Tories’ tall building order upsets City Hall

by Neil Sharma on 07 Jun 2019

Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives are in yet another skirmish with Toronto City Hall.

This time, the Tories are changing city plans and permitting development of tall buildings around transit hubs, but it also includes areas the city previously capped at eight storeys in midtown, as well as downtown.

However, on the heels of its transit announcement a couple of months ago, could overruling City Hall actually be in Toronto’s best interest?

“One the one end, you have people complaining about affordability, which comes down to supply and demand, and everyone knows we have a supply issue,” said Manu Singh, a broker with Right At Home Realty. “Demand is outstripping supply, so on that end I think it’s a great move to increase density—it always is—and Toronto needs that. It makes sense because if you want to reduce congestion and traffic, you have to get people to use transit, but for that you have to house them near transit.”

But Singh conceded that convincing residents in midtown more density is a good thing will be a tough sell—especially in Leaside, one of the affected neighbourhoods.

“Yonge and Eglinton are exceptions with really tall towers, but as you get east or west of Yonge and into neighbourhoods of single-family detached, building heights are capped at eight storeys,” said Singh. “I hear from clients that they have a backyard and they don’t want sunlight to be compromised because they’re paying so much for those homes. There’s also the additional foot traffic and congestion that will be brought to those neighbourhoods.”

Yet, should a small cohort of wealthy homeowners dictate the terms upon which Toronto will grow? Davelle Morrison, a Bosley Real Estate broker, says it’s unthinkable to even cede them an inch.

“NIMBYs have far too much power and they’re hurting affordable housing initiatives,” she said. “They say they’re okay with change, but, in truth, they’re afraid of it. Protecting people in $2 million houses who don’t want the complexion of their neighbourhoods to change is not good for the city. We can’t expect our city not to change.”

Morrison, herself a midtown resident, noted there are a lot of commercial “for rent” signs and that the local economy could use a boost in population.

“With more condos, there will be more restaurants and businesses moving into the neighbourhood,” she said. “There are a lot of ‘for rent’ signs on Yonge, Bayview and Eglinton. As much as I dislike Ford, I do like that this is happening quickly instead of wasting more years on consultations. But a concern I have is whether or not that development money will be spent on infrastructure and transit to make sure the neighbourhoods can tolerate those extra storeys.”

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