2020’s cheapest house is in Mount Dennis

The least-expensive house sold in Toronto in 2020 was for $420,000. It was on Ray Avenue, in Mount Dennis.

It’s the white one.

This article is worth a read. It’s an agent’s take on the place.

The house is pretty cute on the outside, but it’s not cute on the inside. In fact, it’s a bit scary.

But that $420k buys the cheapest teardown in Toronto now—that’s terrifying.

Vacant home tax, garden suites may soon come to Toronto

It’s not strictly Weston related, but the city is proposing a vacant-homes tax that would charge people 1% of their home’s value every year if it is not occupied. The tax is to encourage more housing supply, and it should raise more than $55 million for the city.

It’s a great idea. Vancouver has had a vacancy tax for three years, and it seems to have correlated with a decline in unoccupied buildings. It has also raised about $50 million for the city.

Toronto hasn’t written the laws yet, but Vancouver makes exceptions for homes that are being sold, renovated, or cannot be rented due to condo-boards. If everything goes according to plan, Toronto could have a tax by 2022.

In other affordable-housing news, Toronto bureaucrats took another small step toward allowing ‘garden suites’ (aka granny flats) earlier this month. The city has been moving towards allowing attractive and (more) affordable infill housing.

I love the idea of turning my somewhat tatty garage into home for my kids when they get a little older. (My kids, and my neighbour, may disagree.) They’d have an affordable place to live, and I’d be able to continue to smother them.

A final report by the planning department should be ready by the middle of next year.

Meeting about 38-storey building: I’m not convinced.

On December 7, the city hosted a meeting about the proposed 38-storey building at 1821–1831 Weston Road.

Representatives of the developers gave a brief presentation and answered questions about the building, which, if approved, will be the tallest in Weston.

Your correspondent was left unimpressed. The developers were asked why they planned such a tall building. Louis Tinker, from Bousfields, said the province considers areas near transit hubs to be ‘strategic growth areas’ and “the tallest buildings in a particular geographic area… are often found in the closest proximity to the station entrance”.

That may be so, but the representatives did not offer a reason why such a tall building would be good for Weston.

I asked, directly, because other developers, including Castlepoint Numa, Rockport, and Options for Homes, have worked with the community to offer benefits beyond those required by law. They’ve sought more than our permission; they came with offers and ideas.

It didn’t seem that Bousfields had any of those planned. Tinker did say “we haven’t reached that point in the discussion” and that they would consider benefits “if people have ideas that they want to share”—but it appeared to me that he was discussing how to disburse only the benefits the city requires.

The architects did, however, present their new plans for the façade, which they say integrates more aspects of the streetscape and community history.

From the presentation

I’m not an architect, but I think this was a weak effort. The F-shaped elements, for instance, are supposed to hearken back to the CCM factory as viewed from above.

I love Weston, and I love bikes, but I’m over Weston as the home of CCM. We have a lot more to offer than that ancient history (supposing you can find the history in the façade). How about a riparian theme? Or one that nods to our intersection of water, rail, sky, and road? Perhaps a celebration of our present as the home to many new Canadians?

So, in short, no.

If you ask me, it’s too big, and too ugly, with too few benefits to offer.

Location Location Location

27 Brownville Avenue. From Google Maps.

According to legend, these are supposed to be the three most important factors when assessing a home’s value. There’s a home in Mount Dennis at 27 Brownville that is for sale for a hundred dollars shy of $600,000. The much complained about home has been vacant for years and is not safe to live in but the 30 x 92ft. lot is for sale. As an added incentive, the vendors will throw in a demolition permit obtained last year.

The value of the lot lies in the proximity to the new Mount Dennis Station on the Eglinton Crosstown Line or Line 5 as it will be known officially. The station that incorporates the old Kodak recreation building will be a short walk away when it opens in 2022. There is a railway theme to the home as it backs onto the UP Express, GO and CP tracks. That shouldn’t be an issue with good soundproofing. Whether or not the home is worth $600,000 will be decided by the market.

Check the listing here and read about the home’s troubled history here.

Farmers Market Opens for 2020

The 2020 Weston Farmers Market season got under way today in beautiful weather. As is normal for such season openers (usually in May), attendance seemed sparse and there was an added inconvenience for patrons to wait patiently until they were admitted into the market space.  The market, second oldest in the city, is in almost exactly the same place it occupied five years ago although narrower and today had fewer stalls.

For years, traders have insisted that the specially designed market area at the end of John Street was too small and wouldn’t withstand the weight of delivery vehicles. The B.I.A. saved the day with the solution to use the Toronto Parking Authority lot on the other side of the building.

For the last few years the market has used the highly visible UP Express and Weston Baptist Church parking lots. That option is off the table. Unfortunately, the location at the end of John Street is invisible to traffic passing along Weston Road and so it will be a challenge to lure fresh customers to the site. In addition, former anchor tenant and actual farmer, Joe Gaeta has moved elsewhere.

The entrance to the market on John street featuring new signs.

Patrons wait in line to be admitted.

The market cordoned off to allow for physical distancing.

Looking towards John Street, a panorama of the farmers market in almost the same location back in August 2015. Click to enlarge.

The much vaunted and intended home of the farmers market sits empty.

Because the market now occupies the parking spaces intended for use by people visiting the er, market, John Street was in effect one-way thanks to parked vehicles occupying the inbound lane. As patron numbers increase, parking will become a greater issue. Let’s hope that some of the kinks can be worked out quickly. Incidentally, Grandpa Ken’s was there today.

Extra credit: How the Weston Hub was financed here.

An intriguing idea for Weston

The city is studying an intriguing idea that could change the character of Toronto neighbourhoods: gently increasing density in low-density areas.

I think it’s great idea—certainly better than gigantic high-rises on residential streets. City Hall could “loosen up rules on triplexes, allow ‘garden suites’ behind houses, allow development on major streets where it’s not currently allowed and more.”

This works for me. Because of COVID, I recently moved my office into my garage, and that got me thinking about my ex-girlfriend. (Please note that my move to the garage came first! I’m not in the doghouse any more than usual.)

She lived long-term in a coach house on her parent’s medium-sized property. It was great. She had privacy, and her parents had her nearby. I got to thinking that my garage was just about the right footprint for a little place for my growing kids.¹

I’m not the only one to think so: the NY Times, among many others, has been reporting on backyard spaces, doubtless because COVID has focused the minds of white-collar workers on making the most of their living space.

Of course, that has long been a concern of people priced out of home- and yard-ownership in this wildly-expensive city.

From Summerwood
From the NY Times

 Toronto’s  planners suggest looking into allowing more:

  • Duplexes
  • Triplexes
  • Townhouses
  • Small apartment buildings
  • Laneway houses, and
  • Garden suites

Doing so would, they hope, increase housing supply and affordability. The changes would not likely come quickly, though. The planners’ report lays out a two-year warm-up period. It will considered by City Council this week.


¹ My daughter’s response to a free house for her twenties was “No way. I’m moving as far away as possible.” My son’s was more positive, presumably because I wouldn’t be able to monitor his PS6 time.