If anything, the gap between low-rise and high-rise – the so-called “missing middle” – is an indication of a top heavy market, wherein a relatively small number of developers, who are able to access financing for larger developments, have far more sway than smaller, more locally rooted, developers.
Funding and other tools, including target permitting changes, should be made available to help those seeking to build mid-rise developments, those who want to do the type of construction that mirrors what Barrie’s intensification guidelines set out.
The missing middle, in other words, is more about livability maximization than profit maximization.
In most of the discourse surrounding housing and affordability in Ontario, let alone Canada, much of the emphasis is on built form, with proponents arguing in favour of increased density, calling those who oppose high-rises in their neighbourhoods NIMBYs, short for “not in my backyard”, framed as a pejorative.
Those who want to keep their neighbourhood the same are, thus, against more affordable housing, and, as a recent article by a prominent planner argues, consequently also blocking progress towards a more just society.
What accusations of NIMBYism fail to adequately address, however, is a history of planning and development that has created a certain type of community. This is a community that has certain characteristics that also acts as barriers to change, and in particular to the type of change advocated by proponents of increased density. Large-scale planned development, whether horizontal or vertical, is extremely difficult to change, it is brittle in many respects, and the sociality of those inhabiting it reflects this.
It should surprise no one, then, that a built form based on single home ownership, wherein that home is the primary means of economic security and those inhabiting it see themselves mirrored in those around them, that this is a form resistant to change. What is it that the people inhabiting these spaces care for? How to conceive of and experience their ‘backyard”? What shapes and constrains a community, in other words, and how do we help an established community feel confident and safe about becoming something very different?