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Toward more family condos

The Ryerson City Building Institute and Urbanation recently published a terrific report called: Bedrooms in the Sky. Is Toronto Building the Right Condo Supply? 

Here is a quick synopsis: The 35-44 year old age bracket in this city will see significant growth over the next decade; single family homes are really expensive; and we’re not building enough family-friendly condo units.

When Urbanation looked at the data for all condo units currently under construction they found that the unit mixes still skewed toward 1-bedroom units, but that the number of 3-bedroom units is starting to trend upward. That feels right.

The report also talks about the affordability gap between condos and houses. The average condo in the Greater Toronto Area costs about $511,000, while the average detached house costs $1,134,000.

However, this isn’t exactly an accurate comparison because the average condo is smaller in size than the average house. I think a better metric is to look at price per square foot.

Also, houses give you the flexibility of a secondary suite. Right now that usually means a basement apartment, but pretty soon it’ll likely include a laneway suite. That creates an additional income stream and helps with overall affordability.

In any event, up until maybe recently, houses generally looked cheaper on a per square foot basis. And my view – which I have written about extensively on this blog – was that as soon as houses become “more expensive”, we’ll see an uptick in larger family-oriented condos.

A few weeks ago I went to an open house in a desirable area of Toronto. It was for a 1,300 sf semi-detached house with good bones, but in need of a full gut. Basement was low, only suitable for humans around 5′ tall. It sold for $1 million.

Let’s say that house needs $300,000 to bring it up to the level of a new condo. If that doesn’t include some sort of extension, now you’re in for $1.3 million or about $1,000 per square foot. You can still find a condo for less than that.

Which is one of the reasons why I think we’re now starting to see an uptick in larger/family units. (We are trying to do it at Junction House.) 

But like all things in real estate, these things move slowly. The condos under construction today were designed years ago. Changes take time to work themselves through the system.

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