The Pilot Project is intended to review appropriate City-owned sites in Beaches-East York (Ward 19) and work with the development industry and in consultation with the community to build “missing middle” demonstration projects. The processes and approaches developed through this initiative can help inform approaches to missing middle projects on other sites, both publicly and privately owned, within the City.
As part of this work, staff are assessing the feasibility of building missing middle housing, ranging from duplexes to low-rise walk-up apartments, on selected City-owned sites that are designated Neighbourhoods in the City’s Official Plan and achieve the following principles:
sustainability and resiliency;
City Planning and Environment & Climate Division staff are working with CreateTO, which manages the City of Toronto’s real estate portfolio, and a consultant team consisting of Dubbeldam Architecture + Design, RDH Building Science, and Altus Group to create and analyze preliminary architectural designs and project parameters to help determine the financial feasibility of providing missing middle buildings on a City-owned site. Staff and CreateTO will work with the consultant team to design options for a selected site and recommend a feasible building design, energy modelling scenario and construction costing.
A built form study was conducted to explore missing middle design options on a City-owned corner lot. The three options below illustrate different methods to increase density and to explore issues faced when designing low-rise apartment buildings. While the Official Plan limits development within Neighbourhood designated sites to a maximum of four storeys, subject to conditions, a six storey option was also explored in the context of a Major Street for the purposes of the built form study.
Missing middle design options:
Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods is primarily a market housing initiative. The primary focus of the EHON work is the expansion of market rental housing options, in a range of formats, within the City’s Neighbourhoods. While this work will not necessarily result in the creation of deeply affordable rental housing, it will result in permissions for housing forms that support residents with a much broader range of incomes and household compositions at various life stages than does the current housing stock within many of the City’s Neighborhoods.
EHON is one part of a broader housing strategy that includes initiatives such as Multi-Tenant Housing permissions, Inclusionary Zoning, the Short-Term Rental By-law, Housing Now, Rapid Housing, and must also include intergovernmental investments in purpose-built affordable housing in a variety of forms across the City.
Summary of Work Completed to Date (September 2022)
Findings to date (September 2022) have been informed by reviewing test cases, conversations with private and non-profit housing providers, and work with an architect, energy and cost consultant team.
Challenges and Opportunities
Existing Policy and Zoning Framework:
While the Official Plan permits buildings up to 4-storeys in Neighbourhoods, policies direct that new development be informed by the existing/prevailing character and should strengthen that character, making adding density to sites challenging.
Greater density and height could be accommodated on Neighbourhoods designated sites that are along Major Streets, within Protected Major Transit Station Areas/Major Transit Station Areas, and on corner lots.
Zoning regulations (e.g. maximum main wall height, maximum gross floor area (GFA), minimum landscaping and setbacks provisions, etc.) can prevent as-of-right triplexes, fourplexes and apartment buildings. Many missing middle developments require variances to the zoning by-law, which need to be approved by the Committee of Adjustment.
Even if approved at the Committee of Adjustment, missing middle projects face the possibility of third-party appeals to the Toronto Local Appeal Body (TLAB), adding to the length, cost, and uncertainty of the process.
Some forms of missing middle housing are subject to Site Plan Control. The site plan control application process (e.g. review and response times, submission requirements, consultants, etc.) and costs are a barrier to the creation of smaller missing middle housing types.
A review of the site plan process and the submission requirements for these types of applications is necessary to ensure the number and scope of required submission items aligns with the nature of missing middle housing forms.
Recent changes to the Development Charges By-law and Parkland Dedication By-Law would help address some of the cost barriers to building missing middle housing. In July 2022, Council amended the:
Development Charges By-law to exclude 2nd, 3rd and 4th residential dwelling units constructed on a single lot from development charges. Such exemption applies only to a development of no more than 4 units on such lot.
Parkland Dedication By-Law by exempting the residential components of a building with no more than four dwelling units from parkland dedication. In addition, the creation of an additional dwelling unit in an existing building or one laneway suite or one garden suite on a lot is exempt from parkland dedication.
Sustainability and Resiliency:
Minimizing heat loss is important. This requires a compact form and controlled ventilation, including high performance windows, insulation, and air-tight construction. Adjusting setbacks would offset floorspace reductions due to thicker walls.
Avoid natural gas combustion for space and water heating, and appliances. Instead, electric heat pumps and induction stoves, plus solar photovoltaic technology can be used to offset electricity use. Rooftops must be designed to accommodate HVAC equipment and solar photovoltaic technology.
Reduce embodied carbon by first salvaging existing materials where possible, and by choosing high-quality yet low carbon materials such as wood framing and local brick. Higher carbon materials like concrete, spray foam, and aluminum should be avoided.
Prioritize green infrastructure and soft landscaping to help manage stormwater on-site. Ensure adequate soil volume for trees and avoid impermeable surfaces.
The Pilot will include a study of building envelope and mechanical systems that aim to achieve net zero operational emissions or better, and use low embodied carbon materials and construction to meet Toronto Green Standard Version 4, Tier 3, and Passive House performance levels.
Capital cost-effectiveness can be achieved through simplified architecture and faster construction methods (e.g. avoiding basements, encouraging pre-fabrication, modular construction etc.)
Lower and stable operating/maintenance costs of building can be achieved through low energy demand and electrification.
Accessibility (Ensuring access/egress points and ground floor units that are barrier-free):
Basement units that require window wells to allow light into the units would raise the ground floor above grade, requiring stairs and ramps to access the first floor.
On narrow lots, basement units may be difficult to accommodate without encroachments into the public right of way (e.g. door swings, ramps and/or stairs).
If amenity space is incorporated into the design, there should be barrier free access to all residents. Elevators are required for buildings 4-storeys or taller.
Architects, planners and developers desire staying within Part 9 of the Ontario Building Code for missing middle projects because Part 3 requires the use of expensive elevators, sprinkler systems and two means of access and egress (stair) requirements for buildings exceeding 3-storeys.
On small and narrow lots, a single access/egress stair option as opposed to requiring a second egress for buildings 4-storeys or taller, would allow for more units on small sites and more efficient building designs.
Fire safety analysis and building code expertise is required to propose and justify an alternative to the requirements in the Ontario Building Code.
The Pilot will explore design solutions working within the current regulatory requirements to optimize missing middle projects on small sites. Other necessary City Divisions will be consulted as design options are further developed.
Previously, minimum parking requirements constituted a barrier to the development of low-rise multi-unit housing by increasing costs and potential zoning variances required.
In November 2021, City Council adopted a report that recommended the removal of parking minimums in new development. The removal of parking minimums helps reduce the number of variances required to facilitate a missing middle project and the space of sites can be used for more efficient purposes (e.g. build larger units, more soft landscaping/ plantings, greater setbacks to enhance privacy, outdoor amenity space, etc).
A low- or no-parking approach is especially relevant in neighbourhoods that are well served by frequent transit, whether bus, streetcar, or subway service. The presence of nearby retail or other services would also help future residents meet their day-to-day needs without the need for a private car.
It can be challenging to provide diversity in unit types on smaller sites. One-bedroom units often become the more feasible option rather than family sized units, and replicability in the floor plans makes for more efficient design and construction.
Amenity spaces can be difficult to accommodate on smaller/narrow sites. Zoning by-law 569-2013 requires indoor and outdoor amenity space for buildings with 20 or more units.
There are trade-offs associated with basement units. While they may allow more total units without significant overall height increases, below-grade work is generally expensive and carbon-intensive. Below-grade space may also be needed for mechanical equipment, laundry facilities, and/or storage. Furthermore, below grade units may pose challenges for the provision of accessible and barrier-free units at grade.
Continue working with consultant team on Phase 1 of the Pilot Project to help identify opportunities to facilitate missing middle development, inform the feasibility of developing a missing middle project on the chosen site, and considerations for changes to the development approval process and disposition of the site and future development.
Report to Planning and Housing Committee in the first quarter of 2023 with a status update report on findings from Phase 1.
A City-owned site will be selected based on the findings of the Phase 1 feasibility study.
The feasibility and due diligence information from Phase 1 will inform the selection of a development partner as part of Phase 2 to facilitate the construction of the missing middle project.
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