Tag Archives: COVID-19

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COVID-19 and the agreement of purchase and sale

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COVID-19 and the agreement of purchase and sale

COVID-19 has created a unique situation in the real estate market, not only for the buyer and seller, but also for realtors, mortgage brokers and lawyers. The current restrictions and limitations necessary to comply with physical distancing are having a direct impact on a buyer’s experience. Showings are conducted virtually, meetings with brokers and lawyers take place over Zoom, and everyone is working remotely.

As a solution to some of these challenges, many real estate agents are now including COVID-19 clauses in Agreements of Purchase and Sale. But how do these clauses protect the parties and what should you look out for?

COVID-19 clauses in Agreements of Purchase and Sale are meant to protect the parties from delays and interruptions to their deal caused by issues relating to COVID-19, including illness, self-isolation or delays with third parties. However, a COVID-19 clause, which is not carefully drafted and reviewed, may cause unnecessary confusion or delay.

Consider, for example, a common clause which contemplates an extension of a real estate transaction where either party is subject to a mandatory COVID-19 quarantine and the agreement is automatically extended, at the request of either party, for a period of 14 days.

This clause doesn’t consider a situation where a party is still sick after 14 days or where a party has to stay in isolation as other members of their household remain COVID positive. In addition, most people self-isolate voluntarily, rather than it being mandatory. Would this put a party, who is self-isolating to mitigate the risk of exposure or transmission to others, in breach of the agreement? And what if the party was able to close the deal remotely, using audiovideo technology? Would they be able to delay the transaction due to a quarantine despite their ability to close?

So, what if your real estate agent includes a COVID-19 clause in an offer, or you receive one from a potential buyer? Discuss the clause carefully with your agent and seek the advice of your real estate lawyer before signing the agreement. It’s important to disclose what you are hoping to achieve should an unexpected situation arise.

Certainly, there are ways to protect both the buyer and the seller from complications which may arise as a result of COVID-19. But it’s important that buyers and sellers are aware of the potential pitfalls with these clauses before including them in any contract or Agreement of Purchase and Sale.

The world as we know it has changed, and we must change with it. Protect yourself and your family by speaking to an experienced real estate lawyer, and they will guide you properly and protect you to the exclusion of all others from the dangers brought forward by COVID-19.

A good real estate lawyer should also ensure you have a will or Power of Attorney. The minute any real estate deal is firm, ensure that at a minimum you have a Power of Attorney in place in the event that you are physically or mentally unable to complete the transaction.

You must protect your family and yourself.

Jayson Schwarz LLM and Jacqueline Moneta are with Schwarz Law LLP. To suggest topics for future columns or ask questions, visit schwarzlaw.ca or email info@schwarzlaw.ca.

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In Conversation With… Gregg Lintern, Chief Planner, City of Toronto

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In Conversation With… Gregg Lintern, Chief Planner, City of Toronto

Gregg Lintern, for those in the urban planning field, has one of the most desired gigs in all of Canada – chief planner of the City of Toronto. But heading up the planning department of the largest city in the country, indeed, one of the fastest growing in the world, is no cushy assignment. Managing growth, housing development, transit and cycling infrastructure… the list of tasks is endless and the critics plentiful and often harsh. And in a COVID world, everything is that much more complicated.

Lintern opens up about his vision for the city, his department, and the challenges of the development approvals process.

You’ve been in the chair a few years now… What have you learned or come to appreciate about the job?

Growth and change in a city of three million people is complex. The job is about managing that complexity to focus finite energy and resources to influence positive outcomes – usually in partnership with public and private interests. I’ve learned that is not easy – and it takes people and your ability to inspire people to get things done.

How would you describe your philosophy as Chief Planner for the City of Toronto?

Be values driven – I ground my thinking in values such as humility, empathy, generosity, perspective and resilience – and be people-centred. Think about the outcomes – the city we want to be in 20 years, and work backwards. What choices can we make now that will get us there and have our children and grandchildren say we made good decisions?

The city as we know it is a consequence of evolutionary change, driven by internal and external forces. Part of my role is influencing change for the better, understanding mistakes and showing a willingness to change direction, and push for beneficial outcomes.

The tensions that exist within the system of evolution are many, including things such as cars versus other modes of transportation, and exclusivity of land use versus mixed use. These tensions often result in incremental compromise, even as the general direction is clear.

Change doesn’t happen overnight, but COVID has seemingly accelerated and clarified both our opportunities and challenges. Ideas with long-standing support, such as increased cycling infrastructure, have moved forward quicker than they otherwise might have. But just as quickly, existing issues such as access to housing and social and health inequities have an increased urgency and visibility around them.

If we remain grounded in our values, I do think we can use this moment of clarity, even if it feels overwhelming at times, to make some lasting changes for the better, particularly for our most vulnerable groups.

What do you hope to accomplish in your tenure?

I set out a simple goal at the beginning of my tenure, and that was to build on past accomplishments and leave the Division and the City in a better place than I found them. I see that as the contribution everyone should make – in service to their family, friends, community and city – is to add, to enrich, to get it ready for who comes next as an intergenerational responsibility. In that sense, the city having more housing available and affordable for more people and better mobility than they have now – to have that access to opportunity that people across the city require. Toronto has landed on many top 10 lists across many measures of success; my job is to keep us there and to grow the list.

What changes would you like to make, or are making, from the way your office has operated in the past?

I would simply emphasize communication with staff and stakeholders. I know you can’t get things done alone – the more we communicate in a way that resonates with people, the better off the results of the services we provide and the outcomes in the community.

What are the top priorities in the planning department these days (such as improving the approvals process, addressing the need for “missing middle” housing, cycling infrastructure…)?

While we are looking at improvements to the approvals process, we are very much focused on improving the outcomes of the process – ensuring that new development contributes positively to the idea of complete. That’s really our main priority and much of what we do is aligned with this objective. In addition to the construction of new housing and commercial space, expanding and improving transportation infrastructure, cycling connections, expanding and making better use of our public spaces are all elements in the process of building complete communities.

Building a more livable, equitable Toronto is also a top priority. The City’s recently approved Housing Now projects are examples of smart density, building complete, mixed income, mixed-use communities with housing accompanied by child care facilities, open spaces, pedestrian connections and new streets, and retail and office space in various configurations. It’s about developing a broad range and mix of uses, combined with good urban design, to support daily life. Missing middle housing, and expanding housing options in neighbourhoods, is part of that work and city planning has a considerable role to play.

The home building industry is lobbying various levels of government to make the approvals process faster and simpler. How do you see this issue, and how are you addressing it?

The City conducted an End-to-End Development Review, which provided recommendations to improve the development process for both applicants and the City. To implement the recommendations, the City has established the Concept to Keys (C2K) program – a dedicated, multi-divisional team that will guide this work and will modernize how the City of Toronto attracts, facilitates and regulates development activity. C2K is working to create more predictability, efficiency, transparency and collaboration. Early areas of focus include a revised operating model and governance structure, enabling online applications and evaluating options to enhance backend technology to more effectively manage the development review process from start to finish.

New home supply and affordability, some say, are at or near crisis levels, and that we really need to approve and build more new housing, and more quickly, in order to meet demand and address affordability concerns. What’s your take on all this, and how realistic is it to expect your office to “fix” this problem?

Affordability and access are major challenges facing Toronto and many other growing North American cities. Council adopted the HousingTO 2020 – 2030 Action Plan in December 2019. It recommends a host of actions to improve supply and affordability across a whole spectrum of need. It’s a tool kit approach because there isn’t one fix for the housing challenge. About 20,000 units of housing are approved every year in Toronto, but a greater variety of housing more targeted to specific needs is required. Ideas such as expanding housing options in neighbourhoods, and more ground related housing such as laneway suites and secondary suites in homes, are gaining interest, for example.

What other cities, either in Canada or elsewhere in the world, have planning departments, systems and processes that you believe work well, and that we could learn from, and why?

We are always looking toward other cities, and encourage other cities to look to Toronto, to seek out and share best practices. No two places are the same and local context is always important, but there absolutely are lessons to be learned from work being done elsewhere.

Many cities in Canada and around the world are contending with the same challenges, though perhaps at different levels of intensity, as Toronto. Expanding housing options and providing for some that of “missing middle” are one such example, where cities are looking at what other jurisdictions are doing and then developing a suite of tools that work for their communities.

How did the early days of the COVID-19 shutdown impact your office? We’ve heard a lot about approval processes slowing, and submission backlogs…

Like any other organization, the pandemic disrupted core business in the very early days but the initial disruption was short-lived. Staff pivoted to work from home over the course of eight weeks, and that transition limited backlog and enabled staff to perform duties normally undertaken in the office.

One of the challenges posed by COVID has been hosting community consultation meetings. We host hundreds of these meetings in communities throughout the year to consult on new development applications and the development of new planning policy. What used to occur in person has moved online, and there has been a period of adjustment in adapting new consultation approaches. These new approaches to consultation present an opportunity for us to reach a broader audience and incorporate more constructive feedback into the planning process.

Lintern cycling on Lake Shore Blvd. during one of the recent ActiveTO weekend road closures.

How have things progressed since then? Is the planning department back up to full capacity?

Since the initial weeks of the shutdown, we have provided staff across the Division with resources to continue processing development applications and new policies remotely. We have been running at full capacity for several months now.

What has your office learned, or changes you’ve made, since the pandemic began?

We focused initially on keeping the economy going with development approvals, introduced temporary use bylaws to expand cafes, supported new housing initiatives for vulnerable people such as modular housing, moved consultation online with virtual consultation meetings and workshops, reformatted services including holding Committee of Adjustment hearings online. We have adapted our processes to work better remotely and provided our staff with resources to continue managing development review applications.

Additionally, the pandemic provided a renewed sense of clarity and urgency to certain areas of work, including the need to expand housing options and build local resilience right across the city.

toronto.ca

And on a personal note:

What part of town do you live in (from your Twitter account, it looks like you’re a west-ender…)?

In Toronto, you are either east or west of Yonge. I’m west of Yonge – actually grew up in Rexdale and have lived in the west end ever since. But I love the east end too, of course!

What is your favourite thing about Toronto?

When I get asked this I usually say – it’s a good place to call home. I often think of the people who were here before European settlement, of the waves of immigrants who have come here and of the people who desire to come here. It’s grown into a big city, but remains a place people want to call home.

When you’re not at the office (real or home office), you’re:

Walking or cycling in my High Park neighbourhood.

If you weren’t a city planner, you would:

Cook for people.

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Ontario housing markets to lead Canada heading into 2021

Ontario housing markets to lead Canada heading into 2021

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Ontario housing markets to lead Canada heading into 2021

Housing markets across Canada are expected to remain active for the remainder of 2020 due to pent-up demand and low inventory levels – with price growth in Ontario leading the way, according to a new report from ReMax Canada.

The ReMax Fall Market Outlook Report forecasts the average sale price in Canada could increase by 4.6 per cent during the remainder of the year, compared to the 3.7 per cent increase that was predicted in late 2019.

The pandemic has prompted many Canadians to reassess their living situations. According to a survey conducted by Leger on behalf of ReMax, 32 per cent of Canadians no longer want to live in large urban centres, and instead would opt for rural or suburban communities. This trend is stronger among Canadians under the age of 55.

Pent-up demand

“The classically hot spring market that was pushed to the summer months due to the COVID-19 pandemic created a surprisingly strong market across Canada and across all market segments,” says Christopher Alexander, executive vice-president and regional director, ReMax of Ontario-Atlantic Canada. “Looking ahead, government financial aid programs may be coming to an end in September, which could potentially impact future activity. However, the pent-up demand and low inventory dynamic may keep prices steady and bolster activity for the remainder of 2020. Overall, we are very confident in the long-term durability of the market.”

Not only are Canadians more motivated to leave cities, but changes in work and life dynamics have also shifted their needs and wants for their homes. According to the survey, 44 per cent of Canadians would like a home with more space for personal amenities, such as a pool, balcony or a large yard.

Ontario housing market

With Ontario one of the provinces hit hardest by the pandemic, markets such as Niagara, Mississauga and Kitchener-Waterloo experienced significant drops in activity, but bounced back aggressively in June as economies began to reopen. Toronto continues to be a sellers’ market, with low listing inventory and high demand. An uptick in new listings is anticipated for fall, now that buyers and sellers are more comfortable engaging in the housing market. ReMax estimates a five-per-cent increase in average residential sale price in Toronto for the remainder of the year, with the potential for modest price increases of up to six per cent in regions such as Hamilton, Brampton and London.

Luxury market thriving

Canada’s overall luxury market has remained strong throughout the pandemic, with market conditions unchanged from the beginning of the year in most regions.

The luxury segment in Toronto is considered balanced, with Vancouver pushing into a sellers’ market. Vancouver is beginning to see more interest from move-up buyers instead of the foreign buyers who drove demand in Vancouver’s luxury market prior to COVID-19. This was likely due to travel restrictions brought on by the pandemic. In Toronto, activity was slower than usual this spring as buyers did not have any urgency to transact during the pandemic.

Luxury housing in secondary markets such as Hamilton is seeing a slight uptick in activity, with high-end buyers seeking more square footage and larger properties outside of city centres. Hamilton has experienced an increase in buyer interest from residents from Brampton and Mississauga looking to relocate to the region.


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Mountainview Homes - One Twenty

One Twenty Condominiums by Mountainview offers luxury living in coveted Fonthill

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One Twenty Condominiums by Mountainview offers luxury living in coveted Fonthill

Welcome to sophisticated condominium living in beautiful Fonthill. One Twenty is where luxury and carefree living meet. Where country charm and big city amenities are blended. Where your suite is a prefect reflection of you! Welcome home to One Twenty by Mountainview Building Group, where you’ll discover your dream lifestyle.

One Twenty, the first phase in the coveted One Fonthill Condominium Collection, offers 50 residences and nine thoughtfully designed floorplans – each crafted with easy, sophisticated living in mind. One Twenty starts from the low $400,000s, and closings are expected to be April 2022. Limited suites remain, so don’t wait to discover open-concept living, luxury finishes, open air balconies, chef kitchens and modern suites ranging from one-bedroom and one-bedroom with den, two-bedroom and two-bedrooms with den.

One Twenty, the first phase in the coveted One Fonthill Condominium Collection, offers 50 residences and nine thoughtfully designed floorplans — each crafted with easy, sophisticated living in mind.
One Twenty, the first phase in the coveted One Fonthill Condominium Collection, offers 50 residences and nine thoughtfully designed floorplans — each crafted with easy, sophisticated living in mind.

The masterfully designed exterior of clean lines, modern wood panel siding, and sleek shades of grey, combined with impressive amenities, including a private party room, elegant lobby and underground parking garage, make this community highly sought after. Residents will enjoy maintenance-free, sophisticated living at its best! At One Twenty, residents are part of a neighbourhood where they can walk out their door and be surrounded by shops, restaurants, trails, Fonthill’s newest community centre and more.

Fonthill is one of Niagara Region’s most coveted communities. Offering truly remarkable living, it’s where small-town charm meets an elegant lifestyle. Where fruit trees, vineyards and modern-day conveniences all live in harmony. It’s no wonder One Twenty has received such high accolades.

Fonthill is a community ideally situated just a short drive from Toronto and Buffalo, and minutes to Niagara Falls, Niagara’s wineries, Peninsula Lakes Golf Course and other incredible amenities. Nature lovers will appreciate the fruit orchards and nature trails such as Lathrop Nature Preserve. Downtown Fonthill is a charming historic place where foodies will revel in restaurants, as well as boutiques and more. Golf lovers will appreciate the proximity to golf courses only minutes away. Fonthill is a place you’ll be proud to call home.

Proud to be honoured with the highly coveted diamond avid award

Mountainview has strong roots in the Niagara region for more than 40 years and takes great pride in creating communities that complement the area’s unique features and culture. Over the years, Mountainview has been the recipient of many industry awards, most recently the company was named the Diamond Award winner of the 17th Annual Avid Awards. The best industry leaders are picked every year, honouring their hard work and dedication for scoring highest with customers on homebuying experience surveys. The highly regarded awards are a trusted benchmark of customer service performance in the homebuilding industry. With impeccable attention to detail and quality standards combined with award-winning customer service, it’s no wonder residents from Niagara and beyond have chosen a Mountainview community to call home.

With beautiful homes built for living your best life, Mountainview knows how to combine the perfect home with large open spaces and luxurious standards with the best location Niagara can offer.

Contact Mountainview Building Group to set up a virtual tour or to schedule your private appointment, with all COVID-19 safety guidelines in place. Visit the website or call 289.897.8548.


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The new normal - Changes are coming in the film industry

Changes are coming in the film industry in the new normal

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Changes are coming in the film industry in the new normal

A dramatically altered new normal is coming to the film business – in how and who makes the films and how and why we will watch them. No one can say with certainty today what the future will look like, but it is now apparent it will never be what it was.

You might think this is because of the seismic shift that the global pandemic has forced into our daily lives, including in our cultural pursuits. True enough, but the seeds of change were already sown in film before COVID-19 started its deadly spread, prompting most countries to slam on the brakes and shutter public venues, including movie theatres.

The grip of the legendary Hollywood studios was already loosening. Just look at how streaming services – notably Netflix – had challenged the studios and started beating them at their own game by buying indie films outright or creating originals.

Oscar-nominated Yalitza Aparicio plays a nanny who shows her transformational love for her harsh employer's children in Roma.
Oscar-nominated Yalitza Aparicio plays a nanny who shows her transformational love for her harsh employer’s children in Roma.

The titles include some of the most exciting films of the 21st century. With Netflix, the list is already impressive: Beasts of No Nation (2015), starring Idris Elba; Tallulah (2016), starring Ellen Page; The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018), an eccentric Coen Brothers creation; Roma (2018), Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron’s family masterpiece; Dolemite is My Name (2019), featuring Eddie Murphy in a renaissance performance; and The Irishman (2019), Martin Scorsese’s riveting gangster epic starring a mafia of his old actor pals.

Netflix’s singular success even obliged the Academy Awards to change its eligibility rules to accommodate films such as Roma and The Irishman, after the racially charged embarrassment of denying Beasts of No Nation.

Meanwhile, commercial theatres were already feeling the pinch. Canada’s largest exhibitor, Cineplex, negotiated a lucrative buyout by Britain’s Cineworld. When the pandemic hit, the deal soured. Both companies are now suing one another. Cineplex is in a crisis. Expect some cinemas to close permanently.

Cineplex, and other world distributors such as Cineworld, will survive only by booking Hollywood’s flow of family animations and youth-friendly blockbusters fueled by comic book heroes. That is a limited niche, despite the billions generated so far. The wave will pass.

The truth is that more and more adult film fans, who are already exploring the joys and convenience of streaming, will stay put at home, finding what they want online.

Film festivals are also damned, on a certain level. The excitement had already been draining from the elite festivals, including Cannes and the Toronto International Film Festival. The giddy excitement I remember from TIFF’s 1976 launch as the Festival of Festivals disappeared a decade ago. Ditto for Cannes. The allure of discovery was dulled by corporate commercial branding.

Then COVID-19 derailed Cannes altogether in 2020, along with dozens of other festivals. Toronto will proceed, but only as a shadow memory this September. It is a gut-wrenching spectacle.

The future? The music business underwent a total tear-down transformation in this century, not always for the better. Now it is time for even more significant changes in film. And, if that makes stunning films such as Roma more accessible and celebrated, it could be a good thing.

Bruce Kirkland‘s career spans more than four decades, working for The Toronto Star, The Ottawa Journal and finally, as the senior film critic, for 36 years at The Toronto Sun.

bruce.kirkland@hotmail.com


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Trulife & Constantine prepare to launch 8188 Yonge

Trulife & Constantine prepare to launch 8188 Yonge

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Trulife & Constantine prepare to launch 8188 Yonge

The developers of 8188 Yonge are preparing to launch in the fall, and acknowledging the current pandemic times, Trulife Developments and Constantine Developments are employing new sales techniques to reach prospective buyers.

With COVID-19 safety measures still on consumers’ minds, buyers can choose to go through the sales experience either in person at the presentation centre or virtually from the comfort of their home. Both approaches will include immersive tours of the property, one-on-one appointments with a company representative and broker, and an individualized presentation of the project.

Located in the Uplands area of Thornhill, this new build is suitable for young families looking to invest in a new place they call home, especially with close access to Hwy. 407 allowing you to get downtown quickly for work, but close to great greenspace, local amenities and schools.

Signature features of 8188 Yonge include bespoke balconies. Homebuyers can choose from three different packages – Forest, Ocean or Garden – with associated finishing and decor options. Each is a pre-determined design package that the buyer can choose from and incorporates finishes along with decor or design add-on recommendations. Pricing is determined based on the square footage of each balcony, though for early purchasers it will be included in their purchase price.

Other features include continuous flow throughout the architecture and building designs, spacious suites with Smart Unit upgrade packages available, 30,000 sq. ft. of outdoor amenities including yoga and exercise space, children’s play area, dog park and sun deck with cabanas. All within walking distance to both future Yonge extension subway stops.

8188yonge.com


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Empire Home Reimagined

Empire Communities prioritizes lifestyle needs

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Empire Communities prioritizes lifestyle needs

Empire Communities, one of North America’s largest private homebuilders, is seeing a significant increase in home sales throughout Southwestern Ontario as homebuyers re-evaluate how and where they live and what they need out of a home in response to COVID-19. Now, homebuyers are prioritizing rooms in their home based on the unique needs of their family and new lifestyle.

Empire Home Reimagined

Since March, Empire has sold close to 500 homes in communities across Southwestern Ontario. With home now the hub, homebuyers are highly motivated on their search to prioritize space and accommodate the needs of their family and the new realities of spending more time at home. Additionally, many buyers are looking to more affordable markets outside the GTA for space and value, with interest rates historically low and with the newfound flexibility of working from home.

To help guide homebuyers through their homebuying journey, Empire has launched a new platform to match homebuyers with the features and home designs that will best serve their needs. With Home Reimagined, homebuyers will discover which room is the heart of their home and get insight on design features to consider during the home search.

Through Empire’s Home Reimagined campaign, homebuyers can take a short quiz designed to match them with a persona that will provide insight on home designs that pair well with their values and family life, and the Empire communities they are available in. In addition to receiving suggested home designs, homebuyers are also offered content curated just for them based on their quiz results.

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GTA new home market sees increased activity in June

GTA new home market sees increased activity in June

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GTA new home market sees increased activity in June

The GTA new home market began to see more activity in June, following two months of historically slow sales due to the pandemic, according to the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD).

Plane flys over the city (Building signs are removed)
Plane flys over the city (Building signs are removed)

Sales of new single-family homes, accounting for 1,160 of the total of 1,904 new homes sold, were the highest for June since 2016, though still 12 per cent below the 10-year average, according to Altus Group, BILD’s official source for new home market intelligence. Single-family homes include detached, linked, and semi-detached houses and townhouses (excluding stacked townhouses).

Sales numbers for new condominium units, including units in low-, mid- and highrise buildings, stacked townhouses and lofts, at 744 units sold, were up compared to April and May, but still down 73 per cent from June 2019 and 70 per cent below the 10-year average.

“The June new home sales numbers are encouraging, though much remains to be seen as the GTA re-opens and begins recovery,” says David Wilkes, BILD president and CEO. “Now is the time to implement what we learned about facilitating the delivery of housing during the pandemic, to address our long-standing housing supply and affordability challenge while stimulating the local economy. Our industry is working with all three levels of government to help achieve these goals.”

“Single-family demand recovered more quickly as buyers returned and new supply started to come back into the market,” adds Matthew Boukall, Altus Group’s vice-president, Data Solutions. “Given the challenges around COVID-19 restrictions, we’ve seen developers adopt new strategies to reach consumers and have seen success in the lower density segments.”

The benchmark prices for both new condominium units and new single-family homes increased in June compared to the previous month. New condos rose to $999,228, up 24.2 per cent over the last 12 months. New single-family homes, meanwhile, increased in price 3.9 per cent over the last 12 months to $1.14 million.


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Coping with stress in troubled times

Coping with stress in troubled times

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Coping with stress in troubled times

Stress. We’re told we can’t live with it, and yet we can’t live without it. It’s impossible to have a stress-free life. Good stress gets the job done. It pushes us forward ensuring that we achieve the day to day tasks in our lives, all the way up to accomplishing the greatest of feats.

So, why does stress get such a bad rap? We’ve all heard it, stress kills. Your doctor tells you that you have high blood pressure. Why? Because of stress. Arthritis flaring up… stress. Obesity, depression, diabetes, asthma and Alzheimer’s disease. Stress.

Photo: iStockPhoto.com
Photo: iStockPhoto.com

In our culture, stress is almost a right of passage. We have told ourselves that it proves you are pushing hard and living life to the fullest.

And now stress is pushing the limits more than ever. Since COVID-19, life as we knew it has changed. It is impossible not to be personally affected in some way.

I watched an elderly woman in the grocery store trying to open a plastic bag without being able to lick her fingers. A frustrating experience and for her even more so as she was trying to also hold on to her walker. (I suggested she use the water from the fresh produce.)

The list of possible stress inducing events due to this pandemic is long: You or your children have lost their jobs, your retirement fund decreased in value, you can’t see your loved ones since you’re considered high risk, you scheduled an elective surgery which has since been postponed.

How do we handle all this additional stress?

First, it’s helpful to identify the stress. Remember, stress can be also caused by good things. Changes in our lives may be good, but stressful just the same. With those types of events, however, when they pass, you carry on with your life.

However, when the stress is without a clearly defined ending, as we are now experiencing during the pandemic, we need to develop better coping mechanisms.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but give yourself permission to have some fear. This is normal, given we are all just learning about this disease.

However, manage how much news you expose yourself to. Make sure the media you watch or listen to is informative rather than sensationalistic and relays credible information. Do not let fear control your life. Be mindful of this and find other things to watch and to discuss with your loved ones.

Remind yourself of the skills you’ve used in the past that have helped you through difficult times (and see below for additional ideas). Be kind to yourself and others. New skills can take time to learn.

And make sure that you contact a professional if you are finding that coping mechanisms are not working, and you are feeling overwhelmed.

Ways to cope with stress:

  • Practice mindfulness: Sit in a quiet room with no distractions, take five to 10 deep, slow breaths. Do this daily.
  • Exercise: Get out for walks as much as you are able, do yoga, stretch. There are several great apps for that!
  • Don’t overindulge: In either food or alcohol. If you have more time, use it to create new, healthy recipes.
  • Pick up a new (old) hobby: Cross-stitching, knitting, woodworking… do something with your hands that keeps your mind busy as well.
  • Get enough rest: Go to bed and get up at the same time. Have a pre-sleep routine: Small herbal tea, read a chapter of a book, brush your teeth, wash your face…
  • And stay connected: Make sure you chat with someone every day.
Agnes Ramsay is a Registered Nurse, Personal Trainer and Wellness Coach who specializes in Electric Muscle Stimulation Training.

agnes.ramsay@xbodyworld.com


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Deck decor - Make your outdoor space a distination oasis

How to make your outdoor space a hot destination oasis

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How to make your outdoor space a hot destination oasis

We Canadians love our backyards, and no wonder. We have been spending so much time at home with COVID-19 that we love to spend more time outside. And stay out there – listening to the birds, the burble of a water feature, watching the sun set, connecting with friends and family, even at a distance.

As the pace of life quickens and our homes shrink in size, the outdoors is literally the last frontier – and the reason why we’re spending so much more on making the backyard, or deck or balcony a destination oasis.

Out with the white plastic chairs and plexiglass tables, in with the fire pits and heaters giving us a much longer outdoor season, deep-seated sectional sofas, teak dining tables and chairs, and strings of lights. Outdoor furniture manufacturers have been eager to meet our need to linger outside with a wider range of furniture, with longer lasting frames, fabrics that retain their shape and water resistance, and cushion foam that stays comfortable.

Here’s what you need to know:

1) Plan out your space according to how you intend to use the deck. If you are a big reader or sun worshipper, but don’t like eating al fresco, set up your space with more living room type furnishings, and tuck a small dining table off to the side and out of the way.

2) Check materials carefully. There’s teak, treated pine, metal mixed with wood, solid aluminum, stainless and wrought iron. Of these, teak and aluminum last the longest, and are probably the most expensive. Teak you need to baby a bit, while aluminum just wipes clean.

3) Consider modular furniture – pieces that fit together as a sectional or stand alone as chairs – for flexibility. You can change the seating arrangement to suit the occasion or your mood.

4) Decks aren’t just for daytime. Small white lights are magical when strung from house to tree. Add candles around the edges of your deck or patio – flameless ones are safer. An ethanol fire pit not only creates mood, but keeps feet warm and can easily be moved around.

5) Music really adds to the ambience – not so loud that your guests can’t hear each other or the neighbours complain, but as background.

6) As for styles, the sky’s the limit, and they can reflect your dream destinations, or they can reflect the decor of your home. Fancy a week in the Hamptons? Check out sectionals in whitewashed and weathered greys – made from resin wicker – with East Coast fabrics such as navy and white stripes (in water repellant fabrics). Prefer life in a Park Avenue brownstone? Then wrought iron with deep charcoal cushions set amidst a row of boxwoods might be better for you.

7) Don’t forget the floor – wood flooring tiles are easy to install, and create an immediate room setting, especially with the concrete of a condo balcony. Add an outdoor rug to pull it all together.

8) There’s nothing like dining al fresco, and if you’re the type who likes tons of people over, an expandable table might be the best choice. Classic wrought iron tables look great and last forever but are pricey. There’s always teak, but it’s pricey, too, so check out budget-friendly teak alternatives that work equally well. If your deck is on the small side, go for stackable dining chairs.

9) Stow outdoor dining essentials – bright coloured table mats and napkins, covered lanterns or candle holders – near the back door or in a waterproof storage bench. Make sure to keep throws handy to ward off the evening chill.

10) An umbrella will shade the table from the sun and rain; one with a tilt arm that can be adjusted to follow the sun all day. The new pergolas do the same and more, especially when fitted with a retractable canopy system or screen to protect against bugs.

11) For privacy, especially on a condo balcony, you can create a privacy wall by positioning a row of evergreens in matching containers along the edges of your deck. Erect lattice or bamboo screening, then add wall mounted planters and a water feature for an instant retreat.

12) Depending on the space you have, hammocks are well worthwhile for the downtime they afford – snoozing or watching the stars. Add colourful pillows and a sea of planters for a cosy destination.

13) Containers are the way to go for gardening. They come in all shapes and sizes and materials (remember that resin is lighter and therefore easier to move). Depending on the direction they face, condo balconies are ideal for herbs and tomatoes, but they need a lot of water, so make sure you have proper drainage. Tropical plants love sun and add a festive air to your deck – you can also bring them in come fall. If you have less direct sunlight, fill tall tapered containers with ornamental grasses for a clean, modern and minimalist look.

14) Just like inside, the deck is made livelier with the addition of some artwork, such as wrought iron grills, architectural salvage, window frames (with or without mirrored glass).

In the end, if you choose any of these tips, who needs a cottage?

Lisa Rogers is Executive Vice-President of Design for Dunpar Homes.

Lisa has shared her style and design expertise on popular television programs such as Canadian Living TV, House & Home TV and The Shopping Channel.

Lisa is one of the most familiar faces on CityTV’s Cityline, a regular guest expert for fashion and image, health, wellness and design.


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