Home Realty – Affordable Alternatives: In a hot housing market
Micro suites, laneway housing, container homes and live/work units all provide relief from sky-high prices.
As the cost of housing skyrockets across the GTA, it’s spurring a shift toward smaller, more affordable living solutions. Let’s explore some of the options.
Soaring land prices and development costs have pushed builders to look at creating micro-condo units in an effort to maintain affordability.
There are thousands of micro condos currently under construction across Toronto, according to Urbanation, and that number keeps growing in response to strong demand.
Micro condos can be as small as 289 square feet and are designed to maximize a minimized space. Kitchens feature retractable secondary countertops, islands that double as dining tables, combined convection oven-microwaves, dishwasher drawers and stoves with two burners versus the traditional four. There is also an all-in one washer-dryer.
The City of Toronto is exploring laneway housing as a potential solution to its affordable housing shortage and as a more palatable alternative for people who don’t want to live in a highrise tower.
In turning to laneway housing, Toronto would be following Vancouver’s lead — that city has issued more than 800 permits for laneway housing, with 500 homes built, according to the Victoria Times-Colonist. Regina and Ottawa have also approved the development of laneway homes.
Toronto has some 2,400 publicly owned laneways, covering more than 250 linear kilometres of public space, according to Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, who has said that unlocking these assets — via a loosening of existing bylaws — would be a “key part of creating safe, accessible spaces for residents to enjoy.”
Laneway housing — created for rent, not sale — would be smaller, secondary suites that are detached from the primary residence and built on top of garages or parking pads at the rear of a residential property, adjacent to a laneway.
Live/work units are emerging as a popular and cost-effective option for artists and freelancers who are attracted to the idea of setting up shop in the same place they sleep. Certain parts of Toronto, such as Liberty Village and South Riverdale, are becoming known as hubs for live/work housing. At In2ition, we’ve designed and sold these in Chesnut Hill Developments’ The Address on Bloor Street West and we currently have them coming up at SF3 Townhomes by Chesnut Hill in Pickering. These spaces not only benefit their inhabitants, they’re also a boon to the surrounding neighbourhoods, whose vibrancy and cultural appeal are enhanced by the presence of artists and small businesses.
Shipping containers are being repurposed as housing in cities across Canada, offering yet another alternative for cash-strapped homebuyers.
In Vancouver — years ahead of Toronto in dealing with affordability issues and urban intensification — Atira Women’s Resource Society in 2013 opened Canada’s first-ever social housing development built from recycled shipping containers. The organization has another planned for the city’s troubled Downtown East Side. Each container, made from high-grade steel, is fitted for plumbing and wiring and is insulated and drywalled. And more than one can be fused together to create multi-bedroom suites.
The idea has arrived in Toronto, with Storstac launching this city’s first shipping container project at Queen Street West and Bathurst Street, dubbed the Harlem Underground Shipping Container House, as it will expand the current living quarters that are part of the same building in which the Harlem Underground Restaurant is located. The house will consist of three, 20-foothigh shipping containers sitting on top of a solid concrete foundation. The company says it’s available to work with clients to design and build “the shipping container house of your dreams.”
Imagine the possibilities.
Debbie Cosic is CEO and founder of In2ition Realty (in2ition.ca), an award-winning brokerage that focuses on sales, marketing and merchandising of new home & condominium developments throughout North America. Cosic has been recognized multiple times as the Marketing Person of the Year by both BILD and NAHB.