Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Why is Montréal so much more affordable than Toronto and Vancouver?

So, many people have heard about the million-dollar homes in Vancouver and Toronto. Many economists are talking of an housing bubble in Canada, and that it should pop anytime soon. However, the situations of Vancouver and Toronto are quite exceptional. Montréal on the other hand still has a balanced and stable housing market, with much more affordable prices. The average house price in Montréal is 325 000$, versus nearly 600 000$ in Toronto and over 800 000$ in Vancouver.

The website Numbeo which allows to compare cost of living between world cities largely concurs:
Montréal is the left column, Toronto is the right column, housing is around 50 to 65% more expensive in Toronto

Montréal is the left column, Vancouver is the right column, housing is about 60 to 100% more expensive in Vancouver
So why is Montréal so affordable versus the two other big Canadian cities? I have my own idea on this.

First of all, here is an idea I don't share: "Montréal is cheaper because it is much poorer". That is not all that correct. Yes, if you look at the average, people in Montréal are poorer, but at the same time, Statistics Canada says that the median family income in Montréal is essentially the same as in Toronto and Vancouver. Montréal has less rich people though, and the population is overall older, so more retirees with lower income, so the average is lower, but when looking at families with couples both in working age, overall Montréal isn't poorer.

Factor 1: less demand

It is a simple fact that Vancouver and Toronto are growing faster than Montréal and are bigger draws on population than Montréal. Much of it may be because of the cultural and linguistic status of Montréal which is a French-speaking city (with a significant English-speaking minority), and so always a bit more isolated from the rest of North America. It is also the fact that Europe is stagnant while Asia is growing, so the West Coast of North America, which deals directly with Asia, performs better economically than the East Coast.

However, this impact shouldn't be overstated. Yes, Montréal isn't growing as fast, it doesn't mean that it isn't growing at all. According to official statistics, Montréal's metro area grew by 1,2% per year between 2011 and 2014, versus 1,6% for Toronto and 1,3% for Vancouver. A bit further back, between 2006 and 2011, both Toronto and Vancouver grew at a rate of 1,8% per year versus 1,0% for Montréal. For a worldwide comparison, Montréal is growing at roughly the same pace as London and Los Angeles, and faster than Paris, New York and Chicago. 

However, it is important to note that neither Toronto nor Vancouver are the fastest growing big cities in Canada, both Calgary and Edmonton have grown faster in recent years. Furthermore, these cities are also much richer, being submerged by oil money. Nevertheless, neither is anywhere near as expensive as Vancouver in terms of housing costs. If housing demand and wealth were the dominant factors, then they would have much more expensive housing, that is clearly not the case.

So, lower demand is a factor, but not as much as one would think, Montréal is also growing, albeit at a slower rate, and faster-growing cities do not exhibit higher housing prices than Toronto and Vancouver.

Factor 2: geographical constraints

The cost of land is crucial in determining the cost of housing. All types of housing "consume" land, and the price of the land will be part of the price of the housing. The value of land is also the result of supply and demand, if there is a shortage of land, then land prices will increase, pulling up the value of housing, especially land-intensive low-density housing. In a metropolitan area, in general, land nearest to downtown is more expensive, because it is more desirable. People who live in a metropolitan area want to access the services and opportunities it offers, and for that, they have to live at a reasonable distance from concentrations of such, and the biggest concentration is downtown.

Montréal's downtown area is located on an island, which itself is on a river, but the island is well-equipped in terms of bridges and roads, with some commuter rail too. As a result, it is able to "sprawl" in every direction, and once passed the river, we are in flatlands, perfect for development. Let's use an arbitrary number and talk of a 20-km radius around downtown for the most desirable land.
Downtown is the blue circle, areas in red cannot be developed as they are waterways, Indian reserves or else
Most of the area in close proximity to the downtown area is thus liable to be developed.

Now, let's look at Toronto:
Toronto's 20-km radius
Toronto's downtown is located right next to Lake Ontario. As a result, it cannot grow to the southeast, depriving it of nearly half the area within 20 km of downtown.

Now, let's look at Vancouver:
Vancouver's 20-km radius
Vancouver is even worse off. The downtown area is located on a small peninsula. To the West, the Ocean, to the North and North-East, mountains. Vancouver residents are proud of the sights they have, of being a "sea to sky" city, but in terms of urban development economics, it's absolutely terrible.

So as lands in proximity to downtown are rarer in both Toronto and Vancouver, it should be expected that land prices would be much higher as supply is constrained, especially as populations grow. Now, you can compensate by using higher density, less land-intensive housing, but here, we come to the next point...

Factor 3: housing supply and typology, both existing and new constructions

First of all, in terms of housing supply, all metro areas manage to build enough housing for the growth in population... of course, housing shortages can restrain population growth by forcing people to go elsewhere for affordable housing, but people can squeeze by through sharing apartments and the like before they have to leave.

Anyway, the 2011 census provides both the number of private dwelling units and the number of dwelling units presently occupied by permanent residents. This isn't perfect evidence, but it can provide a hint of the vacancy rate of housing.
Share of private dwellings occupied by permanent residents, be careful, the graph doesn't start at 0 in order to illustrate differences better
So there doesn't seem to be an oversupply of vacant housing in Montréal versus Toronto and Vancouver, though pied-à-terre are more common in the last two.

As to comparing population and housing growth between the 2006 and 2011 censuses, here is the data, first for each city, then for the entire metro areas:


Rate of growth of population and housing in the core city, for all 5 years (not annual rate)


Rate of growth of population and housing in the metro areas, for all 5 years
So it's interesting to see that Toronto is building very fast, at a rate outpacing population growth quite a bit. Montréal sees a lot less construction, but still builds a bit more than population growth. Vancouver is a more sensitive case, with population outpacing housing growth a tad. If anything, Vancouver does seem to show a city where population growth is truly constrained by housing, whereas it doesn't seem to be necessarily the case in Toronto.

Maybe the problem is not so much quantitative than "qualitative", meaning not just the number of housing built, but also the type of housing. As I've said many times, the higher the building, the more expensive the square foot to build. So low-rises are cheaper to build than mid-rises, which are cheaper to build than high-rises, for a similar unit size. Likewise, higher densities and less land use result in cheaper prices. So, following those informations, we can imagine that a graph of density versus unit cost of housing types would probably look a bit like this:
Housing typology by density and cost per unit
SFD: Single-Family Detached
SFSD: Single-Family-Semi-Detached, smaller units and land consumption results in lower prices
SFRH: Single-Family RowHouses
LRA: Low-Rise Apartments
MRA: Mid-Rise Apartments
HRA: High-Rise Apartments

Of course, this goes by North American conventions (single-family detached can be very dense and small in Asia or Mexico, but rare over here) and is variable with land prices. I already spoke of the different housing typologies of the different cities in another post. Here are the graphs for a refresher:
Percentage of housing units per type in the main city

Percentage of housing units per type in the metropolitan regions
Percentage of housing units per type in the suburbs only
So again, Montréal has a great amount of low-rise apartments, the type of housing that is most affordable and yields decent density, Toronto is a city of extremes, with plenty of single-family housing and high-rise apartments, but little in between (the "missing middle" housing options, thanks to LetsgoLA for referring to that website). Vancouver is more balanced, with a particularity of a great number of low-rise apartments in its suburbs.

But, I'm going to push the analysis a step further here. Existing stock is all fine and well, but I think the price of NEW housing is much more influential. The market for housing is just the market of units for sale, not all existing units, as most people are not looking to sell their homes or properties. As a result, since all new constructions are for sale but only a small proportion of older units are, the impact of new constructions on the housing market is vastly disproportional to their proportion relative to the total amount of units. For example, if I have the right data, the census says that on average, Toronto has built 37 000 units per year between 2006 and 2011, and the real estate association speaks of only on average about 85 000 real estate transactions per year. So though the new constructions are only 1,9% of the housing stock each year, they represent about 45% of real estate transactions if we assume new constructions are sold the year they are built.

I have already spoken of my belief that what limits the value of current housing is the cost of the alternative of building new housing (1, 2, 3, wow, I need to stop repeating myself). If new housing is very expensive to build, then it won't directly lower housing prices of the existing stock, it may do some filtering, but only if housing grows much faster than population. If prices ever fall and new housing is expensive to build, then construction will stop dead in its track until prices increase again.

So let's see what kind of housing each city is adding:
Typology of new constructions for core cities
Here is the data only for the core city. What is glaring here is that neither Toronto nor Vancouver are adding low-rise apartments in any kind of amount. Vancouver is adding quite a bit of duplex units... but these look like duplex conversions as Vancouver has lost nearly a thousand single-family detached homes over the 5-year period and gained about 3 000 duplex units (for a net increase of only about 2 000 units). Almost all of Toronto's and Vancouver's housing growth comes from high-rises... the most expensive housing option per square foot! Meanwhile, Montréal is still adding quite a bit of low-rise apartments, which are the cheapest housing option, if it's possible to build.

Now, let's look at the entire metro area:
Typology of new constructions for entire metro area
Here, we can see that both Montréal and Toronto keep building plenty of detached single-family homes in suburbs, but Vancouver isn't. In a context of high land prices, single-family detached homes can be supremely expensive, but the new units are built far from the center for the most part, and so can be relatively affordable. Again, apartments with more than 4 stories are massively being built in both Toronto and Vancouver, and they are very expensive per square foot. In fact, Montréal is building more low-rise apartments than Toronto and Vancouver together, despite a smaller rate of construction and half as much people as Toronto and Vancouver together.

Finally, let's look at suburbs alone:
Typology of new constructions for suburbs
Even in the suburbs of Montréal, low-rise apartments are being built in great number. In some close suburbs, like Longueuil and my home suburb of Boucherville, low-rise apartments have been over 60% of new units built. Meanwhile, Toronto suburb are still single-family land, with three quarters of new constructions being various types of single-family houses, and most apartments are high-rises or mid-rises. Vancouver's suburbs are very varied in their constructions, from what I see from real estate sites, it seems to me that where low-rise apartments are built, they tend to drag prices down around them, even for high-rise apartments, but that is hard to show.

So, what does this mean?

Well, if I'm correct and the construction cost of new housing is what imposes a "ceiling" on the price of existing homes, then it is to be expected for prices in Vancouver and Toronto to stay quite high, as their new constructions are almost only high-rise apartments, which are extremely expensive to build (though they still help slow the growth of prices). Much of the rest of the existing housing stock is detached or semi-detached houses, and in a context of severe land shortages, these become extremely expensive because they consume a lot of land.

Montréal may be showing another way here for affordability, with the typical and traditional emphasis of housing on low-rise apartments of 3 or 4 stories. This is a type of housing that is quite affordable to build and can reach decent density levels even in suburban areas with 2 parking spots per unit required, and quite high density levels in cities. These are being built even in suburbs, offering entry-level homes for 200 000$ for decently sized units (1 000 square feet or so), which helps draw pressure away from both single-family homes and apartments by cannibalizing the entry-level market of the first and the top-level market of the latter.

So, in other words, this is what affordable housing looks like:

In an urban setting, with low parking requirements, these achieve about 150 units per hectare, or 60 units per acre, with just 3 stories (plus the basement)
Also in an urban area
This is in a farther suburb, density of around 50 unites per hectare, or 20 per acre, but each unit is about 1 000 square foot in size and accommodates 2 or 3 bedrooms

Another case of suburban low-rise apartments that provide adequate size for an affordable price

This is in Longueuil, and a suburban area too, they have huge parking lots behind them, so density is only about 60-80 units per hectare (24-32 per acre)

Last example of suburban low-rise apartments, these can be had for about 190 000$ according to real estate listings
 On the other hand, these...
 ...and these...
... and these...
...are certainly dense and contribute to walkability and urbanism, but they're not particularly cheap to build, and thus not particularly affordable to buy. It would be one thing if Toronto and Vancouver already had maxed out their core area and suburbs with low-rise apartments and row houses and that the only way to add units would be to reach for the sky, but that is far from the case, most of their core cities are covered by low-density single-family housing. Montréal has the advantage that zoning in most of the city, if it's not keen on high-rises, will at least typically allow low-rise apartments, and urban planners in the suburbs are open to the idea of allowing plenty of low-rise condos (and pressured to).

I'm not saying that building high-rises is bad, not at all. Better for richer people to pay premium prices to live in high-rise, ultra-high-density housing than for them to compete with the middle-class for lower-density housing, pushing their prices up. The problem is not building high-rises, the problem is the lack of low-rise and mid-rise construction in Toronto and Vancouver, especially near the downtown core.

Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that the low-rise condos of the Montréal metro area are perfect, far from it. I've pointed out before they are often built in unwalkable areas, or areas with poor walking environments and that Montréal should be more open to the idea of allowing more TOD around subway stations and mid-rise and high-rise in existing low-rise areas. Still, as far as housing affordability goes, I think Montréal's approach is much more effective, because the housing that is built is cheaper to build and still gets great density.

Conclusion

So, anyway, that is my take on which Toronto and Vancouver are so expensive, while Montréal remains affordable. Toronto and Vancouver both are cursed with badly located downtowns that can only sprawl in a few directions, which exacerbates land shortages, and both cities are attempting to satisfy the housing demand almost exclusively with high-cost high-rise constructions, which may help keep price increases under check but cannot directly lower housing prices, not unless there is major overbuilding leading to massive filtering. What they need to do is embrace low-rise and mid-rise apartments and upzone their core areas for it.

13 comments:

  1. I'm wondering how much of the big price difference these factors would explain. In particular, is there information available to quantify your price vs density vs type of building graph?

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    1. Well, I think density is quite evident, as to price, I can refer to my earlier blog post:
      http://urbankchoze.blogspot.com/2014/04/fear-of-heights-absent-zoning-would-all.html

      In that post, I used real estate listings for low-rise condos and a borderline high-rise condo building (14-story) to compare price per square foot. These condos were located within a few hundred meters of each other and built within a few years of each other, minimizing differences due to location and land value. The result was that the high-rise cost 100$ more per square foot than the low-rise condos.

      This is also something I have read in quite a few places, for instance, in this article:
      http://www.ladowntownnews.com/news/is-downtown-s-low-rise-building-spree-hurting-the-community/article_0e5f97ec-eb52-11e2-a694-0019bb2963f4.html
      there is this quote "Type-three low-rises cost about $200 per rentable square foot to build. Steel-frame high-rises, depending on the size and design, cost anywhere from $80 to $300 more per square foot, according to multiple developers with experience in both construction types."

      The reason for this is that low-rises can easily be built with wooden frame, high-rises are more complicated to design to resist earthquakes and their own weight, as a result, they often require steel frames and concrete, which is far more expensive to build. They also require elevators, whereas low-rises can often make do with stairs. Theoretically, if land gets really, really expensive, high-rises may start being more affordable than low-rises.

      For the low-rise housing options, meaning detached homes to low-rise apartments, prices decline as density increases simply because unit size decreases and each unit "consumes" less land. I think it is pretty self-evident.

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    2. I've always felt the reason a high-rise gets built on a given piece of land is largely because it's expensive enough that building low rise apartments or SFHs costs more due to the lower density.

      I guess there are other factors. Highrises have better views. Apartments are generally able to deliver smaller units. Many people value yards and having their own front door. Some might prefer a smaller building. However, I think land prices are the biggest factor.

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  2. A few small points

    -20 units per acre for low rise apartments of 1000sf is not that dense. New SFHs in suburban Toronto are usually on 3000-4500sf lots these days, and 2000sf would be on the small side for the size of the house. So FSI would be similar. The next question is how do household sizes compare... I think they are generally pretty high in these neighbourhoods, around 3.5-4.0.
    -I wouldn't be surprised if new homes have an even more significant effect on the market. You've assumed a new home only changes hands once in the last 5 years... in my experience they often change hands more frequently than older homes and could easily change hands a second or third time in those 5 years.
    -I wonder how different things will look for the next census period. I think Toronto has shifted even more towards high-rise apartments. Lowrise construction might have gone up somewhat, I think there's a fair bit being built in Milton for instance, although other areas like Brampton are still mostly building SFHs.
    -why do you think Montreal suburbs are more open/pressured to build low rise apartments? In the city, I can see it, building 3-4 storey apartments in a neighbourhood of 2-3 storey apartments seems like less of a change than building them in a neighbourhood of 2-3 houses and row houses.
    -I wonder how cheap high-rises can be built if the land is cheap? They were being built in very large quantities in Toronto in the 60s/70s, and housing back then was much less expensive. They were even built in many small (presumably cheaper) cities, including some very small ones. They're continuing to be built in some lower cost cities, notably all the tower-in-the-park developments in London (see Drewlo, rents are all <$1.50/sf and typically <$1.20/sf which is pretty low).

    Also it could be interesting to compare Montreal to cities with similar development patterns/zoning to Toronto but growth rates more like Montreal. For instance, London, Winnipeg or Hamilton. Admittedly those are quite a bit smaller cities, so maybe use Quebec City if it has sufficiently similar development patterns to Montreal?

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    1. Indeed, it's not that dense, I blame the minimum parking requirements. But it's still nearly 3 times as dense as the single-family homes of Toronto suburbs, which have only about 8 units per acre once you account for roads and sidewalks. The FAR (or FSI) can be roughly similar, but the advantage of apartments is that they can be smaller. A 0,6 FAR single-family house on a 4 000-sf lot offers the same density as a 0,3 FAR single-family house on the same 4 000-sf lot, whereas a 0,6 FAR apartment building can have twice the number of units as a 0,3 FAR apartment building.

      Some of it can be compensated by the number of occupants, but not all of it. Households have just one or two income-earners, the ability to buy smaller, more affordable units shouldn't be discounted. People won't have more kids just to make the purchase of a big house worthwhile. If this smaller option is more affordable, then it makes houses have to compete with them, if I can buy a 1 000-sf low-rise condo for 200 000$ in a suburb or a 400 000$ house, I may think the house is a bit expensive... if I have no low-rise condo option but have a 300 000$ high-rise condo option, the house may not seem so expensive anymore.

      I think suburbs are more open to low-rise development for cultural reasons. Low-rise apartments are common in almost all Québec cities, big and small. Even 40 000-people town often have a third of people living in apartments and duplexes. Nearly 40% of people in Québec live in multi-family housing, more than in France or Japan, so there is less stigma about it. Also, almost all cities are limited by agricultural lands protected from development by law of the provincial government. To get the province to re-zone agricultural lands, cities often have to promise higher density developments.

      Older buildings may be depreciated, so they can be cheaper than their construction costs, especially if major maintenance have resulted in massive maintenance fees of 400 or 500$ per month. There may also have been subsidies to build more affordable housing. Sometimes, they will compensate the higher costs by smaller units, for instance, having 700-sf units rather than 1 000-sf. You can still have two bedrooms, but they will be squeezed more. Longueuil and Laval have also built high-rises near their respective subway stations, for about 250-300$ per square foot. But I've yet to see new high-rises retail for less than that, whereas I've seen new low-rises retail for as low as 170-180$ per square foot.

      Québec City does look like Montréal too in terms of development pattern, with 31% of new units being low-rise apartments, versus 35% in Montréal. Québec City is also growing fast, It grew 9,5% in population between 2006 and 2011, about the same rate as Toronto and Vancouver! (Though from a lower base).

      I'm not sure London would be a good comparison. The thing is, London is stagnating and has plenty of room to sprawl. Single-family homes can be very inexpensive if land is inexpensive, and you can have filtering if population growth is low enough, where houses built 30 or 40 years ago are worth a fraction of what new houses cost. I think this is the case in London, population grew only by 17 000 people, but 8 100 SFD houses were built. At an average occupation of 3 per house (typical in Ontario), that means that these new houses could house nearly 25 000 more people, that means that to be filled, they need to cannibalize current housing (and indeed, the number of occupied low-rise apartments and duplexes is collapsing in London, either they're tearing them down or they're vacant).

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    2. Oops, Québec is actually growing at a rate of 6,5%, not 9,5% like I initially thought (I made a mistake of looking at Québec City's suburbs and not the CMA as a whole for population.... everything else is accurate though)

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    3. It's true that vacancy rates in London's CMA are relatively high and rising. 6.66% in 2006 and 7.67% in 2011. They've also gone up in Winnipeg's CMA though they're still low, from 3.48% in 2006 to 4.42%. The economy in Winnipeg seems to be improving, but it still has plenty of room to sprawl.

      In Hamilton, vacancy rates have gone down from 4.61% to 4.07%. The increase in occupied homes was 15,721 vs a 28,142 increase in population, so that means household sizes have been decrease. From a quick look, housing costs seem similar to Quebec City, maybe apartments are cheaper in Hamilton, and SFH a bit more expensive, at least outside the core. Hamilton's CMA has been building few apartments, but quite a bit of row houses, not as many new row houses as new SFHs, but row houses as a percentage of new homes in Hamilton might be the highest in the country.

      Vacancy rates have also gone down in Toronto, from 4.93% to 4.32%.
      Meanwhile they've gone up in Montreal, from 4.26% to 4.89%.
      And stayed about the same in Vancouver, going from 6.20% to 6.13%.

      So for some reason, household sizes are decreasing faster in Toronto and Hamilton than in Montreal and Vancouver.

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  4. There are so many excellent points in this post -- they really should be shouted from the rooftops. Specifically addressing the point about the effect of new construction on the cost of existing homes and NickD's follow-up point, in the US as a whole, houses/units built from 2000-2013 are 15% of the total housing stock, but 18% of all listings. Is this possibly because new and new-ish units are more likely to be for-sale than the overall housing stock? I've seen at least one study (can't find it now) that confirms the intuition that housing units are increasingly likely to pass into the rental market as they age. So the price effect of new housing seems to ripple outwards as those units are re-sold, particularly given that the highest rate of depreciation for a house occurs in its first ten years of existence (analogous to the effect of driving a new car off the lot).

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    1. I didn't think about rental housing, although that could be true. I was mostly referring to the fact that new home buyers are often speculating on price appreciation and put the home back on the market within a couple years of buying. That's just anecdotal from tear down homes in my parents' neighbourhood, although I think it's also happening with the condo market. Not sure if that's also true for new greenfield SFHs.

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  5. I appreciate many parts of this analysis but at the end I think you have cause-and-effect mixed up a bit.

    Low-rise units don't cause affordability -- instead, it seems to be the case that low-rise units can affordably be built in Montreal.

    The land on which those expensive high-rise apartments is being built in Toronto and Vancouver ... it wouldn't suddenly become affordable if they had chosen to use cheaper construction methods. The land itself is too valuable to support affordable low-rise construction. If such a building were built, then each unit would be multi-million dollar cost (CAD or USD).

    The real secret to affordable housing is picking locations with cheap land and building sufficient density cheaply on them. So yes, low-rise apartments in locations with a cool real estate market. Or inventing a time-machine to go back and build low-rise apartments in locations before they become hot.

    The problem with picking locations with cheap land is that there's no incentive to fight the evil snob zoning laws that prohibit apartment or multifamily construction. Since so much of our land has been liberally drowned with anti-city, anti-multifamily, anti-diversity zoning, it takes a lot of effort (and money) to fight the NIMBYs. And building affordable housing just doesn't generate enough revenue to fight the snobs in court.

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    1. Thank you for your comment.

      I think you are partly right. Surely, if Toronto planners decided to cap building height and build low-rises only where they now allow high-rises, it would be a disaster and housing would be even more expensive, because they cannot build in those few areas enough units in low-rise buildings to satisfy demand.

      But land prices are affected by regulations. If land is so expensive in Toronto, it's not because there is so little of it, it's because there is so little of it ON WHICH DEVELOPMENT IS ALLOWED. In other words, if in one stroke of a pen they allowed the replacement of single-family homes by low-rise or mid-rise buildings across most of Toronto, it would create a glut of land where development and increased density is allowed. This would significantly reduce the value of land in Toronto, at least the land for these purposes.

      They could still also allow it in suburbs, where land is much cheaper. It wouldn't be great, but it would offer affordable housing options.

      Of course, you can point out the unlikelihood of such reform passing, but I'm not making a political case here, I'm saying what Toronto and Vancouver, IF they really cared about affordability, could do to restore it.

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    2. It would be interesting to collect data on how much of an effect zoning has.

      Ex, this is a SFH that's zoned for high-rise development by the Bayview Subway station.
      http://www.realtor.ca/propertyDetails.aspx?PropertyId=15050063
      Selling for $23m/acre, "land value only", similar to how much adjacent Bayview Mall sold for.
      Another, on sale for $28m/acre.
      http://www.realtor.ca/propertyDetails.aspx?PropertyId=15571531

      This is a set of 6 properties nearby, zoned for up to stacked townhouse density (so still denser than nearby SFH zoned land) going for $20m/acre.
      http://www.realtor.ca/propertyDetails.aspx?PropertyId=15570425

      SFH zoned properties are worth about $8m/acre at comparably good locations if they're older bungalows, maybe around $12m/acre for larger homes. For new houses built to the max size for the lot size, it seems to be about $20m/acre, however the high-rise zoned properties had more modest homes so not really comparable. It seems like about a $10-15m/acre difference that can be attributed to zoning.

      And this is for the central North York area, which is relatively desirable but far from the most desirable part of the city. For the midtown and downtown neighbourhoods the difference is probably even bigger.

      I would say that lower density homes (relative to the neighbourhood - i.e. most likely building lots if intensification were allowed) are worth about $30m/acre in the downtown area, and $50m/acre vs $15m/acre a bit further out in the row house type neighbourhoods and the more desirable parts of North Toronto, and down to about $6m-$10m/acre for the more SFH dominated streetcar suburbs, down to about $4m-$6m/acre for bungalows in 50s-60s suburbs and about $1m/acre for greenfield SFH zoned land.

      I don't have an as good feel for what high-rise zoned properties are worth, but they've gone for over $100m/acre for low rise/parking lot type development properties in parts of downtown. Not sure how fast that drops down to the $25m/acre of North York, nor how much further it drops for more auto-oriented outer suburban locations.

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