5 Fascinating Facts About Condos

Building Toronto’s Skyline: Toronto Condominiums Through the Decades is a new book by Nick Ainis and Charlie M. Wordsworth that includes some intriguing facts from condo history. Here are five we learned from the publication.

By Josh Sherman | 3 minute read

Sep 26

The history of the condo dates back a lot further than you might think, but Ontario was slow to start embracing the multi-family housing type.

Condominiums have come to define Toronto’s skyline, but how much do we really know about them? Not enough, the latest project from Nick Ainis, a self-described “serial entrepreneur,” suggests.


Ainis is most known as a homebuilder and developer. The head of Fusioncorp Developments has had a hand in several developments across the Greater Toronto Area over the past decade. But his latest project is a far cry from his usual brick-and-mortar endeavours. In April, he published Building Toronto’s Skyline: Toronto Condominiums Through the Decades, a book he co-authored with Charlie M. Wordsworth. The self-published paperback offers up a concise overview of the condominium, from its earliest beginnings to the present day. The book spawned from his passion for history as well as a desire to build his own brand. “I thought studying the decades of condos would be a really interesting concept because I love history, and nobody’s really done it before,” he tells Wahi. “I’m in the industry. I thought, ‘Why not?’”


Peppered within the historical account of Toronto condos are a number of facts that may surprise readers and condo dwellers alike. Here are five fascinating condo facts that we’ve selected from the text, which is available for purchase online.  


1. Condos Have Ancient Roots  

“Apartments have a much longer history than most people realize,” write Ainis and Wordsworth in Chapter 4: A Brief History of the Condo. Roman insulae, which were apartments or city blocks, date back to the second century A.D. These ancestors of the condo soared to heights of 10 storeys or more, and some insulae had upwards of 200 stairs so that residents could access the upper levels. 


2.North America’s First Condo Was in Utah 

Contemporary condos might be closely associated with cosmopolitan cities like New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and Toronto, but the origin story of condos in North America begins in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1960. The inaugural condo project, spearheaded by attorney Keith Romney — who eventually earned the title of Father of Modern Condominiums — kickstarted  a new era of development on the continent. According to Ainis and Wordsworth, all 50 U.S. states had laws regulating condos by 1969. Modern condos had reached North America by way of Puerto Rico and Europe. (Not everyone agrees on the origins of the continent’s first condos as, for example, some cite Hawaii as the trailblazing source of the housing type.) 

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3. Ontario Didn’t Legalize Condos Until 1968  

As the condo revolution was sweeping across the U.S., it was only just getting started in Ontario. The Condominium Act, which the province introduced in 1968, opened the door for developers to begin embracing the new ownership model, one that would allow them to make quicker returns than they could with rental apartments. However, the near-decade lag between North America’s first condo and Ontario’s exemplifies an issue that still plagues the city of Toronto today, Ainis argues. “We’re not the first to get out there — that’s a mistake,” he says. “I think we should be more bold when new ideas take off,” he adds.

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4. Toronto’s Earliest Condos Were Low-Rise Buildings  

Today, the word condo is synonymous with sleek glass towers, but the initial crop of condos in Toronto — beginning with a project by the founder of the Rockport Group — looked very different. Toronto condos started from the bottom. They typically were squat, red-brick buildings. The reason? Mid- and high-rise structures were complicated and expensive to construct, according to Building Toronto’s Skyline: “Low rises were easier to design, more cost-effective, and presented a lower risk for what was a new and untested market.”


5. Kid-Free Condos Used to Be a Thing  

It’s not uncommon for condos to have rules governing everything from what size of dog you  can have to the type of blinds you’re allowed to hang in your unit. However, in the ‘80s, a number of Ontario condos had adult-only designations. Turns out, that violates the Ontario Human Rights Code. “It is discrimination, under the ground of family status, if you are denied housing because you have children,” according to the Ontario Human Rights Commission website. “Adult-only buildings are not permitted in Ontario except for specific situations such as subsidized seniors’ residences or care facilities.”

Josh Sherman

Wahi Writer

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