Tag Archives: Wayne Karl

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In Conversation With… Bob Finnigan, Principal and COO Housing, The Heron Group of Companies

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In Conversation With… Bob Finnigan, Principal and COO Housing, The Heron Group of Companies

Homebuilders and their associations are only as good as their executive leadership. Bob Finnigan, currently COO Housing at The Heron Group of Companies, who was recently named CHBA Member of the Year, has led them all – local, provincial and national bodies. With such unique and extensive expertise, Finnigan shares his insights on recent industry and government initiatives, and what’s to come to address issues facing the industry and homebuyers.

Condo Life: You were recently named CHBA Member of the Year. How does that feel, as an established industry veteran with so many years in so many important capacities?

Bob Finnigan: When they first made the announcement, my initial reaction was, ‘Wow, this person has done a lot of work.’ Then I realized it was me! It’s a very nice surprise, and I’m very honoured for being recognized in this way by my peers. I have been volunteering for a long time, and the years have passed very quickly – so the workload seems normal to me – but when it is highlighted, you realize that, in fact, your efforts do make a difference.

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CL: What do you think was the chief reason or accomplishment that earned you such accolades?

BF: I would think that in addition to the years of previous work, including serving on the boards as president of all three levels of homebuilders’ associations, it was the additional efforts I had put in over the last year to ensure that the items I have been working on will be seen to fruition. Those of us who serve on the boards do so in order to better the industry on an ongoing basis. We all feel strongly about what we do, and we know what needs to be changed to continually improve the situation for builders and homebuyers.

CL: How are you applying this now award-winning expertise in your current capacity?

BF: The award is great, but essentially, nothing has changed for me where my work is concerned. My passion is still to bring new houses to people who are proud to call them home. In a way, the work on the associations is an extension of what I do every day at Heron and Herity.

CL: Ontario recently unveiled its Housing Supply Action Plan. What’s your assessment of it?

BF: I applaud the provincial government for moving this way. It is definitely a step in the right direction, but a lot of things have to happen before the program will work. My assessment is, let’s see how it rolls out. Things change all the time, and we have already seen the program evolve with new announcements. As long as we keep moving in this direction, the results should be positive and good.

CL: What are its key strengths, and where does it come up short?

BF: Its key strengths include cutting red tape to make it easier to build a variety of types of housing in the right places, and hopefully making housing more affordable in the process. Paperwork and layers of permits, approvals and development charges add greatly to the cost of new homes. This plan looks at the situation in a pragmatic way. Up until now, the choice of homes in specific areas has been restrictive. Obviously, the government has been listening to what we in the industry have been saying for years. Now, it will be interesting to see how long the rollout and implementation take.

CL: In its budget in March, the federal government, by many industry accounts, failed to truly tackle some of the key challenges in the housing industry. What do you think Ottawa should have done, and should focus on making happen, going forward?

BF: The federal government’s mortgage stress test that came into place in January 2018 has been a huge problem for homebuyers across the country. A lot has changed since then, and in the two markets the stress test was designed for (Vancouver and Toronto), it has certainly cooled things – but it also had strong negative effects and hurt the rest of the country.

Sales are down in many markets, and even if they are not, people who could have purchased prior to January of 2018 with the very prudent lending rules the banks had in place, are now shut out of the market or have to get additional financial help. Even worse, many have turned to unregulated lenders that don’t have to adhere to the rules, and that charge a much higher rate than regulated lenders. The potential homebuyer loses both ways. We had hoped that the government would recognize these market changes and look to relax the stress test for longer-term mortgages – five years or more – but it did not.

In addition, we asked that they reinstate the 30-year amortization period, again making the qualifying payments easier to afford. It does not create any additional risk; it just allows more people to realize the dream of homeownership.

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What Ottawa did do was to announce additional RRSP funds that can be taken out to purchase a home, which is very good, and also a CMHC program that will help bring homeownership within the financial reach of some purchasers. The concern with the CMHC program is that it is complicated, the specifics of which have not been fully disclosed yet and won’t be until the fall, and it is capped, so is limited in scope.

As such, we continue to call for the stress test reduction and the 30-year amortization as an instant and no-cost solution to the many Canadians wanting to get into homeownership. If they did this, we would see many more Canadians come into the market.

CL: Between the federal and provincial government involvement, plus more on a municipal level, and actions such as BILD’s Building Answers public awareness campaign, the homebuilding industry is really involved with all stakeholders. Where is all this going? What’s next? What else needs to happen?

BF: All three levels of homebuilders’ associations are working more closely than ever before. Of course, technology helps keep us connected on a nationwide level so we are all on the same page, wherever we are in the country. We all have the same concerns, but on different scales. One thing we agree on is that housing affordability is the number one issue facing young Canadians. Our collective associations’ goal is to drive this message home to all three levels of government. The province seems to have gotten onside with that goal, with the recent Housing Supply Action Plan. Municipalities still need to work harder to make Development Charges more reasonable and to cut red tape. The federal government has different pressures to deal with, but making it more difficult for people to purchase with actions such as mortgage stress test is totally counterproductive.

AND ON A PERSONAL NOTE…

When I’m not at the office: I never sit still. I try to lead a healthy lifestyle. I play hockey, golf, ski, bike, work around the house. I love it all. I also love to travel, which helps to keep me active.

The accomplishment or achievement I am most proud of in my career in homebuilding is: I’d have to say working with my colleagues at Heathwood, Heron and Herity – a group that has stayed together for decades. To me, these people are family members, and it shows in the communities we build. I am also extremely proud of helping to establish The Mikey Network in memory of our late friend and colleague Mike Salem. That we have helped to save many lives in his name is a true privilege.

What’s next for you, personally or professionally? While I am not on any association board officially, I am still active in the industry by serving on the board of Tarion and helping out when asked. What’s next for me both personally and professionally is to continue what I’ve been doing for years – a good balance of work and play!

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Groundbreaking at Kingdom Developments' KSquare Condos in Scarborough

Kingdom Developments breaks ground at KSquare Condos in Scarborough

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Kingdom Developments breaks ground at KSquare Condos in Scarborough

Kingdom Developments Inc. has broken ground at its Canadian flagship, mixed-use condominium development, KSquare Condos, just a month after launching sales for the project.

“We’re thrilled with the opportunity to start construction just one month after our sales launch,” says Eric Jensen, Kingdom Developments’ vice-president, projects. “This speaks volumes to the success of KSquare Condos and the significant demand the project commands from both end-users and investors who recognize the incredible value and ownership opportunity that KSquare presents.”

KSquare Condos is located in the heart of central Scarborough at Kennedy Rd. and Sheppard Ave. E., an area currently experiencing a major transformation in new city planning and rapid development growth.

Major transformation

“As one of the first major developments in the city’s most dynamic neighbourhood, KSquare Condos is an exciting addition to Scarborough, an area that’s naturally poised for a residential density boost,” says Ward 22 Scarborough-Agincourt Councillor, Jim Karygiannis.

With more than 485,000 sq. ft. of planned development comprising of retail, office and mixed-use residential, KSquare presents a strong investment and ownership opportunity, the company says. Over the next decade, KSquare Condos is expected to kick-start rapid growth in population density and spur new job opportunities in this already fast-growing neighbourhood.

Groundbreaking at Kingdom Developments' KSquare Condos in Scarborough
Groundbreaking at Kingdom Developments’ KSquare Condos in Scarborough. Left to right, Raymond Chau, sales and marketing manager, Kingdom Developments; Danny Tito, executive vice-president, Skygrid; Jacob Ma, president, Kingdom Developments; Jim Karygiannis, councillor, City of Toronto; Jason Heidman president, Skygrid; Gary Chen, senior project manager, Kingdom Developments. Photo: AGI Studio

Across the rail corridor from KSquare, the City’s ambitious plans for Agincourt Mall will create retail and office jobs in a dynamic community of new shops, restaurants, cafes, offices, parks and a public square. With 10 million sq. ft. of office space, Scarborough has seen impressive job growth over the last decade, and is home to the head offices of top Fortune 500 companies including Toyota, IBM, Compaq, BMO, HSBC, Sony, Volvo and Lenovo.

‘Kennedy Central’

Dubbed “Kennedy Central,” this area between Kennedy Rd. and Hwy. 401, will soon benefit from improved planned transit service with the proposed $5-billion plan to build a three-stop subway extension in Scarborough with stops at Lawrence East, Scarborough Town Centre and McCowan Rd.

With the existing Agincourt GO station to the north and projected SmartTrack and Sheppard East LRT stations nearby, residents will be able to connect to downtown in minutes. Drivers will also appreciate easy access across the GTA via Hwy. 401, which is directly to the south of KSquare Condos.

Designed by IBI Group with interiors by Tomas Pearce Interior Design, KSquare Condos features two sleek, elegant glass towers rising 36 and 39 storeys above a shared seven-storey podium.

Eric Jensen, vice-president, projects, Kingdom Canada
Eric Jensen, vice-president, projects, Kingdom Canada

KSquare features a wide range of suite types and sizes including one-, two- and three-bedroom layouts. Prices start from $372,900 and early buyers can also take advantage of a free parking space included in their purchase price.

“We have a really diverse group of condo units and sizes,” Jensen told Condo Life. “On the one end, we’ve got the students at (University of Toronto Scarborough) that are looking for a small one-bedroom, but at the other end of the spectrum, we’ve got a number of three-bedroom plus den corner units for full families.”

Signature amenities

KSquare will not only be home to Toronto’s largest private condo library and study area, residents will also have access to amenities such as two private music rehearsal rooms, state-of-the-art gym, pet grooming spa, kids zone, 24-hour concierge, an expansive party room with two dining areas and a rooftop terrace offering panoramic neighbourhood views.

“The real highlights are… the seventh-floor outdoor terrace is spectacular, it’s really like having a taste of a forest or High Park that you can just step out into,” Jensen says. “The private library is probably the crown jewel of them all. The versatility that this type of space offers… you can go there to study, there are breakout rooms, quiet spaces… it all ties into the library, and we’ve got moveable panels to open up spaces.”

Construction now underway at Kingdom Developments' KSquare Condos in Scarborough
Construction now underway at Kingdom Developments’ KSquare Condos in Scarborough

“The lobby itself is very unique, if for no other reason than its size,” Brian Woodrow, senior designer, Tomas Pearce, told Condo Life. “It’s almost a full double height, has a fireplace lounge, a business/tech lounge, so its broken into two areas and its meant to draw people together in a work, live and communicative environment.”

Kingdom Developments gave Tomas Pearce the freedom to execute its ideas, Woodrow says. “They came to us with these ideas… I wouldn’t call them prerequisites because they gave us a free hand, which is very unusual, and allowed us to develop these thoughts and notions from our design standard point of view.”

The KSquare community will be surrounded by nature and greenspace. Bordering the building, South Linear Park boasts over half an acre of parkland and trails and the building’s grounds will also feature lush landscaping that will weave into a central courtyard to the east of the main entrance.

Register at ksquarecondos.com or visit the Presentation Gallery located at 2035 Kennedy Rd., open Monday to Thursday noon to 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Fridays.

RELATED READING

KSquare Condos is the flagship of Kingdom Canada coming to Agincourt

Luxury condos coming to Scarborough with KSquare Condos

 

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Etobicoke is development central, literally

Etobicoke is development central, literally

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Etobicoke is development central, literally

In real estate terms, an area in transition is a good thing, since it generally refers to progress, development and things being on the upswing.

Count Etobicoke as just one of those areas.

Really? Etobicoke, that large, narrow north-south swath that stretches from Lake Ontario up to Steeles Ave., and shouldered by Humber River on the east and Etobicoke Creek on the west? With large, well established and affluent neighbourhoods?

Yes, one and the same – the west end locale with the funny name people often mispronounce (FYI the K is silent) – that wasn’t exactly in need of an upgrade.

Blessed with a strong natural location due to its proximity to downtown Toronto, easy access to the QEW and Hwys. 401, 427 and 27, the Bloor subway line and several major TTC and GO Transit hubs, Etobicoke has long been a sought-after residential location.

North Etobicoke, for its easy highway access, plethora of commercial ventures and lower priced real estate. Etobicoke Centre, for its proximity to the Islington-City Centre West central business district, and exclusive neighbourhoods with large, treed properties such as the Kingsway. And South Etobicoke, or Etobicoke Lakeshore, for its prime lakefront location and areas such as Humber Bay and Mystic Pointe.

Do south

But when it comes to new condo development and buying opportunities, it’s all about the south. Well, mostly the south, until very recently.

Etobicoke Lakeshore was the first to transition, with the former motel strip at Lakeshore and Park Lawn giving way over the last several years to dozens of new projects. Today it is one of Toronto’s hottest new condo destinations. Your location here is right on Lake Ontario, with outstanding views of downtown Toronto, along the Martin Goodman Trail for cycling and running, and close to the Gardiner to commute into the city and to the QEW to head west. TTC bus and streetcar service is quite literally at your front door.

Now the condo boom is spreading north, into the central part of Etobicoke with new developments along Dundas St. W. between Islington and the 427, and several more planned for the south side of Dundas just west of Kipling subway. New condos are also springing up along the 427 near Burhamthorpe, appealing to those who prefer highway access over transit.

Under construction

Indeed, in Etobicoke Centre, construction will be the order of the day. For years. Six Points intersection, known locally as “Spaghetti Junction,” is a complicated interchange where Kipling, Bloor and Dundas all intersect. To support future development in the area, the City is spending tens of millions of dollars over the next two years to modernize the road and surrounding infrastructure. Plans include improved pedestrian and cycle access, wider sidewalks, more trees, street furniture and improved access to Kipling subway. The station itself is being expanded into a regional transit hub to link the TTC with GO Transit trains and buses, as well as Mississauga Mi-Way bus lines.

Location, location, location

Bordered on the south by Lake Ontario, on the east by the Humber River, on the west by Etobicoke Creek and Mississauga, and on the north by Steeles Ave. W.; population 365,143.

Key landmarks

• Centennial Park

• Etobicoke Waterfront

• Humber River

• Sherway Gardens

• The Old Mill

Select condo developments

293 The Kingsway by Benvenuto Group

300 The East Mall by KingSett Capital

327 Royal York Rd. by Vandyk Group

689 The Queensway by Parallax Development Corp.

1197 The Queensway by Marlin Spring

Empire Phoenix by Empire Communities

Parkland on Eglinton West by Shannex Inc.

Queensway Park by Urban Capital

Valhalla Town Square by Edilcan Development Corp.

Vita Two on the Lake by Mattamy Homes


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First-time homebuyers catch a break with slowing home price growth

First-time homebuyers catch a break with slowing home price growth

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First-time homebuyers catch a break with slowing home price growth

We have some good news and we have some bad news, prospective homebuyers in Canada.

First, the bad news: According to the latest Royal LePage House Price Survey, home price growth in many of Canada’s real estate markets is slowing. This means, if you’re looking to buy a home, its value may not grow as much as it has recently. The good news, however, is that this same slowing price growth presents a window of opportunity for first-time homebuyers to get while you can.

The price of a home in Canada increased just 2.7 per cent year-over-year to $621,575 in the first quarter of 2019, Royal LePage says, well below the long-term norm of approximately five per cent. When broken out by housing type, the median price of a two-storey home rose 2.6 per cent year-over-year to $729,553, while the median price of a bungalow rose 1.1 per cent to $513,497. Condominiums remained the fastest growing housing type, rising 5.4 per cent year-over-year to $447,260.

Looking ahead to the second quarter, Royal LePage expects national home prices to stay relatively flat throughout the 2019 spring market, with the national aggregate price of a home increasing just one per cent over the next three months. Meanwhile, the housing markets in several larger Canadian cities have shown noticeable signs of slowing, with nearly half of the regions in Royal LePage’s Quarterly Forecast anticipating quarter-over-quarter price declines.

But these are national numbers, and as we’ve written before, there really is no such thing as a Canadian housing market.

But more on this later.

Silver lining

Early in 2018, Canada experienced the most significant housing correction since the 2008 financial crisis. Markets showed signs of recovery late in the year, yet the figures for early 2019 suggest that the market has once again slowed.

We are expecting this to be a sluggish year overall in Canada’s residential real estate market, with the hangover from the 2018 market correction and weaker economic growth acting as a drag on home price appreciation, balanced by lower for longer interest rates,” says Phil Soper, president and CEO, Royal LePage. “There is a silver lining here. This slowdown gives buyers, and first-time buyers in particular, an opportunity to buy real estate in our country’s largest cities.”

In the federal budget tabled by Finance Minister Bill Morneau in March, the Canadian government announced three new or enhanced housing programs. The First-Time Home Buyer Incentive is a three-year, $1.25-billion shared equity mortgage program whereby  Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) will co-invest up to five per cent of the purchase price of an existing home. Further, for the first time in a decade, there was an increase in the registered retirement savings plan withdrawal limits in the Home Buyers Plan. The increase, from $25,000 to $35,000, was the largest since the program’s inception in 1992. Finally, an additional $10 billion in financing over nine years was earmarked for the construction of purpose-built rental housing.

Real estate is local

Illustrating our point that real estate is local and not national, the GTA housing market is still showing healthy growth.

“The city of Toronto is still one of Canada’s fastest appreciating real estate markets,” says Soper. “Detached home prices are rising in line with inflation, but condominium prices are increasing at near double-digit levels as vertical living has become the primary new-build option in this growing, world-class city.”

Median home prices in Toronto rose 5.8 per cent year-over-year in the first quarter of 2019. Two-storey home prices and bungalow home prices rose 4.8 per cent and 2.5 per cent year-over-year, respectively, while condo prices rose 9.3 per cent year-over-year. The overall GTA’s aggregate home price rose 3.4 per cent over the same period.

Real estate values in Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe region continued to appreciate at a brisk clip, as local economies grew and workers from the GTA looked to trade commuting time for lower house prices. Niagara-St. Catharines, Hamilton and Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge aggregate prices were up by 6.9 per cent, 6.3 per cent and 8.9 per cent, respectively.


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In Conversation With Vince Santino, Senior Vice-President, Development Aoyuan Canada

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In Conversation With Vince Santino, Senior Vice-President, Development Aoyuan Canada

Condos are king in Toronto and, increasingly, elsewhere in the GTA, and one shining example is M2M, an 8.6-acre master-planned community from Aoyuan at Yonge and Finch in North York. When complete, M2M will be a fully-integrated, live-workplay neighbourhood with 1,650 residences, a community centre, daycare, 180,000 sq. ft. of retail and office space and a new public park.

Developer Aoyuan International set out with a master plan and smartly designed suite layouts to provide a variety of living options for families at different stages of life.

Vince Santino

We spoke with Vince Santino, senior vice-president of development for Aoyuan Canada, for an update on this signature project, and what might lie ahead for the company.

Condo Life: How are things coming along at M2M?

Vince Santino: Sales of our first phase began in June 2018 with a very successful launch, selling out the north tower. We released the south tower in February 2019, and the response was the same. We’re very pleased with the results to date. People want to be in North York.

We’re on track to begin construction in late Q2 of this year, or early Q3, and we’re looking forward to receiving our first homeowners for our first phase, which includes both towers and our lower suites, in late Q2 of 2022.

CL: What is it about North York that is so appealing?

VS: For one, it’s still within the 416, and when buyers are looking for a condo, they’re looking for convenience and being close to amenities. North York offers it all. Where we are situated, it’s very close to transit, the TTC and GO Transit, but also very accessible to all the major highways.

CL: Who are the typical buyers for this project?

VS: We’ve seen a lot of end users. They’ve been the majority of our buyers, whether they’re young couples, young families or downsizers… many of them have grown up and raised families in the area. They love it and don’t want to leave.

CL: What have you learned about development – delivering on your customers’ needs and wants – since launching this project?

VS: People want convenience. Even though they’ve made the decision to move into a condominium space, they want amenities that they don’t need to necessarily get into a car to get to. And they want choice, in the type of suites, with efficient design where space isn’t wasted, and to maximize utility at a price they’re willing to pay. They’re happy to pay for a bigger suite… our larger suites, our two-bedrooms plus den or three-bedrooms… we’ve designed them very efficiently. So, for a younger family, or someone who’s downsizing, they don’t feel like they’re sacrificing by getting into a condo.

CL: At M2M, you’re not just building a condo, you’re building an entire community, all with easy access to transit, which is increasingly key these days. How import ant are all of these inclusions in appealing to family living in condos?

VS: We’ve got more than 100,000 sq. ft. of office space planned, 8 0,000 sq. ft. of retail… that gives any family all the necessities, literally at their doorstep. Our site is complemented by really good restaurants, shopping, proximity to schools, universities, and we’ve got a future daycare conveniently located within the development that gives the younger families a key service that helps reduce the stress of the day-to-day commute and a busy family life.

The community centre, along with the public park that we’re going to construct as part of the development, provides families with options for better quality of life year-round, just footsteps from you. And because you’re in the 416, you’re close to transit, reducing your commute time, all of that time can be spent enjoying these amenities, spending that time with your family. It isn’t always so conveniently accessible in other developments, so this is really a one-of-a-kind opportunity, because of the sheer size and the amenities we’re providing.

CL: How do you foresee the condo market in that area performing in the next three to five years?

VS: We’re feeling very, very bullish. If you look at what’s been happening in the midtown area, Yonge and Eglinton, and up to Yonge and Sheppard, this is just a natural progression. We’ve seen a lot more launches in North York in the last year, and more coming into the market this year, and the area is starting to undergo a renascence, and over time people are going to continue to choose to be in North York. It tells us that buyers still want to be within the 416, but they have no problem not necessarily being in the downtown core, as long as they can get to it and the rest of the GTA conveniently.

CL: Affordability is a key concern for homebuyers in Toronto. How is Aoyuan addressing that issue, in how it plans and delivers its communities?

VS: The reality is, in the last little while, traditional lowrise homes have become more unaffordable and more out of reach for families. For us, providing well sized, even of the smaller units, are designed with the utility and growing families in mind. It provides people with an alternative. As for M2M itself, delivering those things, all in a masterplanned community, and not just a couple of towers in the middle of nowhere, it’s a great example… we’re trying to give people everything they need, moving into a space that isn’t perhaps traditional for younger families.

We’re taking the opportunity to intensify in an area of the 416 in North York where people want to live because of all of the existing amenities, and all those other elements. It gives our customers a lifestyle that offers it all, really – easy access to schools, transit, universities… people don’t feel like they’re giving up a lot, but the value they get by living in this area makes the affordability challenge a little easier to bear, especially for a young couple or young family moving into their first home.

CL: For some, affordability is a key reason for choosing a condo, but what are some of the other reasons families might consider a condo in the city, versus a lowrise home in the suburbs?

VS: A condo in the city helps with the cost of transportation, as it’s a significant expense for any household, so with the option of public transit, it means families may not need to purchase a vehicle, or a second vehicle. You’re reducing the commute time, and for families working in the city, it allows them more time to spend with their children, parents or grandparents. The city provides families with a lot of choice – where they shop, work and play – and there’s everything around, especially where we are in our setting.

CL: What have you learned – be it about development in Toronto or family-centric condos – from M2M, that you will use in future projects?

VS: Listen to the needs of your buyers. It’s refreshing to try things that maybe haven’t been at the forefront of condo development in the past. There’s a significant segment that wants living in the sky to provide the options, flexibility, amenities and opportunities that in the past attracted families to traditional lowrise homes, and the more we’re able to build those amenities in the sky, it becomes more and more attractive.

CL: What’s next for Aoyuan in the GTA?

VS: The future is bright for us here. We’re not limiting ourselves to condos only, and it speaks to our mantra of building a healthy lifestyle in trying to build complete communities. We’re looking at all kinds of other opportunities across the GTA.

Certainly, we’ve got Phase 2 at M2M coming, and we’re going to continue to build on what we’ve seen has been very successful for Phase 1, but we’re not limiting ourselves to one building form or type. We’re looking at a lot of opportunities, in and around the 416 and the 905 as well. Stay tuned.

PORTFOLIO

M2M Condos
Yonge and Finch
Now selling

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Mississauga is standing out from the crowd

Mississauga is standing out from the crowd

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Mississauga is standing out from the crowd

Mississauga has always been a city of noteworthy accomplishments, from its inception as a city in 1974 combining the former townships of Lakeview, Cooksville, Lorne Park, Clarkson, Erindale, Sheridan, Dixie, Meadowvale Village, Malton, Port Credit and Streetsville; to being home to Canada’s longest-serving mayor, Hazel McCallion, from 1978 to 2014.

And now, literally at the time of writing, the City was hosting a Town Hall on seeking independence from the Region of Peel.

You might expect such a track record of ambition from one of the most populous – and fastest-growing – municipalities in Canada.

Covering a huge swath of land – 288 square kms, 13 km of which front Lake Ontario – Mississauga comprises many distinct neighbourhoods and communities. The former town of Port Credit, for example, once a sleepy little industrial locale, home to the iconic – and smelly – St. Lawrence Starch Co. plant from 1890 to 1990, today is a much sought-after residential area, thanks to its prized waterfront location.

Local histories

Many of these areas host annual festivals that pay respect to local histories. Streetsville, for example, holds its annual Bread and Honey Festival, paying homage to the area’s roots a mill town. And Port Credit’s Mississauga Waterfront Festival and the Southside Shuffle blues and jazz festival display everything that community has to offer.

With McCallion running the show over 12 consecutive terms, until she stepped aside and Bonnie Crombie won the election in 2014, Mississauga was known as a city of growth. McCallion consistently boasted she oversaw among the lowest taxes in Canada and made it easy for companies to do business there. Today, the area is home to more than 60 Fortune 500 companies, including Laura Secord Chocolates, Honeywell Aerospace, Walmart Canada and Kellogg’s Canada.

Succession

As for seeking its independence from Peel, Crombie’s office points to the following as motivation:

Population: Mississauga has the population to warrant becoming an independent city similar to other large municipalities such as Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa.

Stability: Mississauga is fiscally strong, has strong resident support and has the necessary capacity and experience to operate as an independent city.

Municipal service: A number of duplications, barriers and complexities in municipal service delivery could be eliminated if Mississauga became an independent city.

Future city building: As an independent City, Mississauga would have full autonomy to focus on City initiatives related to its future growth and development.

Cost: Mississauga pays 60 per cent of the overall property tax levy, yet owns only 29 per cent of regional roads.

Getting around Mississauga is, well, you are travelling over a vast area, and traffic these days… But Hwys 401, 403, 410 and the QEW all run for stretches through the city, and there’s no shortage of GO Transit and Mississauga MiWay Transit options.

For sports and recreation, again Mississauga is blessed with numerous recreational winter and summer sports leagues with decades of local history. Using the Streetsville example again, the Vic Johnston Community Centre dates back to 1961, and sits adjacent to Memorial Park and the Credit River.

And, following the Credit River down to well, Port Credit, Memorial Arena is another beautiful old barn, sitting adjacent to Memorial Park and facing Lake Ontario. The park itself serves as host location for some of the area’s largest festivals.

Then there’s the Paramount Fine Foods Centre (formerly Hershey Centre), where the Ontario Hockey League’s Mississauga Steelheads play, and which also is home to a number of community rinks.

Location, location, location

More than 288.42 square kms, 13 kms fronting Lake Ontario; bounded by Oakville, Milton, Brampton, Toronto and Lake Ontario

Key landmarks

• Square One Shopping Centre

• Mississauga Celebration Square

• Living Arts Centre

• Paramount Fine Foods Centre

• University of Toronto Mississauga

• Sheridan College Business School

Select condo projects

Aspire Condominiums by Conservatory Group

Daniels City Centre by The Daniels Corporation

Edge Towers by Solmar Development Corp.

Exchange District by Camrost Felcorp

Pinnacle Grand Park 2 by Pinnacle International

TANU Condos by Edenshaw Developments


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Midtown Toronto

Midtown Toronto – where exactly is that?

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Midtown Toronto – where exactly is that?

Mention the neighbourhood Midtown Toronto, and people generally react in one of two ways. “Where exactly is that?? – the inference being that in a growing city of this size, pinpointing where the centre is, well… difficult, to say the least.

And once realizing “Midtown” is roughly defined by Bloor Street to the south, Eglinton Avenue to the north, Bayview to the east and around Dufferin Street to the west, people often think “Old Toronto.”

And in the context of real estate, that means high-priced.

Increasingly accessible

Indeed, with neighbourhoods such as Rosedale, Forest Hill, Deer Park, Summerhill and Yonge & Eglinton, Midtown is generally affluent and exclusive. Signature detached homes in any of these areas can easily run into the multi-million-dollar range.

However, new developments coming on the scene, particularly some landmark highrise condominiums, are making the area increasingly accessible to a variety of residents.

Once commonly known as “Yonge & Eligible,” due to its popularity among young single professionals, Yonge and Eglinton is quickly becoming one of Toronto’s most desirable neighbourhoods, appealing to a variety of lifestyles.

Boasting five-star restaurants, boutiques, diverse retail services, schools and corporate head offices, residents have plenty of options for work and play right out their front door.

Crosstown traffic

If a great midtown location isn’t enough, proximity to transit is also a significant appeal of this area, being right on the Yonge Street subway line. And come 2021, moving about the city will get even easier, with the expected opening of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT.

Slightly off the beaten trail, wander over to nearby Davisville Village, Mount Pleasant Village and Forest Hill Village for a taste of what that Old Toronto was like, still with small, independent shops and nice little parkettes.

Select condo projects

The Eglinton by Menkes Developments

Y&S Condos by Tribute Communities

625 Yonge St. by Edenshaw Developments

e2 Condos by RioCan Living

2128 Yonge St. by Reserve Properties

1 Eglinton East by Davpart Inc.

Line 5 South by Reserve Properties

Location, location, location

Bloor Street to the south, Eglinton Avenue to the north, Bayview Avenue to the east and around Dufferin Street to the west

Key landmarks

  • Yonge Eglinton Centre
  • Casa Loma
  • Spadina Park
  • Forest Hill Village
  • Davisville Village
  • Mount Pleasant Village

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GTA waterfront homes

Budget 2019 comes up short

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Budget 2019 comes up short

GTA waterfront homes

The federal government released the much-anticipated Budget 2019 this week, with homebuyers, builders and others awaiting measures to address housing issues.

And in short, it comes up, well… a little short.

First-time homebuyer help

Much of the housing focus in Budget 2019 was on addressing the needs of first-timers, namely with a new First-Time Home Buyer Incentive.

  • The Incentive would allow eligible first-time homebuyers who have the minimum down payment for an insured mortgage to apply to finance a portion of their home purchase through a shared equity mortgage with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC).
  • About 100,000 first-time buyers would benefit from the Incentive over the next three years.
  • Since no ongoing payments would be required with the Incentive, Canadian families would have lower monthly mortgage payments. For example, if a borrower purchases a new $400,000 home with a five-per-cent down payment and a 10-per-cent CMHC shared equity mortgage ($40,000), the borrower’s total mortgage size would be reduced from $380,000 to $340,000, reducing the borrower’s monthly mortgage costs by as much as $228 per month.
  • CMHC to offer qualified first-time homebuyers a 10-per-cent shared equity mortgage for a newly constructed home or a five-per-cent shared equity mortgage for an existing home. This larger shared equity mortgage for newly constructed homes could help encourage the home construction needed to address some of the housing supply shortages in Canada, particularly in the largest cities.
  • The First-Time Home Buyer Incentive would include eligibility criteria to ensure that the program helps those with legitimate needs, while ensuring that participants are able to afford the homes they purchase. The Incentive would be available to first-time buyers with household incomes of less than $120,000 per year.
  • Budget 2019 also proposes to increase the Home Buyers’ Plan withdrawal limit from $25,000 to $35,000, providing first-time buyers with greater access to their Registered Retirement Savings Plan savings to buy a home.

Noticeably absent from the housing measures was any adjustment to the stress test, which a number of experts say is necessary.

Industry reaction

“The Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) agrees with (Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s) comments that there aren’t enough homes for people to buy or apartments for people to rent,” says Dave Wilkes, president and CEO.

“BILD feels the policies presented in (the) budget are a step in the right direction to help first-time homebuyers. We will continue to advocate for a review of the stress test so that first-time homebuyers can realize the dream of homeownership. Supply challenges still exist and are at the centre of the current unbalanced market, and we call for action on these by the provincial and municipal government.”

Supply challenges in the Greater Golden Horseshoe are serious, and Budget 19 fails to address them.

“This was a re-election budget that didn’t move the dial for new-home buyers in the GTA,” Richard Lyall, president of the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) told HOMES Publishing. “While increasing RRSP borrowing for first-time homebuyers is helpful, creating The First-Time Homebuyer Incentive at a maximum of $500,000 doesn’t help many Torontonians or GTA residents.”

The Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) had been recommending a shared appreciation mortgage approach for some time, as a tool to help those who can’t get into homeownership but have the means to pay rent.

The modification to the RRSP Home Buyers’ Plan will help get Canadians into their first home, but will also act as a burden because the loan has to be repaid within 15 years, including a minimum of 1/15th per year.

“This means that, in the years following their home purchase, a homeowner has the additional financial responsibility of repaying their RRSP,” says James Laird, co-founder of Ratehub Inc. and president of CanWise Financial.

Important details of the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive program have yet to be released. For example, says Laird, it remains unclear whether the government would take an equity position in homes, or whether the assistance would act as an interest-free loan.

“This is an important distinction because if the government is taking an equity stake in a home, the amount the homeowner would have to pay back would grow as the value of the home increases,” he says.

The very launch of the program is surprising, Laird says, given that the BC Government implemented a similar measure a couple years ago, with unsuccessful results, and it was terminated in 2018. First-time home buyers found it difficult to understand and unappealing to have the government co-own their home.

Let’s do the math

Under existing qualifying criteria, including the stress test, homebuyers can qualify for a house that is 4.5 to 4.7 times their household income.

Under the new First-Time Home Buyer Incentive, however, the government has set a purchase limit of four times household income for the mortgage, plus the amount provided by the government, according to Ratehub.

By participating in this program, first-time homebuyers effectively reduce the amount they can qualify for by about 15 per cent, and their monthly mortgage payment naturally decreases in lockstep.

A household with $100,000 of income, putting a minimum down payment of five per cent, can currently qualify for a home valued at $479,888 with a $2,265.75 monthly mortgage payment.

Affordability calculations

The maximum purchase price for the same household, if they participate in the first-time homebuyer incentive, drops to $404,858.29 with a five-per-cent minimum down payment. The total mortgage amount would then be $400,000 (or four times their household income).

Mortgage payment calculations

If the household took a five-per-cent incentive from the government (for resales), their mortgage amount goes to $378,947.37, and monthly payment is now $1,810.90.

If the household took a 10-per-cent incentive, (for new homes) their mortgage amount goes to $357,894.73, and  monthly payment is now $1,710.29.

Stress test modifications

The CHBA is among the industry groups that is pushing for modifications to the existing mortgage stress test, which has served to lock out too many well-qualified Canadians due to the market and interest rate changes of the past year.

“The First-Time Home Buyer Incentive, if coupled with immediate adjustments to the stress test, has the potential for getting the housing continuum functioning again,” says CHBA CEO Kevin Lee. “It is essential that these changes come quickly, though. Current restrictions on mortgage access mean that many millennials and new Canadians are seeing homeownership slipping away, and in many markets the economic impacts are substantial.”

Looking ahead to the 2019 federal election, CHBA will be encouraging all federal parties to address housing affordability in very meaningful ways in their respective platform documents.

Budget 2019 housing measures

Budget 2019

 

 

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Homebuyers head to GTA west… but don't ignore the east

Homebuyers head to GTA west… but don’t ignore the east

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Homebuyers head to GTA west… but don’t ignore the east

It’s not exactly earth-shattering news, since we’ve been able to observe the trend for the last few years, but a new report from ReMax of Ontario-Atlantic Canada underlines just to what degree homebuyers are heading west.

West, as in Hamilton and Halton Region – Burlington, Oakville, Halton Hills and Milton.

In analyzing sales trends in nine Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) districts over the past five years, ReMax notes those areas captured 10.1 per cent of total market share in 2018, with a 2.3-per-cent increase over 2013.

The reasons are fairly obvious: The quest for homes at affordable prices. Indeed, this spillover effect has stimulated homebuying activity in most areas flanked by Toronto’s core and Hamilton. Burlington, in particular, soared between 2013 and 2018, with home sales almost doubling and average prices climbing 50 per cent to $769,142.

Builders of new homes also recognize the appetite for lowrise homes in the west.

But with such strong growth in Burlington, how long will this market remain an affordable option?

“The communities in the west will still be affordable compared to Toronto proper, but what we are going to see is a continued uptick in demand for more of the outlying communities like Brantford, Waterdown, Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge and even as far-reaching as London and Niagara,” Christopher Alexander, executive vice-president, ReMax of Ontario-Atlanti Canada, told HOMES Publishing. “What will really impact the growth of these markets, outside of availability and affordability, will be the underlying transit systems and investments in local economies, as people still have a need to be connected to the GTA core.”

But, Alexander also told HOMES Publishing, the window of opportunity to head west may be closing.

“As the west end of the GTA continues to see growth and price appreciation, a leveling effect will likely come into play (with the east region),” he says.

GTA east areas such as Durham Region may not have the same appeal as the west – currently. “The west end of the GTA has a greater diversity of communities that are attracting a diverse range of buyers. In the past 10 years, there has been significant focus on the growth and development of these regions, whereas historically, Durham has not traditionally been viewed in this same regard. With the boom in areas towards the east, like Prince Edward County, and the affordability leveling out, we will likely see the tide begin to turn.”

So, yes, prospective homebuyers, go west if you like, but also keep an eye on the east.


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Burlington

Burlington – engaged in development

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Burlington – engaged in development

Long gone are the days when Burlington, a city of about 185,000 off the northwestern shores of Lake Ontario, was a sleepy suburb on the outskirts of the GTA. Expansion in highway and transit infrastructure, economic and employment growth and new housing development are all contributing to what today is a booming, and self-sustaining, destination.

It’s all coming together nicely for Burlington. For some, perhaps, maybe a little too fast.

But more on that later.

Blessed location

Blessed with an outstanding natural location close to the lake, the QEW, Dundas Street West and Hwys. 403 and 401, getting to and around Burlington has never been a challenge. But recent improvements to transit service and highways have afforded even easier movement for businesses and residents.

Such growth has contributed to an increasingly diverse economy, strong in automotive and manufacturing, but not overly reliant on any one sector. Some of the city’s largest employers include Cogeco Cable, ARGO Land Development and the Joseph Brant Hospital.

Besides being close to Lake Ontario to the south, and the Niagara Escarpment to the north, Burlington is also home to the Royal Botanical Gardens. It boasts more than 2,700 acres of gardens and nature sanctuaries, the world’s largest lilac collection and three on-site restaurants.

Down by the lake, the recently renovated Spencer Smith Park hosts an array of annual free festivals, including Canada’s largest Ribfest, the Sound of Music Festival, Children’s Festival and Lakeside Festival of Lights.

Engaged in development

With so much in Burlington’s favour, it’s no surprise that more people are moving here – particularly those looking for more affordable homes than in Toronto. Indeed, it’s a nice compromise: Oakville to the east, is now one of the GTA’s priciest housing markets; Hamilton to the west, is more affordable but still considered an area in transition.

Nor should it come as a surprise that Burlington residents are engaged in their community development, and took the opportunity in the October 2018 municipal elections to vote for change. Journalist and city councillor Marianne Meed Ward became the city’s first female mayor since 1978, replacing two-term incumbent Rick Goldring.

“Burlington residents have consistently raised concerns about over-intensification and development in our city,” she said after officially taking over in December 2018. “During the election, they made their voices heard and clearly indicated the need to review the scale and intensity of planned development, especially in the new Official Plan.”

To that end, Meed Ward says she plans to take a close look at development, specifically in downtown, and has launched a Red Tape Red Carpet task force to address permitting and approvals. She also campaigned on tackling traffic congestion, tax reform, building trust with the community and protecting greenspace.

****

Location, location, location

• Population 185,000, located in Halton Region at the northwestern end of Lake Ontario

• Distance from Toronto, 60 km; 21 km from Oakville; 15 km to Hamilton

Key landmarks

• Royal Botanical Gardens

• Spencer Smith Park

Select upcoming housing developments

Provenance by Beachview Homes – Townhomes

Valera 2 by Adi Development Group – Condominiums

Burlington Condos/Towns by National Homes – Condos and townhomes

Odyssey Condos & Towns by Rosehaven Homes – Condos and townhomes


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