The Villages of Central Park – Canada’s First Zero Lot-Line Housing

When: Built circa 1972-1975

Where: Large parts of the H-Section, and parts of the G and J sections.

Who: Bramalea Consolidated Developments Limited, Cadillac Development Corporation Limited, Consolidated Building Corporation Limited, DelZotto Enterprises Limited, Victoria Wood Development Corporation Inc.

What I Know: I would argue that these houses are some of the most unique in all of the country, both for the architecture and the way that they are sited on the lots.

The designs won an honourable mention in the 1976 Canadian Housing Design Council Awards. Many articles were written on the project in architectural and building-trade journals when it was first built, which have been reproduced in this posting.

There is really so much to write about these innovative houses. At the bottom of the post is an excerpt from my Master’s thesis on Bramalea, regarding the history of the zero lot-line houses.

One interesting aspect of the zero lot line houses can best be seen from above. Below are a series of images that show the fascinating landscape (click on them to make the image larger):

air

This image shows the two different types of layouts – the ones on the left side are more common, while the right side of the photo shows a more random layout of houses on a few select streets in the H-Section. Courtesy of Google Mapshuntington

While all of the houses have unusual siting with the zero lot-line concept, perhaps the most interesting are the ones where the houses are at oblique angles to the road. These few streets look like the houses were thrown down randomly on the land, like a child may do with his/her set of blocks. Courtesy of Bing Maps

huntingwood

Another view of the randomly placed houses in the H-Section. Courtesy of Bing Maps oll plots

This image shows the lot-lines, which are most unusual when the houses are at angles to the road. Courtesy of Brampton Maps

blank

There are many different variations of the facades – too many to show them all here. The image above is a good representation of the type of architecture found in the zero lot-line areas. Common to many of the houses is an asymmetrical roof (which often wraps down one side of the house), a mixture of materials on the facade (brick, different colour siding), uneven window placement (such as the two different sized windows on the side of the house) and blank facades. three

Another view showing the blank facades, uneven roof lines and seemingly random window placement.

angle

Some of the houses have more traditionally inspired facades, but the placement of the houses in relation to each other is far from traditional. The two white houses in the centre of the image are at right angles to each other.

The following section has newspaper articles and advertisements, as well as historic journal articles on the area and houses:

a72sept12a

Toronto Star, September 12, 1972b72sept12

Toronto Star, September 12, 1972

72sept12

Globe and Mail, September 12, 1972 c72dec8 gm

Globe and Mail, December 8, 1972 d74jul11

Toronto Star, July 11, 1974

74nov1 gm

Globe and Mail, November 1, 1974e75sept6

Toronto Star, September 6, 1975

a

Page 63 from Zero lot line housing by David R. Jensen, 1981.b

Canadian Building magazinec

Canadian Building magazine

h1

Canadian Building magazine, July 1971

d e f

g

Canadian Building magazine, December 1972

i j k

Canadian Building magazine, May 1975

l

Canadian Building magazine

m

The Canadian Architect, November 1972

004005

Canadian Housing Design Council Awards 1976.

I only have a few plans for the houses, but would love to get my hot little paws on more. If you have any, please let me know!
006 007 008

Below is an excerpt from my Master’s thesis on Bramalea, regarding the zero lot-line houses:

In the early 1970s, two hundred acres of land were made available in Bramalea by the Ontario Housing Corporation to build affordable housing. According to the master plan, the land was originally set aside for townhouses, which were believed to be the best solution to affordable housing. This plan was changed in 1972 in favour of a mixture of housing, but no specifics were outlined at the time.[1] In order to cut costs, building and planning standards were examined and decisions made as to how to build the most affordable housing. As a result, the Ontario Housing Corporation examined the standard lot size and lot setback standards for detached houses. At the time, the front-yard setback was twenty-five feet from the road, with four-foot side-yard setbacks. It was decided that these spaces were often underused, and thus could be eliminated, thus paving the way for the first application of  the zero lot-line concept in Canada.[2]

The idea of zero lot-line planning was based on the fact that there were to be no setbacks, which meant that a house could be located right on the lot line of the property. Whereas the suburban tradition was to place a house in the centre of a lot, the new concept meant that a house could be placed on either the front, back, or side edge of a lot. The lot could be smaller, with most a mere thirty-by-eighty feet in size, in contrast to the standard fifty-by-one-hundred foot lot for detached houses in 1960s Bramalea. In some cases the lot was not a traditional rectangle, but a multi-faceted irregular shape. By the end of 1972, the first of 2,400 houses were set to be built. The development was titled The Villages of Central Park, and all the houses were located on cul-de-sacs. This made the development very suburban in nature. Since these houses were detached, they fit in with the suburban dream of owning a house of one’s own.

With the assistance of the Government of Ontario’s H.O.M.E. (Home Ownership Made Easy) Plan, the houses were offered at an extremely low price. To make the houses even more affordable, the land was not owned, but leased from the Ontario Housing Corporation for up to fifty years. However, the homeowner had the option of buying the land outright after five years.[3]

In September 1972, construction began on the first six hundred and sixty-four houses of The Villages of Central Park. It was anticipated that these houses would take a year to sell, but in fact they sold out in just six weeks. A waiting list then had to be established for the forthcoming phases. By the middle of 1973, there were well over one thousand names still on the list. The builders had no way of keeping up with the huge demand for the houses, so the list had to be cut off for the next few years to allow those already on it to purchase a home within in the development.[4] By 1974, there had been 1,700 lot-line houses built, with the final 700 in the project slated for completion that year. For the thousands still on the waiting list wanting the remaining 700 houses, a lottery was held to pick names. Those on the list had the option of paying a fee of $100 to enter it, or dropping off the list. If their name was drawn from the lottery, the potential homeowner was shown the available houses and had to make a decision on the spot to purchase.[5] Some stipulations were attached to the purchase, such as that the buyer had to live in the house and not rent it out. In addition, the house could not be sold for five years without the permission of the Ontario Housing Corporation.[6]

Perhaps the most curious aspect of the developments was not the placement of the houses on the lot, but the style of the houses themselves. An array of very contemporary features distinguished the basic rectangular shape of the houses in The Villages of Central Park. The most striking element was the uneven roofline of most of the houses. While a traditional gable roof had the peak at the centre, these houses had the peak placed off-centre allowing two different angles of the roofline, one usually very steep. In some cases the roof rolled down the side of the house and ended at the bottom of the upper level windows. When the house was turned so that the gabled end faced the road, the profile of the roof was unlike anything one would expect in a suburban context.

Secondly, the window arrangement of the zero lot-line houses was unusual, especially by suburban standards. On many of the houses, irregular spacing and window sizes were found on any given façade. For privacy reasons with the zero lot-line arrangement, houses had a windowless façade on the side that sat on the lot line. In some cases, the front of the house, which faced the street, was void of any openings, save for the front door.

Most people had preset notions of what a house was to look like, especially in the suburbs. The uneven rooflines and irregular window placement of the zero lot-line houses were unlike anything that had been built en masse before in residential architecture. Many of the façades of the houses in The Villages of Central Park have since been altered over the years. To make them more “suburban” in style, homeowners added regular shaped windows, windows on walls which had been bare, as well as window boxes and shutters. Even so, the majority of the houses retain their quirky exteriors.


[1] “Home in Brampton for $750 down payment,” The Toronto Star,1 January 1972, p.43.

[2] “Ease rigid municipal standards to cut costs, builders ask,” The Toronto Star, 3 June 1972, p.25.

[3] Toronto Star12 September 1972, p.67.

[4] Toronto Star18 April 1974, p.A6.

[5] Toronto Star11 July 1974, p.A21.

[6] Saulius Svirplys, Bramalea: The History of its Architecture and Built Environment (Gatineau: Saulius Svirplys, 2005).

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “The Villages of Central Park – Canada’s First Zero Lot-Line Housing

  1. Pingback: Trail Ridge | bramaleablog

  2. Great post!

    I grew up in an Ontario Chateau from 1974-86 my parents bought one that was identical to the drawings you posted except it was a mirror image – the layout was flipped left to right. They were basic, decent homes we were new to Canada and my folks would not have owned a home for at least another 5 years without the program.

  3. I have lived in this subdivision three times…the houses are well built and perfect size for a small family and sure perfect a single or a couple..I was amazed when I saw that they have built the odd semi detached but again not in the traditional way…rather than side by side they are back to back. One house in on one street and the other half is on the other street…ingenious use of land

  4. While innovative for the time, these homes have become an eyesore. When my sister-in-law & her husband purchased one of these in the 70’s, there was a bricklayers’ strike. Instead of purchasing a home with the lower portion being brick & the upper portion being aluminum, their entire house was clad in the cheaper (and uglier) aluminum. This explains why, when driving thru the Zero’s, many homes are all aluminum. Also, they were built as cheaply as possible…baseboard heaters instead of a furnace. The bedroom had no ceiling lights..you needed a plugged-in lamp in order for the light switch to work.
    I moved to Bramalea in 1963 (age 12) & reside there still. Whenever I drive past the Zero’s I cringe as they appear slum-like as many owners do not maintain them.

  5. Yes Marlene, I agree many of the homes have not aged well largely due to owner neglect. I sometimes go back to see the old neighborhood (Geraldine Ct) and am glad to see some houses well maintained while many have hardly changed in 40 years and are in desperate need of a reno

    • Certain parts of the subdivisions are not well kept but I have to say that most of the Hilldale side of the H Section looks good. People have done some fantastic reno’s…really neat to see what they have done inside as well as all the new siding people have been putting on in the last couple of years….really great

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s