Developers going back to add more height and units to approved applications

These days, there is a new trend emerging in the planning department of the city of Toronto. More and more developers are revisiting approved applications and asking for additional storeys. As the housing crisis continues and it looks more likely that the Ontario government will fail in its housing pledge, developers pushing up heights and adding more units could help as long as the public isn’t locked out of the process.

For instance, there are a number of applications in the Yorkville and Annex area such as at 874-878 Yonge Street at Scollard where the developer has applied to add three storeys and at 316 Bloor St. W. where the developer has asked for five additional storeys. The new height comes with an increase in the number of units. 

Oren Tamir, Toronto’s acting director of community planning, has seen the rise also. Is it the result of the push for new housing by the provincial government, and a development industry seizing the day, so to speak?

“That’s probably one of the reasons why. I think that’s a question for the developer or the development industry as to why they’re coming back for more height, but I agree with you, we are seeing a number of these types of applications come before the committee of adjustment.”

The new wrinkle in development applications should be a net win for housing supply, and should not slow up the process at the city, says Tamir.

“The committee of adjustment process is typically faster than a zoning bylaw amendment,” he explains. “The decision is made by the Committee of Adjustment and there is public notice for that. The public can provide input and comments at the committee directly. It is a public process. There is room for public input.”

In the Annex, the developer of a condo tower at 316 Bloor St. W. is seeking approval for five additional storeys (rendering pictured at top) increasing the tower’s height to 34 storeys and adding 37 more condo units for a total of 440 dwellings. The proposal also includes more indoor and outdoor amenity space.

In the cover letter for the development application requesting the additional height, there is direct reference to the need for more housing in the city, amongst other reasons for a five storey increase.

“At its meeting on April 27, 2023, Planning and Housing Committee recommended that that Council affirm its commitment to achieving the City of Toronto’s 2031 Housing Target of constructing 285,000 new homes by 2031, a component of the 1.5 million new homes province-wide described in the Province’s 2031 Municipal Housing Targets,” reads the cover letter, in part. 

“In this context, it is important to optimize the use of land and infrastructure on a site that warrants it, while adequately limiting built form impacts on the surrounding area. The variances will provide for an even more efficient use of the land at a density and built form that is transit supportive, in a form that has no unacceptable built form impacts. In our opinion, the variances are desirable and appropriate for the proposed use of the land.”

As developers seek to contribute to the solution of Toronto’s housing crisis through additional storeys and units, a collaborative effort involving the public’s input will be vital in striking the right balance between meeting housing needs and preserving the integrity of the city’s neighborhoods.

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