ReHousing Collectives: Strategies for Retrofitting Single-Family Neighborhoods into Multi-Family Co-Housing

URD1502H S
Instructors: Michael Piper
Meeting Section: LEC0101
Thursdays, 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM

New housing construction tends to be expensive and extractive. With affordability and environmental crises underway, one has to wonder why we don’t make better use of our existing housing stock and urban land.

This course will explore strategies of ReHousing, or, repurposing existing single-family buildings as dignified co-housing. Toronto is planning to pass zoning reforms that will allow up to five units of housing on all existing single-family lots. It is already legal to build three. The city’s political and financial systems support the creation of new buildings and imagery created by designers often showcases refined materials associated with new construction. As an alternative, we will explore design techniques, policy frameworks, and financial systems that enable and encourage the retrofit of existing single family housing stocks.

This course is offered in a workshop format where students are asked to work collaboratively to address a “real-world” condition being addressed by the course partner: Circle Community Land Trust (CCLT). CCLT manages 550+ subsidized single-family homes that were transferred to them by Toronto Community Housing TCH. They are interested in exploring the possibility of renovating these single-family homes into multi-family (or multiplex) housing. Students will be asked to work with CCLT to develop a renovation strategy to create this new housing.

There will be three main groups of work.

The course Multi-Disciplinary Urban Project, offered in partnership with the School of Cities, that brings together design, planning, urban innovation, real estate, and other disciplines. Students will work in groups to study three main topics:

1) Design: Students are asked to develop a guidebook/framework for renovating single family homes into multiplex housing. This will include thinking through cost effective and environmentally balanced approaches. The result will be an interactive website that systematizes renovation processes and connects it to construction methods and costing.

2) Outreach and Engagement: Students are asked to interview current tenants of CCLT and focus on their current household make-up, what they are hoping and planning for the future, and their willingness to different the idea of co-housing.

3) Policy, Finance, Environment: Students are asked to analyze cost, financing, and approvals for retrofit processes. In parallel, they will be asked to build an environmental argument for the idea of home retrofits or ReHousing, studying how embodied carbon can be reduced in cities by re-using homes as housing.

Students can select from the above topics and will be organized into working groups. A typical class session will provide time for groups to meet and work with weekly review by the course instructor. Students will be asked to give presentations to the whole class about their research in order to sponsor cross-disciplinary discussions. There will be regular engagement with CCLT and a few guest lectures by city officials, co-housing advocates and architects working on related issues.

A deliverable for the course will be a website, or some other form of sharable content, that outlines renovation strategies to be shared with CCLT and disseminated to a range of other housing providers.