Photography by Lianne Gesoir
There is an interesting trend emerging in Toronto, which is challenging the traditional notion of what it means to downsize in the city. More and more, we're seeing urban homeowners opt to convert their single-family home into high-quality, multi-suite properties, where the owner occupies a more modest portion of the house to allow for additional suites for their children, parents, or paying tenants. In an effort to increase supply and ease the rental housing shortage, the province and City of Toronto are amending regulations to make it easier to build secondary suites within existing and newly built homes, and, in some cases, in ancillary buildings like garages. Taking advantage of these relaxed policies could just be your ticket to a smart downsize in Toronto.
Short-term and long-term benefits
The Men At Work Design Build team recently completed a project in the Regal Heights neighbourhood, near Dufferin and St. Clair, successfully converting a large, single-family house into three high-quality independent suites, each with their own private outdoor space. The goal of the renovation was to provide the homeowners with an updated, efficient suite for themselves, while being able to offer their adult children affordable, independent units to help them get on their feet in this expensive city. Over time, the units will be able to help support the homeowners in retirement, as well as generate significant additional income to pay for the costs of the improvements.
Suite-specific permit process
Navigating the design and approvals process, for a project like this, requires good planning and familiarity with the myriad of zoning and building code rules and cost implications. There are important requirements to isolate the units for fire containment and soundproofing, and numerous technical considerations for egress, parking, hydro, water, and gas distribution.
Privacy & outdoor space
In the design of the Regal Heights project, we wanted to create bright, high-quality, functional living spaces that would feel as much as possible like living in a private house. It was determined early on that each unit would have its own private yard space and separate entrance, but the corner lot location made it possible to allow each entrance to face a different direction, ultimately creating an even better sense of privacy.
Custom home finishes and fixtures
Purpose-built rental units and apartment conversions often skimp on the size and quality of kitchen and bathroom finishes in the interest of saving costs. For this project, we felt that offering larger, eat-in, custom kitchens with luxury appliances would better suit the owner-occupier, and make the units feel more like living in a nice house instead of an ordinary rental apartment. Lots of built-in storage and careful advance planning for how each unit would be furnished, optimized the use of space, while enlarged windows increased the natural light and view to make the units all feel much larger.
Divide & conquer
Many long-time homeowners look to the condo market as a natural choice to downsize, in order to invest in units for their adult children or generate rental income. However, if you're reluctant to give up the lifestyle of living in a house with your own yard, in a neighbourhood you're familiar with, and you don't like the thought of high-rise living, costly maintenance fees and condo board headaches, then maybe a house conversion is the right fit for you.
Men At Work Design Build offers integrated engineering, design and professional construction services for major home renovation projects in Toronto.
Jessica Millard joined the team in 2017, and is currently the company's Project Coordinator. The featured project is a renovation that Jessica had a professional hand in managing, turning a single-family home into a multi-suite income property.