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Canada’s stance on global gender equality has been especially noticeable in recent years, with the implementation of a feminist international assistance policy in 2017 and new pay equity legislation in 2018. But it’s the local initiative of women real estate developers that’s making gender equality headlines right now.

Work on Reina Condos, an eight-story, 200-unit condo project just outside of Toronto in Etobicoke is now underway, spearheaded by Canada’s first all-female developer team.

“We’re embarking on this project to create more visibility for women in real estate development, and to inspire younger women to see career possibilities,” Taya Cook, director of development at Urban Capital and co-partner of the project, said in a statement. It’s a huge industry and a massive economic driver for the region. For some reason it has been seriously lagging behind in gender equity.”

The idea for the project came to Cook after she read an article citing the “condo titans” in Toronto. None of them were women.

She partnered with Sherry Larjani, managing partner at Spotlight Developments, and pulled together a team of women to develop Reina Condos.

“Women have been prominent in all sorts of roles and they are doing fantastic work in this industry, but our accomplishments aren’t well-recognized,” Cook said. “We live in one of the most diverse cities in the world, and our built environment should reflect that. It’s no longer just the condo kings who are impacting our city.”

The design is not yet complete, but the project aims “to break the cycle of gender inequity within the sector and deliver buildings designed for women by women,” according to HuffPost.

What that really means is that the team working behind the scenes will be focusing on the needs and wants of women when it comes to real estate. It doesn’t mean that the design will appeal only to women — it just means that its amenities, design, and concepts will be designed with women in mind. 

The developers are using the city of Vienna as inspiration, as the Austrian city has been “gender mainstreaming” its public spaces for many years, according to HuffPost.

Gender mainstreaming means addressing the needs of men and women — by creating wider sidewalks for strollers, for example, or creating play areas in a new way. In Vienna, planners’ research showed that girls would be pushed out of open park space, and young boys would monopolize it. But they also found that boys and girls could all access enough space when it was divided into multiple park areas instead.

To implement a similar approach to Reina Condos, the team has asked the community for their input, holding a meeting earlier this month to hear from condo-dwelling women.

“There was a lady talking about not being able to find a place to put her stroller. She had to keep it in the bathtub when guests came over,” Larjani told HuffPost.

This insight leads to design changes — the team is now looking at providing stroller space on every floor.

Of course, men use strollers, too. The condo developers pointed out that they aren’t just making choices based on women's needs, rather they are gathering insight that will lead to a more inclusive development. This condo might have better lighting in its parking lot thanks to women pointing out the lack of decent lighting in lots around the city.

The Reina Condos team is also looking at ways to bridge the gap between urban living and starting a family — families need larger units but can’t afford the cost.

With that in mind, this real estate crew will aim to design the space differently and address multiple needs.

The partners say the public response has been extremely positive. The project’s team is now working towards obtaining a zoning amendment for the condo site and will open a sales centre in early 2020.


Demand Equity

This All-Female Project Aims to Tackle Gender Inequality in Canadian Real Estate

By Jackie Marchildon