Sat. Aug 13th, 2022

Two unusual real estate listings in Toronto’s St. Clair West neighborhood have appeared in the last few weeks, advertising separate units for sale within the same house.

Both properties, near Old Weston Road and St. Clair West Avenue, are touted as a “condo alternative” at 2 Chambers Ave. and 4 Chambers Ave. and are on separate floors of a fourplex building that was once a single property.

The asking price for 2 Chambers Ave. is $ 724,900, which includes a ground floor and basement unit with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and two kitchens, for a total of 1,200 square feet. For 4 Chambers Ave., the asking price is $ 599,000 for only a second floor unit which includes two bedrooms and one bathroom. All units include the backyard, which has been split equally among the owners.

Nelson Campos, the realtor for 4 Chambers Ave., said the listing is not common and that it’s the first property he has encountered where a building like this is being sold in separate units. For this reason, Nelson said potential buyers are more hesitant to take the leap on the property, which was listed nearly a month ago.

“There have been at least one or two viewings a day but people get confused, they do not understand it because it’s unusual. It’s not you regular semi-detached or condo, it’s something different, which scares people, ”Campos said.

The properties at 2 and 4 Chambers Ave.  are on separate floors of a fourplex building that was once a single property.

Campos said the building has a “tenancy in common” ownership arrangement. In the unique setup, utility costs are shared and property tax is divided between the owners.

Gerry Paul, who currently owns 2 Chambers Ave. and was also the previous owner of 4 Chambers Ave. before selling the property in 2015, said each unit has a separate water and hydro meter. Gas is run through a jointly owned furnace, for which he pays 60 per cent because his unit is the larger of the two.

“If you took all of the heat and hydro and water and all the taxes from our unit, it’s about $ 4,600 a year” for his unit, Paul said.

Paul explained the original owner decided to divide the house and sell it in units in the 1960s. In the ’90s, the owners drafted up an agreement that formalized the ownership of each unit and the responsibilities of each owner.

Paul bought the two properties in 2000 when his cash flow was limited.

“At the time I was looking for an investment and I did not have a lot of money. The unusualness of it made most people shy away from it at the time and there was trouble selling it, ”Paul said.

“But it helped me enter the market.”

The unusual listing seems to have confused not only buyers but real estate lawyers as well.

Toronto real estate lawyer Bob Aaron said the agreement is very risky. “Problem number one is what if the parties do not get along or disagree? … Then there’s a huge problem with financing. The mortgage companies may not understand the arrangement, ”Aaron said.

“It could be difficult to sell. And what happens if the mortgage goes into default? Does that mean if one side is not making the mortgage payments, the other side is going to have to make all of them?

“My opinion is, if this thing was viable, it would have been popular decades ago,” Aaron said.

A shot of the backyard in the listing for 4 Chambers Ave.

But Allan Rakowsky, the lawyer for the person who bought 4 Chambers Ave. in 2015, said the agreement was registered on title and that each owner is responsible for their own property. If there’s any reason why one party is unable to make a mortgage payment, it would not impact the other owners in any way, he said.

Rakowsky added that confusion may arise only because it is not as straightforward as a condo or co-ownership.

“It’s not difficult, it just means that it’s more work for lawyers who want to close deals that are simple. But sometimes you get numbers that are not simple, and they take some thought. ”

But David Amborski, a professor at Toronto Metropolitan University’s School of Urban and Regional Planning, said the unique model, if replicated, could add to “missing middle” housing – meaning medium density, more affordable lowrise housing such as duplexes, laneway housing and walk -up apartments. But he caution it would not be a quick fix for lack of missing middle housing or the affordable housing crisis.

“It’s not going to be a silver bullet, but it could help some people who are willing to accept that there are certain risks involved,” Amborski said.

“If it increases the number of units it increases the housing supply, which is a good thing… but it may only meet the needs of some people buying into that small market niche.”

Zoning issues in the city also makes the creation of this type of multiplex housing more complicated. A provincial government task force report this year identified exclusionary zoning, under which large parts of the city permit only single-family homes, as a major obstacle to the construction of more affordable “missing middle” housing.

In Toronto, to convert a single unit house into a duplex, triplex, or fourplex in zones where multiplexes are not permitted, the property owner would first have to request a minor variance, subject to Committee of Adjustment approval, which takes both time and money , said Philip Parker, senior planner for the City of Toronto, in an email.

Selling separate units or floors of a multiplex is also a complicated process, as the property would need to be established as a condominium, Parker said.

“Many participants in the Multiplex project consultations have cited the complexity of the Ontario Condominium Act (passed in 1998) as a barrier to creating small-scale condominiums in Toronto,” Parker said.

This would require a property owner to file an application for Draft Condominium Plan Approval, subject to approval by the chief planner of the City of Toronto. The process for condominium approval is the same regardless of the number of units in the condominium.

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