Critics slam potential review of Windsor snout houses

Windsor's city's planning committee suggested council review the particular style of homes characterized by many as an unsightly design that promotes antisocial behaviour.

Snout-house design born from love affair with automobile, say urban planners

Dave Ellis is out for a walk with his family Tuesday afternoon. He disagrees with the city's recent decision to review snout houses, a specific home design that places garages on the front of people's homes. (Aadel Haleem/CBC)

Dave Ellis questions why some city councillors want to conduct a review of snout houses, a suburban home design that incorporates garages onto the front of their property. 

Windsor's city's planning committee suggested council review the particular style of homes characterized by many as an unsightly design that promotes antisocial behaviour. 

But not everyone agrees with the experts, including Ellis, who lives in a snout house in the city's west end, just south of Tecumseh road. He was out for a walk with his family Tuesday afternoon, saying hello to neighbours and enjoying a break from the rain.

"We live in one currently and we know most of our neighbours," he said. "We're very social with them and we know almost everyone by name."

Dave Ellis questions the recent decision by Windsor's planning committee to review the urban home design of snout houses. (Aadel Haleem/CBC)

Design born from love affair with automobile

City planner Jim Abbs consulted with Windsor police planner Barry Horrobin for a staff report that describes snout houses as a "symptom of our addiction to the automobile" that cuts off people's connection to their community by isolating them.

"In the worst cases, streetscapes become like walled fortresses, with only small trails to passages providing evidence of life inside," reads the report.

The love affair with the automobile sparked the snout-house design, according to Avi Friedman, architecture professor at McGill University. But having a large garage in front of a home creates an "awful" environment, compared to having an open porch or yard where people can see and speak to each other, he explained.  

"When you place the garage in front of the building, you alter the character of the street," Friedman said. "When you have a garage in the front, it's a social statement."

Politicians disagree with experts

Planning committee members voted 3-2 in favour of a more robust review on snout houses, which could include public consultation and specific input from developers. The recommendation goes to council in the coming weeks for final approval. 

Coun. Ed Sleiman was one of the dissenting voices on the committee. He said the city would be "shooting itself in the foot" if it limited the style of homes developers could build. Given the demand for the homes, he wants homeowners to have the choice. 

Coun. Irek Kusmierczyk disagrees that snout-house designs promote antisocial behaviour, saying he has seen many streets with such homes that have plenty of human activity. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Coun. Irek Kusmierczyk does not agree with the idea that snout houses create an unsafe or antisocial environment. 

"I think those arguments are inaccurate," he said. "We find neighbourhoods that are thriving, neighbourhoods that are very social."

Ellis agrees with the two city councillors, saying there are many other issues politicians should focus their time on, particularly when there is a demand for the specific home design. 

"If people like them, then that's why people buy them and live in them," he said. "If they weren't selling, they wouldn't build them."