It appears even developers of pricier, larger condos are conserving space by removing their ovens.
A one-bedroom unit at 155 Yorkville Ave., a four-minute walk from the Royal Ontario Museum, boasts 610 square feet and is asking for $3,295 in rent in an ad on Realtor.ca. It includes a bedroom and bathtub, a swanky den and a kitchen — but no standlone oven. Instead it has a convection microwave, which combines the functions of a microwave and oven.
Another two-bedroom unit in the building is listed for sale for $1.1 million and also appears to lack a stand-alone oven. The ad says “Ready To Turn To Income Property. Furniture Included.”
In June, the Star reported on a condominium at Front and Bathurst Sts. that houses 162 units without stand-alone ovens. Agnieszka Wloch, vice-president of development at Minto Communities Toronto, told the Star those units were all under 480 square feet and had a convection microwave, chosen as a response to changing lifestyle preferences and as a way to offer “space saving efficiencies and functionality.”
At the time, an ad for one such studio unit in the building — advertised with a “gourmet kitchen” — was asking for $1,650 a month in rent.
But the Yorkville building’s ovenless units appear to be larger and have a bigger price tag, which has experts the Star spoke to highlighting two trends: a downtown-wide shift away from home cooking, and the popularity of short-term rentals.
The Front St. W. building was enacting rules against short-term rentals, Wloch told the Star.
But in the case of the Yorkville Ave. building, the Star found eight listings for what appear to be units in the highrise listed on Airbnb.ca.
Camrost Felcorp, the developer behind the Yorkville Ave. building, which was completed about two years ago, did not return requests for comments.
Thorben Wieditz, spokesperson for Fairbnb, a coalition of tenants’ groups, condo associations, rental landlords and hotel groups, said that ovenless units “will add to the ‘ghost hotel’ stock, but not necessarily to the long-term rental stock in the city.”
Ghost hotels refer to cases where people are leasing or buying multiple units, and taking them off the long-term market by turning them almost exclusively into short-term rentals, Wieditz said.
“These places are more designed and cater more to people that don’t cook, don’t necessarily live in them — and if you rent them out on Airbnb, (not having an oven) would not really matter,” he said, as people who use short-term rentals tend to eat out.
The main reason for the pop-up of ghost hotels? “You can make a lot more money on the short-term rental market than you could renting it out on the long-term market,” Wieditz said.
However, James McKellar, a real estate professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, said there are a number of people who would choose to live in one of these condos, adding that the rise of ovenless units — even in luxury buildings — is a sign of a “lifestyle shift” among downtown residents.
“I think urban life today is very different than what it was even 20 years ago, and developers are working at these trends and trying to accommodate them,” McKeller said.
“There are single-person households today that would look long-term and an oven wouldn’t be that important if they have an alternate to it.”
McKeller also noted that downtown residents tend to be more “location-conscious” when choosing a place to live, and “an oven isn’t going to be a big deal” as their focus is more on the neighbourhood.
Forest Hill Real Estate’s Scott Stren, a broker for one of the Yorkville units, said the stand-alone ovens were omitted be because “of course they’re trying to save space,” pointing to a larger trend of conserving space in Toronto condos.
When asked if potential tenants and homeowners were hesitant on an ovenless space, Stren noted that it wasn’t really an issue.
According to Statistics Canada figures released last month, roughly one in three condos are not owner occupied.