully I can add to the conversation. I would encourage anyone who’s interested in the history, basically racist planning and zoning in Vancouver, and we have a long and storied and challenging history. I would encourage you to go look at the Urbanarium and website, which is a great not-for-profit and Uytae Lee has done a wonderful video that actually encapsulates the story of Vancouver planning. But I think there are moments of possibility here in the dialogue, and they’re tough. You have we have to be courageous, we have to listen and we have to listen with empathy. But that’s that’s what I can share today.
Mary W. Rowe [00:38:42] Thanks, Amanda. And I’m sure one of my colleagues will put the Urbanarium website onto the chat. And again, the chat’s blowing up, which is wonderful, really appreciate people investing their time to put their insights there. And we love Uytae. He’s done some work with us too. He’s a great, great videographer, community videographer. Ana, Deputy Mayor Bailão, can we just talk for a sec about the jurisdictional challenge that we face in Toronto and what how you see that the interplay with what Michael was describing, where they actually had to bump it upstairs and go to the state to see if they could get the kinds of measures? I know this is a tension that you live with all the time. And the other thing just a reality that I’d ask you to comment on is since amalgamation Toronto has councillors that have very different the neighbourhoods and very different jurisdictions for which they are responsible. And so I feel I sense that it’s difficult to cobble together the kinds of consensus that you might need for the city as a whole when you’ve got such variation of orientations on council. So maybe could you talk a little bit about that, how to tackle that kind of challenge within the city? And then similarly, what do you see as the sort of overture to the province?
Ana Bailão [00:39:52] So let’s put it this way, I mean, councillors are always complaining that the province is overreaching. Right? Love sometimes to hide a little bit behind those powers and say, well, it’s now at the Board, and so we can’t really do anything. So I think the way that I would like to see this is that we we take our destiny in our own hands. We’ve done it with laneway housing. I’m hoping that we’re going to be able to do it with garden suites. And I’m hoping in January we’re going to have that conversation. So like, like in San Francisco, we also started with the low hanging fruit. That was exactly the method we used. Now would I believe that there’s interest from the province on something like this? I can see them having that interest because the same thing happened with laneway housing. We basically came out with laneway housing and then they actually put that put that out there as well. So I would certainly welcome them. This is a challenge. Like you explained, it’s not only Toronto if there’s other municipalities that have it. I think it’s an urban issue that many cities are facing and Ontario could take a leadership role in that sense of of saying that cities have to do some of that work. I think we’ve we’ve had our federal government already hinting that this is something that would like to see and that they might tie some funding to it, which I think it’s fair. I mean, they’re they’re spending billions of dollars in our city in transit. It is, you know, it’s it’s fair that they want to make sure that their funding affects the highest amount of people possible. And for that, we need to deal with these issues. So I think I’m I’m still I think it is really important. But also Toronto City Council has a conversation and takes a leadership role on this, and I know that some some people are still learning about this issue. Other ones are coming at it from more of the environmental issues, some more of the housing issue. But I think I think people are starting to have have this conversation. And I think one of the main reasons is also because more and more people are having this conversation. I mean, I find it amazing that almost every week there’s an article in one of the local newspapers, The Star, The Globe. They’re all talking about these issues, and it’s good. We need that. We need that dialogue. We need help to make sure that, you know, this conversation is happening in the four corners of our city.
Mary W. Rowe [00:42:17] Mm hmm. Gregg, I was going to say, Gregg, I’m wondering if you could comment to that you are you actually do have a housing table now that is a regional housing table, the Greater Toronto housing, because it’s so the the industry works across these different municipal boundaries, the folks that actually do the building in the housing. So go ahead, Gregg, what were you going to say.
Gregg Lintern [00:42:36] I was just going to say that it’s in the provincial interest to participate because of the economy. The economy doesn’t know the municipal boundaries for social development, for labour force planning or supply chain. These are all areas of provincial interest. So I think they they need to be part of the conversation and partner in in legislative change and other and other efforts. I think one area that I’m particularly interested in is the conversation in our inner suburbs because I don’t think this is about taking something away. I think this is about adding something. And I think we’ve we’ve had a very kind of odd conversation for 20, 30 years that’s become very protectionist. And and it’s and it’s and it’s it needs to be flipped into into a conversation about the positive opportunities that a change represents. And and I really think this is a conversation about adding not taking away. So when we add housing choice, we add an opportunity for families to stay in Toronto. We add opportunities for our employees, your local employees, whether it’s a convenience store or a factory or whatever, so that they they don’t have to travel a long distance.
Mary W. Rowe [00:43:59] But Gregg, but Gregg, how do we get that to be something that people feel is their own story rather than you telling them? Because I think this is the dilemma, right, is that planners historically have come in and just told people, “this is what’s good for you. We’re giving you something,” and people say, “screw you,” like they, you know, that’s the dilemma, right? The how do we and I heard Ana saying it at the beginning, we need this bigger narrative so that everybody somehow gets into that program. And Amanda saying she’s led a process that’s trying to and and the fact that you’re having these visceral climate change challenges. And then, Ana, you also said you think the pandemic may be the the moment. So I’m curious whether or not we can imagine this coming from the communities themselves. Michael, have you observed that? You had to go to the state. Presumably that was the solution you had to try to do. You had to do some top down is what I’m getting at, as well as a bottom up, right.
Michael Lane [00:44:53] We have some progressive jurisdictions at the local level, though I do want to point out unfortunately not many of them were in the Bay Area, but the City of Berkeley has moved in terms of eliminating parking minimums and moving forward with a proposal to allow fourplexes in single family zones. And the City of Sacramento is also doing great work in this regard as well. Ironically, the mayor there, Mayor Darrell Steinberg, was formerly in the state legislature, so he’s seen as from both sides. And he says there’s got to be limits to local control because we’re we’re not getting the job done. The homelessness has also become just a real flashpoint in our state, but it really it just shows the dysfunction, the entire delivery system, the way we provide housing from, you know, extremely low income to just the workforce and moderate income families who are struggling. The other thing we’re seeing is declining school enrollments. And so we were actually closing schools because young families with children can’t can’t afford to live in Silicon Valley, in the Bay Area. And so I think we’re starting to see those impacts ripple through the economy.
Mary W. Rowe [00:45:51] So then that becomes more a shared problem. People start to say, Well, jeepers, and we do see that in Toronto when around and go ahead, Ana, go ahead.
Ana Bailão [00:45:59] I just say that common ground. I think it’s really important that we start identifying what is the common ground, what is the vision and the common ground that people have. And I think Amanda also mentioned something that was important is for us not to be dismissive of people’s concerns and fears. So I think that is important that people feel that once you identify what is what is that common ground. Like people come to us and say, and you have to do something about housing, my kids cannot afford it here. OK, let’s pick on that. Let’s get that. It’s a common ground. Like, how do we get these things out and then say, well, how about we do this in the Yellowbelt and not diminish their fears and actually make sure that they feel heard? I think those two things are going to be are going to be essential.
Mary W. Rowe [00:46:48] Lots of questions in the chat for you, Amanda, about how you how are you able to build common ground in a polarized city like Vancouver?
Amanda Gibbs [00:46:56] It’s tough, you know, and I think that there, you know, I don’t think we figured it out. I would never want to communicate that, that we’ve got all the solutions. But a couple of things I would just say is that I think that absolutely that is the case to find the delta of where there is common ground. So I’ll give you an example. You know, we’re losing a lot of mom and pop businesses that are often those small community serving businesses that support our maybe first or second generation Canadians. They are providing an important community hub for communities. We’re losing those. Everyone’s losing those. Whether you’re in a whether you’re a newcomer to Canada who doesn’t own renting or whether you have, like secured tenure, you’ve been here for generations. People are losing this kind of connective fabric that makes Vancouver extraordinary. And yet at the same time, we’re also hearing this intergenerational transfer. People who once said, no, I don’t want to see more diversity. I’m really worried about losing the beauty of my single family neighbourhood or my, they’re saying my kids, I don’t know how to get my kids in here. I don’t know how to get my friend’s kids in here. I don’t know how to get my young colleagues in here. And so there is there are these points of change now. That’s not to say that that’s a kumbaya. Our people are there. But I think we’re seeing these moments and everybody wants, we actually started to map joy. I have a Lisa Helps, who’s mayor of Victoria. You know, we’ve had these conversations. People think you’re daffy when you talk about what gives you joy. That joy data is unbelievable because that’s where people connect. So I think we’re afraid, planners are often afraid not to, like to bring it to a human, that human conversation. That joy data is absolutely gold. And it gives you that sense of where those moments, those deltas are. So for what it’s worth, happy to share that.
Gregg Lintern [00:48:52] Building that conversation, Amanda, in areas where maybe people haven’t been engaged in, with population groups that haven’t been engaged. Been finding all of those champions, all of those leaders out there, they come from. I mean, we see them when we do area plans, we we see we have great conversations and great leadership. Actually, community led initiatives around this. So I think finding finding a way to make sure that we’ve got those champions and those voices. And and as as you said, Mary, not a not a top down, but a bottom up really resurgence in in that kind of participation. And I think there’s raw materials here that are touching everybody, which maybe weren’t the raw materials that were touching people even 10 years ago. I think those raw materials have shifted.
Mary W. Rowe [00:49:47] Raw materials, meaning we’ve had 20, when we’ve had 20 months of realizing we need our neighbors.
Gregg Lintern [00:49:53] Exactly. Where exactly, where have they gone right?
Mary W. Rowe [00:49:56] I mean, in terms of overhoused people that are, you know, these neighbourhoods that are declining, of which Toronto has a number of them where there’s a widow or a widower in a four bedroom house, overhoused. And one of the dilemmas that we’ve got when you talk to those folks, they’ll say, “there’s no place for me to move in my neighbourhood. I don’t want to leave my neighbor and I don’t have choices.” So but it’s hard to square that with that person 20 years younger to say to them 20 years from now, when you’re on your own and your kids have gone off, you want to stay in this neighbourhood, we need some choices for you.
Gregg Lintern [00:50:30] They don’t have a lived experience to point to. If they could point down the block and say, wow, jeez, somebody built a garden suite here. You look into that garden suite having, you know, making this this shift so that people get comfortable with with that lived experience is, I mean, this is how we grow bike lanes, how we grow transit.
Mary W. Rowe [00:50:50] People get used to it. People get used to it. But but Gregg. Go ahead, Ana. Yes, go ahead, Ana.
Ana Bailão [00:50:57] I just wanted to bring one point because I agree this can’t be like that top down. And I keep coming back for the laneway housing because I think it was such an informative moment for all of us here in the City of Toronto, the way that we dealt with, the way that the community came from the outside and worked with us. But it is important to also say that we still need political leadership on this. This we still need not, in a way that will bring people together, not people to use this in a divisive way. So two points that I think it is important is that we still ask for political leadership on this issue. And then the second thing is for all the housing people out there, it’s important that you support that political leadership when it’s when it’s out there. I think it is, you know what, that those positions, it’s really important because right now the stories are all about the politicians that stood up for some of these things and lost elections. That’s a story out there. That’s the facts. So we need to change this because we need that political leadership. That the law needs to change at the end of the day. It needs to come. We need politicians that don’t do it in a divisive way. It needs to come from the bottom up. But we need that political leadership.
Mary W. Rowe [00:52:10] Michael, I could see you nodding
Michael Lane [00:52:13] Leadership matters on this and moral clarity for people who are willing to stand up and take a stand on this to bring our community together. And like you said, this is the way we used to live. We need to remind people we’ve had some historical amnesia because in the neighbourhoods where I am, we I got duplexes and triplexes all over the place in there, but they’re sprinkled there and people just don’t even notice them, quite frankly. One thing I would say is we did find when we did the duplex legislation, seniors were very interested. They wanted the option of a duplex or an ADU, for example, just because of the that the phase of life in which they’re in, there’s an opportunity to to generate some income. And they’ve got maybe a larger lot. And to have that now, not everyone will want to do that, but some may have the financial resources to be able to do that. The other thing I would say for us is that the YIMBY movement has been a game changer, both at the state leve..
Mary W. Rowe [00:52:59] YIMBY. Just emphasizing the consonant YIMBY.
Michael Lane [00:53:02] YIMBY. Because we we’ve shafted our younger generation and they can’t afford to live here. We’ve loaded them up with with with debt from from from, you know, college debt, et cetera. They can’t find a place even to rent that’s affordable and near their job. And so they’ve really gotten activated. It’s become a it’s become a kind of a social and lifestyle movement as well. And they come out to the the planning commission, public hearings and they come out of the council meetings and actually speak up and there. And it’s really a great a boost to our advocacy around a lot of these issues and they provide that support to our local electeds as well.
Mary W. Rowe [00:53:42] So that’s part of the narrative and it’s part of what Ana’s saying. Let’s start celebrating and supporting the politicians that do provide moral clarity. And it’s nice to have an American on a panel who talks about moral clarity. That wouldn’t be a phrase Canadians I think would always cleave to. Michael, so thank you for saying it. But I have a question about this notion that we reassure people that we actually already do this. So one example I would have is in Toronto, in neighbourhoods that are predominantly racialized and where we saw extraordinary infection rates and we had all sorts of challenges around providing support in those communities that in many ways was contributed to by intergenerational family living and by high density. Not not that didn’t have the amenities and the supports and all the other things around it. So it’s really exposed these fissures in how we created those neighbourhoods and whether or not communities were engaged in having resources to build what they needed around them. So the intergenerational piece we know in Toronto that we have many, many, many, many large houses, single family that have four families living in them. And so question on that. Is there a way to start socializing that? I’m going to you, Gregg, I think to say, let’s let’s find ways to encourage that in safer ways, the way the density could be done better. Because I’m a little worried that people will have a negative thing view of density now post-COVID. Thoughts from you.
Gregg Lintern [00:55:07] Clearly we have underhoused, many in many areas underhoused in our, we have, on the one hand, hundreds of thousands of units in towers in our suburbs, which is a great thing, but many under many people with intergenerational living in those towers. Not enough amenity, not enough services, not enough walkability.
Mary W. Rowe [00:55:31] Not enough space, you know, too small.
Gregg Lintern [00:55:34] And so that that kind of stark separation is there. Yeah, I mean, that’s a great idea. And that’s that’s why we need to have this conversation is to is to is to find avenues and platforms for these types of experiences so that we can share them more. We all, we can, everybody can find a family member or a friend in a in a in a co-living situation. I mean, we’ve all rented. We’ve all we’ve all done these things. I mean, there’s nothing there should be nothing odd about any of it. And I think bringing those stories alive in in in a 21st century context can be a really powerful narrative, a narrative of how to how to bring this conversation.
Mary W. Rowe [00:56:18] So in the timing that’s left, which isn’t much, I’m just going to ask each of you to just focus just quickly on one solution. One tangible approach, you would suggest be pursued to advance this conversation. We’ve heard narrative create a narrative that tells stories and gets people more comfortable with this is actually who we are. Michael. One solution you would double down on?
Michael Lane [00:56:39] What to get to the issue of neighbourhood character and concerns about that. You can still have very, you know, design standards that are very stringent and attractive and maintain the character and nature of your neighbourhood while still allowing a gentle density. So I would say by right opportunities, that kind of a framework for that, but then insist on high, high quality design standards to get to get neighbourhood acceptance.
Mary W. Rowe [00:57:05] Mm-Hmm. Glad to hear somebody mention the D word, design. Michael, thank you for throwing that in. Deputy Mayor Bailão, one solution you would push in on?
Ana Bailão [00:57:15] I think I think the conversation being taken to not only the core of the city where we are very familiar with this kind of housing, but actually to the four corners of the city is essential to bring this conversation forward. We need to make sure that people are engaged and and those politicians also really in the inner suburbs are engaged as well.
Mary W. Rowe [00:57:36] This is this is one of the downsides of the meme, the 15 minute neighbourhood, is that we don’t want to be creating enclaves that just care about their people, their neighbourhood, right? That’s the dilemma. And there are lots and lots of folks that live in neighbourhoods that don’t have the amenities, and you don’t want to sequester them to 15 minutes and you don’t want people to say, oh, I never go across town. So this is a both/and, I hear you and it and it manifests at the political table that you live at. Gregg, one last solution then I’m going to go to Amanda for the cleanup. One solution from you and then to you, Amanda.
Gregg Lintern [00:58:05] We just want ways to engage the 30 percent of Torontonians that are all already living in missing middle housing. What is happening? People are already living a wonderful life in missing middle housing. Let’s find those people. Let’s engage those people. Let’s let those people tell the stories that they’ve got to share. And I would think that they’re happening all over the city in all the geography of the city.
Mary W. Rowe [00:58:29] Mm hmm. I was going to say if we had a live session, I’d go out to the audience and say, hands up how many of you that live in missing middle? Some people have been putting into the chat, I live in missing middle. I’m in a four unit on a main street. Amanda, last word to you, please. A solution to focus on.
Amanda Gibbs [00:58:43] A bit of advice and that is a hockey metaphor: set your pick. So as moral clarity, what you need to do is say, what are our targets? We kind of we really needed to say, let’s have this conversation, but growth is coming. Here’s what we know. Here’s what we can predict. Growth and change are coming. Here are our targets. Here’s how many people are coming to our region. Here’s how many jobs are going to be needed. Now let’s start talking about trade offs and how how we’re going to grow, not if we’re going to grow. I think that’s what that makes for a better conversation.
Mary W. Rowe [00:59:15] So moral clarity. Set your pick. I’m a basketball person and set your pick works for basketball too, not just hockey. A new narrative as Ana suggesting and then Gregg, let’s engage the 30 percent that are already doing it to show how it works. So listen, you guys, I could have had you all afternoon. What an interesting conversation. As I always say at CityTalk, it’s never over. This is just the beginning. So thank you for joining us. Chief Planner Lintern, Deputy Mayor Bailão. Amanda, great to see you from Vancouver. I hope the sun hangs on for a while, and Michael always great to have San Francisco on the table and also the California experience. This is our last CityTalk, formal CityTalk, for the year. Always makes me sad. And as soon as I say that, of course, next week some urgent issues will come and we’ll end up putting one on. But the staff didn’t hear that. No, no. We thank you for joining us through the whole year. We thank TD for being our great underwriter for this and for the City of Toronto supporting this one. There’s a survey that will come up, so don’t hang up. You’ll see the survey. It always ask for some feedback. Next week, we do have two, what we call, mobilization sessions for the two programs that we administer: the Healthy Communities Initiative with Community Foundations of Canada, and My Main Street with EDCO. They’re both on the 7th of December, and they’re about getting money into communities to support neighbourhoods. So in placemaking and in reviving Main Street. So let’s hope that as we come through the post-COVID period, let’s hope we’re coming through the post-COVID period, that we’re going to reset. As Ana suggested into a new time and a new way of building communities that includes the missing middle and expanding housing opportunities. Thanks everybody for joining us. Have a great rest of the day!
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00:19:55 Meeri Durand: Hello from City of Castlegar and the unceded territories of the Sinixt, Ktunaxa, Secwepemc, and Sylix
00:20:21 Maggie Glasgow: Hello from icy Edmonton, AB
00:20:22 Canadian Urban Institute: HOUSEKEEPING: • A friendly zoom reminder, you can see and hear us but we can’t see or hear you • We have French/English interpretation enabled for today’s session. Please click on the globe at the bottom of your screen and select the language in which you’d like to hear today’s session • We are recording today’s session and will share it online at www.citytalkcanada.ca • We hope this session is as interactive as possible, so please feel free to share comments, references, links or questions in the chat
00:20:52 Harriet Stanford: Good morning from Whitehorse, on the territory of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and Ta’an Kwach’an
00:22:32 Canadian Urban Institute: Gregg Lintern, Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning, Toronto As Chief Planner for the City of Toronto, Gregg is committed to leading the City Planning Division and making Toronto more liveable, inclusive and adapted for all people. His priorities include meaningfully responding to the housing affordability challenge, growing the transit network across the entire City, proactively planning complete and well-designed communities to support population and employment growth, integrating climate adaption and modernizing planning services.
00:22:37 Linda Weichel: Hello from within the boundaries of the Toronto Purchase Treaty lands #13.
00:22:43 Canadian Urban Institute: In his over 37 years in municipal planning across the breadth of the City, Gregg has lead great multidisciplinary teams achieving housing policy transformation, neighbourhood scale redevelopment, new planning frameworks and transit facilities, high profile redevelopment projects, heritage planning and public realm redesign. Gregg believes planning is about imagining the city you aspire it to be for everyone and then setting out to help nurture and create it so that it becomes a better, more equitable place for future generations.
00:24:23 Allison Kirk-Montgomery: Hi from Downtown Toronto.
00:24:40 Mike Fabro: Hi from London!
00:25:01 Michael Lane: Missing Middle Housing https://missingmiddlehousing.com/
00:27:13 Abigail Slater (she/her): I understand the intensification of certain areas in the Official Plan, but what I don’t understand, is how we can continue to intensify without expanding transit (Eglinton and Yonge corridor).
00:27:56 Nicholas Gallant: Hi everyone, Nicholas Gallant (Deputy Mayor Bailao’s Office) here, and I’m working from home on the top floor of a triplex in Dufferin Grove neighbourhood, Davenport Ward, Toronto.
00:28:55 Elizabeth Bang: Agreed with Abigail – we’ve been looking into this as well at the City of Mississauga. Overwhelming community feedback on this so far have encouraged staff to look into permitting missing middle forms near existing and planned transit as much as possible.
00:30:29 Abigail Slater (she/her): Thanks @ELizabeth Also have found that converting single family homes to multiple units is MUCH harder than converting multi unit homes (in certain areas) into single family. It should be the opposite.
00:31:00 Abigail Slater (she/her): There is a mismatch between practice and theory.
00:31:05 Carolyn Whitzman: I like that location Nicholas. I’m working from my home, one of four townhouses where there was a single family house. Which is great. But the single family house was a rooming house and the townhouses are expensive. So that is not so great. How to bake affordable housing into zoning change is the challenge!
00:31:30 Nathan Rogers: How do you reasonably get public laneways on numerous private parcels? Seems somewhat unrealistic
00:32:38 Tahereh GranpayehVaghei: The question of affordability can also help bring better justifications into this
00:33:10 Canadian Urban Institute: Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão serves as City Councillor for Ward 9 (Davenport). She has been a member of Toronto City Council since 2010 and was re-elected in 2018. As well as serving as a Deputy Mayor, she is the Chair of the Planning and Housing Committee, one of the City’s four critical decision making committees along with being a member of the City’s Executive Committee. She chairs the Corporations Nominating Panel and is also a member of the board of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation and “CreateTO.” Deputy Mayor Bailão also represents the City of Toronto at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities where she chairs the Social Economic Development Committee.
00:33:25 Canadian Urban Institute: Deputy Mayor Bailão studied Sociology at the University of Toronto and completed the Directors Education Program, a joint program of the Institute of Corporate Directors and the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, knowledge she now brings to the boards upon which she serves on behalf of the City of Toronto. With her return to Toronto City Council in 2018, Deputy Mayor Bailão has continued her central role within the City’s government where she is recognized as a decisive, innovative and compassionate decision-maker at Toronto City Council while remaining devoted to serving the Ward 9 (Davenport) community where she grew up and continues to live.
00:34:34 Stephen Tyler: Agree that affordability is an important lens but experience has been that gentle densification does not help affordability. Vancouver has lots of experience here where broad increases in allowable density have only led to higher land values passed along in unit prices. So while housing configuration becomes more diverse, residents don’t
00:36:50 Carolyn Whitzman: not inevitable tho, Stephen. See Cambridge US https://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/housing/housingdevelopment/aho
00:36:54 Nathan Rogers: @Stephen Tyler – interesting, good to know that gentle density doesn’t = improved affordability. I mean why would it? Anyone building gentle density must carry capital debt and needs to pay if off
00:37:30 Carolyn Whitzman: Or Portland (but it won’t happen without explicit policy) https://www.sightline.org/2020/08/11/on-wednesday-portland-will-pass-the-best-low-density-zoning-reform-in-us-history/
00:38:22 Stephen Tyler: Cambridge has limited density increases to non-profit or affordable housing. But has anything been built under these rules? You can restrict who can build density, but then do you get any new units?
00:38:45 Tahereh GranpayehVaghei: Great points! Density bonusing can be a powerful tool for affordable housing supply.
00:39:42 Carolyn Whitzman: @Stephen, if you scroll down you’ll see 500+ units in the pipeline, not bad for a major by-law change a few months ago.
00:39:43 Abigail Slater (she/her): The building of lower density affordable housing needs to be underpinned by financial instruments of some sort…whether fiscal or other….and at various levels of government as well
00:39:47 Canadian Urban Institute: Michael Lane, State Policy Director, SPUR Michael has an extensive background in housing development, local government, public policy, legislation, politics & campaigns. Prior to joining SPUR, he worked for Silicon Valley at Home, the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH), and Self-Help Enterprises (SHE), the oldest and largest nonprofit developer of affordable self-help housing in the US. He served as a regional whip on California’s successful 2002 Proposition 46 and 2006 Proposition 1C statewide bond campaigns, the largest affordable housing bonds in the nation at that time. Michael was a member of the Advisory Committee for the State of California’s 2014 Affordable Housing Cost Study and has also served on the Board of Directors of Housing California and the Board of Governors of the California Housing Consortium. Michael has worked in local government and held elective office as a school board member and city council member. He speaks, reads and writes the Spanish language fluently.
00:41:24 Elizabeth Bang: The affordability of gentle intensification is something we’ve been mindful of as well. Most times, these missing middle products are being rented or sold for at-market or above market prices. So more choice in housing form and location is provided, but only for a particular income segment. Therefore we anticipate the missing middle planning tool would need to be combined with other things such as financial incentives, program implementation, etc.
00:43:09 Sandra Miller: Also important to facilitate options like co-ops, co-housing, 2/3/4plex conversions, lot severances, etc
00:44:45 Abigail Slater (she/her): Agree 100% with Sandra!
00:45:04 Malcolm MacLean: There’s a fundamental challenge with looking for new private market housing construction to drive prices down (as per Vancouver’s experience referenced above) – except for some inclusionary units that larger developments may be able to deliver (small MM scale development tends to have the tightest margins), newly built housing will be the most expensive units in their class (compared to older stock). We need senior government funding to create a large enough supply of new units priced meaningfully enough below market to slow price acceleration. It’s a bit of an underwhelming message, but we can be transparent about the reality that municipal moves to reduce barriers (like the rezoning process) to new housing creation are critical to avoid exacerbating the problem, and making it easy for Sr. Gov funded programs if/when they turn toward funding family units in smaller scale projects like MM housing – in the meantime, we’re at least not constraining the ability of market oriented housing to respond to demand.
00:45:22 Craig Ruttan: Hi all, Craig Ruttan from the Toronto Region Board of Trade here. Agree that missing middle is not a silver bullet, but it is an important tool to accommodate growth. Preserving existing multiplexes, making it easier to convert/build new ones will lead to units that are less expensive than existing single-unit houses – which is not the only metric of affordability we need to work for, but important not to lose sight of.
00:47:20 Abigail Slater (she/her): I’m not sensing that our current provincial government is against sprawl…or is interested in filling this segment…nor are the developers.
00:48:08 Carolyn Whitzman: I agree, @craig and with Michael, zoning to meet housing need is essential. but it needs to run in parallel with a set of incentives (tax, development charges and maybe density bonuses) to incentivize social including coop.
00:48:47 Sandra Miller: Soft City published by Island Press is an inspiring book: https://islandpress.org/books/soft-city
00:49:54 Canadian Urban Institute: Amanda Gibbs, Engagement Advisor, Vancouver Plan, City of Vancouver Amanda Gibbs is a specialist in participatory civic and place-making engagement, having worked on projects throughout Canada and around the world. She was the former lead for civic engagement for the City of Vancouver (2016-2019), and is currently an advisor to Vancouver’s planning department on the first city-wide planning effort in a generation. In 2022, she will be joining Vancouver’s Park Board (the only elected board in Canada) to lead development of a new engagement framework.
00:50:35 Craig Ruttan: Agreed Carolyn – all those tools you mentioned are needed, plus more.
00:50:53 Abigail Slater (she/her): ^^
00:53:29 Sandra Miller: Yes to incentives and streamlining processes/applications!
00:56:38 Abigail Slater (she/her): And councillors with very different priorities too.
00:56:48 Leandro Santos: https://urbanarium.org/
00:56:59 Nelson Edwards: The trouble is that the middle is missing because of the pressures of high-rise. Inner city areas as well as some suburban mix-use nodes may have mid to low rise zoning but 28, 32 and 42 storey towers are being proposed and approved through variance or zoning amendment. The rest, for other communities is the pressure for tighter and tighter ground oriented but the delay of mid density mid height.
00:57:05 Simona Chiose: Along with fiscal tools to incentivize 2 – 4 plexes, legalizing / grandfathering existing duplexes may help to retain existing missing middle. In practice, zoning regulations push to conversion of plexes to single family rather than maintain.
00:58:38 Canadian Urban Institute: For the work of Uytae Lee: https://www.abouthere.ca/
00:59:11 Sandra Miller: Zoning application changes to convert multi plex back to / into fewer units definitely needs to be addressed.
01:01:49 Abigail Slater (she/her): I have always found that neighborhood resistance to any change at all is contrary to allowing families to stay and evolve and grow. It only means that you continue to price existing residents out of their own homes.
01:02:58 Sandra Miller: Would love to hear more from Amanda about the engagement / discussion process with residents in existing neighbourhoods.
01:05:14 Carolyn Whitzman: I agree, Sandra
01:05:51 Sandra Miller: Joy data! 👏
01:06:05 Nathan Rogers: 😀
01:07:32 Nathan Rogers: staying in place has value to people
01:10:21 Canadian Urban Institute: YIMBY = Yes in my neighbourhood.
01:11:04 Abigail Slater (she/her): As long as BIA’s are highly resistant to small additions to remain in neighbourhoods…whether granny suites or aide worker suites…it becomes hard to remain in neighbourhoods.
01:11:29 Lynda Lawson: I think that is an important that we also don’t forget that our population is aging and we need to incorporate more accessibility in housing as well as increased density.
01:11:40 Abigail Slater (she/her): 100% Lynda
01:11:52 Canadian Urban Institute: Keep the conversation going #citytalk @canurb You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our sessions at https://www.canurb.org/citytalk CUI extends a big thank you the City of Toronto for partnering on today’s session, as well as to TD for their support on CityTalk.
01:12:49 Canadian Urban Institute: COMING UP: Join us next week on Dec 7 for information sessions on two of our granting projects, The Healthy Communities Initiative and My Main Street. At 1pm, The Healthy Communities Initiative (HCI) will be hosting a Mobilization Session on how to activate parks during the winter season. Facilitated by Stephanie Stanov and Rachel Yanchyshyn from Park People, along with guests from three inspiring HCI projects, the discussion will focus on the many creative ways communities are getting people outside. Learn more and register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Mt23PipPQHCXxUGyF1RxWA
01:12:52 Abigail Slater (she/her): ***Meant Resident Associations…not BIAs
01:12:59 Dustin Carey: This is the first I’ve heard of BIAs being against ADUs. What’s the rationale there Abagail?
01:12:59 Canadian Urban Institute: Then at 2pm, My Main Street will be hosting a session on how to apply to the Community Activator program. This is your opportunity to learn more about My Main Street and how to apply for funding. We’ll share examples of projects that are eligible, walk you through eligibility criteria and the application process and answer any questions you have. Register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_am6ek4YJQyambgosqfUfcA
01:13:18 Sandra Miller: Abigail: Why would BIAs be against additions?? Wondering if you mean community / neighbourhood associations?
01:13:25 Abigail Slater (she/her): @dustin…corrected above!!!
01:13:31 Dustin Carey: Thanks!
01:13:34 Abigail Slater (she/her): YES…my error!
01:14:04 Sandra Miller: Thnx Abigail! 😀
01:15:04 Sam Wong: For those interested in a local YIMBY group, see https://www.moreneighbours.ca/ (Website down right now.)
01:15:26 Simona Chiose: 100% Gregg Lintern.
01:15:43 Sandra Miller: Story telling & story sharing! 👏
01:16:21 Abigail Slater (she/her): Great session…thank you all! Thank you Mary and CUI
01:16:33 Malcolm MacLean: Thanks so much for putting this on!
01:16:38 Carolyn Whitzman: Good conversation, thanks!
01:16:40 Sandra Miller: Thank you everyone!
01:16:41 Janice Wilder: Great, thanks!
01:16:43 Nathan Rogers: thanks!
01:16:44 Robin McPherson: Really great session!
01:16:45 Abigail Slater (she/her): stay safe everyone!
01:16:55 Mark Guslits: Thanks, great stuff
01:16:57 Melissa Routley: Thank you, fantastic session.
01:17:04 Stephen Cremin-Endes: Awesome! Thank you!
01:17:04 Linda Weichel: Thank you!
01:17:07 Dustin Carey: Thanks all!
01:17:09 Holden Blue: Thank you everyone! Great session as always!
01:17:10 Emily Herd: Great year of information, thank you!
01:17:11 Joe Loreto: Thanks everyone! Great discussion.
01:17:18 dan schumacher: Do this again soon please
01:17:22 Michael Lane: Thank you!
01:17:31 Gesine Alders: Thank you for a great conversation!