Is the solution to Toronto’s ever-worsening affordable housing crisis to divide old mansions into units and then rent them out individually, piece by piece, one historic home at a time?
Maybe. Well, probably not. But that’s something that’s been happening in Canada’s largest city for decades, and for good reason – few people these days need separate living quarters for their cooks, maids and chimney sweeps…or whatever. whatever else at the time.
Anecdotally most of the homes I’ve visited in South Parkdale or The Annex had long ago been divided into at least three apartments – one per floor, sometimes with an additional unit above inside. a high gabled roof.
It’s only recently, however, that real estate agents have begun to advertise investment opportunities in the form of large azz homes, pre-partitioned into several smaller units, for potential homeowners in droves.
Somewhere between an apartment and a rooming house, these listings are more like hostels than purpose-built rental properties – I’m talking about three or four units per floor, all costing as much to live in as a regular apartment in Toronto.
Some are atrocious and others, like this $5,395,000 detached 15-unit Victorian home in The Annex, are impressively altered.
The subject property, 55 Madison Ave., sits on a 50-by-126-foot lot on beautiful Madison Avenue, just east of Spadina and north of Bloor.
A real estate listing calls it “The Grand Old Lady” while calling it a “15-suite investment property.”
“Prime location of Madison Avenue, Bloor and Spadina Area, recent renovations,” reads the listing, which also boasts of a private driveway — something worth a pretty penny on its own with eight spaces in total.
The home includes 15 refrigerators, 15 stoves, 15 full bathrooms, and a coin-operated washer and dryer. Despite this, it is only listed as having more than 3 bedrooms in total – possibly due to the fact that most single suites are singles.
Eight of the units have been recently renovated, according to the listing, and it shows, especially in the kitchens…
While some of the unrenovated pads actually appear to have separate bedrooms, the suites are a bit more dated in the fixtures department.
Ditto for the toilets.
Although some older units have interesting features and architectural details.
At least one has stained glass and an antique-looking fireplace.
The newer units are austere, for the most part…
With different degrees of boxing.
But they have everything a student or single professional could need for compact or “micro” living in downtown Toronto.
Questions posed to the home’s listed realtor about how this home became a 15-unit investment property were not answered, but there’s quite a bit of information about the property in the paperwork. of local planning in the city of Toronto.
You see, 55 Madison isn’t just any old mansion – it’s a piece of history, protected under the Ontario Heritage Act as part of a Heritage Conservation District ( west annex phase I) from 2015.
The Architectural Conservatory of Ontario (ACO) describes the structure as follows:
“This property contributes to the streetscape of the Toronto Annex of the District with a house-like building similar in height and set back from the front yard to its neighbours, and a front-facing gable. The detached 2.5-storey building, with the appearance of a central hall rotating plan, was built during the period of significance between 1885 and 1925 in the annex style and retains sufficient integrity to allow for restoration. Representative features of the annex style include red brick, rusticated stone foundations and sills, recessed side entrance, and semicircular arches. The addition of the roof is a non-contributory element.”
It was completed in 1896, according to the conservatory, and was originally owned by Samuel Platt, an old guy important enough to have his own Wikipedia entry.
Platt, according to historians, was a “Canadian brewer and politician” born in 1812 (great year) who immigrated to Canada from Ireland in 1827.
One can only guess what the house looked like when it was first completed in the 1800s, but it certainly didn’t have rooms like this:
So, is this kind of “chop job house”, as I like to call them, legal?
It depends on the type of area a house is in and how the chopping work is done; the last featured blogTO large house that had been cut into ten individual units was found by the City of Toronto to have been altered without proper work permits and was issued a non-compliance order.
The house at 55 Madison Avenue is in a yellow residential area and still retains much of its original charm, despite recent renovations.
It remains to be seen if anyone will buy the historic property made up of 15 individual units, however. It has been on the market for over 100 days.
Renting out all those self-contained apartments could bring in a lot of money per month, but the new owner of the house would also be thrust into the role of owner…unless they decide to tear down all the walls and restore this” great old lady” to its original splendour.