R-Hauz Uses Housing-as-a-Product to Solve for Toronto’s Missing Middle
As the past Founder and Principal of Altus Group, Michael Barker is a seasoned expert with over 30 years of experience in construction and development. His extensive experience in data and risk management enables him to navigate high-density environments and drive value across all of his projects. Drawn toward the “missing middle” in the GTA, Michael co-created R-Hauz Solutions Inc. with Leith Moore, Tye Farrow and R-LABS to self-solve the market’s housing needs and empower urban property owners.
In the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), average-income households are faced with the problem of the “missing middle”; a significant shortage of housing options that fall between high-rise condominiums and semi-detached homes. So we asked ourselves why there isn’t a rental product or housing product for someone making a decent wage? In contrast to “affordable housing” for lower-income households, our goal was to create essential housing throughout Toronto.
In Europe, my colleague, Leith Moore, found a six-story product that fit along the downtown areas on very narrow lots – as small as 20 feet wide. This got him thinking about how this product could fit within Toronto’s midrise guidelines along the avenues and the recent approval for laneway homes. With 300 kilometres of laneways in the city and room for about 30,000 six-story townhouse products along the avenues, our strategy could allow more than half a million people to live in Toronto’s existing neighbourhoods without requiring the city to build new infrastructure or transit.
We also wanted to consider how we could better use the available space and improve construction. If you take a piece of land along the main streets right now, it’s 20-feet wide and about 120-feet deep. A typical developer will buy 10 or 20 properties and then design a midrise condominium that fills the entire space. Our V6 product only uses about 55 feet of the lot depth which minimizes the impact on the neighbourhoods and allows for some parking and a rear yard. In addition, both the V2 and V6 products are constructed offsite which means we’re able to get permits, demo existing structures, construct the new home and move people in all within one year.
The R-Hauz products offer a number of different opportunities for families, small business owners, governments and investors – such as distributed housing for seniors or co-living for recent graduates. The essence of these products is to take an underutilized property that’s functionally obsolete and empower property owners to self-solve their own real estate problems for a fraction of the cost. With our first four products being constructed on Queen west of Coxwell, we’re excited to see how this new approach to midrise living will take hold and evolve to meet the needs of our communities across the GTA.