Toronto's High-Rise Boom Could Mean End of Sprawl

Toronto is swimming in high-rise construction, with the second highest rate in the world. Some say this shift to the urban core spells the end of sprawl in Toronto.

"Talk about a green shift: For the first time in generations, developers are now building as much housing inside city limits as they are in outlying suburbs. The result of surging condominium construction coupled with a steady decline in green-fields housing starts, the new balance suggests strongly that the age of sprawl in Toronto has passed."

"One thing is certain: There is no end to high-rise construction in the central city. Record sales from 2007 have turned into record construction this year, with 11,200 new units started in the first seven months of 2008 - more than the total number of housing starts in all 2007."

"There are 99 high-rise buildings under construction in Toronto, according to, a website that tracks buildings worldwide, which ranks it second among North American cities to New York City, with 179."

"On a per capita basis, however, there is currently twice as much high-rise construction in Toronto as there is in New York. On an absolute basis, no other U.S. city is comparable. Chicago has 54 high-rises under construction, Boston has 14 and Atlanta 19."

Full Story: Condo boom helps drop curtain on the age of sprawl



Why this belief that condos reduce sprawl?

I find this type of story puzzling. What evidence is there that high-rise condos reduce sprawl? Most of the evidence I've seen is for the opposite effect if any. The difference in land between building 99 highrises and building or redeveloping ground-oriented apartments with the same capacity is a few dozen acres at best. That's not enough land to make the slightest difference in the supply of land for family housing. And how many of the families who are considering houses outside the urban boundary that contribute to sprawl would consider moving to a downtown condo instead? These are separate populations and I doubt that the supply of condos has any effect on the demand for family homes. As to the trend of replacing older family housing near the core with dense apartments, it seems more likely to decrease the supply and increase the demand for family housing elsewhere. The general trend in North America and elsewhere is that cities with dense cores sprawl most and continue sprawling.

Nothing wrong with condos, but they have no positive effect on sprawl that I've seen.

Michael Lewyn's picture

Depends on the alternative

The issue of whether "condos reduce sprawl" depends on the alternative. Compared to the acres of parking lots that dominate most American downtowns, quite a bit. Compared to equally dense rowhouses, not so much.

By the way, the notion that "cities with dense cores sprawl most and continue sprawling" strikes me as kind of odd. Do you really think that NYC (very dense core) sprawls more than Buffalo (weak downtown) or Jacksonville (ditto)? If so, your definition of sprawl must be highly idiosyncratic.

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