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Transformation and Expansion of Shoebox Houses: Can They Be Renovated?

The Shoebox Houses in Montreal - Key Points

A Montreal Classic

Single-story houses with flat roofs, mostly built around the turn of the 20th century, shoebox houses are now part of the Montreal landscape and our shared heritage. Constructed at the time using rather basic materials to accommodate workers from French-speaking backgrounds, this type of housing with its unique aesthetic is now subject to special constraints.

Highly popular for their conversion potential, several neighborhoods like Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie and Villeray are seeking to preserve this type of housing with its unique architectural character, emblematic of the city’s history.

Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie

Moratorium on Shoebox Houses

An architectural treasure

  • In order to guide property owners in their work, the city of Montreal has categorized the approximately 561 shoebox houses in the borough into 3 categories based on their architectural value (degree of authenticity of the facade, quality of masonry, proportion of openings, authenticity of the porch, and other factors). The values range from 1 to 3, with 1 indicating lower importance.

    You can access the list of shoebox houses in the Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie borough by clicking on the following link: Annex F.

(However, if you are considering buying a shoebox in any other borough, be sure to check with the city for the current constraints and regulations.)

Expansion of Shoebox Houses

Before undertaking renovation work on a shoebox, make sure to be familiar with the detailed procedures established by the borough. You will also need to request an evaluation of the heritage value of the shoebox from your borough and, finally, submit plans that adhere to the tolerated expansion modalities and models.


  • A homeowner wishing to expand their shoebox vertically must also ensure compliance with the city’s setback rule. This means that the dwelling cannot exceed the height in stories of the neighboring building, while still adhering to the independent standards prescribed by the municipality. However, in all cases, a shoebox can reach a height of 2 stories.

    For a shoebox with high architectural value (rated 2 or 3 out of 3), if the owner wants to add a floor to the residence, they must provide a setback of at least 1 meter from the facade for this new addition. This is to preserve the authentic and unique value of the housing (this condition does not apply to shoeboxes at the back of the lot).


The demolition committee will need to ensure that your shoebox does not meet high architectural preservation criteria, as those that do are of interest to the city, and their demolition is therefore prohibited. The Building Demolition Regulation (RCA-6) will specify the criteria upon which the committee will base its decision.


Shoebox Villeray

Compliance Requirements

In order to preserve the architectural value of shoebox houses in the neighborhood, the borough of Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension has established compliance requirements for homeowners wishing to make expansions. However, shoebox houses are not subject to a moratorium.

Possible Expansions

According to the City of Montreal’s website, it may be possible to expand a shoebox vertically by adding a level or laterally if the land allows. It is important to ensure that this addition is set back from the original facade and that the materials used distinguish themselves from the shoebox in order to enhance its appearance.

Here are the types of expansions suggested by the City of Montreal

Règlementation pour les Shoebox dans Rosemont, Montréal

Our Suggestions

Make sure you have all the necessary information before embarking on a major renovation project and contact the borough to understand in detail the criteria related to your shoebox. Our real estate brokers, experts in Montreal neighborhoods and their specificities, are also excellent resources to consult for any questions on the subject.


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