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Micro-units: A chance to rethink urban living, prioritize affordability & build a better Toronto for all

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As a seasoned real estate professional for the past three decades, I’ve watched the Toronto city skyline morph and navigated the ins and outs of the city’s ever-evolving condominium market. And I’ve seen it all — from multiple recessions to the unprecedented detour that was COVID-19 in 2020. But in all the ups and downs, one thing remains clear: the need for affordable housing in our city is more pressing than ever.

The rise of micro-units presents a promising avenue to address this pressing concern amid Toronto’s housing affordability crisis.


Size isn’t everything when it comes to urban living: It’s about flexibility, mobility and sustainability


A common skepticism surrounding micro-units will and always has been their size. Of course, at first glance, these compact living spaces might seem daunting, particularly in a city where square footage has long been equated with status and comfort. However, my years of experience have taught me that size isn’t everything when it comes to urban living.

Instead, it’s about redefining our priorities and recognizing that convenience, location and amenities often outweigh sheer space. What I’ve seen in my experience and the myriad of individuals I’ve spoken to, from end users to brokers, is that people want flexibility. They want mobility. And above all, they want sustainability.

Micro-units offer precisely that: a compact yet functional living environment that caters to the needs of modern city dwellers.


Potential to revitalize underutilized space, foster communities and offer an affordable option


Toronto in itself is a young and vibrant city, and micro-units have the potential to revitalize underutilized city areas and foster vibrant, inclusive communities. By maximizing the efficient use of limited space, micro-unit developments can breathe new life into vacant lots and unused properties, transforming them into thriving hubs of activity.

This not only enhances the urban fabric of Toronto but also contributes to the city’s overall sustainability goals by minimizing urban sprawl and promoting densification in strategic locations.

As a parent, I often worry about the challenges my daughter might face in the future, especially when it comes to buying property in such a competitive market. The idea of micro-units offers a glimmer of hope, knowing that there could be affordable options available when the time comes to find her own place in the city.


Need for diverse housing options and more investment in supportive and affordable housing


While Ontario’s recent budget demonstrates a commitment to investing in housing-enabling infrastructure, the allocation of new funds specifically aimed at addressing the housing affordability crisis falls short of what is urgently needed. With a target of at least 125,000 new homes required this year alone, escalating to 175,000 annually, it’s clear that bold and decisive action is imperative.

Housing advocates and opposition parties rightly emphasize the necessity for increased investment in supportive and affordable housing, as well as the implementation of policies conducive to diverse housing options across the province.


Micro-units meet resident needs while contributing to housing affordability


A study funded by CMHC examining micro-units in Vancouver underscores the potential of innovative solutions like micro-units to alleviate housing pressures. In Toronto, where the demand for affordable housing is particularly acute, embracing micro-units presents a promising avenue toward a more inclusive and sustainable urban landscape.

As demonstrated by the positive post-occupancy evaluations of Vancouver’s micro-housing complexes, micro-units can meet the needs and preferences of residents while contributing to the broader goal of housing affordability.


Our call to action


Of course, realizing the full potential of micro-units in Toronto and beyond requires more than just shifting perceptions — it demands strategic collaboration and concerted efforts from all stakeholders involved. From developers to policymakers, from financial institutions to community organizations, it’s essential that we come together to pave the way for the widespread adoption of micro-units in our city.

By working closely with industry partners and engaging with governments at both the provincial and federal levels, we can navigate regulatory frameworks and secure the necessary support to bring these projects to fruition.


It’s clear that micro-units have the potential to play a transformative role in addressing Toronto’s housing affordability crisis. As policymakers, developers and community stakeholders come together to embrace innovative solutions like micro-units, we can create a more equitable, sustainable and vibrant city for Torontonians. By seizing this opportunity to rethink urban living and prioritize affordability, we can build a better Toronto for all.


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