Thursday, June 19, 2008

Study Finds Acceptance of Sustainable Housing Forms

June 18, 2008
Study Finds Acceptance of Sustainable Housing Forms
A unique study has found a high degree of flexibility in what residents in the Greater Toronto Area would or could accept as their type of residence. The results suggest a much greater opportunity for suburban municipalities to accommodate new urban growth in a compact and sustainable manner, according to a new study by the Sustainable Urban Development Association (SUDA).

SUDA, in collaboration with the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University, released The Housing Alternatives Acceptability Study (HAAS) about the acceptability of a variety of housing choices. In particular, the study found a relatively high level of acceptance of compact housing forms such as townhouses and condominium apartments. Among some of the findings:

· About half of respondents considered living in a townhouse as "acceptable" or "may be acceptable". Higher levels of acceptability were found for townhouses with large private backyards compared to townhouses without.
· Slightly more than half of respondents would accept or may accept living in a semidetached home.
· Almost three quarters would accept or may accept living in a medium-value single detached home.
· Only 32% of respondents considered owning a single-or semi-detached home as a "must have".
· 51.6% of respondents would accept or could accept living in a large condominium
apartment; this percentage held true for all household sizes. Acceptability was strong for both respondents living in Toronto, and for those in other GTA municipalities.
· Low-rise apartment living is preferred to high-rise living by a wide margin.

Because growth in municipalities in the region will be largely by immigration and intra-regional migration, these findings, based on GTA-wide responses, are appropriate for decision-makers throughout the region to consider as they plan for the housing mix in their communities. “These findings open the door to more opportunities for accommodating growth with less reliance on single detached housing as the predominant housing form,” said John Banka, President of SUDA.

“The Greater Toronto Area is growing by close to 100,000 new residents per year. The region cannot afford to continue with business as usual, or with policies and plans that assume "demand" for sprawling subdivisions,” said Banka.

“People buy what’s available, and public decision-makers determine what that will be,” said Banka. “Public officials determine the degree to which growth will add to car-dependent congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, the excessive loss of natural and agricultural land, and exposure to the coming global energy crunch.”

The study also asked about the importance of owning a single detached home. 32% said it is a "must have". The study did not investigate whether this was because the market did not offer other options such as townhouses with backyards, or extra large condominium apartments with facilities for kids. "If the only options you see for your family is a narrow townhouse with no yard, you may be inclined to say ‘must have’ to other choices that are available."

The HAAS also asked questions about the importance of investing in better public transit. 82% of respondents stated that public transit in their area needed some improvement or a great dealof improvement. Moreover, 68% of respondents are willing to pay additional money in order to improve public transit services.

“This is an important finding, as it demonstrates a high level of awareness about the importance of public transit to people. If our cities and towns are to move towards sustainability, transit services must be significantly enhanced, and the willingness of the public to pay for improvements should send a positive message to decision-makers who are struggling with finding money for transit expansion,” said Banka.
Other findings related to housing choices and community:

· An overwhelming 90% of respondents said a healthy and natural environment was either very important or a "must-have".
· 68% said that being able to walk to their daily destinations is either very important or a must-have. “This suggests a great potential for changing the design of new communities to bring employment, shops and services much closer to where people live,” said Banka. “It speaks to the growing need to reduce our dependence on travel by automobile.”
· 32.4% of respondents were concerned enough about energy prices that it would affect their choice of housing ‘very much’. "It is likely that these percentages are even higher today, given that the survey was undertaken in the summer of 2007, when oil and gas prices were significantly lower than they are today," said Banka. "SUDA believes that the combined impacts of future energy costs and energy's detrimental impact on the environment will increase the demand for energy-efficient housing forms such as apartments and attached homes."

Principal investigators of the study were John Stillich, General Manager at SUDA, and Associate Professor Sandeep Kumar Agrawal of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University.

For more information, call John Stillich at 416-400-0553. The entire study is available by clicking here

Sustainable Urban Development Association SUDA
2637 Council Ring Road, Mississauga, Ontario L5L 1S6
Tel: 416-400-0553; Fax: 905-820-8156;; e-mail:

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