We need to re-think the idea that multi-unit properties are nothing more than slums. In a world of rising oil prices, a shrinking middle class and a real need for community growth, these types of units are important.
By T.S. Ritchie
Published April 26, 2011
I live in Ward 3 and it is a depressed and dispirited area. Some old businesses and a new Shoppers Drug Mart have highlighted the memories of what used to be and aspirations of what it can become.
There is a prevailing attitude that the place is beyond hope and just teeming with illegal rooming houses and social housing. This has recently come to light with the city council fighting against a proposed renovation to a detox center on Emerald St South.
This neighborhood has some of the oldest, most neglected properties in the city. My belief is that these properties don't hold significant historical importance and so they get no recognition by the rest of the city for saving. Yet, it is because of this that they have the potential for people to live, thrive and enjoy our city.
The condo-talk that is blowing into the city worries me. I understand the desire for urban intensification and the necessity for it. However, if you look to any of the large cities in America that have overcome slumming and still maintain density, they do it through conversions of old properties into multi-uses.
When you see condos marching though the city, the population goes up but a great number of people get pushed out.
We need to re-think the idea that multi-unit properties are nothing more than slums for bums. In a world of rising oil prices, a shrinking middle class and a real need for community growth, these types of units are important.
A big problem is the enforcement and control of these places. Landowners who try to convert these properties legally face a huge list of red tape, codes and time constraints. That is not to mention the costs.
It is for this reason many of these conversions are illegal. Blame shouldn't be placed on the owners of these places for working outside the law.
An investor purchases a property in Ward 3, lower city, and pays $179,000 for it. He puts $53,000 down on the place leaving him with a mortgage of $126,000 to pay off. His payments come to something in the region of $700(P.I.T) a month at current mortgage rates.
If he wants to even break even on his investment, he rents it for $900 plus utilities. That is a pretty high amount for anyone to pay and it doesn't leave much money left over for the landlord to maintain the house.
Now, if instead he multiplexes the property to five apartments, assuming that he can rent them in the $400 a month range and bring in $2000 minus utilities, he can invest that money into both upkeep of the place, create an affordable rental arrangement for tenants and possibly invest in another property down the line and continue the improvement.
Properties have thrived as small units. The example is extreme as it is in New York City, but the concept remains. A progressive swing toward this type of living is greatly needed.
People who need these type of properties are not some subclass of person. They are real people who can't afford a condo, house or higher rent.
The concentration of poverty in ward 3 has nothing to do with the age or houses, or multiplexes. It is to do with a huge amount of social service programs in the area and increased rents that drive them from other parts of the city and other provinces.
When a single person has an income of $624 on social assistance and rent is in excess of $500, it leaves only $124 or less for living expenses, food, clothes, and so on.
A quick search of Kijiji shows that there are no apartments under $550. This is why the need is there for multi-unit properties and conscientious landlords to create smaller units for progressive change.
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