A brief history of condos
is not much written about the history of Ontario's condominiums. I
suppose that they are still so new and the types of condominiums are
changing so rapidly, with every one being slightly different in how
they are managed, no one has thought them worth the huge effort a
The first high-rise condominium development in Ontario was Horizon
House built in Nepean, (now part of Ottawa) and registered in 1967.
Within the province, the
majority of condo corporations were townhouse complexes while in
Toronto, high-rise towers were common.
The first condos were designed to be housing for families and were built
as large two and three-bedroom units. The majority of units were
owner-occupied with only minority of units rented out.
In 1974, a superior court judgment stated that condo owners have an
unfettered right to rent their units. That prevented condo corporations
from being able to restrict the number of units that could be rented.
This ruling opened condos to the possibility of becoming de facto
rental buildings having dozens—or even hundreds—of individual absentee
Rent Control in Ontario was initiated in July 1975 by Bill Davis's
Conservative government after the demand for rent controls became a
major issue in during the 1975 provincial election.
Rent controls made the tenants happy but the construction of new
rental apartment buildings slowed dramatically as landlords feared that
they could not pass on cost increases to their tenants. The supply of
rental accommodation slowly decreased as the province's population grew.
Since few investors wanted to build or buy rental buildings, the
developers built condos
instead which lead to a large increase in condo corporations.
1997, Mike Harris's Conservative government enacted
Protection Act. The major change was that any rental unit in the
province of Ontario that was built,
or came onto the rental market after 01 November 1991, was exempt from
Small-time investors saw that they could make money by purchasing condo
units and renting them out as their units were exempt from rent
controls. The developers started catering to "investors" who bought
condo units to
rent and had no interest in living in their units.
A growing number of condos in the GTA now have up to 50-80% of their
units occupied by
renters and the owner-residents are an unhappy minority.
Condos in Ontario started as modest developments marketed towards
seniors and new home buyers. Within ten years, the developers started
building luxury condo buildings with the prestigious Queen's Quay
Residences on Toronto's lake front being built in 1978.
The high cost of building and maintaining expensive amenities such as
indoor swimming pools, basketball courts and security gate-houses
resulted in shared facilities where two or more side-by-side condos
shared the cost of maintaining the expensive amenities.
1989 the Canadian real estate industry as a whole and the condo
industry in particular crashed. Condos lost up to 1/3 of their value.
It took ten years before the market recovered and sales stayed strong
until the financial crisis of 2008. The condo market plunged but then
made a quick recovery and the boom continued ever since.
Some owners and a few companies started renting their condos by the day
or week as if they were hotel suites. In 2002, a condo corporation on
was successful in the courts in stopping the short-term rentals in
their building. Their victory set a precedent for all condos in Ontario.
However, after this court ruling, some developers deleted the
"single-family unit" clause in their new declarations and replaced it
with clauses allowing roomers, boarders and short-term hotel-type
rentals; whatever the municipal by-laws permitted.
Tridel, and other developers, also added language in the declarations
some of their new developments to allow for short-stay rentals complete
with with laundry and maid services—in effect turning some of the
condo residential units into hotel suites.
Developers started offering different types of condos to attract as
many buyers as they could. Condos became like cars, available in all
models, shapes, sizes and styles.
Investors, businessmen and merchants bought condo units in industrial
buildings, shopping malls (the Pacific Mall is a well-known retail
condo) and office buildings. Investors bought individual guest rooms in
hotels. Condo resorts were built in cottage country.
Developers starting offering different types of residential condo
units. Along with the traditional towers and townhouses, they built
stacked townhouses, residential units on top of retail stores and
A recent development in Yorkville is offering exclusive luxury penthouses on the top
floors with more
modest residential units below. The segregated top floors have separate
elevators, a lobby within a lobby and some exclusive amenities.
The modest early condos, like the Model-T Ford, were left behind by
towers featuring massive lobbies and expensive resort-like amenities.
In the 1990s, mid-rise condo towers were being built along Toronto's
four-lane streets that ran through residential areas and which had good
bus or streetcar service. The amenities were modest—if they had any.
These pocket condos consist of three to seven floors of residential
units sitting on top of street-level retail shops.
As developers made the downtown condo towers higher and higher, they
ran out of practical space for underground parking. Along with
sizes and storage lockers becoming an expensive option,
developers stopped offering a free parking spot with each residential
unit. Then a few of them stopped offering any parking spots at all.
Bicycle racks became the new norm.
Since privately owned condos could solve Ontario's shortage of rental
units, why couldn't they provides society's need for affordable
housing? Using Section 37 money, some left-wing city councillors,
non-profit groups and
developers are starting to add a few "affordable housing" units
and subsidized rental units within
some new condo developments.
This is the newest frontier in condo housing that is being played out