comments 6

Living space – changing perspectives?

New houses in our neighbourhood, almost without exception, fill as much lot with building as possible. You can see that just looking across the street from us.


The bungalow on the left is one of the original homes. The builder who bought both properties is building himself a new very large bungalow on the right. The old one looks so tiny compared to the new structure. The small one is soon to be replaced by a pair of tall narrow homes on newly severed lots which have been popping up around the area.

It isn’t clear to me if there is a real demand for more living space or simply more demand for all kinds of housing in Toronto and more profit in putting the biggest footprint possible on every property. It seems that most of the new builds are accompanied by applications for variances on size, which seem to be regularly granted. At the same time I’ve read in the papers about condos in Toronto which are mostly very modest spaces – an opposite phenomenon. I guess this too is all about profit.

I grew up in a suburban neighbourhood (central Etobicoke). My parents wanted to get out of the city as soon as they could afford to in favour of a new area which they felt would better meet the needs of their family. We lived in what I thought was quite a roomy home, a bungalow with a nice big basement. It was built in 1960 and my parents bought it for $19,000. As roomy as the houses on my old street are, none of them crowd the lot the way the new builds around here do. I think the first time I noticed a trend toward oversize housing was when I was in my teens and communities of very large homes were put up in some of our northern suburbs.

The new  homes here in Long Branch put a premium on interior space over green space, canopy, gardens and so on. I wonder if all those home and garden reno and design television shows have contributed to the change (need to have that thoroughly modern kitchen and all that jazz)? Perhaps the change was partially driven in some suburbs by demand for homes big enough to house extended families. Perhaps too, modest land costs simply made building a big home with big rooms easier to attain.

We lived in a very small house in the “Little Portugal” area of Toronto for several years. It was about 700 square feet, but seemed bigger with its private drive and lovely back garden (which included a 12X12′ shed which became my secret lab). For years it seemed like plenty of space, but eventually we started thinking about finding more room. Initially we looked at a renovation/addition, but eventually decided it made more sense to move. I think living in a smaller space created our perspective on how much space we need to live comfortably. Today we have lots more space with plenty of yard space and trees, but nothing like the new homes around here which seem to crowd the lots.

The change in character we are witnessing in Long Branch might be defined by the attitude of filling as much available space with home as possible, changing the relationship between home and yard and trees and so on. Many of the mature trees, which thrived in old Long Branch are in the way to builders motivated to create the largest footprint possible.



  1. Miss Polly

    The issue isn’t just about living space, in my opinion. The newer house has a two car garage… Which is a whole other discussion.

    • The new house just south of us has a two car garage as well. The ones on the severed lots have single car garages with two stories on top, making them effectively 3 story homes.

  2. I would much rather live in the smaller charming house pictured than either of the behemoths on either side. Too much house is too much house.

  3. The same thing’s going on here in Arlington VA. We had to agitate for a footprint ordinance to keep new homes from overwhelming the lots. It’s nuts and my heart breaks for the trees. I hear some people buy these homes and then can’t get around to finding enough furniture.

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