Monthly Archives: October 2014

Condo Development Toronto

What’s Really Causing Toronto’s Condo Over-Development?

An annual real estate trend analysis conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the non-profit Urban Land Institute, stated that urban living has become the “new normal.”

“Younger workers in particular — though not exclusively — continue to flock to the urban core, preferring to work where they live, rather than take on long commutes,” the report says.

The report suggests that two age demographics in particular are attracted to downtown, condo living. The young, first-time homebuyer who is willing to sacrifice the space that would have been afforded to them in suburbia, for the convenience and affordability of owning a condo downtown. As well the retirement generation, who now have empty nests and wish to live in space that’s smaller, and more easily maintained. PriceWaterhouseCooper believes that it is this “urban living” trend that has fueled the exponential development of condominium projects in Toronto’s downtown core specifically.

Toronto CondoBut others have their own theories and evidence to point to when trying to account for  Toronto’s condo development boom. Chris Kaynes, a guest columnist for The Toronto Sun  refers to a 2013 Statistics Canada finding that suggests that one in eight households in Toronto live in a condo. He suggests that, with the city projecting to double in population size within the next twenty years, the Ontario Municipal Board (an independent organization appointed by the government) has been particularly loose about approving new developments, as well as their oversight. This has resulted in what Kaynes believes is an over-production of cheaply made units in order to expedite the construction process. In his pessimistic vision of the future, these buildings were ultimately serve as the foundation for future high-rise “projects” that fall into disrepair.

Michael Babad of The Globe and Mail, offered his views on the insights revealed in the last Urbanation study (an organization that tracks the city’s condo market), which stated that both sales and prices of new condo units within Toronto increased in Q3 2014. The number of units sold rose to 4,753, a 53% increase from the same time last year (which was an exceptionally low year). Urbanation attributed this increase to a number of “successful new project launches” during the quarter. The share of condos in development that have already been sold, rose to a staggering 84%, totalling 104,000 units.

New research from RealNet Canada Inc. suggests that new, and particularly first-time condo buyers, are seeking out larger spaces, preferring to go with two-bedroom units over 800 square feet, as opposed to one bedroom units. Susan Pigg of The Toronto Star attributes this trend to the fact that condos make for a less-expensive alternative to low-rise housing, which she claims, has escalated to an average price of $700,000.  Figures provided by RealNet seem to correspond with the trends identified with Urbanation, with sales of pre-construction condos in the city up 39% year-over-year in September, with 2,262 units sold compared to 1,393 this time last year. The average price of a new condo in the GTA, which, for all intents and purposes, is widely recognized as the most “affordable” housing option left in the big city, was estimated at $450,014 as of the end of September. The same report stated that the number of two-bedroom condos for sale jumped to 41% of total units up for sale this year, up by 10% since 2011. 

Toronto Mayoral Candidates

Toronto’s Mayoral Election

PJT-JohnToryWins-2.jpgThe big news in Toronto the past few days has been Monday’s mayoral election that saw John Tory end Rob’s Ford as the city’s commander-in-chief, becoming the city’s 65th mayor. Tory captured 40.3% of the vote, earning 394,775 total votes. Doug Ford and Olivia each had solid performances to round out the top 3, with Ford earning 330,610 votes to Chow’s 226,879. Late Monday night at around 11pm, Tory addressed a crowd of supporters in acceptance of his victory, stating he would end the “division that has paralyzed City Hall,” and that he intends to lead the city “not left, not right, but forward.” (CBC). As the CBC reported, voter turnout for this election set a new record with 64.3% voter— or 974,363 votes — eclipsing significantly the 50.6% voter turnout achieved in the 2010 mayoral election, which saw Rob Ford claim 47% of the vote.

The John Tory victory comes as no surprise to many analysts and pollsters who forecasted such an outcome would occur. As Betsy Powell wrote in The Toronto Star, public opinion polls conducted on undecided voters leading up to Monday’s election were, for the most part, correct. Eric Grenier, a polling analyst at Mainstream Technologies, wrote on the website

“All of the polls were showing the exact same thing, which makes it more unlikely that there will be some sort of surprise…It was either they were all going to swim together or sink together.”

The poll that Mainstreet conducted, which polled 3,320 undecided voters four days prior to the vote, estimated the support levels for each candidate, calculating support for Ford at 34%, while slightly over-estimating support for Tory, and under-estimating support for Chow. Ipsos Reid conducted their own poll, which support for Tory at 42%, Ford 31% and Chow 25%. Senior VP John Wright called the results, “pretty damn accurate.”

The one element of this mayoral election that has a twisted irony to it, is the fact that, when it’s all said in done, Rob Ford still retains a seat in City Hall, while Doug Ford does not. Doug always touted himelf as the natural successor to Rob, while at the same time distancing himself from his brother’s legal and substance abuse issues. Rob’s scandal-ridden term in office, coupled with the recent public disclosure of his battle with cancer, as well as appearances on late night television, has given Rob Ford almost celebrity-like status. Because of this revelation, Rob would ultimately withdraw from the mayoral race, putting his name on the ballot in Ward 2 Etobicoke North instead, and opening the door for his brother Doug to run in the mayoral race. Rob would eventually go on to secure 58.9% of the vote in his council race, which really makes you think about what his chances might have been like had he decided to remain in the mayoral race.

Rob and Doug Ford
Rob & Doug Ford

In Rob’s victory speech, he stated in reference to Doug’s loss:

“My brother did an absolutely phenomenal job. If you know anything about the Ford family, we never, ever, ever give up. And I guarantee: in four more years, you’re going to see another example of the Ford family never ever giving up.”

Uber in Toronto

Toronto’s Alternative Transit Options

One of the main talking points for all of Toronto’s mayoral candidates during their election campaigns has been to propose solutions to combat the city’s growing transit issues. To put it bluntly, residents of the Greater Toronto Area have an exceedingly difficult time getting around, particularly travelling from uptown to downtown. Accelerated population growth, coupled with the disappearance of downtown parking lots to make way for condo developments, is having the twofold effect of adding more cars on the road, and more passengers on public transit, more than the current system can facilitate.

The solution getting kicked around a lot is to pump government money into the construction of a TTC “Relief Line”; an additional subway line that can take some of the strain off the Yonge-University-Spadina line, especially during peak hours. Such a deal would require funding in the tens, maybe hundreds of millions of dollars, and years of construction to complete. Frankly, residents of the city can’t wait several years for a transit line that may or may not divert some traffic for travellers heading downtown. But thankfully, several transit alternatives have appeared that can help fill the void between now, and the moment a more long-term solution is implemented.

Line-6 TransitBlogTo published a piece recently on the plight of commuters of the 504 King West Streetcar, many of whom complain about over-packed streetcars and long wait times. Brett Chang, 23, and Taylor Scollon, 24, saw a business opportunity, successfully crowdfunding a privately-run bus shuttle from Liberty Village to Union Station they named “Line Six Transit.” According to Scollon, the duo recognized that “Community development [in Liberty Village] has far outpaced public services [such as transit],” which propelled them to act. The King Charter bus that carries passengers includes free Wifi, and runs from East Liberty and Pirandello Street to Front Street and University Avenue four times a day between 7:00 a.m. to 9:15 a.m., and a return trip runs three times a day between 7:20 a.m. and 8:50 a.m. According to the pair, interest for Line Six is growing, and as a result, plan to add evening buses to the Liberty line, and even more routes, including ones servicing the Junction, Beaches, Yonge and Eglinton, and Humber Bay.

There is a new generation of “rideshare” smartphone applications that are becoming all becoming all the rage in the GTA, with the city’s municipal government being accommodating regarding the operation of such services at a time when many municipalities are rejecting such services out of fear of disrupting the existing taxicab establishment. These apps all essentially perform the same functioning, allowing the average Joe with a car and spare time to become a “cab driver” (for lack of a better term), and pick up nearby passengers who summon you using the application. Drivers make some extra money, the tech company behind the app makes a cut per transaction, everybody’s happy. Josh Elliott of, provides a very good synopsis of how the most popular rideshare application, Uber, functions:

“Uber operates through a smartphone app or web browser, allowing users to request a ride and track its progress in real time. Both rider and driver can see each other’s picture and profile on the app which requires both parties to accept one another before any rides are arranged. The app then uses GPS to guide the driver to the rider, and on to the rider’s destination. Uber calculates the estimated fare ahead of time and transfers the money electronically, so no physical cash is exchanged and no one skips out on the fare.”

A few Toronto celebrities have been spotted as Uber drivers, like Toronto Maple Leaf Phil Kessel and DJ Deadmau5, who has gone on to publicly endorse the service.

According to Vanessa Lu of the Toronto Star, Uber’s operations have not gone without controversy. The San Francisco-based company boasts ride-sharing operations in over 200 cities internationally, but works adamantly to combat the “taxicab company” image, touting itself as a technology company that has simply created an app that connects drivers with riders, an argument that has helped them sidestep local government rules for licensing. Ottawa was quick to reject Uber, with officials arguing that it is an unregulated taxi service operating without proper security measures or insurance, while professional taxi drivers say it’s stealing their business with an unsafe service at a cut-rate price, according to Elliott.

Eddy Yao, CEO of Toronto startup Gata Labs, argues that taxi companies don’t have the time, ability or cash to develop their own smartphone apps to summon a car instead of the traditional means of phoning for a cab or just flagging one down on the street. His company seeks to address that party, with the development of a free app available on iOS and Android, which allows any cab driver with any cab company, to have a smartphone summoning functionality for a monthly fee ranging from $75 to $100. In his interview with Lu, Yao stated that “Many know about Uber. They understand that it is only a matter of time when someone like Uber moves into that market,” adding Gata will permit only one taxi company per city but is close to signing deals in both Toronto and Montreal, where Uber operates. The launch of Gata coincides the announcement that the already popular taxi hailing application, Hailo, is shutting down all North American operations, citing increased competition (read Darrell Etherington’s full article here).

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