Montreal grew around these historic homes, and now an expert is fighting to save them

Shoebox homes dot Montreal's cityscape, but if they're not protected, they'll disappear, warns urbanism expert David Hanna.

High land value puts 'shoebox' homes at risk, says urbanism expert David Hanna

Shoebox homes are single-storey, flat-roofed buildings with a veranda across the front. In neighbourhoods such as Rosemont, they can be found wedged between multi-storey apartment buildings. (Radio-Canada)

If you're looking closely, you'll see them all over Montreal.

Shoebox homes are single-storey, flat-roofed buildings with a veranda across the front. They became in vogue over one hundred years ago, when working-class families wanted a starter home on the outskirts of town.

As the city expanded, it grew around the shoebox homes, integrating them into the landscape.

In neighbourhoods such as Rosemont, they're wedged between multi-storey apartment buildings.

But urbanism expert David Hanna says unless the city intervenes, that could change.

"They're disappearing fast, just one by one," he said. "Because the land is worth more than the house now."

Two shoebox homes in Rosemont are currently facing demolition, pending a permit. Hanna is calling on the boroughs to change their zoning regulations to protect the homes.
David Hanna, a professor at UQAM's Department of Urban Studies and Tourism, says the shoebox homes are both practical and have historic significance and should be protected. (CBC)

In addition to wanting to protect their heritage and history, he said they are perfect starter homes.

"Young couples love buying these houses because they're cheap to buy, they're small, they fit their needs," he said.

Some safeguards already in place

Christine Gosselin, a city councillor for the Rosemont–La-Petite-Patrie borough, says there are mechanisms for residents to intervene if they oppose proposals for demolition.

A public meeting is held, and following that, people who live in the area have 30 days to voice concerns about the demolition of the building.

Gosselin said no residents attended the meeting regarding the demolition of the two shoebox homes.
This shoebox home in the Montreal neighbourhood of Rosemont is set to be demolished pending a demolition permit. (CBC)

Still, she says she's concerned about the future of shoebox homes, and adds her borough's urbanism department is considering revisiting the rules around preserving them.

"Everyone is concerned. There's a general concern," she said.

Gosselin said some of the remaining shoebox homes are in good condition, while others have been left to rot over time.

She said any development proposal ought to be examined on a case-by-case basis.

With files from Matt D'Amours and Radio-Canada


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