Just came across this report from a couple months ago. Two young planners, Cheryll Case and Tetyana Bailey, have done a study called Protecting the Vibrancy of Toronto Neighbourhoods.
According to census data, “30 [Toronto] neighbourhoods actually declined in population and another 65 were essentially frozen, gaining less than one person per kilometre despite the city’s 7.6 per cent population growth between 2001 and 2016,” says a feature report on their work in the Toronto Star.
In other words, we have whole neighbourhoods of housing built to accommodate substantial families of four, six or eight people, and now many of those houses have only one or two people rattling around in them. Sure there are construction cranes everywhere, but average household size in many parts of Toronto has actually been shrinking.
So there’s an increasing mismatch between the kind of housing the growing (and aging) city needs, and the kind it has available. In turn, one of the factors driving this mismatch is a set of restrictive zoning regulations that make it difficult for residential neighbouroods to evolve as their demographics change — for example, by converting a big single residence into two or three, or by adding midrise developments to some of the streets now occupied exclusively by detached residences.
One of the policy arguments we’ve been making in relation to our co-housing proposal is that it is precisely the sort of “gentle density” the city needs to redress declines in household size.
Additionally, if those of us currently occupying family-sized dwellings are able to move into co-housing situations, it will free up important housing stock for younger or larger families.
This in itself won’t solve Toronto’s housing issues, of course. It’s only a small piece of the puzzle, but certainly a step in the right direction. Let’s hope planners and, especially, political leaders, are paying attention.