Traditionally, a house in the suburbs with white picket fences, a Golden Retriever, two and some kids, green lush backyard and a mini-van in the driveway summed up living a Canadian dream; but not anymore. The fond dream is now beating a retreat as more and more young families are getting ready to settle down in the City ditching houses for condos. They are all set to embrace the city life, a renaissance equally exciting and unique.
Various factors are responsible for this shift in the people's mind-set: long drive to and from work, regular traffic jams on the highway and the recent talks on levying road toll tax on Gardiner and DVP, and just living in the centre of action and experiencing the fast-paced city life where all amenities that meet their full requirements and necessities are located at a stone's throw from their residence.
The City of Toronto also took a note of this steadily growing phenomenon that witnessed people migrating from suburbs to the city and opting for condos, shunning large houses. This vision led to a study called Growing Up: Planning for Children in New Vertical Communities, which has been undertaken by the City Planning Division. The research aims to examine how new multi-unit housing in high-density communities could better accommodate the needs of the households with children and youth.
This study focuses on three prime areas in the case of new and future developments. These are the unit, the building and the neighbourhood. In addition, it also considers issues such as unit size and layout, building amenities, the design of the public realm and amenities in the surrounding area.
As per the data from the City of Toronto from 2011, 32 per cent of households with children in the city lived in mid and high rise buildings. During the same year the number of families with children living in high-rise units rose by around 15 per cent with10,145 more families with kids living in high-rise apartments.
"When I moved to my condo in downtown Toronto, there was just one family with children living in my building. During the last 10 years, I have witnessed a stupendous growth in families with kids and their number in my building is now between 12-15," resonates Jim Burtnick, senior vice president, sales, Sotheby's International Realty Canada.
Burtnick calls the steady migration of people to the city and the increase in family size condos a result of chain reaction:
Rising houses prices both in the City as well suburbs and longer commute time, have resulted in many moving to City; for many others it is a matter of choice. In order to accommodate the growing population with kids, City as well developers have to concentrate more on two and three-bedroom units and comparatively less on one-bedroom although the latter were much easier and faster to sell.
Developers were slow in creating majority units of that size in high rise condos and this type of regulation was not popular with them in past. The Housing Occupancy Trends report released in 2015 shows that out of the 60 per cent of units built in high rise buildings between 1996 and 2011 period, only 3.8 per cent of them had three or more bedrooms. A 2014 report on condos commissioned by the city stated that the reason developers were not creating larger units was they had trouble selling, and making the same profit margin on them:
However city councillors like Adam Vaughan made it specifically clear that building family units is mandatory to get the support from the City for new developments.
Decisions in Toronto by Blok 70
Currently there are many new developments in the City predicting that the current shift is here to stay. They are now equipped with facilities and child-friendly amenities catering to families and their children: provision of Kids Room with child-friendly flooring, furniture and built-in stations with toys designed to stimulate learning, learning centre with dedicated staff running activities like storytelling and puppet shows, kid-play zones with splash pads and more. Some of the prominent names are Eglinton by Menkes Developments in Toronto, Fontana Condos development in Markham, Tridel’s Islington Terrace development, Museum House condos overlooking Royal Ontario Museum, or Garrison Point in Liberty Village.
In addition to this there is City Place, a huge development with 30 condo towers equipped with child-friendly amenities including daycare and movie theatre. It was built 12-15 years ago as its developers were among the few who were able to foresee and realize the importance of family-friendly condos.
Majority of these buildings are high rise as it has many advantages. The 2011 census suggests that 66 per cent of households with children live in buildings five storeys or taller in downtown, while at the city-wide level only 27 per cent of families with children live in tall buildings. "In high rises there are more units. This way families benefit sharing more amenities as more people are paying for the services compared to small buildings where the number of people staying is considerably less," says Burtnick.
Sherille Layton, sales representative, Sotheby's International Realty Canada views that rise in the family-friendly condos is not only because people like living in the City but also because of the lower prices compared to houses.
An average house in the city is about $ 950,000 and not everyone can afford such kind of dwelling. Therefore for people opting to live in city, family-friendly condos are like a breath of fresh air where they can afford amenities at a comparable lower price.
She notes that people who are living in condos are both new immigrants as well Canadians.
New immigrants coming from China, Hong Kong and India have been used to apartment livings. There is a good possibility they would feel comfortable living in condos as they can relate themselves to them. On the other hand, Canadians who are born here and lived in suburbs when young are moving to the city because of not only change of attitude but also because of change in their lifestyles as compared to their parents.
She feels that although it is still cheaper to stay in suburbs as compared to living in the city, the family-friendly condo revolution is here to stay. "Though affordability and cost are considerably influencing factors on deciding your place of residence, it is also a matter of your choice that is steadily inclining towards city living. Residing in the city gives you a wide variety of choices whether you want to visit a museum, movie theatre or restaurants."