(By Jennifer Campbell) – Once the preserve of cash-strapped buyers, townhomes are now a lifestyle choice, available in many shapes and locations, appealing to all age groups and income levels.

Townhouses are the talk of the town, and the economic foundation of builders across the city. On some builders’ rosters, they’ve even overtaken sales of single-family homes, once the darling of the new home market. During the past 10 years, economic and design factors have collided to make the townhome one of Ottawa’s hottest housing options. In the early ’90s, sales of townhomes were also booming, appealing to first-time buyers in a local market saddled by high interest rates. Those were the days of federal job cuts and economic uncertainty. Most people were staying in their existing home, waiting until the economy picked up before even thinking about moving.

Builders, bolstered by the introduction of low down payments, took aim at first-time buyers by offering stripped-down townhomes. One builder, the now-defunct MacDonald Homes, sold an avalanche of townhome sites in Barrhaven for the rock-bottom price of $114,900. Buyers got the builder basics but not much design imagination. Since then, the economy and buyers’ tastes have exploded, with townhomes now accounting for 35 per cent of the Ottawa market and built to appeal to all age groups and income levels, as well as to suburbanites and dedicated urbanites. There are suburban options for first-time buyers, and adult-lifestyle communities pioneered by Tamarack and polished by Monarch to appeal to older buyers wanting less space and high-end finishes. Then there are infill specialists who design homes for confined spaces. Uniform Urban Developments has won design honours for townhomes introduced into existing neighbourhoods, including manor homes in Alta Vista and a line of linked homes across from the Nepean Sailing Club on Carling Avenue.

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