Tag Archives: GTA

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Caps on parkland fees should still be a priority

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Caps on parkland fees should still be a priority

The Ontario government recently introduced changes that will adjust the way development pays for the infrastructure, facilities and services required to support growth. The changes, the result of extensive consultation, are good news for municipalities, builders and ultimately homebuyers, but they underscore the challenges of producing one-size fits-all housing policy for a province as diverse as Ontario. As an example, while the province chose to leave the way municipalities fund new parks essentially unchanged, BILD will continue to advocate at the municipal level for caps on parkland fees.

Currently, municipalities can require that each new development contribute land for a park, or pay a fee in lieu, to be used to purchase parkland. Our industry believes that parks are vital parts of any vibrant and complete community, but we have concerns about the cash in lieu (CIL) of land that some municipalities opt to collect. Our concerns are threefold.

First, as CIL rates are linked to the value of the land, collection of parkland charges can act as a disincentive to density. This is especially true with high rise buildings in downtown areas across the GTA, where it is not unusual for a one bedroom condominium to attract double or more in parkland fees compared to a single-family home.

Second, many municipalities have a record of collecting far more in parkland fees than they spend on new parks. A study conducted by Altus Group in 2018 found that GTA municipalities had accumulated $1.13 billion in parkland cash reserves. This means that new-home buyers are paying for new parks as part of the cost of their new homes, but not necessarily receiving them.

Lastly, with infill development in existing neighbourhoods, parks are generally already in place, which leads us to wonder what new-home buyers are paying for with their parkland fees.

While the changes introduced by the province allow municipalities to set alternative parkland dedication rates and allow municipal parkland dedication bylaws to be appealed, it is still important to have a maximum cap for parkland rates in certain GTA municipalities so that new-home buyers are not asked to pay more than their fair share.

The changes introduced by the provincial government are a very positive step in addressing the housing supply and affordability challenge in the GTA. They provide builders with greater clarity and certainty about costs and allow municipalities to recover 100 per cent of costs for facilities such as daycare centres, long-term care homes, playgrounds and libraries. BILD’s advocacy with certain municipalities on parkland fees is meant to ensure that the way we fund parks does not add unnecessary costs for new-home buyers and erode affordability.

Dave Wilkes is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), the voice of the homebuilding, land development and professional renovation industry in the GTA. For the latest industry news and new home data, follow BILD on Twitter, @bildgta or visit bildgta.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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Is there a mass exodus from Toronto in our future?

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Is there a mass exodus from Toronto in our future?

 

Toronto

COVID-19 and this current health crisis has forced many of us to reconsider where and how we should be living, and where and how we should be working. The 400-sq.-ft. downtown condominium unit was perfect for your short walk to work, your access to nearby restaurants and nightclubs, and your short subway ride to your bestie’s house. Now, you’re working from home in a cramped space, your favourite restobar is shut down and you’re afraid to take public transit.

Where is the best place to live in the era of contagious viruses?

Every Torontonian has a slightly different version of this pandemic reconsideration story, with questions such as: Do I want to raise my kids downtown? Do I want to be crammed closely into elevators, streetcars, cubicles or tiny boutique fitness centres? Will a suburban lifestyle keep me and my family safer? Or, will a move to a much smaller municipality outside the GTA be better for our general well-being and health?

Massive shift

We have witnessed a massive shift over the last 20 years, with the complete revitalization of downtown Toronto, the building of new office buildings and especially new highrise condominiums. The city’s population has soared in recent years. Many buyers have chosen to live in downtown condos for lifestyle and environmental reasons, to be walking distance to cafes, shops, parks, friends, hospitals and employment – all while reducing the need for development on the outskirts of the GTA that eats up greenfield lands and increases the reliance on personal automobiles for transport. They don’t want to pay for a parking spot, a car lease, license fees or insurance for a vehicle that sits in a garage most of the day and pumps out pollution the rest of the time.

A second group of people are living in downtown condominiums and rental apartments for affordability reasons, while they would much prefer to live in a single-family detached home in an inner-suburban community with a big backyard and two parking spaces. However, that requires many years to save for, and based on recent trends, that number of years is rapidly increasing. They need to be as close to work as possible to save time and money, and centrally-located highrise buildings fit the need in the short term.

Mass exodus?

Because of COVID-19, some experts are predicting a mass exodus out of Toronto, as people flee for less expensive housing and more rural and isolated locations to escape this deadly virus. If you’re thinking about buying in Toronto, how worried should you be about prices falling due to a major decline in demand as residents pack up and leave?

We will certainly see some of the older residents in the lifestyle group sell their suites and move to the smaller quaint and walkable downtown areas in places such as Peterborough, Brighton, Cobourg, St. Catharines and Niagara-on-the- Lake. However, expect most to stay due to proximity to family and friends, and the unwillingness to start over in a new place, finding doctors and dentists – and even finding the best pizza slice.

The second group, the ones living in Toronto for affordability reasons only, have less ability to move. If you can afford only a $600,000 condo, you have to travel pretty far to get a single-family house for that price, and you better be a handy person for all the work you’ll have to do on it. Secondly, the work-from-home situation isn’t likely to be permanent for most employers, so we hope you like sitting in traffic.

Desirable city

Anyway you slice it, the predicted demise of Toronto is premature. It is one of the most desirable cities in the world to live in. When the borders reopen, expect there to be a backlog of people looking to come here, especially with the social and political unrest south of the border, not to mention the unruly spread of COVID-19.

Don’t be a short-term speculator. Buy for the long term, add value to the property you buy via design, renovations and additions – but stay within your budget. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and people’s love of Toronto will ultimately trump their fear of the virus. Good luck.

Ben Myers is President of Bullpen Consulting, a boutique residential real estate advisory firm specializing in condominium and rental apartment market studies, forecasts and valuations for developers, lenders and land owners. bullpenconsulting.ca Twitter@benmyers29

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Location, location, location, why it’s so important when buying a condo

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Location, location, location, why it’s so important when buying a condo

I often write about condominium shoppers creating a spreadsheet or list of important items to consider. The number one thing is always location. The phrase “location, location, location” may seem trite, but in fact, it is based on solid truth. For most purchasers, the big picture is paramount in their final decision. Fortunately, in Toronto and the GTA, you will find a myriad of amazing choices, locations and designs available offered by some of the world’s finest developers and architects.

One of the first things to look at regarding location is whether the buildings are in established or up and coming neighbourhoods. You may feel that you prefer and can afford a residence in the midst of established amenities and mature trees and greenery. On the other hand, if price is a major factor for you, selecting a growing area with new amenities planned in the future might be more economically feasible. Again, you have numerous wonderful choices of both types.

Where do you work? Even with the pandemic-fuelled work-from-home scenario, there are still thousands and thousands of people across the GTA who have to go somewhere for their jobs. When you consider your commute from a new condominium, be sure to avoid the mistake of estimating times by the as-the-crow flies method. You are wise to actually do the commute during rush hour, whether by driving or using public transit, to be realistic.

And speaking of public transit, are the condos you are considering close to transportation access? In addition to making your life easier, they will hold their appeal more when you go to sell someday. Our transportation infrastructure continues to grow and expand, which is a wonderful boon to residents everywhere.

Transportation aside, what about walkability? Most condo owners want to live where they can shop, dine out, run errands and the like within a quick stroll. Visit walkscore.com, plug in the address of a condo, and you can find out what amenities and services are within walking distance.

How about the places and people you visit often – family and friends, and any clubs and associations you belong to? Will they be easy to get to from the new locales you are looking at? If you are a member of a yacht club or keep a boat on Lake Ontario, you might want to live right by the water.

Of course, price, architecture, building amenities, features and finishes and builder reputation and track record should all have prominent places in your comparison list or spreadsheet. Wherever and whatever you buy, keep in mind that when you purchase new, you benefit from the latest design and construction standards, as Ontario Building Code is regularly amended to increase quality and energy efficiency.

New-home buyers in the GTA are among the luckiest in the world. So, enjoy your shopping, consider the details and remember the big picture. Then take your place in it in a beautiful new condo!

Barbara Lawlor is President and CEO of Baker Real Estate Inc. and winner of the pinnacle 2017 Riley Brethour Award from BILD, among other accolades. A member of the Baker team since 1993, she oversees the marketing and sales of condominium developments in Canada in the GTA, Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal, and internationally in Beijing. bakerrealestate.com

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Delayed construction projects in the GTA will hurt government revenues

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Delayed construction projects in the GTA will hurt government revenues

The residential construction industry was granted essential workplace status under Ontario’s emergency orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry was able to finish homes that were near completion and work on important infrastructure projects such as hospitals. Nevertheless, overall development and building projects across the GTA were delayed. This will have farreaching impacts on housing supply in an already tight market, as well as negative financial impacts on government coffers.

You may be thinking: If the industry was permitted to work, why are there delays? The response is a little complicated. Some municipalities had to adjust to working remotely, which slowed or stopped processing of planning and building applications that stalled developments and construction projects. Worksites had to adjust to COVID-19 protocols as social distancing rules negatively impacted productivity.

To get a better understanding of how the pandemic affected the building industry, BILD surveyed is members to understand how they were impacted. The survey found that there were 498 active projects in the GTA, representing 156,000 units at various stages of the development process. In Toronto alone, 276 projects were affected. The survey found that 65 per cent of active pre-construction projects reported delays of three to six months, and 32 per cent were greater than six months. Eighty-three per cent of not yet above grade projects reported delays of three to six months, and 11 per cent are greater than six months. Eighty-five per cent of projects under construction permitted for above grade reported a delay of three to six months, and five per cent are greater than six months.

The Altus Group examined this survey data and concluded that these delays will result in the loss of about 9,000 housing starts over the course of the next 18 months. This will delay occupancy of more than 8,000 units by the end of 2021, potentially exacerbating an already existing shortage of housing in the city of Toronto, reduce construction activity and see the loss of 10,000 jobs per year.

Federal, provincial and municipal government revenues will be detrimentally impacted by the loss of housing starts throughout 2020 and 2021. Lost revenues include $340 million in lost development charges, $13.5 million in lost education development charges (TCDSB), $26 million in property taxes, $364 million in HST, $53.8 million in provincial land transfer tax and $52.5 million in lost municipal land transfer tax.

Now more than ever, all levels of government must work together to make sure that proper measures are in place to remove barriers that will unlock consumer and industry construction investments to help kick-start the economy.

Dave Wilkes is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD). bild.ca

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Why do condo prices rise even when the economy is down?

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Why do condo prices rise even when the economy is down?

If you keep up with new home real estate in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area, you likely know that between May of this year and last, the price of lowrise homes stayed the same, and that between April and May 2020, there was a -0.7-per-cent difference. Yet from April to May of this year, condominium prices were 0.1 per cent higher, and were 26.4 per cent higher than May 2019.

Why? It’s a great question, and there are several reasons why condo prices continue to rise, even during economic downturns.

The first has to do with two ongoing situations. First, demand continues to be much higher than supply. Second, we have approximately 120,000 new residents settling in the GTA each year. We also have Millennials coming of age and wanting to own homes, and they represent a big chunk of the population in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Plus, we also have Baby Boomers retiring en masse and looking to move down in housing size. There simply are not enough residences – especially condos – to accommodate everyone who wants to buy. Before the pandemic, we were selling slightly more than 30,000 units a year, and even the COVID pandemic slowdown didn’t abate those numbers. We have been selling online throughout the past few months, and some projects have sold out right away. Purchasers have embraced the electronic methods in place to prevent in-person contact as much as possible.

There is something else critical to consider: Builders’ costs keep going up. Most trades worked throughout the pandemic, and once contracts are up for renewal, it is only logical to believe their prices will go up. Then, there’s land. Everyone knows that land prices across the GTA will not go down in price. In fact, the opposite – as land becomes scarcer, it also becomes more expensive. Builders have to anticipate these costs, along with materials and the umpteen other costs incurred as they carry on the process of creating communities. As they bring new homes and condos to market, they are holding steady with prices and even raising them.

In Mississauga City Centre, we helped to launch a condominium that was sold 95 per cent within a short time, and when the remaining suites were released, they sold out online at prices that were the same as they were in January and February. And believe me, builders are bringing new projects to market. At In2ition Realty, we are gearing up for six upcoming launches this summer. We’re experiencing high call volumes from real estate agents and we have huge registry lists. People are looking, COVID or not.

Also, although some existing lowrise inventory may have dipped a little in price, this seems to have been short-lived, as we’re now back to pre-COVID pricing and in some cases – even higher. For some buyers, a lowrise home is the perfect choice. Again, however, pent-up demand, our aging population and continued immigration to Toronto and the GTA will only make condos even more desirable in the future – and rising prices will reflect that.

Debbie Cosic is founder and CEO of In2ition Realty, an innovative real estate brokerage that specializes in project marketing, merchandising and selling of new home communities and condominiums. In2ition assists clients with land assembly, market research, sales and marketing, design services, broker relations and leasing and property management. in2ition.ca

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Our economic recovery will be led by building and development

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Our economic recovery will be led by building and development

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on Canada, Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area, and my heart goes out to residents of the GTA who have been affected or lost loved ones to this terrible virus.

Millions of people were let go from their jobs and the economy has all but ground to a halt. As governments at all levels begin to look at recovery, they will need to focus on the GTA. Our region is the heart of Canada’s economy, accounting for 20 per cent of Canada’s GDP and 50 per cent of Ontario’s GDP.

The residential and commercial building and development industry, and the professional renovations industry, are major contributors to economic activity in the region. Collectively, they employ more than 360,000 people in the GTA, paying $22 billion in wages and generating $42 billion in investment value annually. Our industry is well-positioned to play a significant role in the recovery of our region, Ontario, and Canada. Working with our colleagues at both the Ontario and Canadian Home Builders’ Associations, we have put together a roadmap for simple changes that can have a big impact.

Our industry submitted a report to the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee that includes 19 recommendations to all three levels of government to get our economy back on track. These recommendations will create an immediate and significant impact to consumers and businesses, and will involve little to no new money from government. Proposed measures include suspending the Canadian mortgage stress test, transferring mortgage tenancy to the date of occupancy for new condominiums, eliminating security deposits for the Ontario land transfer tax on affiliated transfers, and freezing municipal increases to property tax reassessments and development charges. Many people have lost their jobs in all sectors of the economy.

Many projects have been delayed, constraining consumer and industrial/commercial liquidity. Government coffers are also not bottomless, which is why they need to focus on liquidity and freeing up funds that would otherwise be stuck in such things as municipal agreements (refundable deposits paid by developers) and replacing them with surety bonds. These changes can be transitory until such time as we can all fully adjust to the new normal, or when a vaccine for the coronavirus is widely available.

Other suggestions include reinstating home improvement tax credits for homeowners to support ageing-in-place improvements or energy retrofits. In the past, these programs have paid for themselves, since they cut out the black and grey renovation market.

I encourage you to read the full report at bild.ca and support us as we work toward recovery in the GTA, Ontario and Canada through residential and commercial construction and professional renovation.

Dave Wilkes is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD).

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Construction industry to lead post-COVID-19 economic recovery

Construction industry to lead post-COVID-19 economic recovery

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Construction industry to lead post-COVID-19 economic recovery

The new home construction industry is well-positioned to play a significant role in the post-COVID-19 recovery in the GTA, Ontario and Canada, according to the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD).

“Working with our colleagues at the Ontario and Canadian Home Builders’ Associations, we have put together a roadmap for simple changes that will have a great impact to the economy,” says David Wilkes, president and CEO of BILD.

The CHBA, OHBA and BILD submitted a 20-point plan to the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee to help kick-start the Canadian economy post pandemic.

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on Canada, Ontario, and the GTA, the groups say. Millions of people lost their jobs and the economy has all but ground to a halt. As governments at all levels start to look at recovery, they will need to focus on the GTA, as the region is the engine of Canada’s economy, accounting for 20 per cent of Canada’s and 50 per cent of Ontario’s GDP.

The residential and commercial building and development industry, and the professional renovations industry, are major contributors to economic activity in the region. Collectively, they employ more than 360,000 people in the GTA, paying $22 billion in wages and generating $42 billion in investment value annually.

Unlock investments

“With all levels of government facing financial challenges and funding requests, we are providing ideas that will unlock consumer and industry construction investments that will kick-start the economy,” says Joe Vaccaro, CEO of the OHBA.

Proposed measures include transferring mortgage tenancy to the date of occupancy for new condominiums, eliminating security deposits for Ontario Land Transfer Tax on affiliated transfers and freezing municipal increases to Property Tax Reassessment and development charges.

Another proposed recommendation is to free up monies that would otherwise be stuck in such things as municipal agreements (refundable deposits paid by developers) and replace them with surety bonds, freeing up billions in potential investments that otherwise would have been parked.

Stimulate growth

“To help stimulate economic growth and keep Canadians properly housed, we will need to foster housing supply while also ensuring demand-side measures are adjusted to reflect the times,” says Kevin Lee, CEO, CHBA. “Accordingly, we recommend 30-year amortizations for insured mortgages, and adjusting the mortgage stress test for both insured and uninsured mortgages. Removing the GST on new homes purchased for 2020 and 2021 would also be a timely catalyst for new home construction.”

RELATED READING

GTA homebuilders upbeat about post-COVID-19 recovery

Municipalities and building industry working together now to ensure housing essential after COVID-19

 

 

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Toronto still one of the fastest growing cities in North America – even with the impact of COVID-19

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Toronto still one of the fastest growing cities in North America – even with the impact of COVID-19

Toronto was the fastest growing metropolitan area in Canada and the U.S. last year, overtaking Dallas-Fort Worth Arlington, Tex., according to new data from the Centre for Urban Research and Land Development (CUR) at Ryerson University.

Downtown Toronto
Photo: Wayne Karl

And even though Toronto will take a hit as a result of COVID-19, it is still expected to be one of the top cities in North America.

Toronto was the only Canadian metropolitan area in the top five; Montreal was sixth and Vancouver twelfth.

Metro Toronto grew by 127,575 persons in 2019, outpacing Dallas-Fort Worth Arlington, which grew by 117,380 persons, to become the fastest growing metropolitan area in all of the U.S. and Canada.

Short-term impact

The research for this latest report was conducted prior to COVID, covering the period of July 2018 to July 2019, so the results are likely to change over the next year, CUR says.

“COVID is estimated to drop immigration (to Toronto) by half this year,” Diana Petramala, senior CUR researcher told Condo Life. “Therefore, this will likely push Toronto down the list of fastest growing cities.

“Toronto’s main strength is immigration, whereas places like Dallas are benefiting from millennials leaving more expensive areas like New York. Toronto, however, will continue to do better than New York, Chicago and Los Angeles – areas that are seeing large outflows of millennials in search of more affordable housing and jobs.”

The impact of COVID in Toronto will be short term, Petramala adds. “Immigration is still allowed, so as other countries move out of lockdown and processing offices open up and airlines start flying again, you will like see a snap back in immigration.”

Outpacing New York

Toronto, in fact, had almost three times the population growth from immigration as New York in 2019. Both regions experienced a loss in resident population to other areas (domestic net migration), but the rate was four times faster in New York.

In terms of population growth on a city basis, as opposed to the metropolitan area (GTA), Toronto (45,742 persons) and Montreal (31,565) represented the two fastest growing cities in all of the U.S. and Canada over the study period. Overall, Canadian cities represented 11 of the top 20 central cities in the U.S. and Canada in population growth, with Calgary, Ottawa and Edmonton placing fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.

While the city of Toronto’s population grew by 45,742, New York City’s decreased by 53,264.


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In Conversation With… Debbie Cosic, Founder & CEO In2ition Realty

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In Conversation With… Debbie Cosic, Founder & CEO In2ition Realty

New-home buyers, builders and marketers had big plans this spring. Then COVID-19 struck and things changed. Consumers went into a holding pattern, and developers and sales outfits had to figure out what to do.

For In2ition Realty of Mississauga, Ont., a prominent new home and condo marketing firm, that meant pivoting quickly to online and virtual sales. Founder and CEO Debbie Cosic explains how the company responded – and how she sees the market post-pandemic.

How’s the business of marketing and selling new homes and condos during these challenging days?

To say the least, challenging. All of our sales offices are (at press time) currently closed and have converted to online sales. We have been running virtual sales offices across the GTA, and at any given time we have about 20 sites operating.

Fortunately, we’re used to this, as we’re a pretty tech savvy company. This whole challenge has made us kick everything up a notch. We believe the online new home sales world is definitely here to stay. We’ve had to change our method of operations.

We’re still very busy internally with Zoom and conference calls, with developers a couple times a week on various projects. We had 24 sites to launch in 2020, and just before COVID started we basically got two out of the gate. So that means 22 still to launch. Will they all launch this year? We hope so. None of them have been cancelled. We’re hoping that these delays will just toggle things into a fall market, or some of them into the summer market, fall, winter or early next year.

How are consumers responding to virtual sales? Buying a home is obviously a very significant purchase, so to do so without being able to go to the development site…

Even during the shutdown, we have been doing deals consistently. Buyers may be a little slower to consummate the deal, but it always surprises me how technologically savvy everybody is. We’re all online with Facebook or LinkedIn or Instagram. Young or old, people are connected to the computer, they’re online shopping or reading the news every day. So, if you make it simple, which is what we’ve done, using Zoom or FaceTime, our team walks them through all the steps, and we have the presentations ready online. Sometimes it may take a little longer, maybe a second or third meeting, but we make it extremely easy for them to be able to navigate.

We all got some good news when the province announced that construction could resume on May 19. How do you think the market will react – will it quickly lead to renewed buyer interest and activity?

It will spur our whole industry to start moving. Everybody’s sort of gearing up. We have a master blueprint on how to reopen our sales offices safely when the time comes, such as following the government precautions for social distancing, and otherwise doing things to make them feel safe.

We have regular calls on the status of our developments, to get a pulse on the market and feedback from clientele. Some buyers are pushing us to open, we’re getting requests regarding particular projects and we still have people in the pipeline. Do 100 per cent of interested buyers still want to proceed? It’s a new normal now, so we just want to get out there and start selling, whether it’s 80 per cent volume or 50 or 20… We don’t know that yet.

When the restrictions are fully lifted, do you foresee buyers easing their way back into the market, or will there be more of a rush because there might be some pent-up demand?

It may take some time, but I believe things will return to a normal marketplace. In 2019, we had a banner market with 76,500 pre-construction sales in high- and lowrise combined. The first couple of months of 2020, we launched two projects and we basically blew through them, and within a couple of weeks we sold out beyond our construction thresholds. That, we are not expecting, and our brokers are not expecting either. We just believe that we’re going to return to a normal balanced market. And we’re fine with that. Instead of us selling out a development in a couple of weekends, it may take six or nine months or even a year to get to preconstruction thresholds. We’re fine with that.

We’re anticipating a new normal, even in the way we conduct sales, in that we’re not going to be able to have big groups in our sales offices, and these big events that create a lot of hype. We know that it’s going to be a more tempered sale because only smaller groups can come in. As long as you manage expectations, we’re all happy to go back to work and start doing some sales. That’s the important thing.

How do you think homebuyer intentions may change? Do you foresee people buying smaller homes or buying condos instead of lowrise homes or buying more with friends and family?

I think intentions are going to change differently for different segments of the population. Some buyers may enjoy being closer to family, or they’ll prefer a multi-family residence, or a loft upstairs from their parents, or splitting a home with a sibling.

Some experts believe there will be a notable and growing segment of buyers who prefer the bigger homes, larger lots and more space, given everything the pandemic has taught us about being apart from others. Supply and affordability issues in the GTA may preclude that, but areas outside the GTA – Kitchener-Waterloo or Hamilton, for example – may represent opportunities. What are your thoughts?

Definitely. In recent years, areas outside the downtown core have become more desirable…the 905s and some of the 519 areas and even in 705, and that will continue to grow.

I also believe others will migrate back into the city because they will not want to endure public transit, because of concerns over the lack of social distancing.

Do you see any other fundamental changes either for builders or buyers? For example, working from home may become more prevalent, so will home designs further change to accommodate more places people can work separately in the home?

I definitely believe that. Just in my own experience, I have a house with a den, and I have a desk in my bedroom, each of the kids have a desk in their bedrooms, and it’s still not enough. They’re being schooled from home, I’m working from home, the other adults in my house are working from home… We’re all looking for that quiet space, whether it’s a room in the basement, a den in their next house, or a flex space or solarium in a larger condo.

There will also be a portion of population that will want to age in place, so we’ll have to have housing that can accommodate that.

New home supply in the GTA has long been a very serious issue. During the pandemic, governments have clearly shown that when they want to, they can act quickly. How hopeful are you that such legislative agility – clearing red tape and shortening development approval processes – can extend beyond COVID-19?

I’ve been preaching for years that a lot of the legacy supply has been sold off, especially in lowrise and midrise homes. But governments really need to look at the way they’re allowing approvals to occur – not just the speed, but the type of product they’re allowing. They should be allowing more multi-family residences in our subdivisions and communities. I’m not saying we should turn a whole subdivision of 40-ft. lots into triplexes, but you should allow some of these build forms, because they’re desirable, affordable and something we really need.

Instead of a 3,000-sq.-ft. home, why not build a 2000-sq.-ft. home with 1,000-sq.- ft. loft or secondary suite? That kind of thing. Some of this is allowed, but I really think it has to be speeded up, and fast, so on a dime, a developer can change a planning application to have these different types of build forms woven into these communities.

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And on a personal note …

If I wasn’t in the new home and condo marketing business, I would: Be working on Wall street as a venture capitalist. I love the energy and challenges of that industry, and I love NYC.

My greatest inspiration in this business is: My life partner Ralph, who has taught me to believe in the power of the universe and the power of positive thinking. He has the attitude of “some will, some won’t, others always do.” And if something bad happens, don’t fret over it, learn from it and let it go. Something bigger and better is around the corner.

My greatest reward is: Spending time with my loved ones and surrounding myself with the wonderful group of people who work with us. I’m also grateful this industry has given me not only the financial means but also the time to help people less fortunate than I am. I love and thrive on our charitable endeavours.

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