Tag Archives: Neighbourhoods

Building New Communities how architects support city builders

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Building New Communities how architects support city builders

With the lack of affordable housing dominating the headlines, there’s a renewed awareness, focus and energy to address this urgent issue. Everyone agrees that we want cities where people of all ages, stages and income levels can live. The bigger question is how can we as architects support city builders and developers to collectively achieve this?

The answer is not just in building new housing, but rather, the right type of housing. Somewhere between the two extremes of detached single family homes (which take up large footprints in our growing cities) and highrise multi-residential towers, (which may lack community spaces and amenities desired by families) is the need for a new housing type. The solution lies in filling in urban spaces with missing middle housing.

I’ve long advocated for the need to build more missing middle housing. Cities need thoughtful architectural design solutions that use land and space efficiently. We must create dense, transit-oriented, pedestrian- friendly, complete communities for a range of people and families across the income spectrum. The opportunities are endless for this new approach to development, not only in established neighbourhoods but in former industrial sites, surplus schools and underused shopping malls near transit.

Building for the missing middle means building medium-density, low-impact buildings designed in sync with the needs of the local community. Think small apartment blocks, stacked townhouses, multiplexes, courtyard apartments and other building types ranging from three to six storeys, with proximity to parks, greenspaces, schools and various commercial and community amenities.

It’s encouraging that we’re seeing more examples of these projects across the GTA and Ontario. I’m proud that our firm has helped realize many of them. A recent project we undertook for Mattamy Homes in northeast Markham illustrates how missing middle development is possible.

Our vision for Cornell Centre was to create a sense of place where none existed before. Formerly, the site was used for agriculture. Our challenge was to create a memorable place for residents and visitors that met the client’s financial goals, local planning guidelines and reflected the latest in urban design principles.

With the first phase scheduled for completion in Q1 of 2019, residents and visitors will greeted by a strong corner marker – it will serve as an indoor/outdoor amenity and gathering space for residents, while creating an appealing gateway to the Village of Cornell in Markham. Set over 1.5 acres, the site features 135 units in a six-storey condominium and 10 3.5-storey townhomes. An additional 107 units and six townhomes are planned to be built in the second phase. The condominiums feature ground floor commercial units that blend into the overall design.

A focal point for the community, Cornell Centre serves as an entry to the lowrise townhouse community immediately north and east of the site, while addressing the urban scale of Bur Oak and its connections to contemporary community buildings such as Markham Stouffville Hospital and the Cornell Community Centre and Library. The development’s highly desirable location fosters new opportunities for employees that can now reside in walking distance to work.

Sustainability and active transportation initiatives

Sustainability is always top of mind at Q4A, so we integrated recycled and renewable source materials wherever possible. We incorporated inexpensive, wood frame construction made of renewable organic building materials. The mechanical and electrical systems are 15 per cent more efficient than OBC requirements. Water efficient fixtures reduce water consumption by 30 per cent. Overall, the project meets LEED standards and exceeds Ontario Building Code requirements.

By connecting residents to transportation and open green spaces, we’re enabling and encouraging wider pedestrian use for walkers, runners and cyclists. Fifty per cent of the site’s landscaped areas feature native plantings.

The community is already receiving accolades, with Money Sense recently ranking Cornell Centre as one of the GTA’s top 25 neighbourhoods for affordability. At Q4 Architects, we believe that building more midrise homes and communities is one of the most positive ways to future-proof our cities. If communities embrace missing middle housing typologies, we can cater to diverse demographics by creating and transforming neighbourhoods into vibrant, livable and complete communities.

Frances Martin-Digiuseppe is Founder and Principal, Q4 Architects Inc. Q4Architects.com


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Pent-up demand for townhomes building in the GTA

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Pent-up demand for townhomes building in the GTA


Condos may be the choice for many in the increasingly expensive GTA, but not everyone wants to live in a box in the sky. More and more new home buyers are looking for affordable lowrise options such as townhomes. Emphasis on the word affordable.

The problem? The supply just isn’t there – and the pent-up demand is growing.

Appealing especially to young families, townhomes provide more space and flexibility than condos, and generally are far more affordable than single-family homes.

“Both stacked (townhomes) and (row) townhouses form a key component of the Missing Middle – the built forms between high-density condo and low-density single-family housing,” Matthew Boukall, vice-president, product management, Data Solutions at Altus Group, told Homes Publishing.

Altus recently studied the sector for one of its regular housing reports, surmising that townhomes play an increasingly important role in in the new home sector, not just in the GTA but across Canada.

In the GTA, new townhouse sales have plummeted in the past two years – both in absolute terms and as a percentage of total new home sales (to just seven per cent of the total in the first half of 2018), Altus says.

GTA Starts

Affordability and availability remain an issue.

In the GTA, the key challenge to supplying this built form has been finding land with the right entitlements to allow and support this construction, Altus reports. Much of the land along Toronto streets support higher density condo product or is priced at a level which encourages rezoning to support this density.

“What can support more townhouse development is allowing rezoning of the land between the existing single-family communities and the corridors for more mid-density development,” Boukall says.

Although townhouse land (medium density) sales in 2017 were actually up over 2016, they are trending lower in 2018. Part of the problem is a lengthy approval process. “Year to date in Toronto, we have only tracked five approved townhouse projects, representing less than 350 units,” says Boukall. “Obviously, we need more product to meet the market demand. The positive note is that developers are proposing more product, with almost 1,500 new units applied for in 2018.”

GTA Townhouse sales


Stacked townhouses, in which one row of townhouse units is stacked on top of another, provide a more affordable option to single-family homes, given higher densities. They also offer many of the appealing aspects of condominiums, but without living in a highrise environment.

However, they still play a relatively smaller role than traditional townhouses in the overall townhouse arena, Altus says.

In the Vancouver market, for example, new stacked townhouse units accounted for slightly more than 200 sales on average per year in 2015-17 – about six per cent of all new townhouse sales.

GTA Stacked

In the GTA, where stacked townhouses have made a larger dent, they remain a niche segment, accounting for about one in five new townhouse sales in recent years.

Part of the challenge with stacked townhouses versus rowhomes are those similar to condominium apartments – longer planning and construction timelines, and other residences adjacent on all sides

Both housing types will play an important role throughout the GTA in the future, but stacked townhouses are expected to become more popular given the better affordability provided by the higher density housing type.

“That said,” Boukall adds, “traditional row townhouses are the more common housing type in the GTA and as such, account for more sales compared to the stacked townhouse product. Row townhouse product has been accounting for a growing share of the single-family new homes sales in the GTA, currently accounting for 42 per cent of the total single-family sales activity in the GTA.”


So, prospective GTA new home buyers, which areas hold the most promise in terms of future townhome availability?

While townhouses are expected to remain a popular housing option throughout the GTA, both Toronto and the York region share the most medium density land activity in the region, and should see increased development activity as a result in 2019 and beyond.

“The Peel region, most notably Brampton, is the most active for stacked and row townhouse sales in 2018 and should continue to see demand supported by an available land supply and comparably affordable prices,” says Boukall.


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Build For Growth: Help Make Housing A Priority

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Build For Growth: Help Make Housing A Priority

Help Make Housing a Priority in the Municipal Elections

Are you or your loved ones planning to look for a new condo or house in the GTA in the near future? Then you will want to pay special attention to the municipal elections coming up on October 22.

That’s because municipal governments have the most direct influence over new housing — what type will get built, how many units and where they will be located. If we want to be able to find new homes that suit our needs, at prices we can afford, we need municipal leaders who will make housing a priority and take action on increasing housing supply and affordability in our region.

With 115,000 people coming to live in the GTA every year, our region is projected to grow to 9.7 million residents by 2041. We should be building 55,000 new homes every year to keep up with housing demand, yet only 44,000 homes were built last year. A major reason for this shortfall is the sheer amount of regulation, a lot of it out of date, that slows down building and development. As a result, it now takes about 10 years to complete a lowrise or highrise project in the GTA. And because housing is in short supply, it is becoming less and less affordable, with government fees, taxes and charges further adding to the prices of new homes.

In the lead-up to the municipal elections, our Build for Growth campaign is putting forward a four-point plan on how local governments can increase housing affordability and supply. First of all, we are asking GTA municipalities to make sure government fees, taxes and charges applied to new homes are fair and equitable. Currently, fees applied by all levels of government can account for almost a quarter of the cost of a new home; those levied by municipalities typically make up more than half the total burden and are skyrocketing. These costs can price new homebuyers out of the market.

Second, municipalities need to prioritize the funding and building of good, reliable infrastructure, including roads, transit, parks, water and wastewater facilities. Without this crucial infrastructure in place, the building of new homes slows down or stops completely.

Third, local governments should streamline the planning approval process, which unnecessarily slows down development. Municipalities should pre-designate and pre-zone land for development, update local Official Plans and zoning bylaws, simplify the list of conditions for municipal approvals and encourage the province to expedite outstanding environmental assessments.

And finally, we are suggesting that municipalities adopt a Standard of Service Excellence for building permits and inspections. Speeding up these processes will make it quicker and easier for homeowners to renovate their homes or build secondary suites or laneway housing, which can help increase housing supply in established neighbourhoods.

Would you like to help make housing a priority in the municipal elections? We invite you to visit the Build for Growth campaign website, BuildForGrowth.ca, to get more information about the issues and send a letter to your municipal candidate to let him or her know that you care about housing issues.

DAVE WILKES is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD).



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The Urban and The Urbane

The Urban and The Urbane

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The Urban and The Urbane

by Rise Levy

Toronto is a rarity among large cities because it has been able to sustain rapid cosmopolitan progress while remaining a city of neighbourhoods. This unique balancing act explains the steady migration from the suburbs to the city that grows stronger with every passing year. There is a neighbourhood for every personality type, income level or stage of life.

Most large cities degenerate into urban jungles as they grow with a loss of green space, rising crime and a deteriorating school and transit system. Not Toronto. You will find the kinds of leafy neighbourhoods with great schools and playgrounds and parks that make parenting easier and life feel mellow in all four corners of the city. Life in the suburbs provides the same leafiness but it comes with some cultural sacrifices. In all four directions of Toronto you have unique boutique shopping, theatres and the arts and international dining.

There are wonderful condo developments in every area of the city that allow you to benefit from all the perks of the chosen area without the colossal price tag. Do you love areas like Forest Hill or Lawrence Park but you don’t have $5 million dollar rattling around in your pocket? No problem. There is an elegant condominium waiting for you. Do you love the arts and music and the theatre? The young and trendy will find happiness in Liberty Village or Harbourfront or on Queen Streets east and west. Maybe you are an affluent urbanite with a taste for designer fashion and designer food; if so, welcome to your sophisticated Yorkville area condo.

The condo boom has put city living within reach for people at every income level and lifestyle need. With a resale home market gone mad, you can find beautifully finished multilevel townhomes and two-level condos for a fraction of the cost of semis in the same neighbourhoods. At the other end of the scale, you will find studios and small one bedrooms for the young and ultra social who are rarely home but prefer to invest their money rather than pouring it down the renter’s hole.

For people who want it all there is no better place to live than right here in Toronto!

Suddenly Single

Your life was settled (or so you thought) and you had a spacious suburban home and good schools for the kids and an okay marriage. Sometimes you felt cut off from the lively social or cultural life of the city but you thought the trade off was worth it. But when the kids left for college the bottom fell out of the marriage and here you are suddenly single. The suburbs are designed for families but that isn’t you anymore, so it is time for a new beginning.

It is time for your fabulous new condominium in the city. This time around you have the confidence and the money to know where and how you want to live. This time it is all about you and your tastes and your interests. At last you get to decorate for you with no more kid-friendly concerns. No more man caves, either. Your new condo has a state-of-the-art gym and maybe a pool. Your new condo provides a variety of social functions to help you get your sea legs as you start off on this new voyage. You reconnect with old friends who never seemed to make it to your old suburban neighbourhood but are happy to meet you for dinner at that new restaurant down the street. You are seeing the plays you used to read about but never saw. You are going to art galleries and browsing the antique stores and shopping the design stores and one-of-a-kind boutiques. You are meeting new people. You are dating!

At the end of the day you return to your new condo where everything looks and feels like you. The concierge pampers you and there is no grass to cut or sidewalks to shovel — just a balcony, a view and a glass of wine. You tell yourself “this is the life I have been waiting for.”

The Battle Between the Kings and Queens of the East and the Kings and Queens of the West

Queen Street West is where bohemia began to give way to gentrification back in the 1980s and it just keeps moving ever westward. This move was followed in the ’90s by the transformation of the once grim and dowdy King Street West into condo heaven. Queen and King Street East languished for years and, in spite of their prime location, not much changed until the early 2000s. Real estate prices began to soar and Leslieville, Riverside and Corktown (as they are now designated) became the hottest areas of the city according to Toronto Life magazine (and the prices certainly bear that out.)

All along Queen Street lowrise buildings have been torn down and replaced with urban hipster-styled condos. Local greasy spoons have been replaced by dozens of restaurants and bars designed for the young and urban crowd. Design stores and unique clothing stores abound. Tired and drab old Queen East has been reborn and many of the Queen West bohemians driven out by high rents and chain stores have settled here for the married-with-kids part of their life. One ugly reminder remained until recently and that was the flop house strip club sleaziness of the Broadview Hotel. Well no more. The newly renovated Broadview Hotel is a fabulous addition to the neighbourhood with a rooftop restaurant bar that immediately became a destination requiring reservations well in advance. It was always a beautiful old building tragically fallen into disrepair but now it has been restored and modernized into a landmark Toronto can be proud to claim.

So, will there be a winner in the battle between the East and The West? Queen West still has a long head start but Queen East has a more family-friendly feel. Time will tell if there will be a winner or a draw.

The Empty Nesters Moving on Up

You got married and bought a house in the suburbs and then you had kids and you bought a bigger house and maybe you even sized up again. But now the kids have their own lives and you and your mate are living in a house that is too large and requires endless upkeep. You have had enough. Still you wonder, will you miss the space and the yard? What if one of the kids wants to move back? Do you want them to move back?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have your life back? Wouldn’t it be nice to travel without worrying about the garden and the upkeep and just turn the key and hop on a plane? Oh yeah. It’s time for a condo.

Depending on your income, you can get a huge sprawling house-sized condo, or you can downsize and spend the extra income on travel and restaurants and theatre and fun (yes you can!). The beauty of a condo is that it can be in any area you favour and any size and price range, but the maintenance is not your problem and you have great amenities that — once again — are not your problem to maintain. After decades where everything was your problem, this is true luxury.

You really need to get a condo. I mean who deserves it more than you?

Rise Levy is the Senior Editor of Condo Life magazine.


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Four up-and-coming neighbourhoods in Toronto

Four up-and-coming neighbourhoods in Toronto

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Four up-and-coming neighbourhoods in Toronto

by Madisyn McKee

Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or looking to make a good return on your investment, you need to consider these Toronto neighbourhoods

The amount of change and growth happening in Toronto is evident by simply looking at the skyline. Many have joked that the bird of Toronto should be the crane and it’s not hard to guess why; everywhere one looks there are new developments being created, proposed, approved and built.

With housing prices skyrocketing and the new mortgage rules taking effect, many Torontonians are looking for alternative ways to get on the ladder. One of the best ways to get the most out of your money is to start looking at neighbourhoods that are in the process of gentrification.

Take a look at four up-and-coming neighbourhoods in Toronto that will likely put you in a good position to make a decent return on your investment:

Regent Park

Don’t let the history of this neighbourhood scare you off. A 2017 MoneySense article claims this area is going through a dramatic change at the moment. One of the main reasons this area has stayed so affordable for so long are the number of low-income properties, but things are starting to shift. The new aquatic centre is a great example of the positive changes happening to the community.  If you have the patience to wait for the city to catch up, you could make a good return on investment.


Despite this area getting attention for a couple of years now, it’s not too late to get in. In fact, TorontoRentals.com noted this area as being one of the best for first-time homebuyers. The new York Community Centre that opened in April 2017, and the Stockyards Open Mall have made this quite the hotspot. While it’s not the best location for transit at the moment, the Eglington Crosstown isn’t too far away from opening and, once it does, this area will certainly grow in price.

East End-Danforth

Many of the homes in this neighbourhood have been loved for years but are now getting much needed makeovers. The area is close to both Woodbine beach and the TTC making it a smart place to invest money. Many builders are snapping up older homes in the area for quick renovations and selling them at a large profit. It’s a great spot for young families and first-time home buyers as the area has a vibrant nightlife. There are also plenty of independent shops and restaurants to enjoy.

Yonge and Sheppard

This Toronto neighbourhood has seen drastic changes in the last number of years and shows no signs of stopping. Many homebuyers will find affordable pricing here as many still deem it as “too far North.” Situated close to the TTC, residents are only a 25-minute subway ride into the downtown core. Don’t forget there is also plenty to do in the area so as not to warrant a venture into the city.

Madisyn is a freelance writer and social media obsessed traveler based out of Toronto. Always looking for her next adventure but glued to her phone you can contact her at madi@therestlessworker.com or visit her at therestlessworker.com.


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Real Insight : The Benefits of Home Ownership

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Real Insight : The Benefits of Home Ownership

People are looking at more creative ways to get into the market. Consumers are teaming up to buy a home with family and/ or friends, families are looking to alternative housing options that are offered beyond the traditional detached property — perhaps a townhouse or even a condo is more suitable to their lifestyle — and some are even looking to areas/ neighbourhoods outside of the more well-known “hot pockets.”

There are also several programs that can help assist with a down payment, and a realtor may advise as to your options. One notable mention goes to Habitat for Humanity GTA. Habitat helps low-income families achieve their dream of home ownership through decent affordable housing, and most recently TREB contributed $150,000 to a new home build for a local family at Habitat’s 140 Pinery Trail build site.


Home ownership will likely be one of the largest investments in your life. Home ownership can offer you a straightforward way to build your wealth and save for retirement. And, unlike other investments, you can live in your home as it provides a nest egg for your future. Plus, if your home is your principal residence, price gains are exempt from capital gains tax.


Finally, your home provides you with the backdrop for all of life’s most important events. Owning your home means contributing to and becoming part of a vibrant community – this is the part of your investment that you just can’t put a price on.

Owning a home in a neighbourhood you can call “home” buys you a sense of security and peace of mind that is truly priceless.

So, whether you’re considering buying your first property, or you’re looking to downsize to a more manageable space, remember that home ownership is a great investment that you can also live in.

Larry Cerqua is president of the Toronto Real Estate Board, a professional association that represents 45,000 professional realtor members in the Greater Toronto Area. You can contact him at TREBpres@trebnet.com. For updates on the real estate market, visit TREBHome.com. If commercial property is what interests you, contact a TREB realtor by visiting TREBCommercial.com.


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