Overcrowded condo units
The Four Riders of
the Condo Apocalypse
owners, overcrowding, corruption & neglected maintenance)
There are large numbers of people who need cheap rent.
Students, singles, new immigrants, refugees, people who work for
seniors, welfare recipients all need somewhere to live.
people use to live in tenement buildings, cheap rooming houses, in
small apartments over
strip malls and in people's basements. In increasing numbers, they are
now living in condo units.
In Toronto, units in some condos can be bought for as little as
$45,000 to $70,000. If an investor has a contact with the banks or some real
estate agents, units on power of sale can be bought even cheaper.
The two-bedroom units are converted into three or even four-bedroom
units and rented out as individual rooms with shared bathrooms and
The newer units may have a solarium that can be converted into another
bedroom while some stacked townhouse units contain a dozen bedrooms.
Some balconies have been converted into bedrooms.
At $400-$600 a month per room, there is a decent cash flow. In some
units, in-suite storage rooms have been converted into an extra tiny
windowless bedroom that rents for an additional $200-$250 a month.
This problem is not limited to older inexpensive condos. Slumlords
also buy more expensive condo units that are close to colleges and
universities or are close to a subway line so they can rent to
This is an old problem as in 1977, the Kealey Commission mentions a
two-bedroom condo that was home to 27 people.
In the early 1990's, when recent refugees were placed in the three
apartment buildings comprising YCC #42, the owners found that their
condo was badly overcrowded with an estimated 4,500 refugees living in
a third of YCC #42s 897 apartments. The three buildings, which
were designed to hold 5,000, grew to 9,000
Twenty-five years later, turning living rooms into extra bedrooms has become common in some condos.
These two listings, in the same condo tower and by the same agent shows how open the practice has become.
A Mississauga condo
that has turned the balcony into a bedroom
At one Mississauga condo, the owners received permission from the
board to enclose their balconies. It did not take long for some of
these owners to start renting out these additional "bedrooms" to
stacked townhouse complex in Mississauga, that is close to the
University of Toronto campus, has four-bedroom units that have been
converted into eight and even more bedrooms. Here too, many of the
enclosed baloneys are being used as extra bedrooms. The landlords have
become slumlords and all the other owner-residents are subsidizing the
At another stacked townhouse complex in Scarborough, each unit in
two and three-story units were built with a laundry room. Yet
the board had a private company put in coin-operated laundries in the
basement. Why? There were so many units that were sub-divided into
separate apartments that a coin laundry was required. (The coin laundry
company did not pay for the hot and cold water that their machines
another way the owner-residents were subsidizing the landlords.)
Overcrowding is not limited to older condos in the suburbs. A new condo
Village, has six out-of-town construction workers sharing a bachelor
unit. There are three bunk beds in the small one-room unit.
Affect on the buildings
Over-crowded units wreak property values. Over-loading the units
increase utility, maintenance and security costs and lowers the life
expectancy of the common elements. There are huge increases in waste removal costs.
These buildings have over-loaded elevators with long waits during rush hours
and more frequent breakdowns. It is very difficult to prevent
individuals from moving in and out with their suitcases, computers and
other personal belongings by day or night.
Parking becomes a huge problem and there are increased complaints of
noise, crime and vandalism.
The new norm
Unfortunately, overcrowding in some condos is becoming the norm. The supply is driven by:
|the high costs of home ownership. (many townhouses are built to easily accommodate a second apartment in the basement.)
|low-income owners need to subsidize their wages.
|the need to pay for higher monthly fee increases and special assessments.
|investors seeing a chance to make a steady income.
|people needing cheap housing.
|lax enforcement by the condo board and municipal building inspectors.
are the winners?
The slumlords are providing a service for society's poor. In a province
where the government and private landlords are not providing affordable
housing and university residences are expensive, the condo slumlord
fills a need.
As his cash flow increases, the slumlord may buy more units—most likely
at lower prices—so his income rises. In Toronto's more troubled
buildings, there are slumlords that own ten to thirty units.
are the losers?
The owner-residents of course. Their monthly
common expenses go up and their property values go down. The taxpayers
will eventually be a big loser as the city will have another
privately-owned slum on its hands.
The worst of these rooming houses have been built with illegal
wiring and do not meet city building or fire code standards. Small
in-suite storage lockers and balconies have been converted into more
bedrooms. A fire could bring death.
can be done?
A board must act firmly as soon as they become aware of an overcrowded
unit or the condo corporation may end up with large number of
overcrowding becomes the norm, the board, or even a court-appointed
administrator, cannot roll it back. At best overcrowding can be
controlled. At one Agincourt condo, the board ignores the living
room being converted into an extra bedroom as it is the norm but will
not allow the
living room to be converted into two bed-sits.
The board has the power to enforce the declaration to eliminate the
rooming houses and enforce single family occupancy but too often they
do not have the will or the necessary support from the owners to do so.