Fraser Forum

If Toronto millennials want more density, there’s plenty of room to grow

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Last November, the Toronto Region Board of Trade published a survey of young professionals (aged 18 to 39) where respondents expressed overwhelming support for higher residential density as a way of boosting the housing supply. Indeed, given Toronto’s inability to grow outward, it must grow upward if it wants to continue attracting young talent and families.

The good news is, there’s plenty of room within Toronto city limits to do this.

A new study by the Fraser Institute compared Canada’s largest cities—including Toronto—with peer cities in the United States and around the world. As it turns out, Toronto isn’t all that dense.

At 4,457 inhabitants per square kilometre, Canada’s most populous city is less than half as dense as London, England (11,245 per sq. km) or New York City (10,935 per sq. km), two other English-speaking financial centres. Even Chicago, whose population (2.7 million), traditional development pattern (about 200 years old and along the shore of a Great Lake), and land area (roughly 600 sq. km) are more comparable to Toronto’s, is 3.1 per cent more dense.

In fact, the New York borough of Brooklyn is as populous as the City of Toronto, but less than a third as large geographically, making it more than three times as dense (14,541 inhabitants per sq. km). What the Brooklyn comparison also shows is that more density doesn’t necessarily mean ever taller or more numerous condo towers. The very in-demand New York borough is traditionally associated with gentler forms of density such as “brownstone” townhomes and walk-up apartments spread more evenly across its land area. Clearly, different cities do density differently.

So, assuming Torontonians—both young and old—want their dynamic city to keep growing, comparison with peers around the world shows that there’s plenty of room within city limits to do so.

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