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Growing demand for family-friendly apartments

The downtown core is no longer just for single professionals
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Derek Lobo

According to statistics from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, fewer than 30 per cent of all rental apartment units in downtown Toronto offer family-friendly apartments. By contrast, in neighbouring Mississauga more than 60 per cent of rental units provide two or more bedrooms. Since the Second World War, the message to young people growing up in our downtown cores has been: if you want to have a family, you must move to the suburbs. But, according to recent studies, that trend is beginning to change.

In 2011, the City of Toronto released a study showing that most of the people living in the downtown core love where they live. Despite this fact, the survey also found that a substantial number of downtown residents saw themselves moving out of their apartments within the next five years. Why? The reasons given included that their accommodations were too small and unlikely to fit their lifestyle in the coming years. But where did most respondents ideally want to move? To larger accommodations within the downtown core.

According to the most recent Canadian census data, the population of downtown Toronto has increased by more than 50,000 residents between 2006 and 2011. Similar trends have been measured in other hot markets including Vancouver and Montreal. Most of these new residents have been young urban professionals drawn to the amenities of the cities’ cores.

But young people don’t stay young. Within the next five to ten years, many among this cohort will marry and begin families. As the Toronto study shows, they will want to build a life for their new families and remain downtown. The question is, will the apartment market cater to their needs?

Condominiums vs. apartments

Condominium developers are focused on what will sell over the short term. In contrast, apartment developers are in for the longer haul, so they need to think less about where the marketplace currently is, and more about where the marketplace will be in five to ten years.

Downtown neighbourhoods in Toronto and Montreal are beginning to defy old stereotypes. Their streets are as safe, if not safer than suburban neighbourhoods. Downtown areas offer more amenities within walking distance. Some of Ontario’s best schools can be found in downtown Toronto. Well established parks, playgrounds, libraries and family attractions abound within the downtown core, for parents and their kids.

Missing, however, are apartments that cater to families rather than young single professionals. Urgently needed are more apartments offering two and more bedrooms with safe and secure playgrounds and space for on-site childcare services.

Apartment developers who understand how to serve the needs of the young, affluent family seeking to raise their children within the downtown cores of our growing cities will reap the benefits of being at the ground floor of a market that is poised to grow significantly in the years to come.

As always, developers must carefully consider what and where to build before deciding to proceed with construction. While it’s easy to see the overall trend, savvy developers should always commission a detailed feasibility study beforehand to ensure that a particular project is designed to meet the needs of the marketplace while also delivering the best return for the developer’s investment. By leveraging the knowledge of a qualified and impartial third party with specific expertise in the rental apartment industry, developers can be sure that the insights and recommendations they receive are accurate and unbiased, so they can be certain of their next move.

Derek Lobo is the CEO and Broker of Record at Rock Advisors Inc., a brokerage firm with over a quarter-century of experience in purpose-built rental apartments. For more information about feasibility studies and new apartment construction, visit Rock’s website at or e-mail Derek at

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