Building Boom? I Think Not!

2019 building levels in the GTA are comparable to 1990s levels – it’s astonishing. Let’s hope that the current/upcoming recession/depression/immigration decrease/foreign investment decrease aren’t how we solve this longstanding supply problem.

construction-crane_t20_GR0Qko

Building boom? I think not!

One of the benefits of aging is having a longer history of experiences. I remember the housing recession in the early 1990s – it’s when I lost my job and my house. This was a period of housing stagflation (persistent high inflation combined with high unemployment and stagnant demand) in the GTA. 1995 was the worst year for housing completions in the 1990s.

A comparison of early 1990s with 2019 is truly astounding. Thank you, Ben Myers from Bullpen Consulting, for the outstanding data!

  • The total amount of square footage built in 2019 is comparable to what was being built annually in the early 1990s.
  • The number of bedrooms built in 2019 is the lowest in the past 22 years, and is comparable to 1990s levels.

The main cause of the GTA housing problem has not changed in decades! We are simply not building enough homes. Supply is sorely lacking. All levels of government are contributing to this problem, and none have been able to make any meaningful improvements.

We can expect this situation to deteriorate before it improves, if past performance is any indication.

The most likely thing to ease the problem is a total collapse in demand as a result of (take your pick(s)) recession/depression/immigration decrease/foreign investment decrease. All of these reductions in demand have significant adverse impacts on the economy. Let’s hope this isn’t how we solve the supply problem. I would love to see policy changes from all levels of government. That is the solution.

I’d love to hear your take on this issue. Comment below or find me on Facebook or LinkedIn to join the conversation.

Getting to the Bottom of Ontario’s Rental Problem

Airbnb is blamed for the low affordability and availability of GTA rental units, but the real issue lies with Ontario’s Landlord and Tenant Board and the Residential Tenancies Act – and of course the fact that we just aren’t building enough.

Processed with VSCOcam with s3 preset

Now that I’ve retired and am often home during the daytime, I’m seeing things I never noticed before. One of them is how many of my neighbours in Little Italy, Toronto are renting out their lower units on Airbnb instead of as apartments, even though 750 sq. ft. lower level units like ours can fetch as much as $2,500/month.

I’m wondering if Airbnb isn’t entirely to blame, but instead, if our Landlord and Tenant Board’s Residential Tenancies Act is also at fault.

The Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) has been around since 2006, and the Residential Tenancies Act came into effect on January 31, 2007. It was created to help establish and enforce the rights and responsibilities of both tenants and landlords. Its aim is to resolve landlord-tenant disputes and eviction cases.

As any renter or landlord in Ontario can tell you, it hasn’t gone very well.

The LTB’s budget received cutbacks (2012 to 2014 budget vs. 2017 to 2019 budget) which resulted in a shortage of adjudicators, and the result was delays – a lot of delays. The LTB is unable to effectively and efficiently address issues. For example, bad tenants can notoriously go for 6 to 12 months without paying rent, leaving landlords in a bad spot. The system is broken.

This is why I’m hearing from my neighbours (and wife) that they don’t want to rent out their lower level units. They don’t want the risk of a bad tenant.

The LTB is now acknowledging the extreme service delays that have plagued it and is working to address this issue and to improve its services. But the damage has been done. Landlords can’t count on this system to protect them, and so they’re pulling out of the rental market and turning to avenues such as Airbnb, which offer protections that the LTB doesn’t.

Airbnb offers liability insurance, property damage protection and guaranteed payment collection. Airbnb 1, LTB 0.

Having potential landlords turn away from the local rental market and to Airbnb instead hurts everyone. Rentals in Toronto are scarce, and highly-priced. If we want to increase the supply of rental housing, one way to do so is to better utilize what already exists, and that’s not happening because many landlords find the risks of renting too high.

The main issue is that we just aren’t building enough new rental units, but Airbnb has been getting a lot of blame in the media lately. It’s easy to blame Airbnb, but it’s also our own (broken) LTB and its Act that are pushing landlords to choose alternative, more secure options for renting out the existing available spaces.

If we want more housing options and especially more affordable options available, Ontario’s LTB needs to do things differently.

Here are some of my thoughts:

  1. The LTB needs to enforce its own rules if it is to have legitimacy and efficacy. It was created to enforce (and protect) the rights and responsibilities of both tenants and landlords, but right now that’s not happening.
  2. Bad tenants should have repercussions, and the LTB needs a way to enforce these repercussions. If a tenant damages a place, there should be a quick mechanism to address it. If they don’t pay and they skip on the rent, it should be easier to go after the tenant.
  3. Good tenants should be rewarded. Landlords should be able to access tenants’ records (rental history), just like lenders and sellers on credit (cars on lease, etc.) can check credit ratings. Landlords need more security and stability – more protection. If the costs of being a landlord could be lowered (for example, by not having to budget for tenants who won’t pay rent), then that would lower rental costs for all. And if a good tenant were allowed to better differentiate themselves from a bad tenant, it could help them secure better places. I’m all for this.

As it stands, landlords are encouraged to lie to other potential landlords when their tenants want a reference… just to get them out of their place!

What we need instead is a more effective system, where good tenants are rewarded, bad tenants have repercussions that are actually enforced, and landlords are better protected.

Further, due to the tight rental supply we currently have in the GTA and many other parts of Ontario, we should be not only protecting landlords but also providing incentives for them. We need more people to put their available spaces on the market (like my neighbours with their 750 sq. ft. lower level units), and to build more rental units, like laneway suites or finishing a basement to turn it into a suite. We also need to encourage and provide incentives for more construction.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Comment below or find me on Facebook or LinkedIn to join the conversation!

EnerQuality’s Exciting New ENERGY STAR Multifamily High-Rise Initiative

Improving the energy efficiency of housing is a critical strategy in the fight against climate change. I’m proud to be working with an organization – EnerQuality – that knows how to do it. And now we’re tackling the biggest growth area of Canadian homeownership – multifamily and high-rise buildings.

energy star blog pic high-rise multifamily enerquality

EnerQuality is the #1 certifier of energy efficient housing in Canada and the market leader in residential green building programs. Founded in 1998 by the Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA) and the Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance, they’ve been part of the growing residential energy-efficiency industry for over 20 years now. EnerQuality creates voluntary, market-based programs that support builders and accelerate innovation in construction. They partner with governments, manufacturers, utilities, energy advisors, architects and engineers to bring their programs to market. To date, 110,000+ homes have been certified.

EnerQuality was the driving force behind the construction of thousands of ENERGY STAR homes in Canada. In 2005, the organization joined forces with Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) to develop ENERGY STAR® for New Homes. This turned out to be the most successful energy-efficiency program in Canadian housing.

Across Canada, builders look to ENERGY STAR to improve the quality of their buildings while lowering their occupants’ energy bills and carbon footprint. With a name that 90% of consumers recognize, ENERGY STAR has become the trusted symbol for builders who value sustainability and quality.

ENERGY STAR’s New Multifamily High-Rise Program

In 2018, thanks to funding from the IESO and Enbridge, EnerQuality and NRCan teamed up again and developed ENERGY STAR® Multifamily. Now in market, it’s changing how we build mid/high-rise housing. The same simple and affordable ENERGY STAR program we all know and love is now available for builders to certify their mid/high-rise multifamily buildings.

As a Chair (Audit & Risk Committee) of EnerQuality’s Board of Directors, I’m proud and excited to be part of this latest initiative.

With Canada’s rapidly-growing population, the housing shortage in places like the GTA and the accompanying rising cost of housing, more and more Canadians are living in multifamily residences and high-rise buildings. Recent data shows that 1 in 8 Canadian households are living in condominium dwellings, and 44% of Torontonians are living in some form of apartment. Multifamily properties include “mid-to-high rise buildings, condos, student housing, senior apartments and mixed-use buildings” and it’s a segment of the housing market that’s flourishing.

vertical-city-2

Image via the CBC

ENERGY STAR Multifamily is helping Canadian builders produce better built multifamily and high-rise homes for this growing segment of people. It’s about time that we extended this program beyond low-rise homes and into the fastest-growing sector of Canadian residences.

The program requirements include:

  • Exceeding the energy target (15% better than the 2017 Ontario Building Code)
  • Conducting air tightness testing and mechanical commissioning
  • Installing ENERGY STAR appliances
  • Registering in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager

This amazing new program is working to reduce consumers’ energy costs, contribute to Canada’s 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets and create healthy communities. I couldn’t be more proud to be helping to move the needle on these essential issues.

What are your thoughts? Comment below or find me on Facebook or LinkedIn to join the conversation!

Mattamy Limits Over-Eager New Home Buyers

house-3371511_1920

Wow! We’ve never seen this before in the new home industry. A marketing email from Mattamy Homes that recently landed in my inbox caught my attention. The email was about a new release of homes for sale at Mattamy’s Hawthorne South Village community at Sixteen Mile Creek in Milton. In the list of rules and information about the new release and registration for it, this item was included:

“Previous Buyers With Pending Agreements Of Purchase & Sale With Mattamy Homes Are Not Eligible To Purchase. We Thank You For Your Interest.”

Mattamy Homes is not allowing existing buyers of unclosed Mattamy homes to buy any more new homes.

Mattamy has historically been a price leader. They have attracted more than their share of investors. Their main concern now is that buyers of multiple homes may not be able to close – the buyers may be able to come up with a deposit, but they need/want price to be up at closing. Mattamy sees that prices are not going up these days, so the likelihood of the homes they sold appreciating before closing is small. Therefore, buyers of multiple homes may be biting off more than they can chew, which will ultimately affect Mattamy.

This is a statement by Mattamy that they see market staying flat and/or their buyers not being financially able to close on multiple homes.

(Read my recent blog post, 2019 Toronto Housing Market: A Year of Opportunity?, for more info on the current state of the market.)

What are your thoughts? Comment below or find me on Facebook or LinkedIn to join the conversation!

2019 Toronto Housing Market: A Year of Opportunity?

pexels-photo-1430124

GTA real estate has entered a new era. Gone is easy money. Gone are many investors, including foreign ones, with the new 15% non-resident speculation tax imposed by Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan. Tighter lending conditions and new mortgage rules including a new mortgage stress test are producing fewer prospective buyers, while rising interest rates are scaring prospective buyers and reducing affordability.

The resulting benefits to prospective buyers haven’t been seen in over a decade!

  • Better choice
  • Better value
  • More time to evaluate and analyze
  • Better terms

Even last spring, most of the residential and investment properties I looked at were not interested in conditional offers. But that’s already changing.

On the other hand, supply of new low-rise housing remains constrained. Immigration levels are high and Canada plans to increase them even further in the next few years, with up to 350,000 new foreign nationals expected to arrive each year in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Rental demand far exceeds supply. Fewer people can afford to buy, which means there’s an increased demand for rentals. Furthermore, Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan expanded rent controls to all private rental units across the province, which will likely result in fewer rental properties on the market as developers move away from purpose-built rental projects for more profitable returns (despite the plan also including a five-year, $125-million program that’s aimed at encouraging the construction of new rental apartment buildings by rebating a portion of development charges).

With the number of units available for rent expected to decrease and immigration rates set to increase, we can expect that in the long-term, the fundamentals underlying the real estate market’s strength and growth will still be very good. Demand will increase and prices will rise again, especially since we’re not significantly increasing the supply of low-rise homes and are not building enough high-rise units to keep up.

To me, this means opportunity! 2019 will be a good time to buy property in the GTA, as the market goes through this micro-adjustment. The long years of the GTA real estate boom are over and there are way more opportunities available for buyers now. But as we saw above, this opportunity may not be around forever – long-term, I expect the market to stabilize and grow again.

Personally, I’m looking around for opportunities, but taking my time. I’ll post my findings in the future.

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: