Four-unit multiplexes are officially a go in Toronto, but City Councillor Jamaal Myers (Ward 23, Scarborough North) is already thinking bigger.

In the mid-May council meeting that saw multiplex zoning changes adopted, Myers asked staff to consider a six-dwelling unit pilot program in his ward. His ask is currently in limbo, with a City staff report on the matter is expected by the end of the year.

Myers is not alone in thinking that multiplex allowances stand to be stretched a little farther. Housing advocates are saying that while the zoning changes are certainly a promising step forward, they don’t go far enough to address the sheer scale of Toronto’s housing need. The housing crisis is in full force across the city, and those who can afford to stick around are facing limited housing supply, steep competition, and outlandish prices for what’s available. Sixplex housing, even in a pilot capacity, stands to move the needle further at a time when Toronto sorely needs it.

READ: Toronto’s New Multiplex Allowances Signify “A Very Big Milestone,” Here’s Why

In an interview with STOREYS, Councillor Myers shares his take on the multiplex matter as it currently stands, and speaks to why he’s asking council to seriously consider legalizing sixplexes.

For some context, can you speak to your thoughts on the multiplex matter? I understand you were in support of the new allowances.

Multiplexes match the demographics of Scarborough. About 14% of all households in Scarborough are multi-generational families, and many of us are immigrants or descendants of immigrants. So there's already a lot of familiarity with living in a multi-generational household.

Scarborough also has sort of been this melting pot that welcomes people from all over the world in different ways of immigration, and we’ve been able to do that because we had affordable housing, which we lack now, severely. And that’s impacting not only our ability to attract people, but our ability to retain the people that we have. My population in Ward 23 fell by about 5% since 2016. And consistently, the population has fallen every census. So people understand that our population needs to grow. And one of the key ways we do this is by making sure that we have enough affordable housing.

With the new zoning allowances, how do you see multiplex development most effectively rolled out and realized?

As we all know, and as I'm learning more and more every day as a member of the Planning and Housing Committee, building is a complex process, and there are so many variables involved. There is the financing, there are the materials, there is the skilled labor -- and they all need to be aligned in order to get affordable housing built.

I've been speaking to building companies seeking to build specifically in Scarborough, and the agreement is that the city needs to streamline the processes to get these building permits approved and explore opportunities for lower financing and lower material costs, and increase the number of skilled people available to make these projects happen.

Let's talk specifically about six-unit multiplexes. What will be your next steps?

At this point, it’s really about just studying when and where it's possible. My team and I are currently working with interested builders to identify pilot sites in our ward. And then we’re working with city staff to design a proposal for the bylaw appropriately.

The six-unit pilot is really taking the idea of what City staff have worked really hard on a step further. Currently, staff are looking at this as ‘I own a house and I, personally, am going to do the renovations and turn this into a fourplex.’ What the sixplex study idea is really looking at is, ‘I'm a developer, I want to buy this house, and I want to convert it into six affordable units.’

Another thing we’ve got to think about is how we incentivize the builders to actually build affordable housing. What are the strategies that we can use to incentivize and make sure that the housing that's built is affordable for the people in the community and not simply just another investment vehicle for investors?

What has the response been to this idea of a sixplex pilot program in Scarborough North?

So amongst builders, very enthusiastic. Amongst pro-housing advocacy groups, like More Neighbours Toronto and Housing Now, again, very, very enthusiastic. They understand what we're trying to do in Ward 23.

Residents are excited about the opportunity to live closer to their families and have this affordable intergenerational housing opportunity right here in Scarborough North, but we haven't really made any splashy announcements because we're waiting for the staff report, which is due by the end of the year. And there are other issues that we’ve got to think about first. So, for example, on-street parking is an issue that we're going to be dealing with. It's already an issue if we allow fourplexes. If we allow sixplexes, it's an even bigger issue.

We want to make sure we get this right, but at the same time, the overarching goal is to create affordable housing. And that may mean figuring out some of the other problems later. Because the housing is really what's needed at this point.

These answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.