Industry Expert: Best of Both Worlds
by Bryan Tuckey
Cost-effective and a clever use of land, new forms of housing are stacking up in the GTA
The GTA land development and home building industry is constantly innovating and looking for ways to meet housing demands and provide consumers with affordable housing options while still complying with provincially mandated Growth Plan density targets.
One way we have risen to the challenge is by introducing gentle density in the form of stacked and back-to-back townhomes. All this while creating unique and liveable communities that feature great architecture and offer lifestyle amenities.
Stacked towns are becoming more popular around the GTA, especially in tight infill lots that are too small for a mid-rise or high-rise building. By stacking one unit on top of another, residents have the advantage of a two-storey house-style layout with the added convenience of a condo. The lower unit typically has outside access in the form of a patio or terrace, while the upper unit usually boasts a balcony or rooftop terrace.
Back-to-back towns are different than regular row housing as the backs of each home touches the back of the house behind it.
According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), traditional row housing allows for 14 to 18 units per acre, while stacked townhomes can be built at 26 to 27 units per acre. The higher but still gentle density means it costs developers less to build and they can pass the savings on to the homebuyer. With stacked townhomes the industry is meeting the insatiable demand for ground-related housing at an affordable price point.
Stacked and back-to-back townhomes give consumers a larger selection of home styles to choose from. They are also great places for families to grow together, empty nesters to enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle and where first-time buyers can afford something other than a unit in a high-rise condo building.
Innovative townhome developments are taking shape across all corners of the GTA. The town of Stouffville is a case in point. Although Stouffville has traditionally been a community of detached housing, townhouses now account for a large proportion of the housing under development. BILD member Geranium, for example, has been building out their master-planned community of Cardinal Point and recently introduced Vista Flats and Towns. The stacked units offer living space up to 1,300 square feet over two floors with a rooftop terrace. The second level one-storey flats have a spacious balcony, and the first-level flats a patio. Prices for these units started in the mid $400,000s.
While back-to-back row housing is common in England, the concept is relatively new to the GTA. With some innovative rethinking of the Victoria-era housing form, several BILD members have brought back-to-back and stacked townhomes to the market with great success.
Menkes’ Dwell City Towns in Etobicoke, for example, offered back-to-back units of 1,000 square feet to over 1,600 square feet with starting prices from $300,000. The 196 open-concept units—boasting patios and rooftop decks— sold out quickly. At Queen’s Landing in East Gwillimbury, Minto is about to launch the second phase of back-to-back townhomes after phase one sold out in three hours.
These are just a few examples of the many ways our industry is offering innovative options to homebuyers as we try and meet the housing needs of the GTA’s ever-growing population in our highly regulated new home market.
|Bryan Tuckey is president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association and a land-use planner who has worked for municipal, regional and provincial governments.|