New proposal could allow multiplexes in every T.O. neighbourhood

The single family home next door to you could become a four-unit multiplex if new amendments to the City of Toronto’s official plan and zoning bylaw are approved. A city staff report going before the planning and housing committee on Thursday is recommending that low-rise housing types, up to four units, should be allowed in all neighbourhoods. 

The proposal goes beyond the new mandate implemented by the provincial government through Bill 23 (More Homes Built Faster Act) in 2022, which requires cities to allow up to three residential units on any lot. 

“Our recommendations to permit multiplex housing across all neighbourhoods will enable property owners to create housing for extended families or rental units for tenants,” chief city planner Gregg Lintern said.

If the proposal is approved, multiplexes could be built up to 10 metres to enable the construction of a third storey. 

The changes would make some progress on the city’s “missing middle” problem, bringing density to Toronto’s “yellowbelt”— a term coined by an urban planner — the neighbourhoods where only detached houses are permitted to be built.  

However, More Neighbours Toronto (MNTO), a network of pro-housing voices in the city, noted in a statement that even if the amendments are passed, current city restrictions will make it difficult to build multiplexes in many parts of the city. MNTO stated that floor space index (FSI, or floor area divided by lot area) maximums will make multiplexes unviable in areas such as Etobicoke and the old city, and recommended FSI requirements be removed or altered for multiplexes. The network also recommended increasing the maximum height to 12 metres instead of 10 metres for multiplexes to allow for fourplexes or three-storey multiplexes with higher ceilings.

Already, neighbourhoods that will be affected by the proposed changes are voicing their opposition to the proposal, including the Annex Residents’ Association. The group, in a letter to the planning and housing committee, asked that city staff revise the by-laws to “encourage affordable housing, retain neighbourhood character and save our trees.”

The group’s recommendations include that FSIs be retained, that height restrictions not be increased to 10 metres and that the city meet provincial requirements of three units per lot rather than increasing to four.

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