Abstract: While North American suburbs remain largely dispersed and auto-dependent, they are also increasingly heterogeneous. Although some suburbs have long been punctuated with high-rise developments, for instance rental apartments in the Canadian context, there are now a growing number of new high-rise condominium developments in suburban settings in both the US and Canada. While much is known about downtown high-rise condominium developments, there has of yet been little to no analysis of this trend in the suburbs. We offer such an analysis using Statistics Canada census data from 2016 in the Toronto metropolitan area. We focus on commuting patterns as an indicator of auto-dependence to test whether suburbs with larger shares of new high-rise condominium apartments (high-rise condo clusters) exhibit lower shares of auto commuting. The focus on auto-dependence is important because development and land use plans commonly use environmental concerns arising from heavy automobile use as a rationale for high-rise development. Our findings suggest that in Toronto suburban high-rise condo clusters offer a less auto-intensive way of living in the suburbs than traditionally has been the case in the suburban ownership market. However, this seems to be limited to particular demographic groups, such as smaller households; and suburban high-rise condos are not an evident sign of a broader transition toward suburban sustainability among the population as a whole in the Toronto case. The potential for transitions toward suburban sustainability could be enhanced with greater investments in transit infrastructure and building higher density mid-rise and ground-oriented dwellings that accommodate larger households still commonly found in low-density, auto-dependent suburbs.
Keywords: automobility; condominium; high-rise development; homeownership; suburbs; sustainability; Toronto