To empower citizens to achieve home ownership and create new rental units, this site offers cost-conscious designs to convert typical single-family homes across the Toronto ‘Yellowbelt’ into multiplex housing.

The ‘Yellowbelt’ is a name for the areas of Toronto where legislation only permits construction of single-family houses.

It was coined by urban planner Gil Meslin in 2016, referencing the yellow colour commonly used to designate low-rise residential land use in zoning plans. T
he ‘Yellowbelt’ covers around 50% of the land in the City of Toronto. 

While the area it covers is expansive, the homes within it are quite diverse depending on what part of the city they are located in and when they were built.

As populations grow, cities across North America are looking for ways to add new homes. We believe there is a great opportunity in our existing housing stock to make space for more than one family per house.


Toronto has changed its zoning rules to allow multiplexes citywide. Each single family lot can now have up to five units. The city commissioned the ReHousing team to test new rules. See our contribution here.

Read the City’s full report here.

To show you what this could look like we have developed a

of price-conscious designs for converting the most typical homes in Toronto.

New development will only happen at this scale
if it is affordable...

but affordable can mean different things to different people

We categorized the designs based on the relative cost and scale of construction.

The designs are mindful of future phasing, such that each scale of construction anticipates the next. For instance, interior renovations locate new plumbing to accommodate future additions, and additions are proportioned to maintain enough of a rear yard setback to accommodate future garden suites.

LOW ($)

Interior Renovations, Garage Conversions and/or Basement Suites

Michael Piper, Home Renovation. 2021.


Minor Additions, Laneway Houses or Garden Suites

LGA Architectural Partners, Burley Friedman Laneway House. 2021.

HIGH ($$$):

Major Additions or a Combination of Minor Additions and Garden Suites

Gabriel Fain Architects, Fourplex on Dundas. 2022.

NEW ($$$$):

Demolition of the Existing Building and New Construction of a Multiplex

LGA Architectural Partners, Ulster Condos. 2022.

So who is going to build this?

Traditionally we have relied on for-profit developers to make our housing. This proposed zoning change presents an opportunity for a new kind of not-for-profit developer, one who is driven by the pursuit of affordability and has the potential to produce both flexible and sustainable units:

The Citizen Developer 


The Multi-Generational Household

Older generations provide the bulk of a downpayment, younger generations provide income for a mortgage.
The First Time Home Buyer Group

News outlets report a large number of well-employed people who think they should be able to buy a home but can’t.

The Downsizers

They need to downsize but don’t want to leave their neighborhood. Together, they want to pool their resources to create smaller units within the fabric of their single family neighborhood.

Resident Developers

They own their house and are looking to looking to generate extra income by creating new housing units on their property.

Non-Profit Housing Providers

They develop and/or manage affordable housing. Scattered site housing is a new model which can exist within low-rise neighborhoods.

The Citizen developer is an owner-occupier, who collaborates with others to enable affordability. With the right tools and knowledge, most people can pursue a form of self-initiated co-development.

Development by owner occupants, as opposed to for-profit development, is not only more equitable, it is also a feasible process for making these conversions.

By partnering up and splitting downpayments and mortgages, one can lower cost to individual households. And as owner occupants, they have the ability to make improvements over time, leveraging both their sweat and financial equity.