I often get asked why I love living in downtown Toronto so much.

Sitting in bias, I always want to chuckle and respond with “why would you want to live anywhere else?” but as an urban planner and a generally understanding and open-minded human being, I try to respond with the least bias possible.

There is a general understanding that young people love to live in busy places but once they get older or get ready to settle down they will surely want to move to places described with the following adjectives: safer, quieter, cleaner, and more private.

I have three comments regarding the places described in this way:

1. Who said that these qualities are the official standard for a good quality of life?

When looking for a place to live, everyone has different wishes, wants, and standards. If we were to make a list of all the requirements that people have across the globe, we would end up with thousands of requirements. It may be true that it is more sensible for a single 20 year old to live in a smaller apartment, and for a family of 5 to live in a more spacious home, but this does not explain location.

2. Who said that urban environments don’t retain these qualities?

Urban environments do in fact retain qualities that most people mistakenly assume they cannot possibly have. It is possible to raise a family in a downtown neighborhood defined as safe, quiet, clean, and yes, will give you your privacy.

3. Is everyone’s life so similar that every person will ‘grow out’ of urban living?

Not every person will fit a standard life path. Many will border the status quo, and some will never come near it. It is unreasonable to expect that everyone will ‘get over’ downtown living and finally ‘mature’ into suburban family life.


I would have to say that my favorite things about living in an urban environment are…


Being completely alone in a sea of strangers and feeling like I am part of something greater, with the thrill of the off chance that I might bump into someone I know…




Feeling safe – eyes on the street folks…




Never having nothing to do, even if you have no one to hang out with…




 Being able to retreat into privacy and quiet when I need it…




Taking public transit – just like the suited lawyer from the business district, the mom with her stroller, the kids going home from school, and the guy talking to himself…




Wanting to walk for pleasure and discovering new things…




yorkvilleThe old and the new presents a story – that we are all part of now, and that we can shape for the future…




Public spaces and the spaces in between, as shortcuts, destinations, and resting points with a view…






And lastly… a statement that would be very difficult to illustrate in a few images… being surrounded by as many different people from me as possible – race, culture, opinions… this keeps everyone in check. This reminds everyone that the world does not revolve around themselves. This makes people more aware and less ignorant. 


To me, urban living is healthy, happy living. It provides me with my current needs, and I can only imagine how proud I’ll be when I start a family here one day.


  1. André Darmanin - The Urban Strategist says:

    While I would agree with your premises, there are some points that I can counter with your post.

    Firstly, creatives want to be with other creatives. This is what Richard Florida would say. But at the same time, many of the creatives live alone. Your pictures even portray it. Many are getting married later in life, if at all.

    Second, suburban living is still a thing because of market forces. While millenials are have more disposable income these days, families aren’t living downtown because it is too expensive. Urban living to them is generally the inner or outer suburbs of Toronto. There is limited affordable housing options. Even if, the housing stock is much older and it is not a real choice especially for immigrant families. Consequently, distances are greater and suburban poverty exists. This is a consequence of Places to Grow.

    Third, how would you define urban living? Is it downtown living or living in the inner suburbs? What I can’t stand with folks I have encountered recently is that they set their own boundaries. For example, someone had mentioned to me that they would not go “north of Bloor” because they could not ride their bike. I’m not making a generalization, but it seems quite common. I am quite content living in the inner burbs with excellent transit service.

    As I would hope our governance structure changes where there is more regional planning, the 905 suburbs will eventually become more urban. They will be forced to.

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