As part of the CBC featured series, Vertical City, Toronto’s Dwight Drummond spoke to chief city planner Jennifer Keesmaat about the city’s condo culture, and what the future might hold for family residences.
The series examines the transition of traditional urban family dwellings to those stacked on top of one another, the result of Toronto’s affordability crisis. “We’re going through a transition right now,” Keesmaat conceded. And that transition could lead to changes in the way we think about both traditional housing and condominiums.
“I think it’s hard for people who have had a certain idea of what a home is, like ‘Aren’t homes red? And aren’t they brick?’” said Keesmaat. “The way we lived in this city a generation ago is very different from the way we live today.”
That difference has been especially challenging for families, who may not be capable of affording a standalone home, and who cannot find the space required to raise children in an apartment.
The city has sought to address the issue by requiring new buildings to include family-friendly units, which are larger, but the initiative has not been successful. “They’re harder to sell because they’re more expensive,” Keesmaat admitted. “And when they do sell, they tend to go to an investor, who then rents them out to a bunch of students.” Finding a solution to affordable family dwellings remains a focus for the municipal government.
One possible solution discussed in the interview is to look for ways to promote cost-savings and convenience in condos. This includes integrating amenities into the condo itself. “There’s no reason why new schools cannot be part of a condo building,” Keesmaat suggested. “The first, second floor, even vertical schools that happen in the first storeys of a building.”
The concept certainly offers some benefits, but it may be difficult for residents to wrap their heads around. If part of the residence issue is the changing the perception of what a home is, then changing what a school is may not be as readily embraced as Keesmaat hopes.