16 24th St., Toronto
Asking Price: $1,999,999
Taxes: $4,917.58 (2020)
Lot Size: 75 feet by 77 feet
Agents: Leonard Fridman and Lesli Gaynor, sales representative, Forest Hill Real Estate Inc. Brokerage
Growing up, Stephanie Brundl lived in Scarborough and the Beaches in your typical suburban dream: House, yard, kids on bicycles and a big family. In 2006, with three siblings all grown up, the family embarked on a new adventure in inter-generational living by moving into a triplex in Etobicoke at the urging of her father, Steve, and his wife, Helga.
The Brundls took over what was an income property with three separate apartments, and moved themselves in. Stephanie, the oldest, took the second floor, her father in the middle level, and her middle brother took over the half-basement apartment (the youngest brother moved to Oshawa to raise his kids).
“A lot of people say, ‘You must be crazy!,’” Ms. Brundl said. “We had some of those fears at the beginning too; that’s a lot of togetherness!
“Fifteen years is a long time,” she said. “I didn’t think we thought we’d be here forever, but it worked out so well we kept doing it.”
Each of the apartments are more generous than the average luxury condo in Toronto, but there was still a need for neutral ground for family gatherings. “Then my dad had this really brilliant vision of making something that was more of a communal space, so he created an outdoor kitchen with a barbecue, pizza oven, a pergola covered area, raised gardens. All so we could have people over.”
Then, when seasonal gatherings weren’t quite enough, they added “The Lounge,” a 500-square-foot space built off the back of the separate garage.
“My dad calls it the ‘Out House.’ It’s got the biggest bar you’ve ever seen. Kitchenette, keg fridge, wine fridge,” Ms. Brundl said. There is also a separate room with sky lights and sliding doors that has been their movie-night venue, and has more recently become a gym and office space. “They really are into World Cup soccer. We had plenty of parties; the Olympics in the summer … this is the get-together party house.”
The family is finally ready to sell, but not to move apart, just to find a place with fewer stairs for Steve, who is now 80 years old. That leaves the triplex available for another multi-generational family, or as listing agent Lesli Gaynor suggests, perhaps it will intrigue a more “intentional community” looking to turn to co-ownership housing to get into Toronto’s surging real estate market.
“By no means am I calling this affordable housing,” Ms. Gaynor said, “but it’s more affordable.
“Most of the people who are coming to me have already formed their own groups,” said Ms. Gaynor, who says she moved from social work to real estate to help people find more options for ownership. “Typically, you’ve got one person with a well-paying job, maybe one person has a good down payment, [but] none of them could buy anything on their own. I have been doing it for five years, and in the last three years, there’s been exponential growth in demand for co-ownership.”
The House Today
The first thing about the house – a somewhat unremarkable looking brown-brick block of a structure with a well-maintained front garden and a couple of balconies – is that it’s as rare as hen’s teeth. Triplexes such as this on a sleepy side-street were once easy to build in the 1940s and 50s. But city zoning rules now make them almost impossible to construct.
The house has two entryways – front and back – connected to stairwells that connect the floors. Each floor has just under 1,300 square feet of living space, and each apartment has its own front and rear door that locks separately.
There’s a shared laundry area and utilities room in the lower level, which makes the basement apartment the smallest. From the front entrance there’s a living room to the left, kitchen just ahead and the four-piece bath and primary bedroom are on the right separated by a small hallway. It’s currently set up as a two-bedroom, but the second bedroom is through an arch in the living room that could just as easily be an office or a dining room. All the kitchens in the house have been renovated at different times over the years by the Brundls, and this unit has the most contemporary style with white cabinets, dark granite countertop and a breakfast bar on a counter peninsula opposite a full pantry wall.
The middle level is Steve and Helga’s unit. The flooring here is a light oak, and the living room on the left has a gas fireplace on the far wall, and the large picture window opens out onto a front-yard-facing balcony. There’s a formal dining room with a passthrough window into the kitchen, which has darker oak cabinets in a U-shaped run, square-tiled floor and a built-in banquet for the breakfast table. There are two full-size bedrooms, the larger on the front side of the house next to the bathroom which has a large tiled and glass shower.
On the top floor, Stephanie’s, the living room is carpeted and glass French-doors separate the formal dining room (there’s a balcony outside the front window as well). The kitchen layout is a mix of traditional and modern, with wooden shaker-style cabinets, subway tile backsplash and beige granite counters. Instead of a passthrough, it has a door to connect to the dining room, with a smaller eat-in area opposite the counter peninsula. The bathroom has a jetted tub and shower combo, with a glass-tiled counter, tub surround and backsplash. The main and second bedroom are also carpeted.
The residents live together, and apart. “We never lock our doors,” Ms. Brundl said. “We are up and down to my Dad’s place so often we don’t even knock. We help cook and help walk the dog. When we go down to see my dad he jokes ‘The neighbours are here!’ We go into his fridge so often – they buy more groceries than they need – so ‘the store’ is a little more full.”
They have schedules for laundry for fairness and simplicity, but everything is pretty informal. Most communication is not over the phone, it’s knocking on doors. “Or yelling down the hall,” Said Ms. Brundl. “They come out of the door; ‘Steph!’ And then I come down. Today [an unusually balmy February day] we’re all having a barbecue at 4 p.m.”
And yet, everyone is at home. The three households thrive under one roof, because they can have a mix of their own and shared spaces and use it as much as they need to. “That’s the key to why it was so successful. Your unit is completely separate: you literally wouldn’t see people for weeks if that was your choice,” Ms. Brundl said. “There’s nothing wrong with having time to yourself, in case you don’t want to be in each other’s faces.”
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