The “missing middle” is generally defined as housing that fits the gap between low-rise, primarily single-family homes and mid-rise apartment buildings. These housing types provide a variety of housing options that add housing stock and meet the growing demand for walkability. The missing middle also refers to the lack of available and affordable housing for middle-income households to rent or own.
Building missing middle housing is particularly difficult in Toronto for a number of reasons, including population growth and high land costs. The Missing Middle Housing Solutions Lab will attempt to address that by partnering with a range of interdisciplinary stakeholders. Together they will co-develop missing middle housing models in Toronto that will also be applicable to other municipalities in Canada.
3 Key Goals
Define and overcome barriers that limit the delivery of missing middle housing in Toronto.
Expand Toronto’s supply of affordable housing, ensuring NHS priority areas and vulnerable populations are central to the solutions.
Create solutions for developing and building missing middle housing that can be used across Canada to speed up the expansion of housing supply.
Project scope and expected outcomes
Unlocking Toronto’s Yellow Belt
Missing middle housing is called such because it has gone “missing” during the past 60 or 70 years. This includes duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, rowhouses, townhouses and other housing types, like courtyard apartments and live–work housing developments. In recent years, most new housing in Toronto has been high-rise buildings, with condos becoming substitutes for purpose-built rental housing.
Toronto’s Yellow Belt offers a massive area of urban land for potential missing middle housing. Currently zoned exclusively for single-family detached homes, this area represents one-third of the city’s land area. Planners, developers and policy-makers have tried to unlock this area for missing middle housing in the past, but with no success.
There is, however, growing support in Toronto for finally unlocking the Yellow Belt, and the Middle Missing Housing Lab will build on that momentum. It will bring together a diverse group of participants, including leading policy-makers, planners, developers, architects and members of civil society. Together they will co-develop, prototype and test solutions to build missing middle housing in this area.
Developing solutions for creating missing middle housing
The Lab’s participants will explore the planning policies that hinder missing middle supply in the Yellow Belt. They will also investigate financial and design considerations, and develop solutions to creating missing middle housing at scale.
The Lab will be conducted over 5 phases:
- The Definition Phase will finalize the partnership agreements and confirm the partner roles. The scope of the problems will be confirmed, and the equity and inclusion guidelines will be integrated into the project. The communications brief will be developed, and the barriers and potential synergies with other projects will be identified.
- The Discovery Phase includes a review of best practices related to the project and research to identify gaps in existing research. It will consult with partners and stakeholders to identify potential pilot sites and to establish the process for evaluating them. It will also produce a problem brief that confirms and describes the problem based on input from lab participants.
- The Solutions Phase will assess the viability of creating an affordability framework to guide project development. If it is viable, it will then create one. Stakeholders will be consulted about relevant technologies, designs and funding models from other sectors, and about potential political considerations. The stakeholders and partners will then co-develop solutions to be prototyped in the next phase.
- The Prototyping Phase will involve creating models of potential solutions, including the financial model. These will be adapted based on input from key stakeholders, and their scalability will be assessed. Architecture design work also will be completed and refined. This is a prototype for a specific building on a specific site in Toronto that demonstrates a viable built model.
- The Implementation Phase will see the Lab team work with staff and councillors from the City of Toronto. They will collaborate to identify an implementation plan for a pilot project. The Lab team will also work with CMHC and the Lab partners to create a national scalability roadmap.
Building the missing middle across Canada
While the Lab will focus on Toronto, the solutions it creates will be applicable across Canada. That is why the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the cities of Edmonton, Victoria and Guelph are Lab partners. Their involvement will help ensure that the project is relevant and scalable across Canada.
The pilot project implementation work plan will act as a handbook for interested municipalities. It will also include a roadmap for scaling up the models across Canada.
Program: Solutions Labs (Directed Stream)
Title of the lab: Missing Middle Solutions Lab
Lead Organization: Housing Innovation Institute, The Keesmaat Group
- Aryze Developments
- The Carpenters’ Union
- City of Edmonton
- City of Guelph
- City of Toronto
- City of Victoria
- CP Planning
- Federation of Canadian Municipalities
- Jason Allen Jon
- KPMB Architects
- Urban Land Institute
Solutions Lab Consultant: Accenture
Get More Information:
Email Innovation-Research@cmhc.ca or visit our website to learn more about the initiatives under the National Housing Strategy.