Photo: Imagenet / Adobe Stock
For new home buyers and investors who long for a spacious condo suite but still want a community feel, mid-rise projects have been gaining attention.
Serena Quaglia, vice-president of strategy at TCS Marketing Systems, has been watching the growth in demand for mid-rise housing product across the Toronto region. Shorter construction timelines, architectural creativity and lower maintenance costs have been drawing purchasers to mid-rise homes for some time now.
Last month, a record 2,274 new condo apartments were sold in low-, medium- and high-rise buildings, stacked townhouses and loft units, according to the latest data from the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD). This marks a 40 per cent increase compared to the previous high established in 2017.
In a conversation with Livabl, Quaglia explains the growing popularity of new mid-rise projects within the Greater Toronto Area.
What exactly is mid-rise housing? How would you describe the emergence of mid-rise housing projects and their popularity over time?
Mid-rise housing is made up of projects between five and 11 storeys, and the popularity of this built form continues to grow in Toronto. In the GTA, we have seen an influx of these types of projects over the past five years, especially along the avenues and in more mature neighbourhoods.
Because of their smaller scale and location, the supply of new mid-rise housing is limited. That has been a strong point for the appreciation of these projects as of late. With the lack of available developable land, and approval times becoming prohibitive on high-rise projects, this product type has gained a lot of steam with developers and new home buyers alike.
From a new construction purchaser and investor perspective, what is the allure of mid-rise living? Why would buyers gravitate towards this kind of offering, and what benefits does it provide over other forms of housing?
Mid-rise condos are a transitional presence bridging Toronto’s urban divide. They are a gentler transition for those looking to downsize from homes, and a more viable option for those looking to get into their first home with some “space”.
These projects, located along the avenues, offer transit and pedestrian-friendly density with a sense of exclusivity and community. What was earlier considered a more end-user product, is now a hot commodity for investors as well. Shaun Hildebrand from Urbanation has made some great insights on this in a [previous] article in The Globe and Mail. Locations with convenient access. Smaller projects with exclusivity creates demand. Less extravagant amenities mean lower maintenance fees.
These are all great factors that investors consider when buying into a project.
How are developers approaching the design, sale and marketing of mid-rise projects? Why might a developer opt to create a mid-rise product versus low- or high-rise homes?
There is a balancing act for developers when designing and selling mid-rise projects.
On the design front, there is more architectural creativity and the built form lends to various options, including now wood construction options. The cost can sometimes be prohibitive for developers to build at this scale. Concrete construction costs for a building with lower revenues pushes the developers to be efficient with their sales and construction timelines. Developers who have lean operations can take advantage and opt to develop more mid-rise where they can benefit from the shorter timelines and deliver a superior project.
A great example is 293 The Kingsway, which is sold out and under construction. Phase two will be launched this year.
In an effort to boost chronically-low levels of housing supply, are mid-rise developments considered to be viable gentle-density options? Are they generally easier to build, fund and get approved by municipalities?
There is so much buzz in the industry about missing middle housing, and while stacked townhomes are getting the bulk of the attention these days, I believe it is the mid-rise that will be the most popular product in the next decade.
Currently, builders spend as much time getting approvals for a six storey project as they would a 25 storey one, but that should be shifting. The need for housing is at a critical level, and this gentler built form is the best solution for builders and home buyers. The smaller sizes of the building means they are faster to sell out and faster to build, while there is more product delivered to the market which is desperately in need of it.
Are there any particular communities that are seeing an increase in mid-rise projects? Are there any popular projects you can think of when it comes to mid-rise developments in the Greater Toronto Area?
People want to live in mid-rise because there is a feel of community and the neighborhood is an extended amenity. Mid-rise condos are a key element of the City of Toronto’s Avenues Program, an initiative aimed at encouraging intensification along the city’s main avenues, and we are seeing some exciting projects come along Bayview Avenue (Leaside Common), St. Clair Avenue (Monza Condos), as well as Lakeshore (Kazmir Condos).
How do you see the GTA’s new construction mid-rise segment evolving over the years? Could we expect more mid-rise product to enter the market over time? Why would that be?
With more options for construction — like wood frame — and opportunity for eco-friendly builds like Passive homes (Rossmont Green), we expect to see this segment growing tremendously over the next five to 10 years.
With new policy in place for city approvals, this will just encourage more of this product type, and at TCS Marketing Systems, we have established ourselves as almost specialists in selling mid-rise projects that may have been built on avenues, but will soon be the centre of many new home communities.