Looking back on last year and we can see: There were laughs, tears, polite smiles, some sarcastic eye-rolls and lots and lots of puzzled head-scratching when it came to Canada’s real estate market. Sure, the crazy Toronto Spring market dominated headlines, as did the announcement of the latest mortgage stress test, but not all of 2017 was about house prices, mortgage costs and everything in between. Here are 17 strange real estate stories of 2017:
Calgary’s Parking Lot Rock
Who said suburban life was tediously boring? Residents in the community of Sage Hill, a suburban northwest neighbourhood in Calgary, kept finding themselves bumping into what’s now being called “The Sage Hill Rock.” Located in a parking lot and surrounded by yellow highlighted curbs, motorists kept finding themselves on top, tipped over and otherwise crashed into this geological nuisance. (In one weekend there were three separate crashes!) After debating whether or not to remove the rock, local residents opted not to! Apparently, the rock’s popularity saved its fate—and rather than being permanently removed, the rock was only moved over (to prevent further collisions).
The Republic of Rathnelly turns 50
Did you know that there is a republic in Toronto? True. And it turned 50 in 2017. The Republic of Rathnelly, a Toronto neighbourhood just west of Avenue Road and north of Dupont, symbolically seceded from the city as an act of protest over the then-proposed Spadina Expressway, a planned highway that would connect the city’s downtown core to northern neighbourhoods. The Spadina Expressway never ended being built, in part to the active protests from the Rathnelly residents. To this day, the area is celebrated for being a strange solution to the urgency for civic engagement!
The sprouting of Saskatchewan’s wild field house
Could you imagine a house randomly appearing in the middle of your field? That’s exactly what happened in the small community of Pilot Butte in Saskatchewan. It was late October and Patrick Maze was driving to work at 5:30 a.m. when he stumbled upon a house. Now, in the farming community of Pilot Butte, where you have to drive just to see your neighbour’s house, finding a random house on a quarter section of your farm really is a strange sight.
Turns out the house was in transit from Manitoba with a house-moving company. Due to permit issues, the company was told stop the move and, as instructed, dropped the house off. The new homeowners didn’t actually know where the house was until a Facebook post, by Maze, showed their home sitting quietly in Maze’s farm field. In the end, the home was returned but not after prompting some head-scratching and loads of comments.
Save $64,450 off the ticket price
Sometimes the strangest stories are the ones that solve the most practical of problems. In the community of Etobicoke, just west of Toronto, Adi Astl had grown tired of the lack of steps in a nearby park. He wasn’t the only one. Residents in the area had petitioned the city for a set of stairs, but after a construction quote of $65,000 came in, the city chose not to pursue the build. What did Astl do? The enterprising retiree built his own—total cost $550. While Astl’s steps were taken down after only a few days—city officials cited bylaw and building concerns—Astl’s actions helped illustrate the absurdity of red-tape and high costs when it comes to building public amenities.
It’s a worm invasion
Talk about lawn maintenance! An infestation of intrusive worms was dealt with by a pack of seagulls. Trading sandy beaches for green lawns, these gulls made their way to a downtown community in Winnipeg, Manitoba to feast on a smorgasbord of forest-tent caterpillars, Elm spanworms and cankerworms. While the birds didn’t deal with the infestation entirely, they helped mitigate some of the pests while unintentionally recreating certain scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s famous movie The Birds.
Toronto’s lame land debate
In what might be a sour reminder of rising house prices in Canada’s largest cities, one of the strangest stories from 2017 is actually a pretty progressive idea. The local city council finally approved the easing of restrictions that prevented the development of laneway houses in the city’s downtown core. While the final report—which will outline what neighbourhoods could see a fast-track of laneway housing builds—isn’t expected until July 2018, the city’s council certainly took a step in cutting red tape. Starting in 2018, it’s far more likely that home-owners and developers will apply to build these pint-sized palaces in one of the 250 kilometres of laneways that exist in downtown Toronto.
All a-buzz in Montreal
In the Montreal-area you might hear a bit of buzz about local honeybees. Local municipal councils in Pointe-Claire and Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue voted to install apiaries, otherwise known as beehives, on the rooves of local public buildings. The initiative is part of an effort to help keep honeybees healthy and thriving in the Quebec area. Honeybee colonies have been on the decline worldwide for years and now they are getting some prime real estate in a few urban centres.
Squirrels, for sure. Raccoons, I guess. Skunks, unfortunately. But deer? In Nova Scotia, deer in urban and residential areas are becoming more and more prevalent. These four-legged forest-creatures seem cute at first, but deer tend to decimate gardens, carry ticks and can even attract larger predators (like bobcats and coyotes). Now, the town of Truro is getting serious about its growing urban deer presence. In the last few years, there have been public meetings and a woman was even fined for breaking a town bylaw regarding feeding wildlife. There’s even been a discussion about issuing “human-wildlife conflict stamps”—licenses to remove deer from specified areas. While the debate rages on, the city council is urging residents: Stop feeding the deer!
Disney transforms Steeltown’s Keith Street
Hamilton is already known as Canada’s Brooklyn—a working-class town built on the backs of labourers that worked in the steel and auto-manufacturing plants. So, it’s more than slightly amusing to see this rough-and-tumble city get a quirky makeover from the Disney Channel.
In 2017, Hamilton, Ontario’s Keith Street was transformed into something of an urban oasis, with candy-coloured paint, whimsical props, and other wacky set decor that’s only befitting for the Dr Seuss story being filmed in this location. While shooting wrapped up in June 2017, images of the set and the neighbourhood certainly helped create a bit more vibrancy in the neighbourhood.
Mooooove that statue
Where’s the beef? Turns out it might just be in the community of Markham, Ontario, just north of Toronto. Turns out residents have a beef with a large statue of a cow that sits in the middle of a semicircle-shaped parkette. While the cow has brought tourists to the area, some of the residents who have a rather…unpleasant…view of the cow’s backside are taking umbrage at its presence. The chrome cow on stilts, valued at $1.2 million CDN, remained in the parkette until late September when local councillors voted to remove the stilted cow to an as-yet-disclosed new location.
Controversial street keeps its name
One of the strangest stories of the year revolves around one of Canada’s most controversial street names: The Swastika Trail. The street can be found in the community of Puslinch, Ontario and got its name long before the rise of Nazi Germany. Still, the Swastika Trail has raised plenty of eyebrows throughout the decades. The strangest part? Local residents put the name to a vote in late 2017, and despite statue removals and name changes across North America, the locals decided that the name stays.
Not the boy next door
What would you do if you found out that you had the mafia living right next door? In Waterdown, Ontario, this reality became all too apparent when noted mob boss, Angelo Musitano, was gunned down in front of his home in May 2017. The news shocked the neighbours who knew little, if anything, about the violent past of this mob kingpin, who celebrated his 40th birthday just days before in his home located in this small, quiet community just out Hamilton, Ontario.
Build your own island
In the small community of Tofino on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, a couple built and now lives on an artificial, off-the-grid floating island. It started as a small studio and a salad garden, but over 25 years Wayne Adame and Catherine King have added on “Freedom Cove” (as the off-the-grid floating island is now called). Built on top of recycled fish farms the island now includes the main house, several outbuilding and four greenhouses. The island made international headlines in 2017 after the artistic couple agreed to provide tours of their home.
New inter-galactic buying interest in BC?
In the Sooke Basin, just outside of Victoria, B.C., a resident spotted what appeared to be an unidentified flying object (UFO) streaking across the sky. While UFO sightings are, strangely, not that uncommon, it might be awhile before there is evidence of a Martian landing in Sooke Basin. While Ann Talbot, who reported the strange sighting, swears the object took less than 15 seconds to fly across the large basin, she was unable to get her husband into the room in time to see the UFO. Her hope is that someone else saw the craft and is willing to come forward.
Abandoned homes in High River, Calgary
In 2017, the Calgary neighbourhood of Beechwood Estates was named Canada’s creepiest community by a well-known photographer Seph Lawless. The neighbourhood was filled with high-end homes, which were built on a floodplain, however, despite water problems the area was never designated as a hazardous area. After devastating floods hit the city over the last decade, the area became an abandoned community filled with empty, almost-forgotten houses.
Edmonton’s accidental beach
This has to be one of the most interesting stories of the year, which is why it made it to #2 on this list! Right along the shores of Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River, residents were surprised to find what appeared to be a glistening, gleaming stretch of sand. Voila, newly acquired sandy shores became Edmonton’s accidental beach! While the beach was created as a by-product of the LRT construction—and this has raised concerns—many urbanites have been treating themselves to visits to this spectacular spot.
Cedarvale couple sues over theft of home design
The strangest story of the year comes from Toronto, Ontario, where a resident of the Forest Hill neighbourhood—and affluent area in the heart of Midtown—sued their neighbourhood for “copying” the design of their home! The couple sued were charged with copying the original owner’s design in order to profit. The copycats argued that their design was based on Tudor homes found in Europe. The matter was eventually settled out of court, but it seems like the design of the home was a case of copyright infringement gone residential.