“Converting Empty Office Space Will Help Solve  Toronto’s Housing Crisis” — Councilor Proposes

Toronto City Councilor Brad Bradford is proposing the conversion of older and underused office buildings into residential apartments or condos to address the city’s housing crisis. CBC News reported.

He introduced a motion for debate at a planning and housing committee meeting, suggesting that Toronto should explore the possibility of repurposing such buildings for housing and eliminate restrictions requiring developers to replace the converted office space with equivalent business space.

The proposal comes in response to rising housing costs and vacancy rates in downtown Toronto, which currently stand at around 50% of pre-pandemic levels due to changes in the nature of work caused by the pandemic, with more employees working remotely. Bradford argues that converting older office buildings into housing could provide a solution to the housing shortage.

While acknowledging that not all office buildings are suitable for conversion, Bradford believes that city rules concerning office stock replacement often deter developers from pursuing such projects. He wants city staff to consider his proposal as part of an ongoing analysis of office space.

The idea of converting office spaces into residential units is gaining traction, as it could help strike a better balance between high vacancy rates post-pandemic and low vacancy rates pre-pandemic. It may also help address the housing crisis in Toronto. However, the success of such conversions will depend on market conditions, and without significant incentives, only a limited number of buildings may undergo conversion.

Architects and developers believe that repurposing old office buildings into residential properties is a sustainable and cost-effective approach. It is seen as a quicker and more environmentally friendly way to provide additional housing in the city while making use of existing infrastructure.

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