Family-sized condo units in Toronto have shrunk in the last 12 months, and according to one developer the reason is because of the B-20 mortgage stress test.
“Room count begins to really control the end price,” said Plaza Corp.’s Senior Vice President Scott McLellan. “But the size is not where it was two years ago because the stress test has made us come up with smaller product to make it more affordable, and if we didn’t do that there simply wouldn’t be buyers for that product.”
Family-sized units are designed with at least two-bedrooms and usually have an accompanying den, but up until last January they were larger. In fact, cramming three bedrooms into 850 square feet is becoming common practice in new builds.
Young families are a powerful force in the market, as recognized by developers and architects who deftly design units that can accommodate them at a lower price. McLellan notes that their target for an 850 square foot unit is $700,000.
“Your living space will get smaller but it will help with the affordability factor,” he said. “The mortgage stress test now makes it much more difficult for younger couples once you get into that two- and three-bedroom unit over $850,000. A thousand square feet around Midtown Toronto is somewhat out of reach for young couples, so the trick for developers is to have the same room counts with small units so that you have a more affordable end price.”
In the past year, Daniel Johanis, a mortgage broker with Rock Capital Investments, has seen more preconstruction units advertised to families than he has in the past, although they aren’t necessarily as large as they once were.
“The supply of family-sized units is definitely going up and developers are dedicating more of the floor space on the plans to them, but something we would have considered a one-plus den five years ago is being marketed as a two-bedroom these days. I’ve seen some floorplans with walk-in closets, and you question how it’s possible because we even see smaller family rooms.”
That could explain why today’s condo amenities are unlike anything from years past. Developers could be compensating for dwindling square footage with enticements elsewhere in the building.
“Some buildings have cinemas, sky lounges—and, of course, daycares—and so many other types of common areas you didn’t see a decade ago,” said Johanis. “Part of that is because you might not have the best floor plan, as far as space goes, but if you have other amenities that you can use at your disposal, it makes it easier to cram a larger family into a smaller unit.”