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Family Sized Condos

lead82

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These look like they did reduce the number of individual dwelling units by a lot though. I think missing middle aims to increase available housing.
They didn't reduce. The building had 4 units and it went to 6-8 as they added a third storey. It's a gentle increase.
 

Ex-Montreal Girl

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The main issue with small units is that storage is lacking. We recently bought a bigger unit than what we had from a low-rise developer who is converting old brown-stone duplexes into stacked low-rise flats. Family sized units (1100 sq ft+) for 2+den (proper den - window, door, could be baby room)/3 bedrooms in nice areas of the city: circabuilt.ca

The main advantage is low CEF (more of a town house feel). The build quality is superb - built to luxury home standards. Custom kitchens and custom storage in closets (this is a big plus in condos).

This is what they call the missing middle. Toronto should encourage more of this type of buildings. They are on the upper end to build but the maintenance is a lot lower compared with high rises as there is no security, no management on site and not elevators or expensive elements to maintain.
I can't agree with storage being the main issue as storage can be bought or built-in (via clever double duty furniture or IKEA type cabinetry). And, if you're going custom, a good designer knows many tricks.

When we downsized, we went from a large eat-in kitchen (approx. 200 sf) to the current 63 sf. But we employed all sorts of tricks in the kitchen when we designed the custom cabinetry. For example, we went with 14 inches deep instead of the standard 12, and we ordered 16 inches from counter top to bottom of upper cabinet which is standard 18. The cabinets go all the way to the ceiling which makes the entire space look bigger. It is amazing how much more storage that gave us in the kitchen. Add a bunch of what I call "kitchen porn" -- yeah, I get off on kitchen catalogues -- and you're done. I'm talking sliding racks, "kidneys," L-shaped drawers for tight corners, etc.

Ditto the bathrooms which are small here this being an older building.

I see the problem with small, newer units as being bad layouts and wasted space: long hallways too narrow to build in shelf space on the sides for example. Oversized bathrooms but tiny bedrooms. I guess it's because developers want to cram as many units as possible on to a floor and younger buyers are impressed by double sinks? I don't know.

I totally agree with the missing middle idea. I am not doing the Montreal-is-better-thing here but the city was, until about a generation ago, much denser than TO, thanks to (among other builds) four-plexes: i.e. semi-detached stacked flats, the kind you see in the Beaches and around/off Avenue Rd. south of Eglinton. Some of these places in Montreal are very luxurious, beautifully built (mostly in the 1920s) with huge rooms, stunning architectural details. Then there are the older three story triplexes (usually attached) on the Plateau and lower Outremont. Mordecai Richler territory, often with Montreal's distinctive wrought iron external staircases (which always terrified me.)

People would buy the building, live upstairs (or downstairs) and rent out the other suite(s). When the Boomers started looking for houses in cooler, older parts of town, many of these started becoming co-ops. People would buy a building with friends. One family upstairs, the other downstairs. Eventually, some kind of legal set-up was created so units could be bought and sold independently.

Sometimes the buildings come renovated with separate furnaces, hot water tanks and hydro panels. Sometimes not. But, because these flats are typically 1500+ per floor, there is usually plenty of room to muck about in the basement.

Here's a video of a recent listing which, as it turns out, is two blocks down the hill from our own (former) lower flat which had a small garden, underground parking, 3 BR upstairs and a high finished basement below. The woodwork in this listing has been painted over, and the sale appears to be for all four flats, upper and lower on both sides. I am guessing that this duplex was likely built c. 1918-1925.

It's because of housing like this that I feel families can indeed live comfortably and affordably in apartments in town.
 

lead82

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This is exactly what is needed more of in Toronto. More duplexes and 4/6 plex homes. Restoring older housing and building new low-midrise apartments and condos are the ways to go.
 

Ex-Montreal Girl

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Like I've been saying: "Toronto wants condos to have stroller storage, movable walls and shadow-free playgrounds"

The guidelines issued for the building include:

A minimum of 25 per cent of large units; which includes 10 per cent of three-bedroom units, 15 per cent of two-bedroom units.

Group large units together to encourage socializing.

Large units on lower floors.

Wider hallways.

Amenity spaces for children and youth.

Multi-purpose rooms for toddler play, craft groups, youth fitness and homework groups.

Specific rooms for music lessons, food education, tools and "messy activities."

Lobbies should include stroller storage space.
 

NorthYorkEd

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I keep hearing that there are more and more rental buildings being built, but every project seems to be the same old stack 'em and pack' em shoeboxes, with 2-bed/2-bath units being crammed into 700-800 square feet. That ain't gonna cut it for us.

Is anyone aware of any new builds that are actually a decent, livable size? We would rent forever if we could find ANYTHING as remotely good as the condo we are currently leasing (2 bed/2 bath, approx. 1300 sq/ft).

In Halifax, they've been steadily building rental buildings primarily aimed at retirees, downsizers, and professional adults. Similar to condos, they are often 1200-1500 square feet, which is a generous and comfortable amount of living space. It would be awesome if some of the developers would look into something similar for our city.

Here are some examples:

http://www.thegardensluxuryapartments.ca/index.php/floor-plans
http://www.j2kproperties.ca/buildings/49-friesian/
http://www.theluxor.ca/index.php/floorplans
http://www.cousinsrealty.ca/209-larry-uteck-floor-plans.html

Otherwise, we will have to seriously consider buying a property when (not if) our landlord decides to sell. We are ready, but not quite willing. :)
 

Ex-Montreal Girl

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I keep hearing that there are more and more rental buildings being built, but every project seems to be the same old stack 'em and pack' em shoeboxes, with 2-bed/2-bath units being crammed into 700-800 square feet. That ain't gonna cut it for us.

Is anyone aware of any new builds that are actually a decent, livable size? We would rent forever if we could find ANYTHING as remotely good as the condo we are currently leasing (2 bed/2 bath, approx. 1300 sq/ft).
Just out of curiosity: why "new builds?" Old builds are larger and more-solidly constructed as a rule. They also have actual kitchens and closets. :)
 

NorthYorkEd

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Just out of curiosity: why "new builds?" Old builds are larger and more-solidly constructed as a rule. They also have actual kitchens and closets. :)
Just to be clear, I'm talking specifically about dedicated rental buildings. Not sure if there are there any older rental buildings that have condo-like finishes and amenities. The suites might be large, but they still have apartment quality finishes (i.e. worn, tired, walls that have been painted over a million times), no master en-suites, and communal laundry rooms in the basement. In other words, typical apartments.

The newer rental buildings are more our taste (i.e. just like condos, with en-suite baths and in-suite laundry), but lack the required size. Like this one: The Heathview. Having moved from Halifax where there are literally dozens of these types of rental buildings going up, it would be great if something similar was available here. But I doubt it.

Our current condo was built in the early 80's. If we do decide to purchase, I would only consider older buildings. Many of the newer condos here are not only too small, but also cheaply built.
 

Ex-Montreal Girl

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The only building that comes to mind (right off the bat) is the Manulife Center. It's been made over, has great amenities, awesome location (if you like being Right. Down. Town.), master ensuite but no insuite laundry. I'd be lost without that myself.
 

lead82

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If the city truly wants to support increased density, then it's time to stop subsidizing single family homes. Why is it that a house pays so little property tax in comparison to a condo? The tax rate is based on value, but should be mostly based on property size. It's the property taxes that keep the low density housing in place. Toronto could easily double the density in popular neighbourhoods if homes were converted to duplexes, semis or triplexes. We don't need high rises for density. The problem is what is referred to as the yellow belt. This area is not allowed to be modified, except of course to tear down and build McMansions. Developers build on the avenues as per the city plan. However, land on the avenues is expensive, and to make it worth building developers have to go tall, which ticks off the neighbours in the yellow belt. Not much will change.
 

Ex-Montreal Girl

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I had to drive around East York the past couple of days. The O'Connor-Coxwell-Broadview-Mortimer area. I was struck by the huge new infill houses, or those old post-war bungalows with significant extensions plus second and third storeys.

Back when those were built, they probably contained 3-4 children, maybe a grandparent. Now? Two kids at most.

I also thought back to when we first bought in Riverdale, 1985. So many houses were divided into 2-3 units -- if they weren't outright rooming houses. I'm not saying we should go back to rooming houses but what's wrong with dividing a 3 storey+basement into 2 homes? Rather than tax homeowners more -- and this is coming from a condo owner -- why now offer tax credits for creating basement units and such that conform with fire and building codes? Didn't Toronto use to do that?
 

kEiThZ

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My issue is that they'll build 3BR condos. But they'll still be 1000 sq ft. When I moved back from Ottawa, I couldn't believe what passed for a 2BR condo in Toronto after living in a 980 sq ft 2BR in Ottawa which even had in-suite laundry, water heater and heater taking up space. I would argue that the condo I had (and I was single at the time) would be the minimum for a couple with a young child.

2BR is fine for one child. Not more though. And ~900 sq ft is bare minimum for 2BR. I can't believe these Toronto condos that are 2BR at 700 sq ft. Ridiculously Lilliputian.
 
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