• The area around Stouffville’s Main Street and Ninth Line intersection is witnessing significant intensification and growth. Forum, a commercial and residential builder, has presented the latest proposal: a 12-storey residential development at 5991 Main Street.
  • A Public Planning Meeting formally presented the project on November 22, and we first covered the application in our introductory piece.
  • During a presentation by Brandon Simon, an Associate from The Planning Partnership working on behalf of Forum, it was revealed that purpose-built rental units are now being considered over condominiums.
  • Instead of constructing condo units for individual sale, Forum is exploring the option of providing long-term rental apartments. Traditionally, purpose-built rental housing would involve a corporation acting as the landlord for the entire building.
  • To enhance the economic feasibility of delivering this much-needed rental stock, Forum is proposing a limited parking supply and an additional floor—bringing the building height to 13 storeys and adding 11 more dwellings.
  • Although a three-level underground parking structure is included, the application does not meet the Town’s parking requirement of 1.5 parking spaces per unit.
  • Despite stated public desire for at-grade commercial units, Forum remains focused on delivering a publicly accessible co-working space on the ground floor.

Forum’s most recent submission, provided in May, included 130 dwellings within a 12-storey building. One, two, and three-bedroom units were offered, with more two-bedroom than one-bedroom units, plus a parking rate of 1.15 spaces per unit. Simon explained, “All units are significantly larger than what you would typically find in a condo or apartment building.” He noted that they aim to provide functional units meeting a wide range of housing needs instead of “shoehorning as many units as possible into the building.”

However, work is ongoing with Town Staff to update their proposal. “We understand that it is an important Town priority to promote rental tenure as much as possible in terms of the form of development. We’re now looking at options to improve [the economic feasibility] for rental tenure.” Instead of 130 condominium units and 12 storeys, Forum is considering 141 purpose-built rental units within 13 storeys.

Simon explained the use of reduced parking supply as a transportation demand management measure and a means of controlling costs. Each parking space can cost upwards of $120,000, making it crucial for the builder to sell or lease all spaces to ensure they are occupied. This induced demand contributes to additional cars and increased congestion on local roads, which Simon sees as unnecessary given the site’s proximity to local transit.

“There is a strong push at all levels of planning right now to try and prioritize multi-modal transportation…as an alternative to the private automobile,” Simon told Council. “We’re trying to come up with the appropriate parking supply here, balancing different needs and objectives over the long term.” As part of these objectives, reducing parking delivery costs could assist Forum in providing purpose-built rental units over condominiums while maintaining profitability.

Both the Federal and Provincial governments are providing incentives, such as tax breaks, to catalyze greater development of purpose-built rental housing. Simon hopes for additional incentives from the Town and Region, such as Development Charges relief and deferrals, to further increase the economic outlook of providing rental housing.

Mayor Iain Lovatt suggested he would be open to such considerations. Beyond the Main Street Housing York project, this would be just the second new rental housing development in Stouffville. “This is very good news,” Mayor Lovatt said, highlighting a lack of available rentals and  housing challenges and precarity faced by residents due to inflated prices and tax increases. “They want to stay in Stouffville, and they want to age in the community they raised their kids in,” Lovatt proclaimed. “So this is going to provide a great opportunity for people to stay in the community.”

Councillor Rick Upton also applauded the prospect of added rental housing, calling it a “real win.” However, while Simon hinted at the importance of lowering parking provision costs to facilitate the development of purpose-built rentals, Upton stated that reduced parking is one of his “pet peeves.” He focused on the project being upwards of 73 parking spaces short of Town requirements, saying, “To me, that’s the kiss of death.”

While Forum is considering three car share spaces for the building, Upton explained that Stouffville has “very poor transit,” and most people have two cars. He expressed concern that future residents will look to park additional cars in other lots and local streets, shifting the burden of those added vehicles onto existing Stouffville residents. “It’s going to be a nightmare…You have to work that out,” he told Simon. “I know it’s expensive, but that’s the cost of doing business.” Fully meeting the Town’s parking requirements, should engineering limitations allow for a deeper parking garage, could add over $8.5 million in costs.

Upton also highlighted the lack of parkland within the proposal: “We have 130, maybe now 141 units, [and residents] need a park to play in with their kids and walk their dogs.” In Simon’s view, the limited shape and size of the parcel does not allow for the inclusion of a dedicated park. They currently plan to utilize their option to provide cash-in-lieu instead.

Upton noted that Stouffville is facing a significant shortage of parkland as the Town intensifies areas of the community. According to Upton, the cash-in-lieu funding provided by developers as an alternative to including parkland on their lands is not enough to acquire property and build those needed public parks. “We don’t want to be a big cement town with no green,” he added.

Town Staff will continue working with Forum and The Planning Partnership as their proposal evolves, and Council will be deciding on approvals at a future meeting. Additional details, plans, and renderings from Forums May submission can be found here.