Toronto urban planning and housing development 2017

We Need to Keep Talking About Urban Planning in Toronto

It looks like as we say goodbye to August, we also say goodbye to Toronto’s chief city planner, Jennifer Keesmaat. As of September 29, Keesmaat will be stepping down from her role at City Hall to pursue other interests and spend time with her family.

Keesmaat impressed us a lot at the Toronto of the Future architectural showcase back in June. She spoke of a greener, denser, and more efficient future for Toronto’s urban planning, and we hope her ideas remain a driving force at City Hall even after she’s gone. Her vision for a healthier, more liveable city is one shared by many people, and it’s something we all need to keep talking about.


Why we need to keep talking about urban planning in Toronto


Urban planning and smart housing development are issues that involve everyone. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with the founder of 8 80 Cities, Gil Penalosa, to talk about urban planning around the world and here in Toronto. If you know anything about Penalosa, you’ll know that he is an out-spoken advocate for sustainable urban planning and liveable cities. He’s also a big fan of Jennifer Keesmaat, and clearly sad to see her go.

Gil Penalosa and Jennifer Keesmat on Toronto urban planning

Penalosa believes cities need public green spaces and sustainable mobility such as public transit, bicycling, and pedestrian friendly streets. His motto is that everyone from age 8 to 80 years old should be able to live well in our cities.

One point that Penalosa made clear is that urban planning is a political issue, which means everyone needs to participate. It is up to us to create the city in which we want to live. Along with streets, schools, and parks, housing development is also a crucial piece of the puzzle.

Creating a denser, greener, more livable city requires our approach to housing development to change as well, so that we are building homes that improve the quality of life in the city rather than force people to leave. Most importantly, we need to participate in this change if we want to see it happen.

We’ll have more from our meeting with Gil Penalosa coming in the next few weeks, so check back for that.


Who is talking about urban planning and housing development in Toronto?


One project that is getting people involved is Housing for Wellbeing, a local initiative to promote the development of urban housing options that are community and nature centric.

The founder of Housing for Wellbeing, Srimonti Karmakar, sat down with a few weeks ago to explain the inspiration behind the project. At the core, it’s a project about happiness—Srimonti’s own happiness as a devoted entrepreneur, as well as the day-to-day happiness of people living in urban centres.

While travelling the globe, Srimonti realized that there are alternative options to urban housing that we rarely experience in Canada. Housing designs that prioritize shared common spaces and easy access to nature. Without sacrificing privacy, these housing designs aim to foster a sense of community, greater social wellbeing, environmental awareness and engagement, and a fuller daily lifestyle.


Conover Commons community housing and urban planning

Conover Commons in Washington


The design approach favours compact townhouse style or mid-rise homes with shared outdoor spaces and, in some cases, a common house where all are welcome. Cars are parked on the perimeter of the neighbourhood, while inner walkways and bike paths connect the houses, parks, gardens, and children’s playgrounds. The entrances of the houses, front porches, and balconies are designed to face into the common spaces to help foster community engagement.


Mountain View Co-Housing community and urban planning

Mountain View Cohousing in California


Visit the project website for more examples of community-centric urban housing options, and add your voice to the conversation with the project survey. It’s a good cause, and remember it’s up to us to build the cities we want to live in.

Getting involved means being aware—talking, sharing, and keeping the conversation going. Over the coming months, we’ll be rolling out more stories about city planning and the future of Toronto because we want to be involved in how are city is shaped. If you want to learn more, The City of Toronto’s Planning and Development page is a good place to start, and be sure to check back here soon. #UPonTO