Written by: Donald Peckover
SUSTAINABLE.TO Architecture + Building helps many people in Toronto to build, or renovate, their homes. We have noticed recently that housing prices in Toronto continue to grow month-over-month and year-over-year. A significant influence on this price increase is that we are simply not making many new single-family home lots in Toronto. While condos are sprouting up everywhere, from tall shimmering glass towers downtown to community-friendly mid-rise structures along designated avenues, these are not necessarily what one may be looking for in their first home, next home, or forever home in the city of Toronto.
Condos tend to spring up around retail and intermodal transit hubs, along streetcar lines and at TTC subway stops. Surrounding these, generally, are established neighbourhoods of detached and semi-detached homes which many people aspire to own. This proximity to transit – both for condos and homes – also has a significant impact on housing prices, as the real and perceived cost of commuting affects value. Time equals money.
Sky View Suites recently compiled a nifty map of average housing prices near subway stations in Toronto. It shows that inside the downtown core 3-bedroom condo equivalents outnumber homes, but outside of the downtown core homes dominate. With the average home price in Toronto at $746,546, condos and homes near all but 4 subway stations (and all located on the far eastern end of the Bloor-Danforth Line) are above this average. The general trend is that further from downtown prices trend downwards, but there is certainly a premium for being at the subway regardless of your location. Homebuyers see the premium ascribed to living near transit; mainly, convenience to get around the city easily, quickly, and without the need for an automobile. This is thinking that will become much more prevalent and important as the city grows and the population matures.
Another benefit, which is increasingly popular among young professionals and millennials, is the idea of car ownership – or, in fact, not owning a car altogether. Being located near the subway also means that you are likely located near a retail strip, complete with grocery stores, dry cleaners, doctors, restaurants, and other shops & services. You don’t need a car to drive anywhere. If you also work near a subway stop you don’t need to drive to work either. Car ownership can be written out of the equation of monthly expenses entirely (including payments, insurance, maintenance, gas, and parking which average around $750 per month) and replaced with the (relatively low) cost of a Metropass. Or – better yet – sustainable, human-powered transportation like, walking, running, or cycling. Without these monthly costs it is within reason that the funds you would normally dedicate to your car could be dedicated to your mortgage – incredibly helpful when you consider the price of a home near the subway. And when you do need a car, services like Car2Go, Enterprise CarShare, and Uber make driving accessible and more affordable than car ownership.
As an aside, with the rise of this sharing economy of automobile use and ownership, and dwindling numbers of millennials owning their own cars, this could potentially free up auto-related infrastructure (parking lots, dealerships, gas stations, mechanics – all of which tend to be clustered near where people live and near other intermodal transit hubs for development. This “new” land could then be used to build new homes, helping to improve the variety of housing options as well as influencing the average housing prices in the city. Isn’t it funny how sometimes these things are so intrinsically linked?
Living near the subway also reduces your commuting time. Rather than spending hours a day driving to and from Milton (or beyond) it may only be a 30 minute subway or bike ride in the morning. As previously noted, time equals money, and if you are spending needless hours in your car every day you suffer, both in terms of your wallet as described above but also your own well-being: less time spent with your family and friends, less time exercising,
less time learning, less time “living”.
However, we are simply not making new single-family home lots in Toronto and not all of the existing homes in Toronto were created equal. A home built at Pape station in 1915 may cost $300,000 more than a home built at Main Street station in 1930, but the quality may in fact be less. An older home in a more established, more centrally located neighbourhood may need some work to make it liveable –anything from a new coat of paint to a full renovation and addition. A home a bit further away may need a similar amount of new paint, and by saving $300,000 on the house price itself you would have that much more for your renovations, if required even at all. While the old adage goes “location, location, location”, quality must also be taken into consideration. It is better to not make a decision based solely on location (the subway certainly helps though.)
What is perhaps most important is that SUSTAINABLE.TO Architecture + Building believes in everything described above: condos aren’t a perfect fit for everyone; housing costs and living costs continue to rise; car ownership is not important; quality is important; and the perfect house has to be the perfect fit for you. We are here to help you out with your perfect first home, next home, or forever home in the city of Toronto.