Vertical Communities aren’t just for Toronto — Niagara Needs them, too

condo development niagara

Last week, the City of Toronto released new guidelines for building vertical communities, based on the findings of a year-long study looking at how families live in the city’s constantly growing high rise developments. The guidelines are still waiting on city council approval before being implemented, but as soon as I read about them, my wheels started turning.

I know that Niagara isn’t known for its high rise community — right now, there are only a handful of high rise condo developments in all of Niagara region — but if you consider how our population is growing, and is projected to grow, they are probably in our future.

What Toronto Wants

The study took a long, hard look at three main areas: the neighbourhood, the building, and the individual unit, with a focus on diversity of housing, livability and quality. The basic idea is that these guidelines would be implemented city wide to create a community design made for families when developers are planning high rise residential developments (with 20 or more units).

Neighbourhood guidelines

  • Some of the neighbourhood guidelines include:
  • Ramps on public stairs for strollers or bicycles.
  • Wider sidewalks, for children under 14 to ride their bikes.
  • No shadows on parks, open spaces and playgrounds.
  • Providing Wi-Fi.
  • Park play equipment for all age groups.
  • All-season playgrounds.
  • Year-round public washroom access.

Building guidelines

The guidelines issued for the building include:

  • A minimum of 25 per cent of large units; which includes 10 per cent of three-bedroom units, 15 per cent of two-bedroom units.
  • Group large units together to encourage socializing.
  • Large units on lower floors.
  • Wider hallways.
  • Amenity spaces for children and youth.
  • Multi-purpose rooms for toddler play, craft groups, youth fitness and homework groups.
  • Specific rooms for music lessons, food education, tools and “messy activities.”
  • Lobbies should include stroller storage space.

Unit guidelines

Unit guidelines include:

  • Two-bedroom units should be 969 square feet.
  • Three-bedroom units should be 1,140 square feet.
  • Entrances should include a laundry room with sink, to double as a mud room.
  • Kitchen area should be minimum of 97 square feet.
  • Include standard-size appliances and large sinks.
  • Bedrooms should be no smaller than 86 square feet.
  • Consider movable walls and fold-away furniture.
  • Design elements like closets that can be relocated.

Why Niagara Needs to Consider the Same Condo Guidelines Now

I know, we don’t have high rise developments popping up like Toronto does, but it isn’t impossible to imagine Niagara becoming home to condo buildings with 20 or more units in the near future. So why wait until the boom has started? We should be thinking about family-friendly city planning now, not after it’s too late.

Between 2011 and 2016, Niagara saw a 300% growth in population, and with the way things are going, that population is just going to keep growing. But wait…where are all these people going to go? Sure, we’ve found space so far, but with a limit on infilling, the problem of “Where do we put them?” is going to come up sooner rather than later.

With the Greenbelt Protection Plan in place, we are landlocked. Space is finite. And if you can’t spread out, there’s nowhere to go but UP. That means eventually, high rises won’t be something we only see in the big city, they’ll start to pop UP here too. Maybe not in the numbers we see in Toronto, but they’ll be here. So let’s make sure we have guidelines in place now that maintain parks and green spaces, ensure accessibility, and make family-life in high rise condos easier to avoid problems later!