Intensification initiative jeopardized

by Neil Sharma on 09 May 2018

While there’s consensus that intensification is the future of city building, convincing people to forgo the backyard and live in the sky has been a hard sell in Toronto. However, that appears to be changing.

“People are realizing that buying that single-family house is becoming an impossible dream and they’re having to rethink how their families are going to live and in what kind of housing stock,” said ZAS Architects Senior Principal Paul Stevens. “Toronto has finally come to the realization that towers don’t need to be for singles or for couples, and that they’re viable ways of living downtown.”

Mortgage qualification became cumbersome at the beginning of this year and that’s turned Toronto’s frenzied condo market red-hot. Not long ago, growing families favoured single-family detached dwellings over condominiums, but most no longer have a choice.

But builders have long ignored the need for family-sized condo units and demand has, consequently, outpaced supply.

“Most [builders] do include them to one degree or another, but the question is how many units are there and how successful are they, in terms of not only design but price point?” asked Stevens. “It has to be affordable for families. They’re needed throughout the city. It’s all about having good mix in all neighbourhoods. We work in the CityPlace neighbourhood, and at one point people were saying it’s impossible for families to live there. Slowly, that’s changed.”

Stevens added that amenity development is integral to the success of intensified communities, and cited Montreal and New York as venerable examples, as well as Canoe Landing Campus in Toronto’s CityPlace.

“The success of this is about creating really strong community infrastructure, whether it’s schools, community centres, rec centres, libraries or parks. It’s not just about having a small balcony that fits outside your unit. Really good public space that becomes part of the day-to-day living space is a huge factor that makes these cities desirable.”

Alexandra Cote, a sales representative with Realty Inc., has noticed marketing materials increasingly target families. She even mentioned that the Lower JCT master-planned project offered residents daycare, which became a major selling point.

“Things like stroller storage are becoming topics in new condos,” she said. “I know of one development in the Lower Junction area which sold out quite quickly because it guaranteed a spot in daycare in the building.

“The Regent Park neighbourhood is built with a lot of amenities in mind for children. A lot of families find that area attractive for that reason. In fact, a lot of condos have family groups.”

A lot of families find condo living safe because of the concierge’s presence and the proximity of community. They also don’t have to worry about nuisances like maintaining their yards. However, Cote says that there aren’t enough units in Toronto to accommodate the growing cohort of families who have warmed up to living vertically.

“There’s been a shift to families seeing condos as a viable solution, but builders are playing catch up with the market,” she said.


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