An uptown Toronto neighbourhood with homes you can afford

An uptown Toronto neighbourhood with homes you can afford

Corso Italia is a vibrant cultural area with easy access to two major subway lines—and homes in the $800,000 range

Photo courtesy of Todd Colter, Royal LePage Signature Realty Brokerage

The cost of owning a home in Toronto continues to rise. As a result, many of us feel priced out of the city’s real estate market and are left wondering if we’ll ever be able to buy our own home without forfeiting vacations or even the occasional weekend out. Buying a home outside the city is an option for some, but that often results in significant portions of our day spent commuting instead of with family and friends.

But you can still mortgage a home in Toronto without mortgaging your life. With a little research and some help from a helpful financial partner, owning a home in Toronto is still possible.

There are several liveable, up-and-coming neighbourhoods in Toronto that are safe, fun, and—best of all—affordable, with homes that sell for less than $1 million. One of those areas is Corso Italia, Toronto’s Little Italy North, which runs along St. Clair Avenue West, from approximately Lansdowne to Dufferin. This area was once a settlement of British immigrants known as Earlscourt. Following the Great Depression, it became primarily a Jewish enclave. Its dynamic changed again when a large wave of Italian immigrants began settling here in the 1950s. Today, more than 80 per cent of Corso Italia is made up of first- or second-generation immigrants who have built a vibrant community.

The St. Clair streetcar track reconstruction of a decade ago dampened some of Corso Italia’s vibe and drove away some of its longtime businesses, but today the neighourhood is bouncing back, with young new merchants taking their place. You’ll find gift shops, shoe stores, sporting goods outlets, and plenty of fashion spots. Plus, the refurbished St. Clair streetcar itself has added to the resurgence. Most people consider St. Clair “uptown,” but the streetcar gives Corso Italia easy access to both the Yonge and University subway lines, while the Lansdowne and Dufferin busses go directly to the Bloor–Danforth line. The streetcar will also take you to the Toronto Weston Flea Market, just west of Corso Italia, where you’ll find a staggering array of produce, furniture, and other goods.

Corso Italia is plentiful with food options, and you’ll still find a lot of mom-and-pop shops lining the streets alongside trendier spots. Many of Corso Italia’s restaurants are, naturally, Italian, but you’ll also find some serving up Mexican food, sushi, and pho. Patio culture thrives here, and for good reason: the first patio ever licensed in the city was in Corso Italia, at a time when local politicians thought no one would be interested in eating or drinking outside. There are also a number of cafés and bakeries in the area, not to mention some of the city’s best gelato.

Corso Italia is famous for a street party that took place in 1982 when Italy won the World Cup and 300,000 Italian soccer fans took to St. Clair Avenue. That Italian pride remains on show each July, when the Corso Italia Festival lets everyone in the city experience the neighbourhood’s food and culture. You’ll also find plenty of green space nearby, in Earlscourt Park and Prospect Cemetery.

Many of the homes in Corso Italia date from the early 20th century and are semi-detached or detached but tightly packed. It’s still possible to get a home here in the $800,000 to $900,000 range, though some are starting to cross the $1 million mark.

Prices like these can make owning a home in the city less of a dream and more of a reality for many people, especially if you partner with the right financial institution. We asked Barry Gollom, Senior Vice-President of Products and Customer Experience at HSBC Bank Canada, how HSBC can help.

“It’s important to surround yourself with professionals —your banker, your real estate agent, your accountant, and friends and family you trust,” says Barry Gollom. “HSBC’s primary focus is providing strong customer service. We review the full financial situations of each of our customers and work toward identifying opportunities and solutions that will help set them up for financial success.”

HSBC looks at a first-time homebuyer’s full financial picture—not just their mortgage – because they know it’s important to discuss both a customer’s personal goals and their financial goals when they’re looking to buy a home. They have a team of devoted mortgage professionals who are dedicated to being flexible to help their clients through the mortgage process. The team is available 12 hours a day, six days a week and offers both phone and video engagement options. “Our mortgage team is made up of very seasoned, passionate people, each with an average of 10 years of mortgage experience,” says Barry Gollom. “They don’t work on commission, which is a little bit uncommon in the market, and we’re happy if they spend 10 minutes or an hour or more talking to a customer. Our customers can feel secure knowing they’re dealing directly with a respected financial institution.”

Taking out a mortgage can be stressful. So it’s good to know you can have help from a partner that offers reliable customer service like HSBC. And with an HSBC branch in nearby Forest Hill, help is just a quick drive away.