Toronto’s most underrated neighbourhoods
A realist’s guide to real estate
Edward Keenan and Katie Underwood – The Grid
Once upon a time in Toronto, if you were searching for a place to live, you just looked at the neighbourhood that suited your lifestyle. And if the area you liked had become popular—and therefore a little too pricey—you just wandered a few blocks away and found a similar pocket of the city the big wallets hadn’t discovered yet.
But the combination of Toronto’s constant population growth and a sustained real-estate boom over the past decade and a half means you’ll wear out a lot of shoe leather now trying to find a deal. The map of neighbourhoods semi-officially recognized as gentrified or up-and-coming now stretches the length of all the subway lines, and covers virtually every square metre south of St. Clair from the Beach to Jane Street. It’s enough to make some people who want a decent, affordable house take a long look at Hamilton, Milton or Peterborough.
However, there are still places where you can find a relative bargain—neighbourhoods that go unmentioned in the trend stories but currently offer a quality of life and amenities similar to what you’d find in more celebrated (and punishingly expensive) quarters of the city. We ventured away from the subway lines to find the qualities we’ve come to love about the places we can’t afford. These five ‘hoods don’t have everything their more famous doppelgängers do—there’s a reason those places are so pricey—but if you don’t care about snob appeal and you’re willing to watch patiently as a community evolves, you can find some of the more beloved elements of your dream neighbourhood under the radar and within your budget.
If you’re priced out of The Beach, take a look at NEW TORONTO
Close to gorgeous public parkland and the lake? Check. Easy access to the 501 Queen streetcar, running 24 hours? Check. A main drag lined with pubs, restaurants, specialty coffee shops and pet spas? Check. It could be a list of amenities you’d find in the Beach—but it’s at the other end of the streetcar line in New Toronto, which shares much in common with its pricier east-end counterpart.
The natural beauty of this “streetcar suburb” sandwiched between Mimico and Long Branch is defined not just by its access to the western beaches, but also the sprawling Colonel Samuel Smith Park, which contains some of the oldest buildings in Toronto. These include the former “lunatic asylum” that’s been restored and put to use by Humber College. The park also features a unique figure-eight ice-skating path at its centre.
There’s a good mix of detached single-family homes, new townhouses, bungalows and apartment towers on both sides of Lake Shore Boulevard that’ll run you half of what you’d pay in the Beach.
Anyone hoping for the storybook detached homes on leafy streets that define Leaside (but also trying to avoid the seven-figure price tags there) should venture over to Todmorden Village, a neighbourhood on the western edge of East York that wraps around the Don Valley. As an added benefit, there are breathtaking views of the valley and the skyline from many streets in the area.
This overlooked pocket of the city is close to all kinds of attractive surrounding areas; that’s a huge part of its appeal. It’s a quick stroll to the Riverdale section of the Danforth (and the subway line there) and a quicker one still to the small-towny retail strips of East York’s north-south streets. Hop on a bike down Pottery Road and you’re a few minutes from the Don Valley Brick Works nature preserve and farmers’ market, and you can take the Don Valley trail downtown. By car, you’re virtually on the DVP already.
If you’re priced out of The Kingsway, take a look at WEST HILL
In east Scarborough, you won’t find anything like the strip of Bloor that runs through the Kingsway in Toronto’s west end—nor anything like its access to the subway—but West Hill does offer a slice of small-town streetscape at Old Kingston Road, where a mural depicts the history of Highland Creek, which borders the neighbourhood. In a part of town where driving is the norm, it makes you want to park and walk around for a few minutes.
The favourable comparison with The Kingsway (at less than half the price) becomes less of a stretch on the residential streets, which offer similar large, detached homes (many of them ranch-style bungalows) on wide, wooded lots.
Bordered by parkland on all sides, West Hill is home to top-notch recreational facilities, including a hockey arena, tennis courts, and indoor and outdoor pools. University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus is on the northern edge of the ‘hood, and the historical architecture of Guildwood Village is on the western edge. In between, in the admittedly unattractive plazas on Lawrence, you can find some excellent Caribbean, Chinese and Middle Eastern restaurants served by mom-and-pop gourmets.
If you’re priced out of Moore Park, take a look at CLIFFSIDE
What residents of tony Moore Park get for their multi-millions is access to a placid natural setting, large houses and proximity to Rosedale. The streets south of Kingston Road in Cliffside can boast two of those three amenities. (So long, Rosedale.)
The Scarborough Bluffs on the southern border of Cliffside offer, by a landslide, the city’s most stunning view of the lake. Architect-designed mansions along the bluffs, some featuring private tennis courts and pools, are priced like townhouses at Yonge and Eglinton, and the more modest houses that make up much of the neighbourhood are even downright affordable. The winding streets of the surrounding area offer a variety of housing styles on landscaped lots, all within quick walking distance of the park system on the Bluffs.
The retail strip along Kingston Road, subdivided by a median into a University Avenue–style boulevard, feels fairly urban, which is quite a feat given that one side is lined with strip malls. You won’t find much in the way of luxury goods along the street, but a range of indie fast-food options (including excellent fish and chips) and eccentric merchants offer a touch of charm.
If you’re priced out of The Junction, take a look at WESTON VILLAGE
Before The Junction became the place that hipsters go to raise their young, it already had a couple of the ingredients you could use to predict an urban renaissance: a preserved, century-old streetscape that made you feel like you were living in a movie, plus a community of residents fiercely proud of their neighbourhood’s history and identity.
In the historic Village of Weston, you’ll find similar raw material. On Weston Road around Lawrence Avenue, you can feel the history contained in the stone and brick prewar architecture and the old-school penny-farthing bicycle sculptures hanging from lampposts. Landmark libraries, churches and a host of local history and community groups trumpet the area’s legacy as a strong, independent industrial town.
The large brick heritage homes on the tree-lined residential streets carry on the traditional feel, and offer access to vast swaths of parkland along the Humber River.
Contact the Jeffrey Team for more information – 416−388−1960
Laurin & Natalie Jeffrey are Toronto Realtors with Century 21 Regal Realty.
They did not write these articles, they just reproduce them here for people
who are interested in Toronto real estate. They do not work for any builders.
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