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Philanthropist and CEO of Mattamy Homes Peter Gilgan.Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

Real estate developer Mattamy Homes, known as a force in the suburbs, wants to meet soaring demand for homes in the Toronto area by building up, along with out.

Mattamy, a Toronto-based company that became North America’s largest privately owned builder by focusing on single-family homes, is launching a dedicated high-rise development division on Thursday. The new business, branded as Mattamy GTA Urban, will initially focus on creating what chief executive Brad Carr calls “vertical communities” that combine mid- and high-rise housing with retail, office and public space in the Greater Toronto Area.

Over time, Mattamy plans to expand this arm of the business. The company also operates in Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary and 11 U.S. markets.

While Mattamy is best known for single-family homes, it has built more than 40 high-rise and multifamily home projects over the past four decades. The new urban division represents a heightened commitment to high-rise living and will initially build on land Mattamy already owns in Toronto and outlying centres such as Brampton, Mississauga and Richmond Hill – a land bank that Mr. Carr said will sustain the company for at least five years.

“Multifamily mid- and high-rise housing is a core component of future development in the GTA, as Canada’s largest urban centre looks to provide increased supply of housing and livable communities while keeping the Greenbelt intact,” Mr. Carr said in an interview.

Mattamy plans to build both condos and rental units to serve a region that is expected to see its population grow from 6.4 million to eight million by the year 2030.

“The Canadian government has made it clear that a central element of their pandemic response is going to be increased immigration, and we know that a great many of those new Canadians will want to be in the Toronto area, which will only increase the demand for affordable homes,” Mr. Carr said. Mattamy, controlled by billionaire Peter Gilgan, is currently talking to potential financial and commercial backers for its new high-rise projects.

Mattamy currently sells 2,500 to 3,000 homes each year in the GTA, and Mr. Carr said the urban division is expected to build about the same number of units, doubling the company’s annual local output. Mattamy hired David Stewart, former president of Canadian communities at rival Minto Group Inc., to run the new division. Mr. Stewart started his career at Mattamy and left for Minto 10 years ago.

“We are building off an already strong base of multistorey projects across the GTA, and we have an ambitious growth plan to expand that portfolio significantly in the short to medium term,” Mr. Stewart said.

The condo market, which is the key component of Mattamy’s urban expansion strategy, is bouncing back in Toronto after sales slowed last spring during the early days of the pandemic. In the first three months of this year, the average sale price of a new condo in the GTA was $817,000, up from $770,000 a year ago, according to data service Urbanation. During the same period, the average price for a resale single-family home in the GTA went over $1-million for the first time, according to the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board.

Shaun Hildebrand, president of Urbanation, attributes the Toronto condo market’s strength to low borrowing costs and renewed optimism among buyers. In a press release, he said that suburban home prices “soared 30 per cent over the past year and put the spotlight back on urban properties.” New condominium apartment sales in the GTA totaled 5,385 units in the first quarter of 2021, close to prepandemic levels.

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