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Insider: Can the city convert enough offices to homes to ease the housing crisis?

It's proposed as a way to ease the housing crisis, but is converting offices viable?

Good day!

Welcome to a new year of the City Hall Insider. Funnily enough, with the full council still on its winter break, there isn’t much in the way of city hall in this week’s newsletter. But we do take a look at commercial real estate downtown, and the feasibility of doing something different.

I’d started writing about downtown and what to do with the empty office space, when a press release landed in my inbox, saying a local task force about this issue planned to release its findings on Thursday. 

Rather than put out an Insider that was maybe about to be superseded, we decided to hold off a day for this edition. So, here it is, your second Lookout on a Friday.

Before we get started, I’d like to once again say a heartfelt thanks to all the new members who joined in our latest round of fundraising. Thank you so much for making this little project such a success. It’s always incredible to see the positive response from the readership, and meeting our fundraising goals always blows me away.

Now, let’s get to it.

— Robert Hiltz, managing editor

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Is building homes in empty office towers the way to fix downtown?

What happened: Compared to other cities in the country, the return to office rate in the city is much lower. This has led to all sorts of difficulties — hello transit budget — but the vacant office space downtown offers both a problem, and an opportunity. 

The latest figures show the city’s commercial vacancy rate has dropped to 12.2 percent last quarter, according to a recent report by the real estate firm Colliers. That’s down about half a percentage point from the previous quarter. Downtown, the rate dropped about one percentage point to 11.2 percent.

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