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Possible four-storey, low-rise condo envisioned for 35 Wabash Avenue

Many neighbouring residents not happy with the proposal, especially those on Lukow Terrace

Hilary Caton – Parkdale Villager

Condominium developer Curated Properties has a vision for 35 Wabash Avenue. It includes transforming the abandoned industrial lot that was once home to a sock factory into a four-storey condo complete with a rooftop terrace and underground parking.

But neighbouring residents aren’t sold on the vision.

It’s too big, too high and too dense, according to North Parkdale residents who came out to the pre-application meeting at Greek Cathedral Church, held by Curated Properties and hosted by Ward 14 councillor (Parkdale-High Park) Gord Perks.

Comment: Four storeys is too high? Wow… yet again, Toronto NIMBYs raise their heads to complain. Because yes, that nasty vacant lot is SO much better than a new building.

35 Wabash Avenue
The majority agreed the building simply does not fit the character of the neighbourhood.

Comment: The current character in the immediate area is a dilapidated abandoned factory and a vacant lot, next to the train tracks. How is a small 4-storey building going to make that worse?

However with the proper re-zoning and approval from the city, 35 Wabash Avenue could become a 70,000 square foot residential property containing 58 units, all of which are a minimum 1,100 square-feet, with 22 one-bedroom units, 28 two-bedroom units and eight three-bedroom units.

Comment: Exactly what the city needs. Low rise buildings in existing neighbourhoods with units large enough for families. But no, god forbid, can’t have that in MY neighbourhood.

The front of the condos, designed more like townhomes, will face Wabash Avenue with ground floor units equipped with separate entrances.

The overall concept, however, is still preliminary, according to the developer and its architect Roland Colthoff from RAW Design, who presented the concepts to about 30 residents.

But preliminary design or not, the residents along the east side of the proposed building are not happy with the idea that people in the new condos will be able to see into their backyards.

Comment: Like there is anything to see in their backyards. Why everyone gets so wiggy about that, I just don’t know. My neighbours behind me can see into my backyard from their second floor. Who cares? Why would they be staring at me? I just don’t care… Plant a tree if you want more privacy.

“That, to me, is a problem,” said Julie Pigozzo, a homeowner on Lukow Terrace who “spent a fortune” on her home last January and has a long list of concerns regarding the development.

“My main concern is privacy,” she told the Villager, visibly upset during meeting Thursday night, Jan. 15.

“This potentially has 14-20 units staring into our backyards and a fifth story staring down on us too. My second concern is if I did turn around and try and sell this house, who wants 20 people looking into your backyard?” Pigozzo asked, concerned about her home’s future resale value.

Comment: You know what? Most people really don’t care. My dad lives on a very posh street in Toronto. Years ago an old church was converted to condos, overlooking his yard. Did his property value go down? Nope. Still worth a fortune.

She suggested the idea of a fence for the rooftop portion, but according to Curated Properties’s president Adam Ochshorn that would only create “a jail-like” atmosphere. Instead, he said the best option is four-foot planters will be used as a buffer. He also added this building would not have balconies to encourage the overlook.

Attendees also brought up the issue of density. The building, if approved, would have a density of 2.7 in an area that allows 0.6. With such an increase it could put a strain on the community in a variety of ways, including parking and traffic issues.

Comment: Except the units would have their own parking. And 58 units might bring 58 cars, probably less. There is very little traffic in that area now, that tiny increase would not even be noticed.

“It’s additional traffic and it’s additional pressures on the community infrastructure which is very old as it is,” said Brian Torry, co-chair of the Roncesvalles-Macdonnell Residents’ Association (RMRA).

Comment: Maybe this would provide the final impetus needed to get working on the old Canada Linseed factory across the street. Renovate it and create community infrastructure. Two problems solved.

“Parking and traffic is a huge issue in that section of the community, especially because everything around it is small. Sorauren is very small, the streets aren’t built to accommodate that kind of increased density they’re thinking about putting in there. They’re just not.”

Comment: 58 units. This is the density they are freaking out about. 58 units.

Councillor Perks plans to ensure all the necessary studies are done through the city to ensure the impact the building will have on the area is minimal.

“The things we look at will be shadows, pressure on existing community services like daycare, parks, recreation facilities, libraries. We look at traffic, look at whether or not it creates problems and if the overall design is nice,” Perks explained. “It’s a very comprehensive process.”

During the meeting’s question and comment period, it was clear residents don’t approve of the proposal and would prefer single family homes be built on the lot, especially the residents on Lukow Terrace.

One resident suggested the condo developer consider a “good neighbour” incentive, which would have the developer contribute and maintain a community amenity, in turn for building this condo. Examples included maintaining and paying the maintenance for an ice rink that can operate at night with proper lighting, or contribute to beautifying the nearby Charles G. Williams Park.

“It’s something we’d consider, depending on what it was (that they want),” Ochshorn admitted, who added he’s open to hearing more about what the community wants from them.

“We’re not like, this is it and we’re going ram it down their throats. If someone told me they wanted me to build bigger and fewer units, I want to hear what the neighbours want. We’re open to anything. All these things are still evolving because it’s so preliminary and we’re going to regroup and see how our design will evolve and get ready to apply (to the city).”

Comment: But the residents need to stop complaining and turning little things into huge issues. Calm down and work with the city and the developer. Come up with something that works. Complaining doesn’t get anyone anywhere.

Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information – 416-388-1960

Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto real estate agent with Century 21 Regal Realty.
He did not write these articles, he just reproduces them here for people who
are interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.


GTA housing affordability falling; ‘we’re not far behind New York’

Ontario’s “laudable” push to higher density housing has gone too far, says a new report, driving unprecedented construction of condo units typically tailored for shorter-term living.”

Susan Pigg – Toronto Star

The GTA is fast becoming the New York of the north and even if house prices cool over the next few years, relief will be “modest,” at best, for beleaguered home buyers, says TD Economics in a report released Monday.

Comment: Toronto house prices are not going to cool. And how is it bad to be compared to New York? NYC is a highly desirable place to live. I would be happy to be in the same league as NYC.

The GTA is facing “growing structural challenges” that are pushing both renting and home ownership increasingly out of reach of even high-income residents, it warns. Top among them are government regulations and taxation.

The Ontario government’s “laudable” push to higher density housing has gone too far, driving unprecedented construction of tiny condos “typically tailored for shorter-term living,” while seeing the supply of more affordable, family-friendly townhouses and single-family homes plummet across the GTA.

Comment: Small condos are not caused by the government. More people want to live downtown, which drives condo construction. Land costs and overall housing costs are rising, making condos more expensive. Builders create smaller units to keep prices down, so that more people can buy them. It actually has nothing whatsoever to do with the government or taxation.

Toronto housing boom
This dramatic shift in the housing market is “contributing to poor housing choice and reducing mobility of residents,” TD notes, urging the need for a regional approach to housing problems, as is now happening with transit.

Comment: As I noted before, we have housing choices running from rooms for rent for $400 to rental apartments and rental condos for $1,600 a month. Through to houses in rough shape in non-trendy areas in the $300,000s to $600-800,000 for decent homes in cool neighbourhoods, through to $1 and $2 million luxury homes. And that is just in the 416. There are TONS of choices out there.

“Housing affordability has decreased in the GTA to the point where we’re not far behind New York,” said TD economist Diana Petramala, co-author of the report.

In Manhattan and its surrounding suburbs, it now takes 6.1 times the average income to buy a house, down from 7.9 times the income it cost in 2006 before the housing market collapse.

The more than decade-long GTA housing boom now has us outpacing New York, requiring 6.5 times the average income to buy a house here, up from 4.8 times the average income in 2006, Petramala said in a telephone interview.

Comment: Show us the math. What are the average incomes in both cities and what average housing prices are you using? I don’t believe your results without seeing how you got there. Especially when the GTA is ranked 323rd out of the 360 most expensive cities and New York is number 16. It is a completely illogical claim. Median sales price in NYC is $1,310,000 USD ($1,629,600 CAD)compared to $510,532 CAD in Toronto. Price per square foot for condos is $1,450 USD ($1,804 CD) in NYC vs. $543 CAD in Toronto. And yet this person wants to tell us that Toronto is LESS affordable than New York? Really? This means that the average income in NYC would have to be $267,148 CAD for their math to work, vs. $78,543 CAD in Toronto. According to the US Department of Labour, income in Manhattan is $2,749 USD a week, which is $177,823 CAD per year. That means it would take 7.4 times than income to buy the average property in New York. And Toronto’s median income, according to StatsCan is $71,210 for 2012. Which then puts us at 7.2 times income to buy the average property. While much closer than I had thought, their math is still wrong.

New York City
“The stakes are high surrounding the fortunes of the Greater Toronto Area housing market,” adds the report. “A healthy housing system is critical to a region’s economic fortunes. And with the GTA key to Canada’s economic engine, the success or failure of housing in this region carries significant national importance.”

Comment: And 87,049 sales last year, with probably 20-30,000 new condo sales – plus 20,000 MLS condo rentals and another 20,000 private rentals – indicates a VERY healthy market. If the prices were that out of whack, we would not have record sales and rentals.

Even renters are struggling, with monthly lease costs eating up almost half of household income for wage earners in the bottom 40%, “and the share of those in core housing need remains unacceptably high,” TD notes.

Comment: Their cherry-picked bottom 40%… with no mention of the top 60%.

At the same time, higher land costs, development charges, the HST and “restrictive government regulations,” such as the lack of proper zoning for higher density housing in many parts of the region, have added to costs and stretched build times to as much as seven years.

Comment: Housing cost are not connected to lack of proper zoning. Remember, this is all coming from the only major Canadian bank with a negative opinion of housing. Their CEO predicted house prices would decline in 2014, remember? So take anything they say with a few grains of salt.

The report largely echoes what the GTA development industry has been warning provincial and regional politicians for years — that the intensification policies of the province’s 2005 Places to Growth legislation come at a cost, and it’s largely being borne by homeowners.

“This has been 10 years in the making,” says George Carras, president of RealNet Canada, which provides sales and other new home and condo research to the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), the umbrella group for GTA home builders.

“The report has shone a light on the changing complexities in the approvals process that has brought with them increased costs and delays.”

The price gap between low rise homes and highrise condos hit another new high in 2014, says Carras, and now stands at $251,337. Even in areas like Vaughan, a new detached home can cost about $1 million and the alternative, semis and townhomes, are also climbing out of reach.

The price of townhouse land, for instance, climbed 22% in 2014 alone, notes Carras, to an unprecedented $1.9 million per acre.

Comment: What exactly is the definition of “townhouse land”? And where does it cost that much? Are there areas where it costs less? I bet development land in Oshawa costs less. Vaughan is known to be expensive, so it is a loaded stat.

vaughan house construction
The TD report only confirms the worrisome spikes in new home costs that RealNet is seeing, said Carras. The average cost of a new home across the GTA hit a new record in 2014, it reported Tuesday, up 8% from 2013 to $705,813.

The average new condo price also hit a new high, up 4% over 2013 to an index price of $454,476.

Comment: So people who want to pay less can buy resale.

Local governments, including Toronto’s real estate arm, Build Toronto, have been too slow in freeing up surplus land that could be used to build more affordable housing, says TD Economics.

And it may be time to consider an “idle land tax,” for land owners who are leaving lands undeveloped, hoping values will climb further.

Comment: That would be stupid.

BILD maintains the much bigger issue is the need to simplify approvals and provide more municipal infrastructure, like roads and sewers, that will allow projects to get off the ground.

Comment: Simplifying the entire planning department would be a start.

The province declined to comment on the TD report, other than to note that a public review of Places to Grow and greenbelt policies is expected to start sometime next month. It will include public meetings across the province, aimed at ensuring continued protection of prime agricultural lands but also planning decisions that support “healthy living and shorter commute times.”

More GTA residents are expected to be pushed into renting, both because of costs and aging demographics, TD says.

TD predicts that house prices could start flatlining this year after gains averaging 6 to 8% the last few years. But demand remains so strong for single-family homes that it could be 2021 until enough seniors and aging homeowners opt to cash out and move into smaller houses, condos or rentals, and boost the supply of houses for sale, says Petramala.

Comment: TD said prices would fall last year… uh huh.

Toronto Condo Construction
Challenging housing affordability, as well as a transportation system that is “struggling,” requires more of a regional approach and new government tax and incentive programs to get developers and the non-profit sector actually building the type of housing that demographics warrant, says TD.

The report adds that rising home costs “have been instrumental in driving up average debt-loads in the region, leaving households vulnerable to any unanticipated negative economic shock.”

Purpose-built rental has accounted for just 4% of new construction the last decade, yet demand has risen dramatically, notes TD.

Comment: And yet no one wants to build new rental stock. There has to be a reason. I don’t know what it is, but the demand is obviously there and no one – other than private condo owners – is trying to supply it.

“Helping these individuals most in need will require government subsidies,” says Derek Burleton, deputy chief economist at TD Economics.

Comment: The government should build apartment buildings and rent them out and subsidized rates.

Why the climb?

Key reasons behind increased housing demand and prohibitively higher prices, according to TD Economics:

$409,000 - Amount of combined mortgage and consumer loan debt carried by the average GTA household thanks to rising house prices and lure of low interest rates, according to consumer credit reporting agency Equifax.

Comment: Sure, but there is a HUGE difference between mortgage debt and credit card debt. The two MUST be separated to provide proper context.

5% - Average percentage a year that mortgage carrying costs have climbed in the last three to four years, just because of rising house prices.

Comment: If you are talking about buying a house today vs. 4 years ago. For people who already own, their mortgage carrying costs have not changed at all. Likely gone down, as they renew at lower rates.

$1,700 - Average monthly rent in the GTA of investor-owned condos largely geared to middle-income earners.

Comment: No, that is wrong. The average for a 1-bedroom condo is $1,609 and a 2-bedroom averages $2,165. They are not “geared” to anyone, those are simply the market rents out there right now.

$18,000 - Average development charges now levied on a new condo in the City of Toronto, which has increased fees more than 100%. The 905 regions charge even more, citing the costs of new infrastructure.

$28,000 - Development charges for a single-family home in the 416.

$140,000 - Annual income needed to finance a single-family home in the GTA, which TD says now costs about $740,000.

Comment: Or you could pay a $400,000 house in Ajax with an income of $80,000. Or a condo for $300,000 with 2 people making $30,000 each. There are all sort of options.

Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information – 416-388-1960

Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto real estate agent with Century 21 Regal Realty.
He did not write these articles, he just reproduces them here for people who
are interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.


Toronto skyline’s ‘absolute transformation’ captured by two photos taken 13 years apart

Emily McWilliams – National Post

For Brooklyn-born Ken Greenberg, this heady era in Toronto is akin to a certain New York moment.

In New York City in the late 1920s, an explosion of people and skyscrapers, and especially the addition of iconic structures like the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building to the skyline, “drew people like magnets” from all over the world.

“People were exhilarated by the fact that we had the technology to build buildings like that, but then they came to symbolize a kind of excitement about the place,” said Mr. Greenberg, Toronto’s former director of design and architecture and the Toronto-based principal of Greenberg Consultants.

“We love the iconic Manhattan skyline, because what we’re really doing is associating that with what we know happens on the streets.”

If Torontonians have stopped noticing the cranes that have similarly transformed their skyline — and downtown itself — since the turn of the millennium, a recent Reddit post likely stopped them in their tracks.

It combined two Toronto skyline snapshots, in 2001 and 2014, and captured the quick change the city has undergone.

Comment: Which is incredible, only 13 years apart. I remember when the CityPlace sales centre first went in, around 1998 or so. There was nothing there, just empty land. Now… wow…

Toronto Skyline Change

Photo Credits: Sanjin Avdicevic, top; Ashton Pal, bottom

“The growth — the absolute transformation of the skyline before your very eyes from year to year, and decade to decade — is pretty powerful,” said Paul Bedford, a former chief planner for the City of Toronto.

“I think what draws people to a skyline is all the different shapes, the sizes, the colours, the buildings — how they all merge together into a representation of humanity.”

Population growth, represented by the numerous condominiums now clustered along the waterfront, has had a dramatic impact on Toronto’s skyline. The downtown has added more than 300,000 new residents, making Toronto a global city, said Mr. Bedford.

“People want to live there, and they want to work there.  Not only from around the region, but people want to come here from around the world,” he said.

The city’s skyline had largely been defined for decades by the CN Tower, which once dominated nearly all by itself. Now, new office towers and particularly high-rise condominiums, such as the residences at the Ritz Carlton that carve into the sky at a staggering 209 metres, offer some competition — and perhaps even a little magic.

“It may be partly, even largely, an illusion, but when you see the skyline on a clear night, especially from the air, you can believe this is the right time and the right place be alive,” said Mark Kingwell, professor of philosophy at The University of Toronto.

Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information – 416-388-1960

Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto real estate agent with Century 21 Regal Realty.
He did not write these articles, he just reproduces them here for people who
are interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.