January 29, 2020 | single family homes
It’s happening. A full ban on any new single family houses. Maybe not in Toronto. Not yet. But in many U.S. cities from Portland to Minneapolis laws have been passed to end neighbourhoods zoned exclusively for single family homes.
In some ways this may mark the end of the suburban dream of owning your own house. And before you think that wanting a detached house to buy is a quant idea from a bygone era, I will remind you that a recent survey indicated that most Toronto Millennials would like to own their own detached house one day.
So, why won’t they get what they want? Why no more building of single family homes?
Well, here are three very good reasons.
A LOT OF PEOPLE NEED HOMES
In a region like Toronto, we have a supply problem. Simply put, we don’t have, or aren’t building, enough housing for the number of people coming to live here, or who are ready to go from renter to home owner. In some ways we are a victim of our own success. With improving employment and an expansion of many job sectors ( like tech), Toronto has been growing faster than almost any city of the same size in North America. And to build housing efficiently, it’s better to be build denser neighbourhoods. It doesn’t have to be an 80 storey building. More often it will be duplex and townhomes or midrise condos 4 to 8 storeys high – gentle density that fits in more individuals without overcrowding. It’s a better use of land, and it creates more housing in a given location. Single family housing restricts housing supply.
MORE DENSITY, BIGGER TAX BASE
Simply put, the City of Toronto makes more tax dollars if there are more homes on a given section of land. And this is good from two perspectives. First, it allows the city to better fund things like replacing city infrastructure or road repair because they have more people paying property taxes and land transfer taxes. When density is low, as with single family housing, you pay more property taxes to clean your roads and upgrade your infrastructure. I’m sure you have heard Toronto has one of the lowest tax rates in the region. Part of this has to do with our density. We have more people paying taxes in denser areas. In contrast, Oshawa, which is a much less dense suburb, pays some of the highest taxes.
EVEN GRETA KNOWS: SINGLE FAMILY HOMES ARE NOT FUTURE PROOF
Single family zoning laws create longer commutes and more greenhouse gases when land is not used efficiently. Plus, there is only so far one is willing to commute. And commute times are getting longer. There is more of a demand to live in smaller spaces in or close to the city, and skip the huge commute. Even small increases in density, where multiple unit homes 4 to 8 storeys are built instead of single family house, can reduce sprawl, lessen carbon emissions and create walkable, more transit-friendly and vibrant neighbourhoods.
There will be the detractors for this push for gentle density. The “Not in My Backyard” or Nimby’s who worry the quieter neighbourhoods would be replaced by louder more urban neighbourhoods with heavier traffic.
Supporters of this idea ― the “yes in my backyard” or YIMBY group ― say this kind of gentle densification would do little to change the character of single-family home areas, while taking serious steps towards better-planned housing and more sustainable cities.
I’m not telling you all of this because I’m trying to sway your opinion in any way. I do support the gentle densification myself, but even if you don’t, a few things are clear. First, we are moving in the direction of densification in the Toronto area whether we like it or not, and not just downtown. Second, if you are planning on purchasing property, it may not be a bad idea, if you can afford it, to purchase a detached house soon. It really does look that this kind of housing will no longer be built in great numbers, despite the demand. So, with huge demand and limited supply in a growing city, single family houses that currently exists will go up in value much faster than other property types.