Schools in condos, mandatory affordable units: What does the future of vertical Toronto hold?

Earlier this week, CBC Toronto's Dwight Drummond talked to chief city planner Jennifer Keesmaat about what the future looks like for Toronto families in increasingly vertical communities.

Chief city planner Jennifer Keesmaat spoke to CBC Toronto's Dwight Drummond about growing upward

Chief city planner Jennifer Keesmaat spoke to CBC Toronto's Dwight Drummond about the future of life in Toronto's increasingly vertical communities. (CBC)

Earlier this week, CBC Toronto's Dwight Drummond talked to chief city planner Jennifer Keesmaat about what the future looks like for Toronto families in increasingly vertical communities.

The conversation is part of CBC Toronto's Vertical City series. Our stories examine the realities of life for families, including those with children or seniors, in condos in the city and the challenges and lifestyle adjustments that come with family condo living.

Here's a snapshot of their discussion:

Q: A lot of what's being built are smaller units. The city gives incentives for affordable housing. How can you give incentives to build more family-friendly units?

A: We're going through a transition right now. We often negotiate and require larger family units as part of a development. And the industry is giving us feedback, saying they're harder to sell because they're more expensive. And when they do sell, they tend to go to an investor, who then rents them out to a bunch of students. So, still not a bad thing, but it's not providing family housing. And this really gets to the challenge of price-point.

In a market-driven housing economy, there is a challenge with respect to price. And this is where you need policy measures on the city side to ensure that we're building those units for families in urban places, whether that's through inclusionary housing policy — which we're hoping to hear back about this spring: that the province is going to enable us to include affordable units in every single development. 

Q: What other ideas are you seeing around the world that could help us grow upwards?

A: One of the things we haven't started doing yet, although we began this with the St. Lawrence neighbourhood, is integrating the amenities for families right into a building. There's no reason why new schools cannot be part of a condo building. The first, second floor, even vertical schools that happen in the first storeys of a building. 

Q: Do we have to change our thinking as families about living in these towers? 

A: I think it's hard for people who have had a certain idea of what a home is, like 'Aren't homes red? And aren't they brick?' We have this certain image in our mind, but one of the things that's very clear is that we're constantly evolving. The way we lived in this city a generation ago is very different from the way we live today.

I have this conversation with my kids all the time... The fact is the odds are if they want to stay in Toronto, they're going to be raising their family in a vertical community. And that has the opportunity, if we plan it right, to offer a very high quality of life.

This interview has been condensed for clarity and length.