@ Toronto, if you’re still telling us that there’s a “crisis” in your city, this #memoriallyn thinking in new condos won’t help you find solutions
Toronto’s first ever car condo is coming to the city and some housing experts are calling it “disrespectful”
City officials in Toronto have announced a plan to build a $3bn (£2.3bn) inner-city community called the Mile End District, which will include the city’s first car-sharing programme. The district will include 600 apartments (all of which will contain parking spaces) and another 600 garage spaces, on top of 350 private rental homes, 60,000 sq m of commercial space and four outdoor plazas. There will also be 20,000 sq m of open space.
In the US, A city spokesman said the new neighbourhood is a “retail-based, mixed-use neighbourhood” that will be owned by the City of Toronto but will be “designed for the families, millennials and creatives who make Mile End a vibrant neighbourhood”. But whether that means new residents can have their cars taken away, a removed parking lane or being forced to use alternative transport, the project has led to a string of comments from the housing community about its proposed non-car-dependent route, creating what has been called a “gateway” for the city.
AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said: “Nowhere is more of an impediment to sustainability and well-being than in urban cores. If it’s not banning the car, it’s hiding it … This is a joke, and a dangerous one at that.” It follows similar criticisms for a car-sharing plan in San Francisco and one proposed in New York by the mayor Bill de Blasio.
The new plan, developed by Canadian developer Stockboch Development Corp, was announced at the Toronto high-rise block where it will be constructed, which is designed to be a pedestrian-only, car-free area by 2040. The first of the area’s units are due to be completed by 2022, but will also include some spaces for drivers to park.
An artist’s impression of the proposed high-rise building
A spokesman for the city’s planning department said the traffic plan was “not designed to enhance the use of public transit, it’s designed to be as much an urban hub as possible, to encourage the use of public transit, but also to encourage residents to use public transit to get from point A to point B”.
He went on to say: “It’s really the way that we’re stimulating more development in the city’s core.” That said, housing experts have responded by questioning the housing part of the plan.
Laurel Sagan, executive director of Community Legal Services, which provides free legal services to low-income people, said: “We’re in a crisis and we can’t start to change how we think in policy decisions based on how people are going to drive”. However, that would presumably exclude people who work in the area.
She argued that car share would increase parking demand without increasing vehicle use: “Who are these cars being used by? Are they going to be used to go to work? Or are they going to be used by residents who are staying in the neighbourhood when they have to go back?”
Other housing experts have also criticised the move. Author Jamie Byng, writing in the Toronto Star, said the scheme “makes one tired of the notion that there are economic and social benefits to building ‘affordable’ housing that is not proximity to transit”.
He continued: “It’s not going to lead to a better transit system in the city, that’s for sure. Perhaps if Toronto planners built their housing near transit they would’ve some momentum to move on the transit.”
The City of Toronto did not respond to a request for comment.