How Will the Google Sidewalk Program Affect the Real Estate Market?

by Carson BuckJanuary 29, 2018

Does Google Control the Future of the Housing Market?

Years ago, Google saw that increasing populations and growing cities faced issues dealing with accessible and affordable resources. They began to research ways that technology could help with everyday issues like long commutes and high rent. Thus, Google Sidewalk was born. Dubbed SideWalk Labs and housed under the Alphabet umbrella, the Google Sidewalk program seeks to create a physical place where urban development and innovation can accelerate sustainably.

Google Sidewalk has chosen an area of land on Toronto’s waterfront to put their loose plans into action. They have visions of creating heated pedestrian lanes to melt snow, self-driving buses, and a series of underground channels used to haul away trash, efficiently deliver packages, and aid in the speedy repair of utilities.

But just how realistic is this plan, and how will it affect current and future residents of Toronto? What does this project mean for the future of the real estate market? has set out to answer some of these questions – read on for a deeper look into the Google Sidewalk program.
google sidewalk in toronto

Housing Affordability and Google Sidewalks

According to Daniel Doctoroff, CEO of Sidewalk Labs, one of the project’s top priorities is to make housing more affordable for everyone. An NPR article about the project highlights Toronto citizens’ concerns about how the project will affect home affordability. To quote Sidewalk Labs, “[Sidewalk Labs is] hoping to increase affordability with modular construction technologies that make buildings easier to erect, and easier to change depending on the needs of the neighborhood.”

After a community meeting with the people of Toronto, Sidewalk Labs confirmed that affordability is a top priority for the project. The press release for the Sidewalk Toronto project states that they are focused on creating new models of affordable housing among other projects centered around community and sustainability.

The proposal also promises tens of thousands of “good, middle class jobs” in the Toronto waterfront area, increasing social mobility and making it easier to buy a house or property.
google sidewalk in toronto

The Way We Buy and Sell Homes

While the proposal doesn’t say much about the way we buy and sell homes, the project is sure to transform the way we think about owning, buying, and selling private property. In this new waterfront community, families and individuals will have their own accounts from which they can communicate with other members of their building and even communicate with a plumber coming to fix a pipe while they’re at work.

Although the proposal and press release didn’t expressly mention anything about how property will be bought and sold in the city prototype, it did specify that Sidewalk Labs doesn’t plan to be the landlord of any private homes. An article from The Verge explains, “To be sure, Sidewalk Labs is not purchasing land on Toronto’s waterfront, nor would it be the landlord to any residents that eventually live there.”

How Public and Private Property Will Change

The proposed plan in Toronto involves increased community and public spaces, including waterfront beaches and parks. The project plans to test out a new concept called Loft. With Loft, buildings will be constructed as versatile space that can be converted and used for whatever the community needs.

Sidewalk Labs plans to experiment with a variety of sustainable housing materials, including plastic, prefabricated modules, and timber. With all of this value placed on community and public space, it will be interesting to see how private property fits into the plan.
google sidewalk in toronto

When Will Change Be Apparent

Sidewalk Labs has vowed to spend $50 million in planning in the next year, but the 12-acre plot of land at Toronto’s waterfront currently looks like a vacant lot, a plain patch of land with grain silos.

In addition to there being no real blueprint for Toronto’s waterfront utopia, there are also no plans to release Sidewalk’s technology outside of Toronto. So for the moment, don’t plan on seeing self-driving buses and cars on the streets of your city anytime soon.

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About The Author
Carson Buck
Carson is a real estate agent based out of Phoenix, Arizona. Carson loves data and market research, and how readily available it is in today's world. He is passionate about interpreting these insights to help his clients find and buy their perfect home. Carson got into the real estate industry because he loves the feeling of handing over the keys to a new home to happy clients. In his free time, he works on his backyard bonsai garden and spends time with his wife, Julia.