Map 2: Affordable housing for 780 persons (Rooming houses in Parkdale)

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The second release is the map of “rooming houses and bachelorettes” in Parkdale. These housing types concentrate in Parkdale (there is a long history. Please see for example Tom Slater’s historical review) and they are recognized, both by housing providers, policy makers and academics, as an important affordable housing option for low-income populations.

The map below is the excerpt from Tom Slater’s research on Parkdale (2004) that mapped out rooming houses and bachelorettes. The data was based on the City of Toronto’s 1997 data. Please look at small dots; big dots show high-density apartment buildings.

(Map a: Rooming houses and bachelorettes in Parkdale 1997)

The next map here is the most current version based on 2012 data available from the City of Toronto (including both licenced and applied-for licenced rooming houses).

(Map b: Rooming houses and bachelorettes in Parkdale 2012)

This may come as little surprise to some people, but there is a stark contrast between 1997 map and 2012 map: the number of rooming houses and bachelorettes in North Parkdale (the north of Queen St W) has dramatically declined.

In 1997, there were 72 rooming houses/bachelorettes in the north of Queen St. In 2012, the number declined by 49 to 23. These 23 remaining rooming houses concentrate largely close to Queen St West, or South Parkdale, which still retains a large stock of rooming houses and bachelorettes.

As the study by conducted by SHS Inc for the city of Toronto (2004) shows, the average number of bedrooms  per rooming house is 15.9 bedrooms. If we apply this average number, then it may be reasonable to estimate that for the past 15 years North Parkdale has lost approximately 780 bedrooms (i.e. affordable housing units that could have accommodated 780 persons).

While a very small number of rooming houses have been shifted to housing provided by other institutions such as Habitat Services, a major driving force behind this decline can be explained by the conversions of rooming houses into single family homes – gentrification pressure. There are a few reasons that has fueled gentrification pressure.

First, there are many financial stresses in operating rooming houses – such as difficulties in accessing fair mortgage financing and insurance, high property taxes, increasing complexity of government regulations, income limits of tenants, and significant responsibility for maintenance (SHS Inc, 2004). Second, it is suggested that rooming house operators tend to be an older population; there may be limited interest by the second family generation in taking over the business given the aforementioned financial challenges.

Third, in addition to the supply side challenges, North Parkdale (or Roncesvalles) has become a favourite neighbourhood for potential homeowners to buy single family houses; housing demands have increased. Combined with increasing property values, this is a great incentive for owners to sell their homes in light of difficult circumstances surrounding the economics of rooming house operation.

This is the economic imperative threatening the sustainability of existing rooming house. Conversely – and more importantly – this also demonstrates little housing stability and security for those low-income populations living in the rooming houses and bachelorettes within a broader context of lack of affordable housing in Toronto.

So what are some of the implications for future neighbourhood planning in Parkdale? As the north side of Parkdale has become more gentrified, the pressures may be encroaching into the south. Already, redevelopment pressures have been spilt over from the east side of Parkdale – West Queen West and Liberty Village. In the next map series, we would like to pay closer attention to the changes in South Parkdale, and contextualize these housing dynamics within the population change in Parkdale using the recent 2011 census data.

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