Apartments In Single Family Neighbourhoods?

The Star - By Edward Keenan

f you ever find yourself wondering why there are so few little walk-up apartments in Toronto — of the kind that are absolutely commonplace all across Montreal — you can look to history. “In May 1912, the city declared a full-scale ban on apartment buildings in residential neighbourhoods,” writes Emma Abramowicz in an essay in the new anthology House Divided from Coach House books, which examines the affordability crisis in housing in Toronto. In the 1960s, she writes, planners cemented this occasionally overlooked rule by making preservation of the character of stable residential neighbourhoods a key goal.

This separation between “residential” zones and places where you can develop meaningful new housing has been preserved in the recent zoning and Official Plan changes, other essays in the book make clear, which allow apartment construction pretty much along main streets only, or in new neighbourhoods on former industrial or rail lands. That’s why we see so many sky-high condos springing up clustered in certain areas, and so few triplexes or four-storey walk-up apartments anywhere.


"Apartments Baned from Neighbourhoods in 1912"

The authors and editors of House Divided, on the whole, make the argument for just that kind of development as not only worthy of allowing, but essential to encouraging. Planner Gil Meslin outlines the benefits of these low- and midrise, “neighbourhood-scale” apartment buildings: They are permanent as available rentals, not subject to the family whims of in-law suites or basement apartments; they help preserve affordability in upscale and gentrifying neighbourhoods; they fit in architecturally even while allowing a relatively high number of people to live in a space. Those things — and the increased population they can bring to an urban neighbourhood — make an area a better place to live. They make parks lively, populate schools, support a thriving local retail streetscape.

And yet they are all but impossible to build. Anthology co-editor and Globe and Mail architecture critic Alex Bozikovic details an award-winning design by German architects for affordable, well-designed 11-unit, four storey buildings that can fit on the same size lot as a large single-family home. They look great, and easy to build. Yet Bozikovic then explains how the regulations in place in Toronto would make it virtually impossible and completely impractical for a developer to try to put one in Toronto — even on a corner lot across from highrise apartments a short walk from a new LRT line in Scarborough.

That’s part of the “where” question central to the book’s arguments. If low- and midrise walk-up apartments (and duplexes and triplexes) are the form they argue should be allowed, the location they have in mind is vast: the city’s “yellowbelt,” the area (more than twice the size of Manhattan) that is zoned exclusively for detached single-family residential dwellings. According to book’s authors, if you added just one duplex per hectare in the yellowbelt you could house an additional 45,000 people. The potential extends beyond the city’s immediate borders: John Lorinc reports in his introduction on a report estimating that Mississauga could house 435,000 new people just by allowing low- and medium-density infill development in established neighbourhoods.



And the thing is that while Toronto and its region’s population have been growing quickly (far faster than the housing supply), these “stable residential neighbourhoods” have been shrinking — actually losing population as people have fewer children, as seniors age in place in big old houses, more single people live alone, and as gentrifiers convert rooming houses into family homes. Bringing residential population density back up to mid-20th-century levels wouldn’t just ease affordability, it would revitalize neighbourhoods and make serving the residents with top-notch public services and facilities more efficient.




Q1-2019 GTA Apartment Trends - Ephraim Vecina

Last month, Canadian inflation surged to its highest level in over seven years, giving Bank of Canada considerable room to hold interest rates steady.  Fresh data from Statistics Canada showed that core inflation enjoyed a notable boost, with the average of the three key measures going up to 2.07%. Aside from exceeding the Bank of Canada’s latest quarterly forecast of 1.9%, this was the highest reading since February 2012.

These figures could indicate that a recent economic slowdown is easing, the Bank of Canada stated. This is especially plausible as all eight major components of Canadian inflation quickened in May, StatsCan added.

The consumer price index went up by 2.4% annually, outstripping April’s 2% and median economist predictions of 2.1%. The May figure was the highest year-over-year rate since October 2018, the Financial Post reported.

Along with lower borrowing costs and a stronger employment climate, these factors are working together to elevate the national housing market’s performance.Indeed, Canadian home prices went up for the first time in nine months (with a 0.5% month-over-month increase) in May, according to Teranet data.

Stronger purchasing power is also readily apparent with the record-low 5.6% unemployment rate reached during that month. StatsCan numbers showed that the national workforce grew by 2.4% annually with 27,700 new employees, bringing the 12-month total employment gain to 453,100.

A new sector analysis by Moody’s Investors Service praised the Canadian government’s efforts to reduce outsized home price growth, without triggering a severe correction in housing markets, over the past few years. The report noted that this is promoting greater stability in the national banking system, as “rapid consumer deleveraging” is becoming much less likely.

“Although Canadian banks’ mortgage portfolios are relatively resilient, unsecured consumer exposures would generate substantial incremental loan losses under the stress of a major housing price correction,” Moody’s explained.




National Housing Starts DOWN

The annual pace of housing starts fell by 13.3% in May.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of housing starts decreased to 202,337 units last month from 233,410 units in April, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) reported on Monday.

The nationwide drop in the pace of housing starts came as the SAAR of urban starts decreased by 14.4% to 186,946 units in May. Multiple urban starts fell by 18.5% to 141,851 units, while single-detached urban starts rose by only 1.8% to 45,095 units.

Rural starts were estimated at a SAAR of 15,391 units.

Meanwhile, the six-month moving average of the monthly SAAR was 201,983 units in May, down from 205,717 units in April.

"The national trend in housing starts decreased in May as a result of continuing decline in the trend for single starts as well as a decline in the trend of multi-unit starts that follows gains in this segment in recent months, in urban areas," said Bob Dugan, CMHC's chief economist. "The decrease in the trend of multi-unit starts reflects a decline in the SAAR level of multi-unit activity in May from the unusually elevated level registered in April, which leaves multi-unit SAAR starts closer to its 10-year average."




570 Birchmount Road – Scarborough – SOLD $33,250,000 / $296,875 per suite / 3.20% Cap Rate

This property was listed and sold by The Apartment Group at Commercial Focus Realty.  It is located in southwest Scarborough in a high demand strong rental location.  Comprising 112 large apartment suites with rents 40% below market the property also had surplus land for future development.  The asset was well maintained and was sold through a bid process with multiple offers.  The property was purchased by Starlight Investments Ltd.

KASSINGER Portfolio - Oshawa – SOLD $219,145,000 / $221,400 per suite

This portfolio comprises 7 buildings and 991 suites in Oshawa both apartments and townhouses.  The properties are as follows: 511, 512, 516 Canoberry Court; 455, 460, 555 Mayfair Avenue; and 520 Rossland Road East.  The buildings were in the same family for many years and were will maintained and in great locations.  Individually the buildings traded between $200,000 and $250,000 per suite.  The asset was fully marketed and exposed and was purchased by Q Residential.

1809 Lawrence Avenue West – York – SOLD $9,450,000 / $295,315 per suite / 4.25% Cap Rate

This is a property located in the Lawrence and Jane area and comprises a 32 suite rental apartment with large suites.  It was recently totally gutted and renovated from top to bottom and was built to a low maintenance spec (ie. heated parking lot, tenants pay all utilities....).  The building was purchased by an investor looking for new or newer buildings with easy maintenance.  The property was marketed for sale.

HERMAX Portfolio – Toronto/Markham – SOLD $135,000,000 / $311,800 per suite

This is a sale of another long time apartment building owner in the Toronto area.  The portfolio comprised 3 buildings and a total of 433 suites as follows:  2397 Finch Avenue West; 130 Gowan Avenue; and 190 Dudley Avenue.  This was fully marketed and the 3 buildings were in great condition and well located in their markets.  Finch and Gowan were purchased by Starlight Investments Ltd. and Dudley was purchased by Homestead Land Holdings.

2285 The Collegeway – Mississauga – SOLD $42,000,000 / $291,665 per suite / 3.25% Cap Rate

This is a property located in central north Mississauga and comprises a 144 suite rental apartment on an almost 4 acre site.  This building has large suites and a good mix of mostly 2 and 3 bedrooms including some townhouses.  It appears that this was a direct deal and the property was not marketed widely.




Together the team has completed over 1,000 transaction and has sold over $5 billion in apartments and development land. Put us to work for you and see the results. NO ONE has sold more buildings then your group. Experience, knowledge and professionalism will insure you get the right deal or the highest price if you are selling.

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