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Under the Toronto's current zoning bylaw, 70 per cent of the city's residential areas only permit single-detached homes.Cole Burston/The Globe and Mail

Toronto City Council will vote on a proposal this week that would expand housing options by allowing up to four-unit multiplexes in all neighbourhoods.

Planning officials are recommending changes to the city’s zoning bylaw and Official Plan that would expand as-of-right permissions for multiplex housing without needing to seek additional approvals. This could help Toronto meet its projected need of 42,000 low-rise homes, as well as provide space for larger families to live in one home, city staff say in a report headed to council.

Under the city’s current zoning bylaw, 70 per cent of Toronto’s residential areas only permit single-detached homes.

The contentious proposal to allow for more multiplexes is a centrepiece of the city’s housing action plan to meet a pledge of building 285,000 new homes by 2031.

This housing target was set by Premier Doug Ford’s government in an effort to rapidly increase Ontario’s housing supply to meet rising demand. At least 700,000 new residents are expected to call Toronto home by 2051.

Toronto’s plan also includes the removal of floor space index (FSI) regulations, for the 37 per cent of residential areas in which these restrictions exist, in order to maximize space for additional units. FSI maximums limit the allowable density of buildings in an area and the city recommends exempting multiplexes after feedback that they would hamper the ability to create additional units.

Other regulations would still exist, such as building height, depth and setbacks, though the city is proposing making modifications to some of these measures as well.

In communities that have a maximum height limit of less than 10 metres, the proposal would permit multiplexes to be built up to 10 metres to enable construction of a third storey. For those areas that allow for a greater height – about 62 per cent of the city – a fourth storey would be permitted.

The multiplex plan, which has been in the works for several years, has been heavily debated. Housing advocates and many real estate groups argue getting rid of exclusionary zoning policies will help to increase rapidly the city’s housing supply, especially for the rental market, and allow existing neighbourhoods to grow and take advantage of amenities already in the area, such as parks, shopping centres and schools.

Toronto urban planner Sean Galbraith said he’s “in full support” of the plan, but would have liked to see it go even further to allow for up to six units rather than four. Councillor Jamaal Myers is calling for a pilot project in his ward of Scarborough North to allow for six-dwelling buildings. He will be asking council to support his request for a study on this proposal.

Mr. Galbraith said he’s hopeful the city’s plan has the support of council and that changes aren’t made that would make it more difficult to convert single-family homes into multiplexes.

“This is genuinely a good thing. It should be something that is supported city-wide and in all neighbourhoods, because all neighbourhoods are appropriate for this build form,” he said.

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The city presented an initial draft plan last July and has held several rounds of consultation throughout the process. Since the release of the revised plan in February, the city received 2,262 survey responses and more than 8,000 comments.

Generally, most survey respondents were in support, with 85 per cent in favour of allowing multiplexes in all neighbourhoods.

On the other side of the debate, several residents’ associations are concerned the sweeping changes are being rolled out too quickly and that changing build requirements could reduce green space and the number of trees.

Geoff Kettel, president and co-chair of the Federation of North Toronto Residents’ Associations – which represents over 30 organizations – said a better option would be to pilot the proposal in select communities to see how neighbourhoods are affected and adjust if changes need to be made.

Etobicoke Centre Councillor Stephen Holyday told The Globe he will go to bat for these groups at the council meeting and raise their concerns in opposition to the plan. Mr. Holyday said permitting multiplexes will significantly alter the character of neighbourhoods and could lead to conflicts, with potentially more traffic and lack of parking options.

“The suburbs are about to get cancelled. That’s how big this is in my opinion,” he said. “It’s going to cause disruption, it’s going to cause stress.”

If the plan moves ahead, Toronto will launch a monitoring program to track uptake and distribution of multiplexes across the city, as well as document concerns or barriers that arise. A report would come back to council in early 2026.

Other municipalities across Canada have recently taken similar actions in an effort to address housing shortages and skyrocketing costs. In Ontario, Hamilton has approved bylaws to allow existing detached dwellings to be converted into four-unit residences.

In British Columbia, Vancouver is studying a proposal to permit multiplexes with up to six units. The City of Victoria approved new zoning regulations in January to allow for up to six-unit multiplexes on most residential lots.

Council is scheduled to meet from Wednesday to Friday. A specific time hasn’t been set for the multiplex debate.

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