I’m always intrigued by the power of words and the imagery, perceptions and stereotypes they conjure up. ‘Home’ is a perfect example. We often hear “Home is not a place…it’s a feeling.” Another classic is “A house is made of bricks and beams. A home is made of hopes and dreams.” Neither includes any mention of a single detached building or white picket fence, yet this is what most people visualize. 

Downtown Toronto at nightThe reality in cities like Toronto and Vancouver is that home is increasingly not a single detached building. In Vancouver over 30% of people live in condos. In Toronto, one in every five households lives in a condo. And it’s growing… 

Between 2007 and 2017, condos accounted for 81.5% of all housing built in Toronto. With families becoming smaller, and the growth in one-person households in Canada, it’s safe to say condos will continue to become home for more of us.  

The 2016 Census found that — for the first time — one-person households are the most common household type in Canada. Yet when Googling houses and condos, this popped up: “For the most part, a condo is a substitute house.” In conversations and the media, people who own condos are often referred to as ‘condo dwellers’ and people who own single detached buildings are called ‘homeowners’. It’s a classic example of perception lagging reality. 

It’s also time for change. 

Cheers with cocktails

I think Oprah is onto something when she said, “When you invite people to your home, you invite them to yourself.” The place we call home is such a personal expression of who we are. Our homes can — and should be — as wonderfully diverse as our neighbours and communities. 

The idea that a single detached building is the only thing that qualifies as a home is simply dated thinking. It’s also increasingly irrelevant or inaccessible for many people in big cities like Toronto, where real estate prices are significantly outpacing salary growth. 

Knowing your neighbours and a sense of community are also key parts of where you live becoming a home. With commuting a reality for many, the typical two-hour commute makes it almost impossible to get to know your neighbours. 

Typical condos have their challenges as well, especially when 70% of residents in Toronto condos are renters with high turnover. In order to build community, design needs to be turned on its head. Let’s create spaces in condos where residents naturally congregate, and replace long, narrow, anonymous hallways with more engaging designs that facilitate conversations.

Creating vertical neighbourhoods where everyone in our condos is an owner-resident is one way Key is changing perceptions of home. Designing our suites and buildings in ways that nurture community — and making our owner-residents an integral voice in the design process — are a few other ways we will help turn condo dwellers into proud homeowners.