Site of dilapidated Toronto garage that sold for $712K could soon become a $2M house

When a dilapidated garage in East York sold for more than $700,000 back in 2019, it left some bemoaning the state of Toronto’s housing market.

But for 22-year-old Andrew Gabriel, an aspiring new developer, it was an irresistible opportunity. 

“My first thought was, ‘This is something not too many people are going to pay attention to,'” Gabriel said. “The garage doesn’t really matter. What we’re buying here is land.”

Gabriel bought the garage and its 20-by-100-foot lot for $712,000 in March 2021. Today, construction is underway on an three-bedroom house. At about 1,200 square feet, the house will have two storeys, a full basement and a carport. 

Gabriel said he hopes it will sell for between $1.8 and $2 million when it goes on the market in the new year. That’s based on the current market and other new builds in the same area, he said.

While Toronto’s housing woes won’t be solved by building high-end single-family homes, Gabriel sees this project as a good example of making the most of a small sliver of land.

For its part, the city has encouraged the building of smaller homes on available land as one potential solution to the ongoing housing crisis. 

It launched an initiative to explore more housing options in residential neighbourhoods back in July 2020. The Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods initiative prioritizes permitting more types of housing in areas of the city that haven’t historically allowed for them.

The original garage was removed from the narrow lot soon after being purchased by Andrew Gabriel’s development company. (Haweya Fadal/CBC)

City council also approved the building of laneway suites in 2018 and is in the process of approving garden suites — second, smaller homes built in the backyards of existing properties.

But while it’s clear the city wants to expand its available housing options, zoning bylaws and city backlogs can be a challenge for those looking to build something new. 

A rendering of the three-bedroom home’s interior shows a modern kitchen and dining area. (Submitted by Contempo Studio)

Initial plans for the small lot included a slightly bigger house with more space, but getting variances for that build approved by the city would have delayed construction until 2022 because of backlogs, said Marin Zabzuni, design director at Contempo Studios, the firm Gabriel hired to design the new house.

Gabriel told the firm that construction needed to happen this year in order to protect his investment. That forced the designers to get creative and come up with a unique plan that complied with the existing zoning bylaws and didn’t include any variances that would require additional approvals.

“It’s quite challenging,” Zabzuni said. “Every little thing, such as placing even a column, if it’s a few inches off, it would require minor variance [and approval from the city].”

A rendering of the home’s interior shows the first floor’s living area and large windows. (Submitted by Contempo Studio)

Ultimately, both designer and developer are happy with the final design. 

“It’s an exciting and very unique project,” Gabriel said. “Not the typical style of house you see.”

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