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Can I Afford a Home in Toronto?

It may not feel like it today, or even tomorrow … but, there is a solution if Toronto explores more Middle Housing options. Let’s explain!

To anyone who has invested or is simply observing the Toronto Real Estate Market, it is clear we’re in the throes of a housing shortage and an affordability crisis, whereby supply put cannot keep with demand. This dilemma has been ongoing for several decades. When looking toward the future without concerted public and housing policy, this impasse shall continue to intensify. You know the adage, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result.” With the GTA’s projected population expected to peak at over 8 million people by 2030, the Toronto Real Estate Market is clearly at a critical point when it comes to housing.



Over the last 30 years, most of the new GTA housing stock has either been single-family detached homes or high-rise apartments. Most of the GTA has been divided into two types of neighbourhoods: single-family neighbourhoods or condo apartment neighbourhoods. Urban planners and organizations like the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board have identified a dire need to create “middle housing” in Toronto. Middle Housing is precisely that; all housing forms that are not detached homes or high-rise condominiums. Creating a middle housing supply in significant numbers would dramatically affect tight inventory and supply constraints in the GTA. For this to happen, it would require a dramatic change in public thinking and policy. The solution is to change zoning requirements and government policy that would not just allow but encourage further low rise “missed housing type” units to be built in what has traditionally been considered single-family units in the GTA. Makes sense so far?



  • Laneway houses
  • Garden suites
  • Multi-unit houses
  • Attached Clusters (Duplex, triplex, fourplex, row house, townhouse)
  • Low-rise apartment buildings
  • Mid-rise apartment buildings



Cities like Montreal and Vancouver have much larger middle housing percentages relative to their housing inventory than Toronto. One of the great misconceptions by residents and homeowners in traditional single-family neighbourhoods is that opening up their communities to middle housing intensification would negatively affect both quality of life and real estate prices. The fact of the matter being, nothing could be further from the truth. One of the most significant issues facing traditional single-family neighbourhoods is population decline as baby boomers continue to age in place, with no further new housing development activity in their areas.

A report published by the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board concludes that “Population decline in single-family neighbourhoods can be reversed with this focus, allowing population density to support the educational, social and retail amenities that help our communities thrive … Increasing the ‘missing middle’ population can stabilize the population in these areas, improving the long-term quality of life for existing and new residents”. Well-planned and well-executed added density to these areas can provide a surge of stimulus through “gentle” intensification. Middle housing should be applauded and not feared.



High-rise new builds undoubtedly help alleviate some of the built-up pressure on inventory. There is a considerable price gap between a low-rise home in a traditional single-family neighbourhood versus a condo in an apartment-centric area. As a result, many have no alternative but to live in a condo. This is strictly due to affordability and not always a lifestyle choice. While the condo-apartment may appeal to some, many others would choose to live in a more mature neighbourhood in a low-rise home but cannot afford it. Most condos are two or fewer bedrooms and are not well suited for families. There is a huge market of individuals, couples and particularly families who would respond very well to having the opportunity to live in affordable “middle-type” homes in a cultivated neighbourhood. The demand is there; we need to find a way to open up this type of inventory.



A recent study commissioned by Ryerson in partnership with the Toronto Regional Real-estate Board estimated that “by incentivizing secondary suites in existing single-detached and semi-detached houses in Toronto could add 300,000 to 400,000 units to its current single-detached and semi-detached house stock. In doing so, Toronto would reach the middle housing inventory levels mirrored in Vancouver and Montreal in 2016.”

If Toronto wanted to get serious about opening up supply and inventory levels, this would be an obvious opportunity. Let’s increase supply for typically expensive “out-of-reach” neighbourhoods leveraging intelligent policy and Government incentivization.



In additional to encouraging the conversion of existing units to secondary suites, there are many other development opportunities in older, more established neighbourhoods. Low-scale apartment buildings by-laws could be amended to allow four-story apartment buildings in residential areas and include zoning on specific streets to allow for townhouses, duplexes, triplexes, and low-rise buildings. Also, converting former retail storefronts could be a great way to breathe life into some of our lack-lustre streets and communities. Opening up zoning and streamlining the development process and development charges would significantly impact bringing much-needed inventory online to keep up with current and growing demand levels.



With fewer restrictions on Toronto’s laneway housing projects and some and allowances for backyard garden suites currently under review, the Municipal Government has made a dent in this. We’re slowly heading in the right direction, but there is still so much that could be and should be done. The primary catalyst to impactful change starts with education and awareness on a grassroots level. While most Torontonians advocate for more affordable housing, powerful local lobby groups such as Nymbists “Not in My Back Yard” need to step aside and allow for a more progressive and creative approach to solving Toronto’s housing crisis. We can assure you that our tent communities, underground parking lots, and vacant retail storefronts aren’t to provide suitable housing options for our fellow Torontonians. Toronto is in dire need of bringing more middle housing online, and in doing so, this serves the long-term interest of the city, our families and our neighbours alike.


This article is written by Ralph Fox, Broker of Record and Managing Partner here at Fox Marin Associates. Ralph is a Torontonian native who recognized from an early age that the most successful people in life apply long-term thinking to their investments, relationships, and life goals. It’s this philosophy, along with his lifelong entrepreneurial drive and exceptional business instincts that help to establish Ralph as a top agent in the real estate market in downtown Toronto.