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Families in multi-family buildings

There is an ongoing debate in Toronto, and many other North American cities, about how to encourage more families to live in multi-family buildings. And here that has generally translated into (1) mandating a certain number of larger family-sized suites and (2) creating design guidelines to better equip both suites and buildings for families.

But what we often ignore is the very real economic reality of buying a large family-sized suite. If you look at the latest Q3-2022 data from Urbanation, the average price of a new condominium in the entire Greater Toronto Area right now is about $1,427 psf.

So if assume that a good family-sized suite is, oh I don’t know, 1,200 sf, the average price would be about $1.7mm, before you add in any parking (if necessary).

If this is too big and you can get away with something more similar to a post-war bungalow — let’s say 900 sf — you’re still at nearly $1.3mm, again before any parking. At these sorts of prices, you have a few options, particularly if you’re willing to sprawl outward. And I think it’s important to recognize this.

The other hurdle remains our industry’s requirement to pre-sell suites in order to obtain financing and start construction. What this effectively means is that you need buyers who can say to themselves, “I’m probably going to need a family-sized suite for the 1.4 kids I may have in 4-5 years.” This isn’t for everyone.

So if we are truly serious about encouraging more families in multi-family buildings (which is an obviously good idea), I think it can’t just be viewed as a design problem and/or the result of greedy developers who just want to profit maximize by building smaller suites. We need to be looking at both the cost structure behind these homes and new ways to finance them.


  1. …and don’t forget the condominium fees of $800-$1000 per month on a 1200 sf unit…and the inflated property taxes imposed on condominium units compared to single-family houses…:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Michael Gordon

    Some couples with children consider the proximity to a playground and available child care before choosing to live somewhere. I agree with your observation that ‘pre-sale’ apt. condos less likely to appeal to many couples with children.

    All the 30 and 40 something year old couples I know live in townhouses as that is the sweet spot for them – more affordable and ground oriented for their children and an opportunity to have a garden.

    Thankfully there are many other choices for a place to live., not just pre-sales.


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