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Nice or ugly, ‘monster homes’ in mature neighborhoods attract attention

Building the biggest house on the street can stir emotions and attract inspectors


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March 15, 2016 by Alec Caldwell

‘Monster homes’ are not a new phenomenon, but as real estate prices soar in many urban areas, they continue to be popular.  Built to maximum lot size and squeezed between smaller mature homes, they stick out like sore thumbs like the ‘monster’ shown in the accompanying photograph.

Hidden in plain view for all to see!

Hidden in plain view for all to see!

Monster homes also change the look of the neighborhoods and can anger people living around them. In fact, when I was observing this particular project, one neighbor shouted at me ‘Ugly!’  At first confused that he meant me as I sat inside my vehicle (window down), I then realized he was referring to this new build. It was across the street from the modest home where he’d lived for the past 40 years.

Some builders are choosy about what they build, realising their reputation and name are tagged to it. For others, it’s about finding work, doing the job, and earning a living.  No fault can be found with this.

However, what I was looking at that morning was a builder who was not concerned about reputation or about the neighborhood; it was all about building the biggest structure for maximum profit.

The neighbor who had approached me said that the local building department had no issues with the project and the building was up to code. However, I took this comment as a barometer, measuring the pressures already put on the project.

If you’re involved in new builds or in home renovations, work smart; don’t attract unwanted attention to your site, like neighbors calling the Ministry of Labour about you.

Unfortunately in this case, the builder had allowed his workers’ vehicles to be parked all over the place. The crew was hanging around in a group on the roadway fooling around. There was mud everywhere.

Had I been a Ministry of Labour (MoL) inspector observing this, this wouldn’t have bothered me particularly. I would have noted, however, that most of the workers were not wearing hard hats. The scaffolding had open edges everywhere while workers were on it, and there were no access ladders. A balcony on the third floor had no guardrail and a worker was within 2 feet of the edge, not wearing fall equipment. Violations like these bring fines, but more importantly, they can easily cause site closure.

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Alec Caldwell

Alec Caldwell

Alec Caldwell is the Founder of CARAHS, a Health & Safety Organization. We are approved providers by the Ministry of Labour (Ontario) to teach Working at Heights Training (Pro#34609) Visit the Ministry of Labour's web site to view our listing
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4 Comments » for Nice or ugly, ‘monster homes’ in mature neighborhoods attract attention
  1. As a builder I have had my fair share of negative comments about “new homes”.
    In Vancouver in the late eighties there was a quiet uprising that was speaking like wild fire with most residents of Point Grey and the media would get into the fray every opportunity they had.

    The term “Monster House” was on just about everybody’s lips, every time someone talked about a new house going up.

    As a builder- back then an employee of a builder, the general consensus amongst the trades was that they were being attacked by irrational activists.

    Never, during any conversations I’ve had with neighbours or “Monster Houses” activists, have I ever heard a valid reason to scale down the size of homes or to have some sort of municipal committee approve the type of design that is deemed to blend and/or improve the implied image of a given neighbourhood.

    Builders, contractors and architects seemed to be constantly under fire by these so-called activists, while the municipality not the Builders or contractors or architects were to blame for approving the projects.

    No one ever told me that they were against any municipality for improving the revenue streams through new and bigger house constructions. Ironically these individuals- mainly neighbours, lived in the same municipality and benefitted as citizens from the extra revenues the municipality generated through these projects.

    Moreover, the municipalities could have easily gran-fathered the tax rates of the neighbours and keep them at the rate of inflation rather than raising taxes in a blanket fashion in the neighbourhood, but most municipal politicians resisted that approach for fears of inviting a lack of responsible maintenance of these structures.

    In the end people that owned these new houses as well as the individuals that built them are ostracized by these so called Monster Homes activists, because they are a much easier and vulnerable target to attack, and that is exactly what had happened in Vancouver, new homes owners were constantly oppressed, ridiculed and often be-little because of their races.

    I remember one article in the Vancouver Sun in those days with the headline ” Hongcouver or Van Kong, attacking the size and look of the new builds which, at the time, were predominantly owned by Chinese immigrants.

    That these Hong Kong investors had single handedly propped up the economy of Vancouver and of the province of British Columbia at a time when the locals couldn’t float or swim, was never mentioned anywhere. That the city of Vancouver’s fortunes are still to this day positively impacted by those investments is an issue that no activists would dare to address but, more importantly, to these so-called ” Monster Houses” activists, it was paramount to outline the fact that most of these houses were owned by Chinese immigrants with a notion that implied that they didn’t belong here, in our country…

    Now in Toronto today, you can exchange the words Chinese for wealthy individuals, and you will acknowledge that the rhetoric is the same…

    Nobody talks about efficient energy homes. No one is concerned with a reduce carbon footprint either and nobody talks about how these activists that are living in Asbestos infected homes and putting their whole families at risks, or that they are living in carcinogens contaminated structures that are well past their projected life spans, no, if you prod those activists, you will notice that they complain about the look of the neighbourhoods they are trying to unwittingly transform into cemeteries…

    Since the beginning of times people have been either envious or jealous of others, when a new neighbour comes into the neighbourhood and they seemingly are more successful, smarter and/or more environmentally responsible, that inevitably sheds a negative light on those whom haven’t kept up with the times.

    There are no mentions of the fact that unmaintained old houses are but a petrie dish of contaminants that could as easily impact the health of new home owners and all other neighbours.

    Nobody wants to acknowledge the 85 year old lady living in squalor because her kids can’t be bothered with their responsibilities as mature children.

    But you can be certain that they will procrastinate about the taxes they pay for the shacks they live in…

    Now I ask you, where is the monster?

    • Ray says:

      Your laughable unintelligent rhetorical non sequitur statements are truly atrocious and are the ramblings of an unenlightened plebeian .. A builder..indeed.. a builder of psychological revisionism and convenient mind persuasive construct to benefit his own bottom line… WE NEED A SPECULATION TAX TO STOP SPECULATION IN HOUSING…

      Old neighbourhoods DO NOT NEED SUCH unattractive monstrosities that are NOT COGENT to the look and feel of an established dwelling areas.. What has to be explored is the SOURCES OF FINANCING FOR SUCH ARCHITECTURALLY CHALLENGED UNSOUND EYESORES…

      No doubt that the ‘Chinese community are hard working’ and successful.. but when you have money flowing from the Orient illicitly through organized criminal activities, theft of National wealth to benefit the few at the expense of MANY, and the unreasonable increase in house taxes as valuations increase — this causes conflict for the host populous — ones who ACTUALLY LIVE HERE, AND ARE NOT SPECULATORS increase tenfold… International speculative investments in real estate in an overheated market are detrimental in the respect to host populouses, and uncontrollable vacillations in drastic market corrections experienced by the masses living in an area can be proven dangerous…

      Low Interest rates combined with the over leveraging effect of such rates will cause mayhem with bankruptcies… Shadow flipping, is another real danger…

      As to your ramblings about old houses being poorly maintained, sorry.. these residents have been paying taxes for decades, ever enhancing their cities whilst these land speculators of today are looking for tax shelters, havens, places to engage in illicit activities… Old houses are built of quality product, and people who actually knew about workmanship… not like todays builders cut corners– build with cheap pressed wood and give a chincy 5 year warranty..

      Sorry for exposing your diatribe of folly…

      • So neighbourhoods should decay and people should be left to live in infested homes for the sake of claiming that their taxes helped the province survived?

        Frankly the tone of your reply would be best reserved for real issues confronting society.

        As far as my bottom line is concerned, are you saying that you oppose lawful employment and anyone’s right to earn a living?

        Your reply is a waste of a loosely assembled sentences laced with a schizophrenic opinion.

        It is sad to read your reply and acknowledge that you are probably a voter…

  2. pete de jonge says:

    you can call the minisry of labour but they wont come out.