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Stuck in Condoland

In a city where space is at a premium, tiny condos are the new family home. Learning to survive in 700 square feet

Stuck in Condoland

Shannon Bury and Paul LeBrun reorganized their condo around their son, Jacob, and often use the building’s hallways as a play space

Shannon Bury was 27, with a marketing job in the 905 and her own condo in Burlington, when the big city came to fetch her. The company she worked for was acquired by a larger firm, Pareto Marketing, which moved her job to Toronto. She moved along with it and traded up, selling her place in Burlington and buying a 607-square-foot, one-bedroom-plus-den unit in Charlie, a 36-storey tower proposed for Charlotte Street near King and Spadina. She got the unit pre-construction for less than $300,000, which was a steal, because really she’d purchased much more than space: she bought the dream Toronto and its developers have been selling throughout this decade-long boom. She was single in the city, blonde and svelte, with a well-paying career-track job and, soon, a condo on the edge of clubland. Toronto would be at her feet and at her service. It was the spring of 2008.

Then she met a guy. A great guy, Paul LeBrun, a Winnipeg native who’d landed in Toronto with a Bay Street securities job. They met at a mutual friend’s condo in February 2010, at a party to watch the Vancouver Olympics men’s gold medal hockey game. (The running joke among their friends is that Paul still doesn’t know who won; he was too busy wooing Shannon.) Before long they were living together at Yonge and St. Clair, with an eye to moving into her condo later that year, once it was finished. But the construction fell behind schedule, and their life together began to outpace the cranes. They got married in the ­summer of 2012, and when they moved into Charlie that November, they were already planning their family. “We figured it would take eight months or so to get pregnant,” she says. “Then there’d be nine months of pregnancy, so we’d have time to enjoy condo life before the baby arrived.” She conceived by Christmas.

Jacob, now 10 months old, is busy teaching his parents the true meaning of square footage. To make room for all the baby equipment, Shannon and Paul relegated to storage an armchair, an end table, a coffee table and, most recently, a loveseat. A lone couch remains from their brief childless-couple condo life. “Our time is spent in play dates, and play dates are spent with everyone sitting on the floor anyway,” Shannon says. Jacob’s playtime inevitably spills out into the hallway. The neighbours don’t complain, and neither does Shannon when, for instance, her 20-something party-boy neighbour has friends over for pre-drinks on the balcony before heading out clubbing. “I can’t hold it against him,” she says. “I’d be doing the same thing in his position. I’m jealous, really.”

Everything that happened to Shannon and Paul in the last few years is also happening to the city itself, shaped by forces greater than any of them. Toronto has been swept up in a maelstrom of human and economic migration that has swelled its population in the core. Shannon and Paul bought into the New Toronto brand: the vertical city of luxury living, cultural experience, Momofuku food and trendy boutiques. That’s how the lifestyle is marketed by politicians and developers alike, and it’s incredibly appealing to young adults in all their forms: staid professionals, graduating millennials, hipsters.

Now their lives are changing, in a wave that could turn out to be as big as the one that herded them downtown: they are becoming parents. Downtown Toronto is being reshaped by the latest baby boom. The total number of ­preschool-age kids is rising fastest where condo towers are going up, and nowhere is the demographic shift happening more intensely than in the crane-addled area south of Queen from University to Dufferin; there, the number of kids under age five has increased since 2006 by a whopping 65 per cent. Toronto is bearing witness to the birth of a new generational phenomenon: the Condo Kid.

And the city is welcoming its Condo Kids, in essence, by putting their cribs in the alcove nursery that condo marketers call a “den.” The real estate tracking firm Urbanation says that, as of last March, there are more than 25,000 condo units under construction in the former City of Toronto, and few of them will have more than two bedrooms. Only 21 of the 50 projects in pre-construction will have three-bedroom units. Even the units with two bedrooms are getting smaller: the average size of a condo in the GTA has dropped precipitously since 2009, from well over 900 square feet to 797 square feet today. Singles in the city are coupling up, having kids and looking for bigger homes, yet developers continue to flood the landscape with ever-tinier units—a situation abetted by a lack of planning and enabled by politicians. A quiet revolution is underway in how Toronto raises kids, one that was perfectly predictable but for which the city has failed to prepare. A whole generation of families are finding themselves stuck in their starter homes.

  • Ryan

    This begs the question; what happens next? Do condo dwellers with a child or children abandon condo land and head back to the burbs for schools and child friendly and all the other things that go with parenthood that are in abundance in the 905?

  • Canadianskeezix

    If that was the plan, they would have done it already.

  • http://racingtoaredlight.com/ Soused Bergin

    The problem is the CMHC guaranteed loans, banks could lend money with impunity driving prices outrageously high. Wages have been stagnant against inflation for 40 years so here we are, raising families in shoeboxes with 160% household debt.

  • Canadianskeezix

    “For developers, the payoff of condo construction far outstrips that of detached housing.”

    That’s an overly-simplistic way to look at it. There are no large, vacant tracts of land for new detached housing in the Annex, Roncesvalles or the Danforth. Where developable land does exist, the land values assume higher densities (moreover, MPAC assumes that highest and best use is higher densities, and assesses it as such) and there is no way to make single-detached homes work financially unless it is luxury housing. And developers are building detached housing, plenty of it in fact, just not in central Toronto. Infill projects do get built on residential side streets, adding grade-related detached, semi-detached and townhouses to the downtown housing stock, but in a city where many residents react the same way to severance applications as they do to crack houses, such projects can sometimes be more challenging than building condos on the main streets.

  • Cathy

    I would like Toronto Life to follow-up with these couples in a few years. I am curious what will be their ultimate decision.

  • http://www.etsy.com/shop/Clayshapes Clayshapes Pottery

    New Yorker and European families have been living this way – in apartments – for hundreds of years. The difference is that NYC and European apartments were actually built for families. Our city planners have failed us over and over and over again. Infuriating.

  • Heather

    Part of the problem is all these developers have been able to build without contributing to the infrastracture. They should have been charged fees that goes towards building subways, parks, schools, a hospital. All these people have moved downtown but they have removed 2 hospitals in the last 20 yrs ( Wellsley and WCH has moved alot of space to Sunnybrook) . The Distillary District has about 20 new condos buildings but not one new school and no new transit. I use to work down there and my last year I would find I often could not get off the streetcar it was so packed. It would be a great lifestyle if there were more 3 bedooms, they were not quite so small and the condo fees were not so high.

  • Emma Rowens

    I for one am sick of new families complaining about this issue, most of my friends live in 2 bedroom apartments with 1 to 2 kids complaining about space. The space was always going to be an issue and it is obvious so why keep whining! Is it just me or are these people delusional, you bought a 2 bedroom with 2 bath, it was going to be difficult with one child let alone 2. It would be ideal if they did build 3 bedroom apartments but I’m sure they’d cost 500-600k. But until those types of condos are built they need to learn to compromise or shut up! Living outside of Toronto isn’t that bad, there are other communities. If you want a yard and space for your children then you need to sacrifice like the hundreds of thousands of people who commute 1 to 2 hours downtown everyday. It isn’t ideal but thousands make it work. I swear Torontonians complain so much about Toronto living but the moment you tell them to leave the city they protest.

  • ATELIER IVAAN

    With so many new condos being built in downtown Toronto, it would seem that a smart builder would opt for the Lego approach: designing adjacent units that can be conjoined in future for families needing more space. Thoughtfully laid out, a 2 bedroom unit next to a one-bedroom unit could result in a family-size kitchen, another bathroom, office space and an extra bedroom, still be cheaper than a house and a commute, offer privacy when the kids are older and a guest suite once they’ve left home. It would probably make economic sense to buy two units pre-construction and rent one out until it’s needed.

  • Pilot Interactive

    That’s a wonderful idea.

  • 00AV

    You know what this is the “new normal”? Its because we as people accept it as so.

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  • d4d10

    Please get off your high horse!! If you read the article, the tone from the families that are profiled isn’t one of whining, but just explaining how they make things work. They are very aware that they could live in the suburbs with more space but have consciously chosen to live in the city for some of the other perceived benefits. The only ‘complaining’ in this article is frustration with the lack of vision for the community from the people approving these new developments. That’s no different than the commuters ‘complaining’ about their commute times because of the lack of proper infrastructure. If you’re going to paint Torontonians with such a broad stroke, I hope you realize how tiring it is to hear that it takes too long to drive in to Toronto from Hamilton, Guelph, Barrie, etc…

  • Jason Tang

    High density living is the new reality for Toronto as there is no more land – urban planners have realised that there are limits to spreading horizontally and as a real estate agent, most people born after 1980s simply do not want to commute realising time is money.

    There exists a mentality of many in Toronto that children should have acres of green space to stretch their bodies and minds but land is precious. Rest of the world has been living in high rise buildings and raised families in them for the past 40 years and children who grew up in Hongkong or Paris are equally capable human beings. Instead of a yard, the city is the backyard where they learn to navigate subway at age 8.

    Condo living is a lifestyle choice for some but a new economic reality for most.

  • PlantinMoretus

    Well-designed small spaces can be a delight to live in, but that’s not what most Toronto condos offer.

  • PlantinMoretus

    The article barely touched on it, our reduced standard of living. Two generations ago almost all employed men could afford a house, a car, and the support of a stay-at-home wife and a few kids. Now, TWO professional incomes are not enough to maintain the same standard of living. People need to wake up.

  • arketiat

    I grew up in an apartment in Europe. It was fine but it definitely wasn’t a 600 sq ft shoebox.

  • spicytuna00

    Why the hell would anyone want to raise kids in a tiny shoebox…there are plenty of homes outside the city that actually give you breathing room for a fraction of the price.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jibreelx JKR

    Build bigger condos.

  • http://www.adamnowek.com/ Adam Nowek

    Most city dwellers outside of Canada and the United States are used to growing up in more efficient and confined living quarters. This is only new for sparsely populated countries like our own.

  • Jason Tang

    Oftentimes parents reside in condos due to economic realities – condos are more affordable and closer to job opportunities without the 1 hour commute / 2 hrs per day. There are many open spaces for fun and exploration in city, building gym and pool as their backyard.

  • Jason Tang

    We live in a very materialistic society compared to 1960. Nowadays people have 20 pairs of shoes and travel on a whim for a weekend getaway which did not happen in 1960. I know family on 1 income but they spend thriftly.

    If family travelled once a year, have 1 car, no summer camps 5k$ per kid, you can live on 1 income. But we all want more so gotta work more.

  • PlantinMoretus

    Nope, that’s not it. That is such a tired old argument that I’m embarrassed for you.

    Economists have shown again and again that real wages (i.e. adjusted for inflation) have been dropping for the last 30-40 years. Even a 1960 middle-class family lifestyle is not possible on the average income of the average Canadian male.

  • Zuchini

    It’s pretty simple. Wages have been stagnant for a long time while inflation has soared. People buy what they can afford. Shoeboxes. It would be nice if the city/government gave a shit and mandated developers to build more livable spaces instead of half ass-ing things and telling them to build a park here and a extra bedroom there. Build proper condos meant for everyone including families. Not cheaply built college dorms for single play boys. Toronto has some of the worst planners imaginable. Building code is outdated and total crap too. Just one giant failure.

  • Jolene C

    Assuming this entire article wasn’t invented out of whole cloth on orders from BILD, the featured millennial’s shallow urban boosterism and self-delusion explains a lot about what happened on election day. You think merely inventing a catch phrase “Condo Kids” is going to somehow inoculate them from impending psychosis of their veal-like conditions? Put a little extra in your TFSAs each month for psych counseling and Zanax, you adorable hipsters. They’re gonna need it.

  • Jolene C

    Because kids are merely one of many facets of the precious “urban lifestyle.”

  • Jolene C

    Kids have been raised in tiny condos in Japan for a generation. They call them “Hikikomori” (teen shut-ins) and their lives are tragic, scary and sad. Get an acreage and get some garden dirt under your kid’s nails: It’s the greatest gift you can give them. Toronto was livable and doable 20 years ago-it’s impossible now and anything worth doing has a line of 100 parents in front of you. You may not be stuck in traffic, but I’ll bet you’re stuck in a line or on a dozen waiting lists. In the age of telecommuting it’s not that tough to pull off an escape from the hell that is T.O.

  • d4d10

    yeah, cause I’m sure 3 hrs a day on the Gardiner/403/401 is great for mental health…

  • cyclewrite

    Certainly it’s helpful when children become older in their teens, they have their own room. Or at least same gender siblings share a bedroom. So condo living can be more complicated in such situations.
    Look, I am eldest of 6 children. We grew up in 1 bedroom apartment in a city outside of Toronto with 5 children…before my parents bought their first house. Of course, we were poor and older kids slept in living rm.
    But then it was only 3 bedroom house on a mature tree lined street with older homes. Some siblings still had to share bedrooms. A den became a bedroom. A family of 8 shared 1 bathroom. So you just create rules how bathroom is kept clean. This is in Ontario. NOt a developing country. Did having a yard make difference..it was small. Less than 400 sq ft. Just abit. We couldn’t kick around ball. There was a weedy garden. It was convenient for our large family to air dry our hanging laundry since we didn’t have a dryer. BAckyard overlooked a transformer station. Best was we learned bike on a one-way, one lane residential street.
    So as a family if you buy a condo, just make sure it is near small park, pathway system, transit (which my parents made damn sure of that one.), some stores, etc.
    There is some arrogance of some folks thinking that children are intellectually deficient and unhealthy if they don’t live on property surrounded by trees, lots of grass. Listen, it’s just grass….as long as parents allow them to play outside unsupervised. Now, is that happening lots these days??? No, paranoid parents schlepping kids all over to play soccer, etc. planned play. Or kids indoors at the computer.
    I don’t see nowadays when I bike around (I don’t have a car) in suburban residential areas, children playing lots by themselves like we did (30 yrs. ago) on our own.

  • joshua

    I would say it’s city planners and politicians who have become beholden to developers through campaign donations (have you seen the lists?) Cash in envelopes greases city bureaucracy

  • joshua

    They did, it’s call section 37 money. the problem is that councillors rather direct the money to useless pet projects that get them elected.

  • joshua

    fyi, a 3 bedroom condo in the city will start around 800k

  • joshua

    homes in the 905 are in the 800k+ … add 2 cars and you’re back to the equivelent of a million dollar home in the city (which still gets you nothing btw.

  • joshua

    wake up to what? That human society as a whole is built on a pyramid scheme?

  • PlantinMoretus

    Just THIS human society. We can change it.

  • Shandy

    Some of these families simply strike me as young first time parents. You can spend a year or two pretending that your life hasn’t changed (going to bars, throwing your drunken Christmas party) and then it starts to wear off and you realize it has changed. In some ways it is easiest to pretend with a newborn who will sleep through dinner at a restaurant. Your two year old won’t, and likely the surrounding tables won’t find them cute unless it is a family restaurant.

    Many of these parents will realize that they are no longer enjoying many of the benefits of central urban living (other than a short commute). You aren’t out wining and dining because you either can no longer afford it, find the time, don’t stay up late anymore, are getting old, etc. Having children = deep personal sacrifice on all sorts of levels, and many of these young families haven’t realized it or are still trying to resist it. They will wake up one day and realize they are keeping their kids in a constrained environment so that THEY (the parents) can try to maintain their cosmopolitan lifestyle.

  • Kda

    I grew up with my brother near Yonge-Bloor in an apartment in the 90s. There were lots of kids – we hung out at the playground near the building or at Ramsden Park. We never felt hard done by. Until we met kids from the suburbs flexing but even then, the suburban life seemed too sheltered and isolated. I still live in the area and all I see are transients. Downtown needs more kids/schools/parks/etc. Toronto needs more vertical growth not horizontal. We’ll have a happier city.

  • 3ryant

    I’m pretty sure kids don’t drive especially on the Gardiner, 403 or 401 so the lengthly drive to save money for your future is the sacrifice a parent makes for their children.

  • Laurin

    Like when our parents raised us in one-bedroom apartments, because that is all they could afford. Even my father, when his parents were “doing well”, they had a storey-and-a-half at the end of a dirt road (what was then Keele Street) with 2 bedrooms for 4 people – plus a boarder in the living room.

    I am only 41, not like I am old and talking about walking 10 miles to school every day, uphill both ways. But we all made do. Sure, I have a decent house now, but my first child was born in an apartment. He survived.

    People make choices. About where to live, where to work, how much to spend. If you want to live downtown, then deal with the smaller spaces. Want more space, move out of the core. And deal with the commute.

    I will drive longer so that my kids have a nicer place to live, more trees and green space, less traffic and pollution. I don’t drag them around to bars and restaurants they don’t like. I go to Boston Pizza a LOT more than I would like, but that is because my kids love it. I do it for them. Don’t make your kids adapt to your life, or the life you want. You change your life for them. You make changes to make them happy.

    Your parents did it for you. Now it is your turn.

    And don’t whine about it.

  • Dawn Henri

    it’s interesting curious how you can stop & take a look at yourself, your human condition, economic limits & still able to discuss it calmly intelligently without whining need interfering clouding your brain – i never had that option in the 70s/80s – it was all subsistence survival cloudiness

  • Sophie

    “She also lets the kids burn energy in the PATH system”…”The moms there have banded together to turn a coffee shop’s patio into an unofficial playground”.

    I get that Toronto is in major need of kid-friendly places, but can you please stop turning these beautiful commercial spaces into your personal playground? It’s one thing if you are walking through the PATH with your kids, but actually bringing them there to run around like it is a gymnasium is incredibly distressing to the other pedestrians. It is also teaching your kids that their needs are more important than others’. Same thing with the coffee shop. If you want to take your kids for hot chocolate that’s wonderful, but please, please don’t make the Starbucks patio your playgroup destination, unless you plan on spending twice as much to make up for the loss in revenue.

  • Rob L

    agree, families are spending some 30% LESS on food, entertainment and clothing than our one income parents, so what changed, the cost of housing and for Americans healthcare. Today you simply can’t survive on one income unless you live way out in the boondocks

    Two Income Trap by E Warren

    edit, how do you carry a million dollar mortgage on one income?

  • PlantinMoretus

    So basically, get used to your lowered standard of living.

  • PlantinMoretus

    Long commutes affect the mental health of the parents, which in turn affects their relationships with their children. Also, long commutes eat into the *time* parents have with their children, which isn’t good either.

  • CYW

    I don’t think anyone wants to raise kids in a tiny shoebox. But, when you weigh that against a 2 hour commute (on a good day) and the expense of a TTC or GO pass and factor in all of the family time lost, I can see how it would be attractive. Certainly worth consideration. It can’t work for the long haul though. You can’t raise a tween in a 2 bdr, 600′ condo. Well … you CAN … but all parties will be miserable. I lived in a stacked townhome with my 4 yo until he was 8 and I eventually had to give in and move to Etobicoke. I love living in the city but better schools and wanting more space for my son to grow was the deal breaker. Couldn’t afford the prices though; I am renting and hating it. But my kid loves it out here ….

  • CYW

    It’s not a lowered standard. It’s a *different* standard. A temporary standard. You trade a certain way of living to be able to raise kids. And, it’s a choice, as the poster said. It’s about what one holds as a priority.

  • PlantinMoretus

    No, it is *lowered*. See my other comments on this post about declining real wages. It’s not temporary either – most of these families will never be able to afford something much bigger or better. Your description above about a 2-bed house for 4 people and a boarder in the living room? That is *poverty*, not a middle-class way of life.

  • CYW

    I did not make any comment about a 2-bed house.

  • PlantinMoretus

    The other guy, then.

  • urbanlife

    Planning 3-4 years ahead and buying a condo that’s suitable for a growing family (tying up a good sum of money for that length of time) is highly unlikely for many young couples. Unfortunately, the cost of land downtown plus the cost of construction and the cost of developments levies forces the cost of condos to go up which means that larger units wouldn’t be selling like hot cakes with the prices developers are asking. The only exception is probably that project by Front and Church called The Berczy. It’s too bad that we can’t build larger condos that are more affordable as there is a real need for them in the city.

  • urbanlife

    Looking at homes further away from the city core isn’t a better option. All of the houses in half decent neighbourhoods north, east and west of the city are ridiculously priced and the commute to come downtown for work is just brutal. Living in a condo downtown and raising a family in is often a choice. The “Good Life” can be anywhere you choose but it might be a better life if you weren’t stuck in traffic for 2+ hours every day. That’s 2+ hours I lose that I could be spending with my husband and two kids at a nearby park or at a fun event or just catching the baseball game without having to drive and pay $25 to park.

  • urbanlife

    This may be true for some families but the majority of families do not spend frivolously. I hate to say it but even a high income earner cannot support a family on just one income. The cost of real estate and cost of living have just risen faster than wages can keep pace.

  • Michael Mclaughlin

    Great idea, simple and effective.

  • sunbeamcatcher

    there is no comparison to European apartments (large and comfortable) – these Toronto condos are made for rats not people

  • sunbeamcatcher

    Paris has plenty of beautiful parks and green spaces for recreation – unlike TO condo district with concrete playgrounds behind wire fences, with gasoline breeze and other toxic fumes for “fresh air”.

  • http://www.jeffreyteam.com Laurin Jeffrey

    It was not poverty, it was simply life. I lived with a single mother on Ontario Street, by Regent Park. She rented the dumpy old townhouse we lived in. That sucked, we were poor. But then she worked her butt off and ended up many years later with her own custom 4-bedroom house on a big piece of land. Now she is retired and living in Mexico.

    My point was that we all have to start somewhere. So many people seem to think that they are entitled to enter the real estate market by buying some amazing house.

    Most people’s first house is not a 3-storey Victorian gem a block from Trinity-Bellwoods Park. Just as most people’s first car is not a Porsche and most people’s first job doesn’t pay $100,000.

    You start somewhere, you try to work your way up, you do what you can. Make the best of it, enjoy what you can. If you want better things, work for them and strive to improve.

    Life ain’t perfect, make the best of what you have.

  • http://www.jeffreyteam.com Laurin Jeffrey

    Not quite $800k, but certainly $600 for the average detached in Durham Region at least. Add in higher property tax ($500/month or more) plus the cars and yes, you are looking at the equivalent of a house in the 416. But even so, that million bucks don’t much any more…

  • http://www.jeffreyteam.com Laurin Jeffrey

    With bigger prices and higher condo fees. At a certain size, the price point pushes people into freehold houses. A 1,000-1,200sf condo can run you $600k or $700k these days. Add in condo fees of $600 or $800 and you might as well spend $800k on a house.

  • http://www.jeffreyteam.com Laurin Jeffrey

    But it is true. People want so much more today than they did before. Even if they can’t afford the basics, they are striving to get more than that. Wonder why people are so far in debt? It is to pay for their 60″ TVs, dinners out and more.

    The average Torontoite makes around $57,000, which is not chump change.

    What is a 1960 middle-class lifestyle anyway? My parents grew up sharing a bedroom in a small house. They had one car and my grandfather worked. My dad and uncle worked a bit too, here and there, even when they were kids. They had a cottage, but just a shack, not today’s cottages. They did not go on vacations, they went there. They had one pair of shoes, they played with sticks and hung out at the park. They didn’t spend money on anything! What is this magic lifestyle you mention?

  • http://www.jeffreyteam.com Laurin Jeffrey

    Sure, mandate developers build 1,200sf 3-bedroom condos that no one buys because they are $750,000. Some have tried, they built them, no one bought them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jibreelx JKR

    If you build it, they will come

  • Zuchini

    Who said anything about 3 bedroom condos? I said build appropriate condos for families which means build condos that are suitable for 2 or 3 people rather than a 23 year old bachelor. Linear kitchens, bedrooms without doors or even windows. There was a time when rooms without windows could not be called bedrooms. Welp, they’re called bedrooms now. Do you think these cheap glass boxes are built for anyone under the age of 25? It’s not about building 3 bedroom units. It’s about building livable units.

    I’ve seen those 3 bedroom units that developers are building. They’re a joke. Awkward design, tiny bedrooms that can’t even fit a queen bed. It’s a joke. No wonder they sit and sit and sit. Would you encourage a family to shell out $750K on a pint sized condo with irregular bedrooms and a sliding door for a bedroom door? Would you encourage them to invest in a building built for 20-25 year old party goers and students? Soundproofing so poor that your kids can’t sleep because the base from the next unit is keeping them up? Eowntown new condos aren’t an attractive option for anyone above the age of 30 with a family.

    This comes from someone who was raised in a 3 bedroom condo. My friends were raised in condos as well. No way we could have lived in the crap they’re building now.

  • Zuchini

    The government should share some blame here. Trying to cash in on the boom, they charge developers all kinds of fees which then get pushed to the purchasers. Then you have the double land transfer tax which is downright ridiculous. Families can’t afford houses. Can’t afford condos. There’s a lack of affordable housing so can’t afford that. Something’s got to give. Things won’t be pretty in this city in the next 10 years or so IMO. We’re quickly becoming a city for the rich. The middle class is dwindling. Too many people living off credit and the equity they have in their overpriced homes. Wages are creeping along or stagnant while cost of living soars. I’d hate to see a correction because a lot of people will be in trouble.

  • PlantinMoretus

    1) Your personal individual experience does not apply to everyone. Especially since it happened in the context of a different economy and housing market than we have now.
    2) You have really drunk the bootstraps Kool-Aid if you think that people with degrees AND established professional careers AND two incomes have entitlement issues just because they want a house they can afford for their small family.

  • PlantinMoretus

    Your idea of economic justice includes child labour and one pair of shoes per child?

  • ron ban

    I feel nothing but disgust for these idiotic so called professionals holding these high paid jobs with mushy names like Marketing Consultant or Social Media Analyst. Too many stupid people earning money they don’t deserve. With fake university degrees, from universities where females and minorities are favored over straight white males.

  • http://www.ChooseRemax.ca/ Joseph Carlisle

    Absolute non-sense. Families could own a 2 or 3 bedroom home for the price of a 3 Bedroom condo downtown. The $900,000 average price for homes in Toronto includes the million dollar homes as well, big price numbers sell newspapers. There are plenty of affordable family homes in Toronto where kids can have a yard and a normal childhood.
    Find Your Family’s Next Home Online, Anytime, http://www.ChooseRemax.ca

  • Made in Canada

    It’s fascinating that all of these people seem unwilling to make any major lifestyle change (sacrifice) in order to accommodate their self-professed desire for children.

    I can’t help but see this as another example of how self-serving our generation is.

  • Subdivision

    srsly? like you’re a reporter? she’s very obviously a brunette and he’s very obviously what the cat dragged in, in terms of looks

  • swan

    Move to Burlington. It IS a better option for young families. The commute is only 40 minutes by train with a quite zone on second level so you can read or catch up on work or sleep. You will get a lot more for your money here when it comes to real estate. We just had a baby and sold our house in Leslieville and bought a much bigger house in much nicer area for same money here in Burlington and couldn’t be more happy. Living here is like living in paradise compared to how we lived in Toronto. People complain about the commute but at least everything else takes less time such as simple errands like going to a Home Depot to pick up some paint or IKEA, In Toronto that would be a whole day wasted sitting in traffic. I just signed up my baby to some music classes and they are free here with 10 different locations to choose from all within 10 min drive. A lot of our friends complained about us moving “so far” yet we now see them more than we did when we lived in Toronto and ironically its not us visiting them, its them visiting us.

  • Gene79

    3 hours? FYI 3 bedroom semis/towns/fixer uppers south of steeles and east of the 427 can still be bought for under 600k. (you may have to skip out on taking baby to the bar to actually maintain it- sorry) I live in don mills, have a yard, great schools, one shared car and a 45 minute commute to union via TTC which lets me catch up on reading. Jolene C I couldn’t agree more. “shallow urban boosterism” – hit the nail on the head. Just look at some of the very names of these pretentious condo projects. So sad what this city is becoming. We missed the boat on transit infrastructure in the 70′s and 80′s and now this.

  • d4d10

    My point (which I admittedly did not state very eloquently in my original comment) is that people have different reasons for living in different places. I’m very happy for you that you have a yard, etc with a 45 min commute to Union. I have an 8 min walk past a park to my place of work, and rarely need a car at all, both of which I rather enjoy. The message I got from this article is that people have many valid reasons for sacrificing the things you mentioned (and are conscious of what they are sacrificing), and it works for their family to live downtown. The only thing more pretentious than living in a condo named ‘mirage’ is to mandate that your choices must be adopted by everybody, and that those that do not must be ‘hipsters’, ‘shallow’, ‘deluded’, etc.

    I do strongly agree however about missing the boat on transit infrastructure (both within the city and connecting the city to suburbs)

  • DoctorGoodWord

    One near-future factor and possible game-changer not mentioned either in the article or thus far in the comment section is the rapidly progressing development of the self-driving car. Most auto industry estimates project that self-driving cars will become commercially available somewhere in the 2020-2025 timeframe. Just this year, Volvo launched a pilot project with 100 self-driving cars being driven on designated streets by ordinary drivers in the Swedish city of Gothenburg. Also this year, Ontario launched a five-year project to study self-driving cars in order to ensure a workable legal, regulatory and insurance framework for their expected widespread use, although the province may be a little lagging here, given that four U.S. states have already, in our current decade, passed first-generation legislation for self-driving vehicles. Google’s highly publicized self-driving car fleet has driven more than 500,000 miles without a single machine-caused accident, and their latest prototypes are ready for regular-driver testing. When these cars become legal for purchase and use in Ontario, the dreaded long commute keeping workers and families tethered to urban life will be much less of a prohibitive factor in suburban living. First, commutes will be shorter and smoother, because the computers and cloud systems driving the cars will optimize all aspects of travel, and, according to early studies, will cut down traffic accidents by as much as 90%, further eliminating transit delays. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, self-driving cars will become, depending upon need, both highly efficient personal office spaces and oases of personal relaxation and tele-socialization. The one-hour commute both to and from one’s job suddenly becomes one of the best parts of the day for either work or downtime, including naps. The widespread adoption of the self-driving car will change the modern world in an extraordinary number of ways (goodbye to the professions of taxi driver, long-haul trucker and even the valet; get ready for a significant reduction in police officers, auto insurance agents and even trauma surgeons). It will also greatly reduce the commuting penalty for suburban life. In twenty years, I predict a big downswing in all Toronto house prices (dollar-adjusted) and a lot of cheap(er) city condos.

  • wyseeit

    Just wait for the next real estate downturn. What goes up always comes down. Canada is only country that has still defied gravity. It won’t be long

  • wyseeit

    except you won’t get any sleep listening to the base from the next door neighbour, the constant sirens, the traffic noise, the night that never gets dark from all the lights that never shut off in the city, some life style

  • wyseeit

    I moved to Ajax from Kennedy and Sheppard, Can get downtown on the Go train in half the time in 50 min. With the disaster the subway has become it took me 1.5 hrs to do the same with three transfers Bus , subway , subway, then two or three “we apologize, blah blah blah,” delays and standing mostly the whole time. I can see the sardines packed on the Queen and King street cars, these condo dwellers have not improved the quality of their commute. If I want to go uptown Go bus will take me to York Mills or Yorkdale.
    I never based where I live totally on where I worked because you know what, companies move, they shut down, they are sold, you are fired. This notion you walk to work is BS pushed by the same people that brought you open concept living. Yeah isn’t it great trying to hear the TV over the kitchen noises, and watch the mess pile up. BTW once upon a time there were politicians ( Sewell, Crombie) who made a career out of the height restriction bylaw. Developers were called block busters, why even the Star was against these buildings which they now love, now its called intensification and voilà, its good for you.
    Average houses here are in the 350- 450k range.
    Read this story from the times
    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1946&dat=19731109&id=1pcuAAAAIBAJ&sjid=q6EFAAAAIBAJ&pg=1510,2534330

  • Hold my beer and watch this

    You can only physically fit so many cars down one road. Reducing the bottleneck will only lead to a round of added sprawl which will quickly backfill the available capacity.

    This of course assumes several things – first, that zoning allows it, second, that the cultural trends towards walkable neighbourhoods don’t continue, and third, that you ban manually driven cars (which almost certainly won’t happen in the next 20 years, too many people enjoy driving – see also, persistence of manual transmissions and sports cars despite 1.40 gas).

  • Hold my beer and watch this

    You forget that these people already live in condos and are aware of the issues.

    Not like the burbs are silent either. I seem to remember an awful lot of bored teenagers with subwoofers cruising around doing nothing.

  • wyseeit

    aware does not make the problem go away. Oh and the bored drunks that make downtown parks no-go zones are better

  • tl

    The downturn may be many, many years away if what is happening to Vancouver is happening here. Do you notice the empty units that foreigners bought but without any occupant?

  • tl

    Without the land transfer tax you would see even higher prices. Get a clue.

  • Zuchini

    Who told you that? LOL.

  • http://www.greentea.tk andreakw

    “Jacob’s playtime inevitably spills out into the hallway. The neighbours don’t complain, and neither does Shannon when, for instance, her 20-something party-boy neighbour has friends over for pre-drinks on the balcony before heading out clubbing.

    The difference here is that the party-boy is using his own space while Shannon has decided to co-opt common space. Just another example of parents deciding that everyone else has to make sacrifices for their lifestyle choices.

  • notsurprise

    That sucks…Toronto is expensive…having kids is expensive…maybe you should have your baby and rent for a year before deciding to spend a half million to buy a glass shoebox in clubland. I don’t think its surprising that condo companies care more for making money than acomodating new families. Easy lesson: You can’t always get what you want…

  • Headshot Critic

    Joseph Carlise – Your face (especially on your website) looks like you’re holding a mask up to your head.

  • Darren X2

    Kennedy and Sheppard is hardly the “downtown” that is being discussed here. You merely traded one suburban hellhole for another. Enjoy your 50 minute train commute. I’ll be the guy you see cycling to work in 15 minutes, and loving it.

  • Darren X2

    $57k? I don’t think you’re buying a Toronto house on that, or even a condo for that matter.

  • Christopher Paul Dart

    You’re acting like “short commute” isn’t a key part of the appeal of living in the city. I think if you take restaurants, shows, bars, everything else out of the equation, that ALONE is reason enough not to move to the burbs.

  • wyseeit

    oh yeah the city ends at Bloor street. I thought that when I was a child growing up at Bathurst and Queen. Guess what I grew up. Maybe you should too. BTW happy I don’t sit next to you at work after your bike ride. Good luck with the January to April rides , You will need it. Will think of you having my coffee and reading the paper. As for what looks like sh8t take of your rose colured glasses, south of Bloor the city becomes graffiti land giving TO that bombed out look and the vagrant hobos living on the sidewalks and downtown parks add to the charm. I walked my dogs on streets with boulevards and plenty of park land without getting into the fights for space that downtown smog breathers constantly engage in.

  • wyseeit

    hey cycle boy you don’t get around downtown much do you. You want cess pool go east of Yonge along Dundas, look out for falling crackheads. You want the smells of a cess pool go west of yonge on queen to the grange. Stick around Grunge park or any downtown park if you dare. Then head over to Liberty Village AKA Parkdale and try and duck the panhandlers and the walking talking zombies . BTW shouldn’t downtown be labelled Graffitiville, there isn’t one public wall, bridge you name it that doesn’t have that apocalyptic look. Keep those blinkers on while you cycle you may not like what you might see. Here we have streets with grass boulevards, lots of parks to walk the dogs without starting WW3 , singing birds and clean air. Something those Gardiner and railtrack hugging condo will never experience provide. Oh and I am happy not to sit beside you after your bike ride, hope you at least delouse yourself before going in the office.

  • daryl smith

    as a condo parent with 2 children, I agree with the majority of points in this article. However, I also feel that it is a somewhat downtown-centric view of the situation. I currently live in a 1100 square foot condo at yonge and finch, directly above the subway station, which I purchased 6 years ago for 300k. It provides the best of both worlds-space and proximity to the city. The author implies that parents need to choose between a cramped space in the downtown core or a 100k daily commute from the suburbs, however there are more alternatives out there…

  • RusteeAB43 .

    On what scientific and biological basis did they ‘figure’ it would take 8 months to get pregnant? (takes about 8 seconds really… ok actually somewhere between 8 minutes and 8 days depending on traffic, road-blocks, and distance to the, um, vessel)

  • wyseeit

    you obviously don’t get around much. Want misery go east of yonge on dundas, that’s if you don’t run over a panhandler or two sleeping outdoors. Go to Liberty Village AKA Parkdale and have a discussion, nah they talk to themselves, about the great atmosphere, and don’t forget to leave your tag along the way, Downtown is a dump

  • pieinthesky

    Not just families, for all demographics. You also will see nobody but young people in the condos, a retiree would feel like an idiot. That never happens in Europe or even Manhattan where all age groups live cheek by jowl.

  • pieinthesky

    Not at all caused by consumer goods, the cost of the big ticket items like housing and education costs have exploded, health care in the U.S. Most consumer goods are cheaper today. Elizabeth Warren has a good book on the topic. Wages for the average two income couples are about equal to a single wage earner back in 1960-land. It’s also a myth that say house sizes are giant now, it’s about equal to 1 bedroom in size extra not thousands of square feet more.

  • pieinthesky

    Not true, the 60″ TV costs a lost less relatively than a tiny black and white TV. Even the quality of your dad’s one pair of shoes was a lot better, they had top quality leather for kids not cheap Wal-Mart plastic. People are in debt to pay for an explosion in housing costs, education even drugs, my uncovered drugs are $200 a month for migraine, my husband’s meds, also not covered, are the same another $200 and that’s with a drug plan.

  • pieinthesky

    One pair of top quality leather shoes are better than 5 Wal-Mart pairs. We had 2 pairs, a good pair for Sunday and a school pair but in today’s world they would be over $100 each for kid’s shoes. Nobody wore Crocs and cheap stuff.

  • johnbernier

    thats what voting liberal does for you, its your own fault.

  • Mariya

    Very interesting article. I have been watching this phenomenon unfold and I am concerned how this will affect my future choices. Most of my friends with kids live in suburbs and spend hours on commute to work. Going out is often a challenge for them as well, because majority of the best restaurants and bars are downtown. I’m married and we want to start a family soon. I can see how having one child might work out while living at a condo, but I can hardly imagine having more than one in these living conditions. The new Canary District at West Don Lands is being marketed as suitable for any lifestyle, including young families, however in this article it was mentioned that there aren’t 3 bedroom units being build either. This issue also offers a lot of business opportunities.

  • Michael Fairney

    You can buy a huge condo in an older building for less than a tiny condo in a new building. You just sacrifice coolness and location…. but you can live like a normal human being. Tiny condos suck….

  • Arch_of_Life

    Smart builders get politicians to control and tell planners what they want. They build for a direct return. Developers get politicians to tip them off, as well, before any new legislation comes in. They don’t care if 10 years from now, you’re not happy with your unit. Thats why they’re in the residential business. For direct return. SMART citizens stop blaming planners and tell politicians they won’t stand for it anymore. The only way this would happen is if policy made it happen, if the councillors voted for it, if the citizens left voicemails on all the councillors messages asking for this, it would be passed in a year. But it would then, be overturned by the province, and it’s economic “growth” plan.

    There is a big, naivety, in southern Ontario toward a basic understanding of their own countries municipal, provincial structure which is driving the inflation of housing market. Our province has no job growth or economic plan, or sustainability plan, and the feds know this. It is all actually, a population growth plan, and they just HOPE to make taxes off the growth.

  • Arch_of_Life

    IF no one buys them, the market levels out, if over 5 years if everyone who applied for permit was subjected to it the condo market could begin to level itself out. If you made a policy, requiring all towers certain stories, to have 50% of it’s units with 3 bedrooms with in 5 years, condo prices would level out better, because Toronto has lots more room, to build condos. Essentially you can building a condo, mid rise or high rise, on any main street, in Toronto. We’re not New York with tones of mid and high rises over 80 years old. Developers wouldn’t be able to finance their condo’s with out these units selling, they would have to lower their prices, to get financing, gradually 3 bedrooms would become more affordable to be competitive. The people who own the land in which developers buy to build a condo, knowing this, would also have to sell their land to the developer at more competitive price.

    Developers hired lobbyist to stop the discussion. Politicians don’t do this, because the provincial and feds have designed the market of Ontario to inflate itself. Ontario has the most debt, but highest GDP, and no economic plan.

  • jean

    Did you miss the part of the article where they explained that condo residents do not need to go to Home Depot…and IKEA? You might as well shop for furniture at Walmart = you suburban types haven’t any taste/soul. Downtown has second hand furniture shops that sell some amazing stuff that they often deliver. A semi in the city is the way to go.

  • jean

    One gets used to all those sounds, in fact I find them calming.

  • jean

    Developers are making hands over fists in cash loads. If people stop paying the silly prices they’ll have to give up some of their outrageous profits. Taxes exist for a GOOD reason, if they don’t pay them the rest of the city’s taxpayers will have to shoulder the expenses they create. Catch a clue!

  • jean

    Do you remember when your children were babies? I think parents are still in denial at that stage, they imagine that things will only get better once this feeble latchling starts to gain some independence…until they can deny no more. They will reach where you are, soon enough

  • jean

    It’s called the train/bus/car pool. When your children reach school age, they won’t need the extra time from you. You can catch up on work on the train that you didn’t do b/c you were out with the kids playing ball in that big field. You played ball in that field where no one had urinated on the bench, where you happen to meet the other families that live on your street.
    As the OP stated, at some point the denial will be burst by the reality that your life revolves around this little midget- soon to be an even more demanding preteen, etc- and it is no longer this romantic affair with you as the centre of attention. Sacrifices will need to be made.

  • jean

    …commute to union via TTC which lets me catch up on reading…

  • jean

    “Toronto has some of the worst planners imaginable“ yes

  • http://www.jeffreyteam.com Laurin Jeffrey

    Well, no that would not work. First off, the demand for 3-bedroom condos is much less than people think. That is why there are so few of them, new or old.

    Second, if builders have to have 50% of their building composed of 3-bedroom units, they would simply stop building. You cannot force it to happen. Saying that they would have to drop the prices until they sell shows a fundamental lack of understand of economics. Once they become unprofitable to build, then they don’t get built. If it costs $500,000, for instance, to build a 3-bedroom condo, but the builder cannot sell them for more than $450,000 they won’t proceed. How can they get financing, or why would they want to, when the project loses $50,000 on every big unit, 50% of the entire building?

    Land owners don’t care, they will simply hold out for someone else to come along. Different uses become the most profitable and they still get their money. This would not force down pricing at all. It would simply slam the condo market to a complete halt, throwing the economy into chaos and causing 100s of 1000s of people to lose their jobs.

    Condo developers HAVE built 3-bedroom condos, no one bought them. Land and materials and the simple raw items needed to create housing have a minimum cost. Labour (and you want those construction workers to get a fair wage, don’t you?) costs money, gas that goes into the tanks of the cement trucks. That means they cost at least $500/sf. Thus, a 1,000sf condo has to cost a minimum of $500,000 give or take. Add in a balcony, parking, locker – that is all more square footage and thus more cost.

    The other option is for developers to just make tiny condos. You think 490sf 1-bed condos are small? What about 690sf 3-bedroom units? I have seen them, in Scarborough. They are not good. Yes, you could technically have a 4-child family living in that, parents and 2 kids per room, but is that what we want? No, it certainly is not.

    The problem is simply supply and demand, pricing and affordability. Land is getting scarcer, making it worth more. The more buildings going up concurrently, the greater demand there is on the labour and material markets. It costs what it costs to build, dictating what it thus costs to buy.

    Builders are not stupid, they have been selling condos for decades, or watching what others are selling. They know what buyers buy and what they don’t. Even 10 years ago, when prices were MUCH lower than they are today, there were still very few 3-bedroom condos being bought and sold. It is a demand issue, plain and simple. When the demand is there, when it becomes great enough, the developers will react to it. You cannot legislate it, you have to let the market grow organically. That is the nature of a free market, supply and demand shape the products and prices available.

    Developers do no lobby for no 3-bedroom condo legislation, that is just stupid. Buyers lobbied for no 3-bedroom condos, with their wallets and signatures on sales contracts.

  • Zuchini

    The only clueless one is YOU! More taxes! Raise taxes! Our government is doing great things with our tax dollars! Maybe they should add a 3rd land transfer tax! If you had any clue how the government has been allocating our tax dollars you wouldn’t have made such a silly post. Get a clue and research where our tax money is being spent. $60K for public “art”! Jean approves!

    Government, developers and purchasers share blame in this. Stop being so bloody naive.

  • swan

    Jean, living in a big city does not make you have taste/soul. lol
    I have the same taste no matter where I am, and where I live does not define me. That is the big problem with small minded people like you, who assume anything outside of big city is all just cookie cutter boring neighbourhoods filled with people with no taste. Have you even been to South Burlington? Why do you think some of the wealthiest families in Canada choose to live here?
    Life is not about shopping. Anything you can get in Toronto, I can get here in Burlington. The only difference is that the important things like spending time with family and friends is now done in a lot nicer environment. You can live on a nicer looking street, in a nicer house and nicer looking area for the same amount of money. Why do you think Burlington is constantly listed as one of the best places to live in Canada and Toronto is far from making the cut. I am not saying it’s for everyone, but I am saying it’s a great option for families and you would be very narrow minded to not even consider it. You strike me as that type of person by quickly judging me to have no taste/soul and calling me “you suburban type”.
    Oh and not sure what you are talking about, I lived in a downtown condo for years and I always made runs to Ikea and Home Depot.

  • wyseeit

    Guess you haven’t read the studies on the negative effects of all of the above on sleep. You may think its not affecting you, but know what it is.

  • jean

    It may affect many people, but we are not all the same. Do reread your study and if it states that 100% of people respond to any environment the same way, I’ll eat my hat. Sleep disturbances happen to people who sleep in quiet as well, some cannot fall asleep without music or other sounds… The brain is not such a simple organ.

  • jean

    ummm….yeah, you really don’t understand much, do you? “Nicer” is obviously subjective, “diversity” is not.
    You *really* cannot find the same things in suburbia that you can in most urban centers and *you* did bring up the ‘shopping’ (or can we call your way about it “supporting child labour in poverty stricken countries”?).
    There really is more community engagement in urban centers that you just don’t get in cookie cutter newly built wannabe mansion subdivisions. People are not just waving to each other as they pass eachother in the driveway after a long drive home from congested highways.
    Again, look up the stats for teen pregnancy and drug use of urban versus suburban dwelling teens. Children raised in the city get exposed to this diversity I mentioned and that really adds to their intellect. …
    Real estate agents can tout any new honour they like, that is how they sell crappy homes, you really don’t have to buy such silly hype.

  • jean

    No hothead, you really are a dunce! If the developers don’t pay the taxes YOU will. Someone has to pay for all the service they use when they build, when they sell…
    Ford approved the art, idiot! The two are separate topics, try to get control of your ADD and try to stay on topic.

  • jean

    BTW, if you just build a bunch of steel boxes to the sky and do nothing to make the city attractive, the only people who make money are the developers (I guess that’s what you’d favour, construction worker I presume?) Tourists bring in a lot of money to the city and people do not want to travel to a cold shell that has zero culture, arts is a big part of what attracts people- that’s how we became Hollywood North, etc…

  • wyseeit

    I’ll think of you as I fill by bird feeder hear the bird singing and have a cool one on my deck with a water fountain bubbling in the background

  • ChaosOverkill

    Surviving? Aww poor yuppie hipsters, the genocide comparable toll of condo life in Toronto!

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  • jean

    Yikes! A sad life I must say. I hope you’re 80 years old.

  • jean

    I guess you have to tell yourself whatever you can to justify the vanilla life you lead, go for it.

  • wyseeit

    I will let you know when I am selling by that time you will be looking for more space or a new wife. BTW I have a whole basement to play in anything but vanilla

  • wyseeit

    yeah and you are the bleary eyed drunk by the side of the road people like me are gingerly stepping over.

 

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