News   Jul 12, 2024
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Zoning Reform Ideas

There has been much discussion about the angular plane and other aspects of the midrise building performance standards.

In practice, these standards have already been relaxed by City Planning, for the most part. A report to next week's Planning and Housing Ctte seeks to formalize that:


From the above:

1717683708566.png


Further revisions to the standards are anticipated, but this will make it easier/less costly to deliver the midrise form. (On the Avenues, anyway)

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Also noted in the report, some of the upcoming work of City Planning:

1717683834290.png


@HousingNowTO will take some interest, I imagine.
 
I’m really glad to see movement on the midrise angular planes - both on the potential new framework (which seems WAY more reasonable), and, as @goodcitywhenfinished pointed out: the transition zones work. Both are very exciting, and make me hope for a day where we don’t have these absurd abrupt transitions.

I am confused about some of the other work though: I thought midrises were “as-of-right” on Avenues regardless of whether there was an Avenue study or not, no?

Finally, I really appreciate the undertone, which reads as simplification and duplication reduction. Not sexy, but this stuff just makes building less onerous, and I hope over time we’ll see more entrants into the space.
 
I am confused about some of the other work though: I thought midrises were “as-of-right” on Avenues regardless of whether there was an Avenue study or not, no?

Not exactly.

From the report:

1717766026898.png

1717766050107.png


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The map attachment may be helpful:

1717766166807.png
 
Industrializing the housing sector has been floated as one of many techniques to drive down the price of housing over time by making it easier to build supply. I’ve read scepticism that such an idea can work, or can work at scale. I was surprised to find out that Sweden (yes - the home of IKEA) has increasingly turned to industrialized and prefab housing since the mid 90s:


Two quick takeaways:

* In 1995 Sweden switched to a performance-based housing code as opposed to a prescriptive one (and, if I understand correctly, it’s national)
* 45% of construction is industrialized
 
Industrializing the housing sector has been floated as one of many techniques to drive down the price of housing over time by making it easier to build supply. I’ve read scepticism that such an idea can work, or can work at scale. I was surprised to find out that Sweden (yes - the home of IKEA) has increasingly turned to industrialized and prefab housing since the mid 90s:


Two quick takeaways:

* In 1995 Sweden switched to a performance-based housing code as opposed to a prescriptive one (and, if I understand correctly, it’s national)
* 45% of construction is industrialized

Extensive discussion in the piece itself indicates that there is a very low savings, if any, to industrialized production of housing (full assembly line) there are some savings, but a lot is off-set by added costs.

The described advantage is that because most of the work is done indoors, in a controlled setting with standardized parts, in a manner that sometimes requires less physical strength (higher proportion of women in the workforce) that the housing can be delivered more predictably, at greater speed.

You might think the argument then is that at least you can generate more housing and supply/demand will govern prices accordingly.

But, lets have a look at the price of housing in Stockholm in recent years:

“Between 2008 and 2021, falling mortgage rates have supported demand for owner-occupied homes and led to a sharp rise in Stockholm’s real housing prices by almost 70%. The surge was much faster than that of local incomes and rents, as well as housing prices in other parts of the country,

1718016032678.png


The above from: https://www.globalpropertyguide.com/europe/sweden/price-history

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Why on earth are prices rising so fast on Stockholm........... is not a secret......... population growth is the driver. Its greater than 1% annually; there was a slow down in public housing construction in the 90s, demand was artificially stimulated for a time.

So why is homelessness less of an issue?

How about 1 in 7 Swedes lives in government owned housing, and 50% of all renters!


This is actually an excellent piece looking at housing affordability in Sweden, including different influences over time...........and lessons for Canada:

 
Why on earth are prices rising so fast on Stockholm........... is not a secret......... population growth is the driver.
It’s not clear to me that population growth is the main driver. In fact, doesn’t the quote you pulled state that it’s mortgage rates?

I was curious about this, so I did a little bit of digging. Stockholm’s population grew within a band of 2% - ~1.5% over the period you listed, with 2% growth rates occurring early and lower growth rates happening later. During the same period house prices close to doubled - with a massive run up later in the time period. This is outsize, no matter how you slice it.

What was quite interesting - and did happen during that time period - is that you had a run up in employment rate and a long-term decrease in the policy rate (which drives mortgage rates). So, more money sloshing around in the system for use on assets.

I think the initial driver of housing prices is quite different: cheap - and available - money for people to spend on assets. The longer such a period is around, the more people are able to take advantage of it, and the more FOMO there is if you don’t, contributing to a non-linear run-up in prices. On the flip side, supply constraints combined with population growth mean that there’s less and less of the asset people are interested in, again contributing late-cycle almost vertical runups.

[1] Population growth rates in Stockholm: https://www.macrotrends.net/global-metrics/cities/22597/stockholm/population#google_vignette

[2] Monetary policy in Sweden (see graphs on pg 38 onwards): https://www.riksbank.se/globalasset...-in-sweden-after-the-end-of-bretton-woods.pdf
 
It’s not clear to me that population growth is the main driver. In fact, doesn’t the quote you pulled state that it’s mortgage rates?

I was curious about this, so I did a little bit of digging. Stockholm’s population grew within a band of 2% - ~1.5% over the period you listed, with 2% growth rates occurring early and lower growth rates happening later. During the same period house prices close to doubled - with a massive run up later in the time period. This is outsize, no matter how you slice it.

What was quite interesting - and did happen during that time period - is that you had a run up in employment rate and a long-term decrease in the policy rate (which drives mortgage rates). So, more money sloshing around in the system for use on assets.

I think the initial driver of housing prices is quite different: cheap - and available - money for people to spend on assets. The longer such a period is around, the more people are able to take advantage of it, and the more FOMO there is if you don’t, contributing to a non-linear run-up in prices. On the flip side, supply constraints combined with population growth mean that there’s less and less of the asset people are interested in, again contributing late-cycle almost vertical runups.

[1] Population growth rates in Stockholm: https://www.macrotrends.net/global-metrics/cities/22597/stockholm/population#google_vignette

[2] Monetary policy in Sweden (see graphs on pg 38 onwards): https://www.riksbank.se/globalasset...-in-sweden-after-the-end-of-bretton-woods.pdf

No question that monetary policy is also a factor.

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Also though, the much larger role of public-ownership housing traditionally had (and still does have) a moderating affect on prices there, but public housing construction took a nosedive in the 90s and has only begun to recover, leaving a structural deficiency, particularly in the rental market, especially in Stockholm.
 
I do not believe that asset price inflation is included in measures of inflation at all. Given the above, I would advocate that policy makers track inflation in important assets and apply policy brakes when there is inflation there.

For example, in the above I would have changed mortgage rules to make it harder to use your money to buy houses, and spurred more supply and reduced population growth to reduce demand. (The latter might drive wage inflation, so it’s tough)

EDIT: maybe another interesting approach is to prevent the use of certain assets (primary home, for example) for leverage.
 
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Also though, the much larger role of public-ownership housing traditionally had (and still does have) a moderating affect on prices there, but public housing construction took a nosedive in the 90s and has only begun to recover, leaving a structural deficiency, particularly in the rental market, especially in Stockholm.
I’ve no problem with that at all. I fully support the government spending money to build housing that supports the lower-income portion of the population. I think it’s a travesty that we stopped doing that in Canada (I think a lot of our policies are counterproductive).
 
I’ve no problem with that at all. I fully support the government spending money to build housing that supports the lower-income portion of the population. I think it’s a travesty that we stopped doing that in Canada (I think a lot of our policies are counterproductive).

One asterisk.

Sweden doesn't limit its government housing to low income earners, its mixed income.

Similar to the Vienna model for which I often advocate.

Leads to healthier communities.
 
The Mayor of Burlington initiated a Mayers Speakers Series recently, and the first speaker was Jennifer Keesmat. I had tickets to go, but life interrupted that plan, and so here are is the presentation in pdf format and (hopefully) the VIMEO link. It is going to take a while and much banging of heads together, but we will move on from 60 x 132 sidesplit built in the 60's and 70's that litter our urban spaces. Unfortunately we do not have a Napoleon III and a Haussmann lurking and waiting for the opportunity to pounce into the redevelopment fray.

I am having issues loading (not a techy, still struggling to program my seeder) so follow this link and in the text you will find links to the pdf versions of the presentation and a VIMNEO copy of the speech.

 
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Guest contribution within City Hall Watcher (highly recommended; worth the subscription!) on where the EHON work falls short:


“ Combined, the various EHON projects have produced the largest conceptual change¹² to Toronto’s housing policy in a generation. But EHON didn’t tackle exclusionary requirements related to lot size, coverage, and floor space index for most buildings. Or restrictions on semi-detached houses. So neighbourhoods with the worst zoning will likely be untouched by EHON.

I would describe EHON’s overall impact as smoothing down some of the hard edges of exclusionary zoning, while leaving it mostly intact.”
 

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