URBAN MATTERS:  The “Torontoization” of Sault’s Housing.

For some time now, our city has seen the influence of housing design and building from Southern Ontario, the “Toronto Townhouse”.  The Toronto Townhouse prioritizes two main features; the “garage” and the cost”.

No matter what subdivision you visit in Toronto, you will encounter the architectural marvel of the garage door.  Block after block of townhouses with a massive garage door(s).  The narrow lots barely hold the width of the protruding garage door (snout) with paving extending down to the street, rendering the lots with almost no lawn and trees.

Twenty-five years ago, I visited an old Kanata subdivision, and was amazed that every house was part of a monotonous townhouse row after row with a massive front garage door(s).  Unfortunately, you cannot live in a southern Ontario suburb without a car(s).

The housing complexes were so hideous that the City of Ottawa established bylaws on how much garage could be built in proportion to the size of the house and/or lot. 

“The popular-in-Windsor snout house, with its wide, protruding garage dominating the street frontage, should be discouraged or even prohibited, states a report that cites concerns over safety and its deadening effect on the neighbourhoods.”

“Garages and garage doors become dominant, cutting off the resident’s connection to the larger community, isolating residents from social and physical interaction with neighbours.”

“The report recommends the city encourage developers/builders to agree to zoning restrictions that would limit the construction snout houses.”

“Snout houses make it easier for acts of crime and disorder to go undetected because the front entrance is often in an alcove, so neighbours cannot see suspicious activity because of limited view.”

(Mr. Jim Abbs, Windsor City Planner).


The “Torontoization” of Housing – Cost.

The cost of construction and the lack of space in Southern, Ontario produced the “Toronto Townhouse”.    More units crammed into a small space became the go to builder, developer style of construction.  This style of construction is based on cost; compressing costs down as much as possible to achieve an acceptable selling price.  A repetition of monotonous townhouse design reduces design costs and accelerates permitting times; therefore every unit looks that same.

In the Sault, we have seen a shift to the townhouse developments throughout the city.   I would suspect that the townhouses are being built and sold here fall into the same category of “cost”.  This is what you get, for this price point, in new house construction; hence the “Torontoization” of Sault’s housing.

Recently, I visited a new townhouse development in our city.  I was not expecting to see the prominence of the garages in these townhouse units.  It seems that the garages take over the subdivision and I had a flashback to the old Kanata townhouses.

At a recent City Council Meeting there was a group of citizen from Manitou Park that were concerned about what was going to be built there.   In a prior City Council Meeting, citizens called in concerns for the Brookfield area development.    Again in my neighbourhood, my neighbours were extremely livid about the size of the townhouses that were built.  Maybe what these citizens were trying to say was they do not want the “Torontoization” of Sault’s housing.

The City of Sault Ste. Marie has three thousand homes to build in the next short time frame.  The vast majority of these homes can / must be build in the “Old Neighbourhoods” as the City Planning Department calls it.  These homes must fit in to the existing neighbourhoods.  

Is it possible to have a serious of pre-approved house designs that build upon the heritage of our city?

Collingwood, ON is proposing pre-approved Auxiliary Dwelling Units (ADU) s designs at their planning and building department. 

 “The Town of Collingwood has announced the next phase of the rapid accessory dwelling unit (ADU) deployment program by issuing a call for detached ADU designs.”

“Interested designers, architects and manufacturers are invited to submit their detached ADU designs for pre-approval by the town’s building department.”

“These pre-approved designs will help streamline the permitting process for homeowners who are interested in building ADUs,” said Mayor Yvonne Hamlin. “We hope that this helps everyone see how an ADU might look and fit on their properties, with the ultimate goal of getting more ADUs built quicker and adding more rental units in our community.”


But why stop with Auxiliary Dwelling Units, (ADU) s? 

Recently, Federal Minister of Housing Mr. Sean Fraser announced, the creation of the Housing Catalogue, based on an extremely successful 1950’s housing program the “victory houses”.

These are the “strawberry box” or “victory homes” built all around our city in the 1950-1960s.

“The modern-day version of the catalogue will instead focus on low-rise builds, such as small multi-plexes, student housing, and senior’s residences, then explore a potential catalogue for higher density construction. “

“The goal is to better ensure housing builds can be fast-tracked for approval from the CMHC and others, while promoting larger-scale production through factory-based construction.”

The Canadian Press, December 12, 2023

This is a fantastic idea, having building plans that help speed up the funding process , the building permitting process and most importantly: It allows the city citizens to view what is going to be built. 

But why stop there?  Can the City Planning department run a competition to take the housing catalogue designs and make them unique to Sault Ste. Marie. 

Run a design competition for these new home design/builds in the Sault.  These designs can incorporate the types of housing we want, the density that we want and aesthetics that we want. 

We would be educating citizens why we are building these homes, what the benefits of these homes are and what these homes are going to look like. 

Maybe thru this program people will understand and be less likely to be so upset at new construction in their neighbourhood.


 Thank you:

Collingwood Today Staff.

CBC, The Associated Press.

Brian Cross, Windsor Star.

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