Toronto mayoral candidate Brad Bradford released another part of his housing platform on Friday, adding to it plans to encourage repurposing vacant office space for residential use.
Toronto has a 15.3% office vacancy rate in downtown, Bradford's announcement notes, with nearly 6 million sq. ft of office space set to be developed. If elected, Bradford plans to introduce a new zoning framework to aid office-to-residential conversions.
“Something has to change,” Bradford said. “If we want a vibrant city that attracts and retains the best and brightest, we need to ensure there is housing available at every price point and make the most of the space in our city.”
Bradford's plan calls for as-of-right approvals for office conversions if there are no plans to enlarge the existing building, "thereby eliminating the lengthy rezoning process." He says he would also eliminate the existing requirement to replace all office space foot-for-foot, as long as the new development includes 20% affordable housing.
Although lacking specifics, Bradford additionally says he will "ensure relief from guidelines and other rules that make it difficult to convert office floor plates into housing."
Office-to-residential conversions, part of what's known as adaptive reuse, hasn't had too much luck taking off in Canada. Converting an office into apartments can be tricky (and expensive) due to the specific floorplates, lighting, and plumbing systems used for offices. But there are some examples, even in Toronto -- in September of last year, an application was filed to repurpose the former Canadian Pacific Building with a new residential use.
In an attempt to encourage new business creation, Bradford says he would allow live-work units to be permitted on all main streets in Toronto, and would allow for a greater range of businesses to operate as live-work units, but did not specify what business types this would include.
"With Brad’s experience as an urban planner for the City of Toronto, Councillor, and Chair of the Planning and Housing Committee, he has more experience than all the other candidates combined in getting housing built," the announcement reads. "That insight informs his plan to address the affordability crisis in this city by providing more housing for more people."