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Why urban planners were not surprised by Toronto’s packed public park

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TORONTO — Urban planners across the country weren’t surprised with the images they saw Saturday of a packed public park in a central Toronto neighbourhood.

And while those experts didn’t condone the gathering of what looked like thousands of young adults seemingly defying physical distancing measures on a sunny afternoon, they could understand their behaviour — to an extent.

Nina-Marie Lister, the graduate program director of urban planning at Toronto’s Ryerson University, says the scenes from Trinity Bellwoods Park illustrate how much we need green spaces in populated cities, especially now during a global pandemic.

“Maybe the best thing we could say, or the kindest thing we could say, is that people are desperate to get outside,” Lister said. “They’re desperate for a place to go in the downtown of Toronto.

“And where density is high and people are primarily living in condos, they are likely to congregate in a limited number of spaces.”

Lister said the pictures she saw of the crowded park on social media were “very upsetting,” and it was “unfortunate to see such dangerous behaviour” on display.

But as long as public parks are one of the few options available for people to enjoy the outdoors in a densely populated city, they’re going to get crowded.

The trick then, becomes learning how to use them safely.

“We can’t blame people for going outside on the nicest day of the year, but we just have to have them be a little bit more responsible,” said Jason Gilliland, the director of the urban development program at Western University in London, Ont.

“People are coming off 10 weeks of being told what not to do. And for some of these younger people living in high-density condos or smaller units, they’re used to their backyard extension being a cafe, or a bar, or a restaurant, or this park.”

Gilliland said one option to help ensure physical distancing in a park setting would be to paint lines or circles in the grass — some New York City parks have done this — so people could have a visual bubble that’s two metres away from anyone else.

Another short-term solution would be opening up more roadways to pedestrians, or converting some parking lots into temporarily green spaces.

“We have to rethink what a park is,” Gilliland said. “This is a bit bold, but maybe all the public realm, that space in a city that is publicly accessible — roads, sidewalks, basically anything that’s not private property — maybe we can start thinking of all of that as park space, as place for human beings in these times.”

Lister suggested a time-zoned approach, where neighbouring apartment buildings would have their own set hours to use a specific park. Deploying measures to keep parks as a space to walk through rather than congregate may also work.

Lawrence Frank, a public health and urban planning expert at the University of British Columbia, says people may start getting more reckless outdoors because they know the chance of exposure to novel coronavirus droplets is lower than in an enclosed space.

Creating a “social norm,” where it’s understood that gathering in groups is not acceptable, is a potential solution to help steer people away from unhealthy behaviour, he said.

“What we don’t want to do is have an overconfidence, like ‘oh I’m outside so it’s all cool,”‘ Frank said. “You want to have a collective awareness.

“We need to look at it the same way as if we saw someone throw a bottle out the window of a car — it’s not responsible behaviour, it’s harmful to others.”

While some experts believe fines could work, Frank says that type of enforcement would be hard to regulate. Gilliland added that fines would need to be doled in an equal manner, making sure some communities aren’t being more “over-policed” than others.

What won’t work is closing off public park spaces entirely.

“We have to provide green space, we have to provide open space, and we have to provide ways for people to use those spaces safely under this condition,” Frank said. “That’s our responsibility or mental health problems will get worse, other chronic diseases will grow.”

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5 DIY Home Improvements for the COVID-19 Lockdown

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The global coronavirus pandemic has forced millions of people around the world, to spend more time in their homes this year than they have spent in a long time. As people sit around day after day within the confines of their home, it becomes easier to notice all the areas of the house that need some work. Fortunately, everyone can now afford the extra free time to do the home renovation project they’ve been putting off for years.

Due to the on-going global health crisis, you may not be able to hire any help for your home improvement project; this means that whatever new project you plan to do around the house, whether it’s repainting the home, or installing floor heating systems, you would have to do it yourself.

Here are some do-it-yourself that you may like to try out.

Upgrade to Smart Home Appliances

It’s 2020, what better year to embrace the future by installing a range of high-tech devices that make life extra easy. For instance, with a smart thermostat, your home’s heating and cooling system can go off on their own when not needed, keeping your electricity bills lower. Other appliances that you can make smart include your lighting, home security, music and more.

Clean out your Garage

Homeserve suggests a garage cleanout as a great home improvement project for this season because cleaning out your garage provides some fresh air, the heavy lifting provides some workout and you feel an enormous sense of accomplishment when it’s done.  What’s more, the day would be far spent by the time you’re done with this project. Cleaning out your garage would require you to sweep out any dirt or debris, and get rid of other useless items that may have been stored there for a long time.

Start a Repainting Project

There’s always room for a fresh coat of paint to make everywhere look more alive, so grab a paintbrush and add some extra character to your home. The good news is that you don’t even have to go out for the paint, you can have it shipped directly to your door. Southlandremodeling suggests that if you had 2019 palette or older in your home, now is the time to embrace the latest colour hues of 2020, that show off a more contemporary style and make your home look more sophisticated.

 Build a Patio

Now is the time where every family would enjoy having a paver patio or an outdoor deck, somewhere to sit and get some fresh air when you’re tired of being cooped up inside all day. First you have to ensure that your home has enough space for a patio and that you have enough skills to handle a hammer and other tools for simple construction.

Next you order your needed materials online and get started. There is a great sense of satisfaction that comes with being able to create an outdoor space that your family can enjoy while being stuck at home.

Install some floor heating systems

Installation of floor heating systems is one of the best home improvement projects that one can get. Many people prefer to hire professionals to do these kinds of installation but if you are up for it, it’s not impossible to do this on a DIY project and get a valuable addition to your home for about half the cost.

Finally

There is no reason to continue holding out on your dream DIY home renovation projects, especially now that you have all the time in the world due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home order. Now is the perfect time to transform your home all by yourself!

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13 Montreal Apartments For Rent That Have Breathtaking Outdoor Spaces

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With Quebec’s moving day just around the corner, many people are starting to look for a new property to rent. And, now that Montreal real estate activity is back in action, you can start trying to find the perfect space again. And, if you ask me, an apartment that comes with outdoor space is a must when living in the city.

From balconies to shared rooftop spaces, we’re all looking for a place where we can be outdoors. 

Now, more than ever, fresh air is something that we’re all craving. And, with summer coming faster than we think, finding a place with access to the outside is on so many of our checklists. 

Luckily for you, we at MTL Blog have made your job very easy and have gone through listings throughout the city to showcase some of the best rentals, all of which have outdoor spaces. 

Some of these properties offer private balconies while others have surreal rooftops you get access to. Regardless of which one you fall in love with, you’ll be sure to have a summer to remember living in any apartment on this list. 

Get ready for moving day because after looking at these properties, you’re going to be ready to pack your belongings.

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Montreal real-estate market hit hard by pandemic

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Like many industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the red-hot Montreal real-estate market has suddenly chilled.

After 61 consecutive months of increases, the Montreal Census Metropolitan Area reported a 68-per-cent decrease in residential sales transactions in April 2020 compared with the year-earlier period, according to the Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers.

The most recent residential real-estate market statistics for the Montreal area showed 1,890 residential sales transactions were concluded last month. Those figures are based on the real-estate brokers’ Centris provincial database.

Montreal has been hit harder than other Canadian cities by the pandemic, and the drop in sales was seen in all six main areas of the Montreal CMA.

The drop in sales applied to all three property categories. Single-family home sales fell 68 per cent (1,048 transactions): plex sales dropped 67 per cent (161 transactions); and condominium sales tumbled 69 per cent (675 transactions).

Despite the drop in sales, real-estate prices rose in the CMA. The median price of single-family homes increased by nine per cent to reach $360,000, while the median price of condominiums climbed 12 per cent to $289,900.

Compared with April 2019, the median price of plexes (two to five dwellings) increased 10 per cent to $595,000.

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