Low density residential areas close to the city center are a primary factor behind the shortage of affordable housing in Toronto. The cityscape is ruled by single family homes in monofunctional residential areas. We propose a holistic strategy for densifying these areas over a span of decades. An example urban block containing Vaughan Road – it’s an average income
neighbourhood within 25-30 min bike ride from the city centre’s buzzing corporate world. It is an optimal candidate for the thought experiment to come: the high traffic network of Toronto divides the city into ~2×2 km areas, the size of a compact city, currently lacking density and functional diversity.
Improving public transport along the main routes: the city is divisible into walkable
neighbourhoods. Laying the foundations of subcentres and increasing permittable density by slowly expanding the GFA ratio to combat urban sprawl. Finishing initiatives of Toronto Move program. Reviewing legislations to remove legal obstacles from rewiring Toronto. Starting programs to help people start their own small business: with increased density comes increased population, many more cafés, bakeries, hairdressers, etc. will be required.
Functional and spatial densification of the urban blocks: affordability not only comes from cheap construction and land costs, but from the cost reduction stemming from the increased supply of services – the time spared by many people is also invaluable. They have to spend time commuting and reaching services not available locally, preventing spending quality time with their loved ones, or robbing the opportunity for self improvement, resulting in widespread burnout of the population.
Neighbourhoods where the basic needs can be fulfilled within a few minutes of walking are increasing their value – the pandemic showed us this. The 10min city concept is realised in hyperblocks: only the indicated roads are to be used with vehicles (preferably public transport), the rest is for pedestrian and bicycle movement, with the exception of emergency vehicle traffic, or special occasions – moving in or out, ambulance, firefighting, or receiving goods for a shop, etc.
Increasing housing supply is possible by densification if urban sprawl is to be avoided. The public areas gained by traffic reduction and the spatial proportions of the average outskirt street in Toronto bears buildings with GF+4 stories easily, which is 2-4 times
the original GFA of a single family house. Development strategies for joint handling of 1-2-3 sites are necessary (see drawings above). The municipality is encouraged to identify a few example blocks to ease widespread adoption of the idea.
The buildings are rational, modular prefabricated houses, built on traits of local architecture: bricks and the porch is a recurring element of the Canadian home. Providing these spaces in a multi-story building is essential: older people are more easily convinced to trade their property if the spatial qualities are guaranteed to improve. The improved block have a joint pocket park in their backyard with a rich variety of civic functions facing the street, comfortably separating the private areas.
The structure allows for adaptable use, and even the smaller apartments are well lit, good to live in. Moving certain functions to the common domain (laundry, tools, rarely used equipment) requires forming bounds in the close community, and sharing tasks such as caring for the private pocket park tightens the local community – living together is key to affordability. This is our thought experiment for the city of Toronto in 2030.