Need to increase your property value by as much as possible? Then stop fighting every attempt to increase the number of neighbours in a single-family home. Even the loudest skeptics must agree that years of neglect have devalued properties in our city so much that by hardening an entire neighbourhood it can bring it back to a par for the course with any other detached property in your neighbourhood. What is the cost? Increased land values. Cut the noise. Create a big backyard. Build an on-site parking lot that will hold your car all day long. Make your property look the way a real estate agent would want it — dorky and glamorous. Call your neighbours so you can yell at them from a lawn chair.
The problem in Toronto is that you have to have permission from your neighbours to reduce noise and height of a building. That means — I repeat — that if you’re desperately trying to increase your property value, you can’t simply cut all the neighbours out. Instead you have to dig tunnels from your house to the neighbours’ houses and keep it confined to one-storyed, single-family duplexes like those used to make up the suburbs of America.
There are about 160,000 currently allowed duplexes in Canada. There are over 900,000 people living in single-family houses in Toronto — so that means about 90,000 single-family homeowners can’t get rid of the neighbours. And of the 70,000 or so homes currently torn down in the city, it is widely believed that more than half will be demolished because they fall behind in the drama department when it comes to zoning.
If you could transform all of the single-family homes into multi-family duplexes, then they would be able to be torn down and razed for the future without getting in the way of all the other families that live in the neighbourhood.
You may be thinking that this is all incredibly impractical. Well, would you rather live in a house in which it’s impossible to really cut up the neighbours? Or a house that your neighbours all think is the ugliest thing they’ve ever seen? On the other hand, it may be that right now the neighbourhood is just too awful for you to even want to live there — but the way things are right now, they’re obviously too wonderful for you to live on some distant island that has no neighbours.
Homeowners in Toronto can see that some kind of plan is being developed to build a neighbourhood around the Gardiner Expressway. But no matter how efficient the implementation of the plan is, there are going to be millions of tonnes of dirt pumped into the neighbourhood, hundreds of homes will be built without a single child to live in them, and like the old, misanthropic bricklayers in the City of New York, Toronto citizens are going to hate every other human being in the neighbourhood.
Yes, it is technically fair game to change their zoning to a four-storey semi, but any homeowner’s attempts to do so can be ended at any time by the land owner’s neighbour’s concerns about noise, crime, or creepiness.
But in the end, if you pay more money to make your home a bit taller and have you noise reduction tricks, then the neighbours have to feel the way they want to feel. Homeowners (yes, that’s what the Toronto Homeowner’s Association is called) are primarily interested in happiness in their homes, and they will be happy if neighbours are the same kind of people that they are.
Not everyone wants the same kind of houses. And that’s a good thing. The more people living in the neighbourhood, the more harmonious the neighbourhood is. Someone’s life-style can have an effect on people’s lives and on the quality of the neighbours. And please, don’t consider yourself responsible for the peace and tranquility of every neighbour. It is a challenge and not an achievable one.