City Of Toronto To Permit Higher Density Housing With New ‘Major Streets Bylaw’

Real Estate


Welcome to my blog on housing, culture, and design! I’m Steve Fudge, celebrating over 3 decades as a realtor and property consultant in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The City of Toronto has recently approved a new Major Streets Bylaw which will pave the way (pun intended) for more mixed-use gentle density on a selection of Major Streets in the city. As part of the ‘Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods’ initiative, the objective is to create vibrant and diverse neighbourhoods containing different housing typologies and spaces for small businesses.




What Is A Major Street?

The City of Toronto identifies major streets as “those transportation corridors which support surface transportation, shipping and delivery routes, and provide connectivity across the city.”

Here is a video explaining the criteria for Major streets, and the impetus for the study and project.

Here is a map, from the city’s official plan. Notably, there is Lawrence Avenue West, Ossington, Dovercourt, and St. Clair East, as well as long stretches of arterials in many parts of Scarborough, Etobicoke and North York, areas where single-family houses have traditionally dominated the streetscape.

The intention is to situate higher-density mid-rise dwellings on major streets that surround the city’s traditional yellow belt single-family neighbourhoods. By focusing on major streets, the redevelopment into mixed-use commercial residential intensification will complement the existing and future growth of the city’s transportation infrastructure.




What Can Be Built?

With the new bylaw, townhouses and apartment buildings – up to six storeys, to a maximum of 60 units will be permitted as of right provided they meet the specific criteria along a selection of Major Streets, mostly on edges of neighbourhoods, in concert with major transportation lines and hubs.

This fast-track change addresses one of the bigger barriers to creating new housing in Toronto: bureaucratic red tape. In the past, applying to the Committee of Adjustment for site-specific minor variances even when precedent had been set by neighbouring sites contributed to higher costs while significantly slowing down the pace of redevelopment. This was especially the case when the Committee of Adjustment denied the application and the party successfully appealed the decision through the Ontario Land Tribunal  Even when successful, in some cases these delays contributed to projects being cancelled due to the increased costs.

This policy could (fingers crossed) fast-track thousands of new homes in Toronto, easing the gap between supply and demand for low-rise family-friendly housing in centrally-located areas.




From Laneway Homes, To Garden Suites, Then 4-Unit Multiplexes & Now 6-Storey Apartments

Toronto’s Major Streets bylaw is like adding the most delicious ingredient to a Dagwood sandwich (made popular by the cartoon Blondie which, incidentally, started in 1930 and is still being published). Just as the sandwich aspires vertically the bylaw builds on last year’s zoning change allowing for four-unit multiplexes as of right on single-family properties (see –> As-Of-Right Multiplexes Create Missing Middle Options For Toronto Real Estate) which followed the as-of-right in 2022 for Garden Suites after Laneway Housing became as-of-right in 2018.

I believe this will be the most impactful of these four housing as-of-rights introduced by the City since 2018. Although I see the benefit of adding a Laneway House or Garden Suite to an existing property, and the upside of creating a four-unit dwelling (and sometimes a fifth unit in the form of a laneway house or garden suite) where single-family homes are located – particularly for multigenerational households and chosen families – this bylaw creates an opportunity for seasoned small-scale developers to actively participate in building shelter for the missing middle and mitigate the severity of our housing crisis when the Toronto real estate market is in flux due to the unexpected increase in interest rates since March 2022.

In my 2019 post called Toronto Real Estate, Yellowbelt Zoning & The Missing Middle: Part One I wrote “Toronto’s yellowbelt neighbourhoods are rich in their history with reputable schools, recreational spaces, cultural amenities, green spaces, village shoppes and convenient public transportation, all of which improve the quality of life. Without more affordable housing options in these areas, the missing middle is being marginalized to less central locations which tend to lack the same quality of services. Meanwhile, a 2017 Ryerson University report found the majority of Toronto’s 140 residential neighbourhoods have had a stagnant or declining population for the past 30 years because households are having fewer children and residents are choosing to age in place rather than sell their homes. This translates into a reduction in the use of amenities (like schools, libraries and recreational facilities) which are coveted by families, diminishes community engagement and vitality (fewer residents supporting local retailers, fewer kids playing) while restricting the filtering of housing stock necessary to maintain a balanced real estate market. This ‘hollowing out’ of once vibrant yellowbeltit’s ti neighbourhoods demonstrates more is at stake than just homeownership”.

Furthermore, it’s timely as much of the city’s original housing stock on these Major Streets ranges in age from 60 to 180 years rendering much of it structurally or operationally compromised, if not obsolete.

Some of the highlights from the approved initiative include:

  • Allowing the City of Toronto’s RD (Residential Detached), RT (Residential Townes), RS (Residential Semis), and RM (Residential Multiunits) zones (which have had the right to be four units since 2023) located on major streets to accommodate townhomes and apartment buildings as of right.

  • The removal of Floor Space Index (FSI) calculations when the property is located on a major street, thus allowing for maximized density on the lot.

  • Apartments with 30 dwellings or less being built on major streets will no longer have to meet the city’s amenity space requirements.

  • A single site on a major street will be able to have more than one building on it, such as a collection of townhomes.

  • The size of an apartment constructed on a major street is the greater number between 30 dwelling units and the numerical value following the letter “u” on Toronto’s Zoning Bylaw Interactive Map and the maximum building height is 19 metres or the height value shown on the zoning bylaw map.

The belief is that this latest policy move will unlock development across over 30,000 lots across the GTA. With up to 60 units permitted, we hope this helps to boost the supply of all housing types and tenures quickly.




Some Concerned Residents Aren’t Convinced

While the move has been welcomed by many, there has been some pushback (often NIMBYs), as inevitably happens when higher-density policies are introduced.

The designation of a ‘Major street’ lies mostly in street width, which some advocate groups argue is too vague a criterion. For example, the group Federation of North Toronto Residents Associations released a very detailed report encouraging the City council to eschew the ‘one size fits all’ attitude towards Major Streets, and instead look in greater detail at individual streets for things like traffic, transit, and cycling.

A Toronto Star article, entitled, Toronto Approves More Housing On ‘Major Streets,’ Including These Three Roads — Despite A Local Councillor Wanting Them Exempt, looks at various streets in the proposal where residents are expressing concerns – mostly around density, increased traffic, and maintaining neighbourhood character.



It’s always a thorny issue when density is introduced because there are usually strong opinions on both sides of the question. It’s also challenging to strike a balance, between respecting the existing fabric of a neighbourhood and the lifestyle of its residents, while providing meaningful solutions in a housing crisis.

At the end of the day, more supply is a good thing, as it ultimately helps with affordability, which helps us.

Here is some background reading about this policy introduction: Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods; Major Streets Study., Toronto’s City Council Approves 60 Units On All Major Streets! – and – Lorinc: Major Planning Change for Toronto’s Major Streets.

And here is an insightful article from the Toronto Star More Lowrise Apartment Blocks, Townhouses Coming To Neighbourhood Main Streets.

And here are the City’s proposed bylaw amendments for the major streets bylaw.

Magic cure for the housing crisis? No. Hope on the horizon? Yes!!



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Since 1989, I’ve steered my career through a real estate market crash and burn; survived a slow painful cross-country recession; completed an M.E.S. graduate degree from York University called ‘Planning Housing Environments’; executed the concept, sales & marketing of multiple new condo and vintage loft conversions; and guided hundreds of clients through the purchase and sale of hundreds of freehold and condominium dwellings across the original City of Toronto. From a gritty port industrial city into a glittering post-industrial global centre, I’ve navigated the ebbs and flows of a property market as a consistent Top Producer. And I remain as passionate about it today as when I started.

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