Hong-Kong-based developer Aoyuan Property Holdings made a big splash in Toronto in 2017, paying $201-million for the 8.6-acre Newtonbrook Plaza development site at 5799 Yonge St., in its first Canadian project outside of Vancouver. It claims to have presold 95 per cent of the first of five residential towers slated for the new master-planned community, and as it prepares to open sales on the second tower, it’s making more waves by unveiling a type of condominium apartment that’s not just family friendly but multigenerational-family friendly.
Floor plans for the new M2M tower include 15 units such as the 3B-3B-E, which has two master bedrooms each with their own ensuite bathroom, as well as a third bedroom and a separate full bathroom. It’s all going to efficiently slotted into a 1,003 square foot space (plus two balconies) and the starting price is $900,000. There are also 25 two-bedroom units where both bedrooms are masters with their own ensuite, and in total about 60 per cent of the new tower’s 249 units will be two-bedrooms or larger.
According to Fan Yang, deputy general manager, Eastern Canada for Aoyuan International, the company decided on building such a large selection of multifamily units after getting feedback from buyers in its first tower. “Many buyers would come into the sales centre with their entire family. By the time they left they were already discussing which bedrooms they were going to take,” he said. The company, which has dozens of projects overseas in 30 cities, has had success in Asian markets with multigenerational living formats, so they decided to bring that to Canada. “We have these kinds of projects in Hong Kong and China. We are trying to provide something the purchasers want, something they may not even know it’s possible to have here.”
Certainly, the M2M floor plans are a novelty for Toronto.
“It’s not a common thing at all. [I] have not ever seen a double ensuite, two bedroom unit,” said Andrew LaFleur, a condo salesman in the Toronto region who admits he’s not sure who the buyers will be for those units. “It’s not something that I can say I’ve seen personally on the demand side, but perhaps they are targeting a demographic that I don’t have as much experience with.”
In 2016, Statistics Canada showed that multigenerational households – which include three generations of the same family – were the fastest growing type of household in the country: between 2001 and 2016 all household types grew by 21.7 per cent, while multigenerational homes grew 37.5 per cent. By 2016, 6.3 per cent of Canada’s population, 2.2 million people, lived in a multigenerational setting. If you add in the number of “non-census-family” households (roommates, siblings, other co-living forms) that might be attracted to the kind of unit Aoyuan is pitching, that’s close to 10.1 per cent of Canada’s population.
Mr. Yang, said he was also inspired by his own experience house hunting.
“Myself, I have two children. I was looking for a condo unit that can have three bedrooms; I want to have one bedroom for each of them,” he said. "I realized it was very difficult to find in Toronto. Either it’s too small, even a two-plus-den, or if it was a real three bedroom it was 1,400 square feet and a penthouse type of unit. Not everyone can afford it.
“So we see a gap between luxury condo and spacious condo, spacious enough for multigeneration family, but not too expensive.”
So far, buyers for the project, which is close to the Finch subway station, come from the surrounding communities dominated by low-rise housing types: Richmond Hill, Markham, Mississauga and the northern parts of Toronto. “From an ethnicity perspective, there’s a lot of Chinese community buyers, Korean community, Persian, it’s very diversified,” Mr. Yang said.
The company is planning a two-phase approach to development, ultimately aiming to add more than 1,500 apartments, 35,000 square feet of retail space on Yonge Street and 40,000 square feet of office space. In the second phase, a community centre and daycare will be added to the project.
This is the third and largest project announced so far in Canada by the Hong Kong-listed company, founded in 1996; it has two other projects in Vancouver. Aoyuan began diversifying outside of China in 2015 and now has seven projects in Australia.
Mr. Yang says the company has felt very welcomed by the Toronto development community and is actively looking for more projects in the city.
“If we compare to Toronto to other cities around the world, we still see a lot of potential, especially the price,” Mr. Yang said. "If you compare it to Sydney, Toronto is much more affordable. There’s a lot of talent in Toronto, there are more immigrants coming, the economy is growing and we see a good opportunity to grow here.
“We see great potential for Toronto to become one of the best and most prosperous cities in the world. This will not be a one-off project.”
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