My city has a wonderful little neighbourhood that’s precious to the people who live there, but carries a bohemian mystique for those who don’t. I finally ventured into the heart of this treasure for the first time.
Sitting in Toronto Harbour, with a gorgeous view of the city skyline, is a cluster of islands known simply as the Toronto Islands.
Tucked away on the far east end of this archipelago is Ward’s and Algonquin Islands (which I will call The Island) – certainly the most unique neighbourhood I’ve seen in Toronto.
The history of this residential area is long and rather convoluted. My description of it here is superficial at best.
From the late 1800s to the mid 1950s, the Toronto Islands was a thriving summer resort area. Hotels, hundreds of cottages, and numerous amenities lined the islands from east to west on lots created and leased by the city.
By the end of the 1940s, people were taking up full time residency on the islands because of a housing shortage in the city after the war.
In the late 1950s, when the city decided to convert the islands to parkland, they began recovery of the leased lots and the buildings on them were demolished.
By the 1970s, around 250 cottages remained … all of them clustered on The Island. These were residents who were refusing to leave and they began a long legal battle against the city to fight their eviction.
In 1993, the Ontario government finally ended the dispute when it passed the Toronto Island Residential Community Stewardship Act (TIRS Act). It placed the remaining island properties in a land trust and 99 year leases were sold to the residents.
The TIRS Act is complex and is administered by the trust. When properties on The Island become available, they cannot go on the usual real estate market.
A special process was developed for the sale* of these properties to prevent land speculation and escalation in property values. Properties can be offered only to those individuals on a waiting list … individuals who have paid to be on that list.
* the land is leased by the Island Land Trust, but the building on the property is owned by the tenant. The TIRS Act uses a formula to calculate the value of both the lease and the building on it.
If you are lucky enough to get on the waiting list – which is capped at only 500 – it is estimated that it will take approximately 35 years for your name to bubble up close enough to the top to *maybe* be offered one of the leases that infrequently becomes available.
Owners of an Island lease are required to use the property as their principal residence although there is a provision for limited rental.
There are no motor vehicles in this neighbourhood. The *roads* are only slightly wider than a typical suburban sidewalk and accommodates only pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
I nearly had a collision with another cyclist at one of these intersections … a terrifying event given my still-healing collarbone.
During the years of dispute between the city and the residents, the cottages had fallen into disrepair because the city wouldn’t issue building permits. That has now changed.
Large modern homes are starting to dot the neighbourhood, but small cottages still dominate the area.
The Island has a fire station and a water treatment plant exists on the west end of the islands, but all purchases have to be made on the mainland and brought back to The Island via the ferry service that runs all year round.
This post is part of the weekly photo challenge, Thursday Doors, hosted by Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.