Monday, December 22, 2014

Big News (Long Edition)

So this is the long long long version of the BIG NEWS we announced last week...

We had no intentions of ever building a new house, at least an inner city infill in the immediate future. The process that led us to this exciting opportunity was a saga drawn out over the last year.

As long as we have lived in our current house, Dave has dreamed of buying the house next door. He wanted the 50' lot and the huge backyard. Eventually I began to share his dream but my dream involved taking the roof off the original bungalow, adding a second story and renovating it into a gorgeous craftsman style home. Dave had made our desires to buy the house known to the landlord and tenant whenever the opportunity arose.

This past January, when Avery was maybe a week old, the tenant knocked on our door at 10 PM on a Friday night to let us know that the house was going up for sale the next morning. He had only just been informed himself.

Dave and I put serious consideration into putting in an offer to buy the house...

but it was late on a Friday night... 
we were at home with a newborn... 
the house was being listed for more then we were comfortable to spend on a whim... 
we were in no position to confirm financing on such short notice... 
we were in no position to be making those kind of life changing decisions... 

The list of reasons not to buy the house was long.

We chalked it up to fate. We were going to have to let our dream house go.

The next morning the house sold within hours for over the listing price. We found out that the house has been sold to a developer and we were excited that two infills or a duplex would be built... new development would only improve our neighbourhood and will ultimately improve the value of our current home.

Fast forward to March... the development permit notice shows up on the lawn stating that an application has been made to build a four-plex. A four-plex?!!?

We, along with all our neighbours, are all completely caught off guard. How can they build a four-plex? Our zoning is only R2!

Turns out when the LRT station was built three blocks from us, the City increased the zoning in our neighbourhood to MCG-d72 or "Multi-family Grade Orientated Contextual". At the time, no one in the neighbourhood noticed or understood what it meant. Essentially the City had given developers full license to tear down the century-old characters homes that are a signature of our neighbourhood to build tasteless, cheap multi-family complexes.

There was no way we wanted to live next to a four-plex so we banned together with a group of our neighbours to fight the development. We educated ourselves in the City development process and bylaws, met with the City planning department, talked to our Community Association, our Alderman, the Heritage Council... anyone who would listen. We drafted letters outlining our concerns with the development and collected signatures from almost 60 neighbours. Pretty impressive considering our neighbourhood is the size of a postage stamp. We then resigned ourselves to waiting out the City review process and began to prepare ourselves in case we had to take our case to the Appeal Board.

Based on the feedback from the City, we were pretty certain that the project would be proceeding so we began to consider the possibility of selling our house. We got our house appraised and began to work with a real estate agent to look at new houses. We quickly realized that we were not ready to leave the house or neighbourhood we loved. We were heartbroken that the City process meant we either needed to accept a four-plex encroaching on our house and yard or leave the house we had invested the last seven years of our life in.

In the meantime, the neighbours on the opposite side of the development approached came to the same conclusion. They did not want to live next to a four-plex and they did not want to leave the house/neighbourhood they love. They approached us to take the fight to the next level. They decided that our only option was to simply buy the developer out.

It took 6 months, endless offers and counteroffers, lawyers, threats of indemnification and legal action but eventually the developer agreed to sell us the property.

Now we own a 50' lot and a decrepit bungalow in conjunction with our neighbours... what are we to do with it?

We didn't want to sell it and risk having to go through the whole ordeal with a new developer.

We looked into our dream to renovate the original house but we quickly determined the bungalow was too far past gone and a renovation would be too expensive.

We then began to look at tearing down the bungalow to build a new single family house but unfortunately this option was just not economical either.

After a lot of long discussions, extravagant spreadsheets, meetings with our real estate agent and mortgage broker, we hatched out the plan. We would tear down the house, sub-divide the lot and build two new houses. One for us to live in and the second for the neighbours to sell as an investment.

Yes it still means having to give up the house we love and invested the last seven years restoring but we are certain we can find a new owner to love the house as much as we did. At least this way we get to ensure the new houses compliment and enhance the neighbourhood. And we get the exciting opportunity to design and build a custom home.

Currently we are in the process of designing the houses with our architect. We get to see the first version of our house plans this week. To say we are anxious in an understatement!


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