Duplexes in Montreal make up the majority of the dwellings in the city. Built all over the city since the late 1860s, Montreal duplexes have been the standard housing model in many residential areas. They provide an affordable alternative to detached houses.
A duplex consists of two dwelling units - one above the other, owned by one person. Each unit has its own separate lot and entrance. The landlord lives in one unit, often on the ground floor, and subsidizes the mortgage by renting out the upper units. Unlike apartments in Montreal, duplexes have no hallways or lobbies.
Unique Features of Montreal Duplexes
Where apartment sizes are usually standardized, duplexes in Montreal come in an endless variety of styles. The styles are more modest in working-class neighbourhoods like Villeray, and more elaborate in fashionable, upper-class areas like Outremont.
Montreal duplexes have more balconies than other forms of housing, a product of the mass migrations of ruralites into the city during the early 20th century. Every duplex has at least two balconies – one in the front and the back. And each unit has direct access to the street either through an exterior staircase or an indoor staircase/foyer.
The wrought-iron, spirialing outer staircases that grace many Montreal duplexes are one of the city's distinctive features. Their origins date back to when homes in more affluent neighbourhoods were set back from the street.
A trend had started as many different shapes and sizes of staircases - L and S-shaped, straight, single and double – soon appeared outside duplexes and triplexes. Montreal had banned exterior staircases in 1940, the result of pressure from the Establishment who were upset by this appalling trend.
The ban was lifted in 1994 in the interest of preserving architectural harmony. Exterior staircases were allowed to be built on streets where the structures already existed.
History of Duplexes in Montreal
Montreal duplexes were first built to accomodate people from a wide variety of classes and ethnicities. However, this was largely a cutural phenomenon. The French and ethnic middle class preferred duplexes, whereas the English-speaking middle class adopted row houses and detached houses.
In working-class neighbourhoods, their popularity took off in the 1860s to become the standard model for Montreal housing. Of course, the style and form changed and evolved with the times.
The duplex later evolved into the triplex and other variations, some consisting of up to five or six dwellings and, in rare cases, reaching four stories. These new models satisfied the needs of a rapidly growing population made up mostly of low-income tenants seeking reasonably-priced housing.
Modern versions of the Montreal duplex are continually being built in the city and the suburbs. While they may lack the charm of the older duplexes, they remain multi-family units and still have the staircases and balconies.
Article published May 28th, 2009
Louer.com, Quebec Residential, Commercial and Vacation Rentals
see: Apartments for Rent In Montreal