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Vancouver, Ottawa, Edmonton: How 3 cities are tackling the missing middle

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In Toronto, we talk a lot about the “missing middle” – the concept that there is a lack of housing options falling somewhere in between detached homes and mid-rise and tall buildings.

This is an issue in Toronto due in part to the city’s longstanding history of promoting policy that “protects” low-density neighbourhoods filled with single-detached homes.

Such policy greatly restricts the development of any other higher-density form of building. It also limits our ability to create more housing stock in established neighbourhoods with good connections to transit, amenities and services.

But, this is not a problem exclusive to Toronto. Cities across Canada are facing similar challenges and combatting them in different ways, from which Toronto could learn.

Vancouver: Quick action ideas

Vancouver is another large Canadian city with a missing middle problem. The city is working on a few large and detailed programs, like the Vancouver Plan that will provide an actionable road map for Vancouver on many fronts, including its housing future.

However, while long-term plans like this are being finalized, the city is also addressing this type of housing through “quick action ideas” meant to mobilize change efficiently and creatively.

One example of a quick action idea is a secured rental policy that allows rental rezoning in some low-density areas close to transit and amenities. This policy makes rezoning for rental multiplexes, townhouses and mid-rise buildings easier and faster and adds important rental units to the housing market.

A second example of Vancouver’s quick action ideas is the approval of triplexes and fourplexes on smaller lots and up to six-unit multiplexes on larger lots in low-density residential neighbourhoods.

This provides the proper encouragement so teardowns of single-detached homes are replaced by multiple-unit dwellings, instead of new single-detached homes.

Beyond policy, Vancouver-based organization Urbanarium hosted a missing middle design competition in 2018. The purpose of this competition was to develop innovation solutions to the city’s missing middle problem.

Participants tackled one of four sites and came up with proposals that would address Vancouver’s affordability and social health challenges. The final result was an inspiring collection of designs and five recommended policies that could expand missing middle options throughout the city.

Ottawa: The 15-minute neighbourhood

Ottawa’s  strategy is focused on increasing the supply of larger units in 15-minute neighbourhoods.

Ottawa has experienced urban sprawl as young families have left small units in search of big backyards and more bedrooms in the periphery of the city, explained Royce Fu, Planner III, research and forecasting, City of Ottawa.

In response, the city’s missing middle solutions aim to provide new options for those who may wish to return to urban centres, to areas where most day-to-day needs are within a 15-minute walk from their home.

The 613 Flats concept provides a vision for what these larger units could look like. “613” references Ottawa’s area code but also alludes to a suggested configuration for larger, family-friendly units – six rooms in total, one bathroom, and three bedrooms.

There are multiple typologies this concept could be presented in, but all would help transform existing lots for gentle, but increased density.

Ottawa’s unique focus recognizes missing middle housing located in undesirable areas comprised of studio units is not a real solution. The city is currently drafting a new Official Plan in which it intends to encourage more multiple missing middle solutions like 613 Flats.

Edmonton: The Infill Road Map

In Edmonton, the city launched the Infill Road Map in 2018 to address the missing middle issue. The purpose of this program was to welcome more people and new homes into Edmonton communities.

It identified strategies for adding more medium and high-scale infill and laneway housing throughout key areas in the city.

These ideas were then later implemented in the city’s zoning by-law in 2019 and promoted via a design competition.

Key changes included an increase in the scale of housing allowed between different zones, the allowance of secondary and garden suites in low-density neighbourhoods with single-detached houses and the introduction of density minimums in some zones.

Next steps for Toronto

The City of Toronto has been making some headway as well through the Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods program.

This has helped with things like permitting new types of accessory housing, including garden suites (as council discussed recently) and coach housing. However, much more work is still needed.

Addressing the missing middle in Toronto will require a comprehensive and widespread approach.

It will mean convincing residents in quiet, low-density neighbourhoods that more housing options and more density is good for the whole community. It will require more flexibility from the approval system to allow innovation and creativity to flourish.

Addressing the missing middle will not happen overnight, but if we can take hints and lessons from other cities, then maybe solutions will be a little bolder and come a little faster.

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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