Why this Annex apartment building sits vacant in the middle of Toronto’s housing crisis

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Why this Annex apartment building sits vacant in the middle of Toronto’s housing crisis


The peeling white paint gives it an institutional air.

Its Juliet balconies hint at better days.

There are still curtains on some of the bay windows. But no one is home, say the neighbours.

No one has been for a long time.

The Kendal apartments, a three-storey brick building of fading elegance, once housed Edwardian newlyweds and even an accused murderer. It’s an example of the “missing middle” — low- and mid-rise forms of housing that provide dense, walkable and more affordable options. But now, in the middle of a raging housing crisis, the apartments sit empty.

The landlord vows he’s on the cusp of developing the building, while neighbours and the local councillor say the fact it hasn’t been used for years when there are so few places to rent speaks to a larger problem in the city.

Kendal Avenue, just minutes from Spadina subway stop, is lined with three-storey stately brown and red brick homes from the last century, many of which have been turned into apartments.

It’s close enough to see the tip of the CN Tower in the distance but far enough to feel cocooned from the traffic and noise of the city.

A sign on a pole advertises a number to call if you have “raccoon problems.”

Mason Small lived at the Kendal apartments for more than 10 years before being served an eviction notice for renovations in 2013. She still lives in the neighbourhood, and wonders when, if ever, she’ll be able to come back.

Toronto Building issued a permit in 2015 to allow "interior alterations." But the work was not completed, said a city spokesperson.

“The thing that’s been maddening about it is that the building has been sitting there, unused,” said the 56-year-old dog walker.

“It’s a colossal waste. As rents go up, it’s terrible to have anything sitting empty.”

Small was one of the tenants living in the roughly 10 units before 2013, when she said they were offered three months rent in exchange for forgoing their right to return after major renovations.

Small, who was paying $1,000 for a two-bedroom apartment, refused to sign the agreement. She was served an N13 form, a notice of eviction for renovations that allows tenants to return upon the work’s completion. She tried to get compensation at the Landlord and Tenant Board in August 2013, but said she didn’t get it due to evidence documenting the building was unsafe.

That’s the same year the building was sold by Lixo Investments Limited to Up & Up Investments Limited for zero dollars.

Adel Kirloss, one of two directors of both companies according to corporate filings, said they are “related.”

He denies the building has been sitting empty but confirmed there is no one living there.

While lovely, it’s “very dilapidated” with extensive safety issues and so the tenants wanted to leave, he said during a phone interview with the Star. They are “welcome to come back” once it’s finished. He estimates the renovations will be completed “within 12 months.”

“We’re kind of in the steps now of securing finances and finding the right contractor to do this kind of work,” he said.

He wants to keep the building as “classic as possible” in keeping with the neighbourhood.

Toronto Building issued a permit in 2015 to allow “interior alterations.” But the work was not completed, said a city spokesperson. There was an order issued by the city to remove loose bricks on a portion of the exterior facade, which was done in 2018.

Robert Feldman has lived near the Kendal apartments for over two years. Yes, he’s noticed them.

The building is “one of the most egregious examples” of empty homes in the city,” he said, while swinging a bag of garbage into a bin.

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“The planners talk about midrise and here’s a perfect example of that, nestled in one of the most residential neighbourhoods,” he added. “This is completely wasteful.”

One passerby asked if the building was haunted.

There is no evidence of that, but it was once the site of a murder.

A “trivial disagreement over the disposal of some garbage” led to the murder of the janitor in 1928, according to the Globe and Mail. A tenant was charged with murder, after the janitor was found “quite dead” in the bushes.

Over a hundred years ago the building was a bustling place where newlyweds received visitors, according to classified ads they placed in the Star in 1912 and 1913.

Small remembers it as “beautiful” with fireplaces, and a unit big enough for her three dogs — McCracken, Notely and Pushkin — and two cats — Hadley and Zelda.

She found another apartment nearby but if she loses that one she’ll have to leave the city.

"We're about to develop it," says Adel Kirloss, director of Up & Up Investments, which owns the building.

“What I find sort of heartbreaking about the situation is that people who live and work in the Annex, some of us who make less than $50,000 a year are going to be squeezed out,” she said.

Ward 11 Coun. Mike Layton said he knows of at least five empty homes in the neighbourhood.

“They’re sitting with building permits that have been open for years and little or no work has happened,” he said.

A vacant homes tax “could help compel owners to advance construction faster.”

Council has been mulling the idea of such a tax, which Vancouver introduced in 2018, and is still waiting for a staff report on the idea.

That’s expected by the second quarter of this year, when the idea will be debated as a possible incentive to keep landlords from sitting on supply.

But that’s not the case on Kendal Avenue, Kirloss said. People should know he gets a lot of offers to buy the land, he said, but he doesn’t take them up on it.

“We’re not in the business of selling it,” he said.

“We’re about to develop it.”

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