Once again, neighbours complaints help kill a 10-unit infill housing development

A proposal to construct a new three-storey apartment building at 91 Barton Ave. near Bathurst and Bloor has been shut down after resistance from neighbourhood residents. After the decision, some expressed the belief that this type of conflict between developers and residents, who are at odds as decisions are made about what buildings are erected in their neighbourhoods, is contributing to the housing crisis in the city.

In this case, developers sought to construct an eight-unit apartment building with front and rear first-, second-, and third-storey balconies, and four rooftop patios. They also sought to construct a new two-storey ancillary building (to contain two laneway suites), in the rear yard, adjoining Ciamaga Lane.

The site of the proposed building would have been located within an area featuring wealthy single-family housing, so some residents weren’t too pleased about the idea of a multi-unit building in their neighbourhood.

Residents of that neighbourhood noted on X that the building proposal had many letters of opposition, with one resident stating that several of his neighbours were “trying to kill a missing-middle apartment building.”

“Such a disappointing showing,” he posted.

“Existing residents are opposing CoA applications like this,” another X user posed. “It has *39 letters of opposition*. Do not let them win! E-mail a quick letter of support to the City ASAP: debby.wong@toronto.ca before April 17. This is *exactly* the kind of density & change this City needs!”

Opposition letters included a list of variances, including that the proposed increases in the building’s height, FSI, building depth, and side yard encroachment into the front yard do not maintain “the general intent and purpose” of the City’s official plan, and that the proposed reductions in setbacks and visitor and accessible parking do not maintain the general intent and purpose of the City plan.

91 Barton Ave. currently

Letters delved in to how the development would not fit in, respect, or improve the character of the surrounding area, with one letter stating “…In my opinion, the proposed 3-storey apartment building and 2-storey laneway suite building neither respects or reinforces the character of the area. The proposed building does not maintain the established and prevailing character of the immediate and broader context areas that is defined by detached, semi-detached and rowhouses dwellings that are typically one third the size (massing) of the proposed development. Nor does the proposed apartment building maintain the prevailing building type or the prevailing pattern of setbacks (side yard).”

A public hearing was held on Wednesday, and a motion to refuse the application was passed by the City’s Committee of Adjustment  (COA), leading to outrage on social media.

Many are also questioning the COA. They’re an independent quasi-judicial body administrative tribunal (comprising 35 people) that makes decisions on applications for minor variances, consent, and permissions to extend or enlarge legal non-conforming uses.

The Committee receives between 3000 and 4500 applications at over 90 hearings each year, and some are publicly criticizing the Committee’s process.

“Toronto’s Committee of Adjustments just refused an application for minor variances on an infill proposal that features ten family-sized units in walking distance to two subway stations in Canada’s largest and most expensive city,” one X user wrote. “The member who moved the motion to refuse said that he didn’t like this image because it reminded him of shipping containers.”

Last fall, a new study by the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) found that delays and inefficiencies within the City’s COA process add $21,000 to $58,000 annually to the cost of renovations and infill building projects. The study further identified that in order to meet the City’s goal of building 285,000 homes by 2031, the system must be overhauled.

“Toronto is a rapidly growing city, and the building of infill homes and renewal of existing housing stock add much-needed housing supply for current and future residents,” Justin Sherwood, BILD’s Senior Vice President, said in a statement. “With the City recently adopting various zoning reforms such as four units per lot as of right, and looking to make additional changes in the near future, the need for a more efficient process that reduces strain on City resources has never been greater.”

Toronto is in for a massive year of price growth that will see the Greater Toronto Area surpass Greater Vancouver’s home prices by the end of 2024. The Royal LePage national update forecast a 10 per cent increase in aggregate home prices for the GTA by the fourth quarter of 2024 — an increase from their original forecast of 6 per cent in December of 2023.

This surge would take Toronto’s aggregate price past Vancouver’s, which has long been Canada’s most expensive housing market (for both buying and renting).

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO