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Economy, consumer confidence brighten in Ontario

Plummeting oil prices shift the economic landscape, the Conference Board of Canada says.

Madhavi Acharya-Tom Yew – Toronto Star

Economists and consumers see brighter days ahead for Ontario, according to a forecast and opinion poll released separately on Monday.

Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia will lead growth in Canada this year as plummeting oil prices shift the economic landscape, the Conference Board of Canada said in its latest forecast.

These provinces will benefit from the lower Canadian dollar, a stronger U.S. economy, and stronger consumer confidence, Marie-Christine Bernard, associate director, provincial forecast, wrote in the Winter 2015 Outlook.

Comment: So a good economy is good for all of us. And it also means that real estate is not going to collapse… at least not this year.

Ontario legislature
Growth in Ontario’s economy is projected to come in at a healthy 2.9% this year, roaring ahead of the national average of 1.9% for the first time since 2002, according to the forecast by the Ottawa-based economic think-tank.

“Ontario, with its minor exposure to the oil and gas extraction sector, is expected to receive a significant economic boost in the short term,” Bernard said in a release.

Lower prices at the gasoline pump, which could add as much as $1,000 in disposable income to each Ontario household, will help boost consumer confidence, the Conference Board said.

At the same time, sinking oil prices have put the brakes on growth in Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan this year, the forecast said. Alberta’s GDP is expected to shrink by 1.5%.

Comment: Like I said, oil prices will have zero effect on Toronto real estate. It won’t even affect the Ontario economy. Which will rise more than the national average.

The U.S. economy, meanwhile, is expected to expand by 3.2% this year, which would benefit Ontario’s exporters, the Conference Board said.

However, the report warned, rising public debt and fiscal deficits will remain a challenge for most provinces this year.

The downturn in oil-producing provinces will be short-lived, the report said. Prices will rise gradually as the global oil glut eases and worldwide demand improves later this year and in 2016, according to the forecast.

Alberta oil sands
Meanwhile, Ontario consumers have replaced those on the prairies as Canada’s most optimistic.

Comment: Which yet again bodes well for real estate.

The index of consumer confidence calculated by Nanos Research also found that residents of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba are quickly becoming the country’s most pessimistic.

Every week, Nanos Research conducts telephone interviews with 1,000 Canadians to ask their views on personal finances, job security, the outlook for the economy and where real estate prices are headed. The survey data is compiled for Bloomberg News.

The score for the prairies fell to 49.2 last week, putting it behind every other region for the first time since the series began in 2008.

The decline comes as prices for crude oil are trading at half of last year’s peak. As a result, house prices have fallen precipitously in Calgary and Regina.

The Bloomberg Nanos Canadian Confidence Index, a national composite score based on the four survey questions, declined to 53.8, the lowest level since May 2013.

About 20% of those surveyed expect real estate prices to fall. That’s the highest percentage since 2009, and almost double the level recorded in September.

Comment: Nationally. I bet they are all in Calgary!

The boost in sentiment from falling gasoline prices and lower interest rates is wearing off, the survey found. The share of Canadians who say their personal finances have improved fell to 21.2% last week, down from a record high of 25.3% three weeks ago, Bloomberg reported.

Comment: Again, most are likely in the oil patch.

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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.

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Toronto housing bubble showing no signs of bursting

Dan Karpenchuk – WBFO 88.7 Buffalo

A recent survey by one of Canada’s big banks suggests that the cost of renting or owning a home in the city of Toronto is climbing out of reach of most residents.

The average price of a home in Canada is just over $400,000 and in Toronto, that number in excess of $575,000. Some experts say Canada’s biggest city is in danger of becoming the “New York City of the north.”

The report, by the Toronto Dominion bank, is raising concerns about affordability and availability of housing in Toronto.

Comment: It is of note that TD is the only one of the big banks with such a pessimistic outlook. The other 4 major banks don’t agree. The Bank of Canada and CMHC also think that Toronto housing is fine.

Toronto housing market
Experts say there is no end in sight to the  housing bubble experienced by Toronto, even while they insist prices are at least ten percent higher than they should be.

Comment: It is NOT a bubble. It is simple continued price appreciation for almost 20 years. Just because prices don’t fall doesn’t make it a bubble. And if price fell 10%, it would bring us back to where prices were last year. And last year they said price were over valued by 15%. So what is the “proper” value? It is what people will pay… it is a free and open market. Prices are set by buyers and sellers. There were 87,000 sales last year. That means at least 174,000 buyers and sellers. And another 174,000 buying and selling agents. That is over 350,000 people that set the prices in 2014. Never mind friends and family that gave advice or financial help. Plus 87,000 mortgages. I take the collective opinion of all of those involved in the market over what one economist thinks.

But real estate agents counter, saying as long as demand continues to outweigh supply, those prices will continue for the foreseeable future, even if there is a modest cooling.

Comment: But demand isn’t letting up, and supply is not increasing. In such an economic situation, prices don’t fall. I took that in Grade 9 business class.

The current situation, according to the TD Economics survey, is in danger of pushing prices beyond the reach of even high income residents.

Comment: Not true. If you start with nothing, maybe. But those moving up the property ladder have assets worth a lot, which they then sell. They put that money down on a larger house and use their high incomes to pay the remaining mortgage. Sure, even if you make $200,000/year it would be hard to buy a $1.5 million house without a large down payment. But that is playing semantics, which economists love to do.

“You’re dealing with a huge sticker shock and a growing gap between those larger properties and the smaller ones,” says Derek Burleton, TD’s deputy chief economist.

The TD report suggests that the boom in condo construction is partly to blame, at the expense of more single-family homes and townhouses.

Comment: Because condos are being built and houses aren’t? The market is speaking, buyers are telling developers what they want with their wallets.

“Removing some of the structural barriers that are driving up the cost of land, and leading to a housing stock that’s becoming very tilted toward small condo apartments,” Burleton adds.

Comment: How? As land becomes more scarce downtown, land values go up. Again, simple economics. Greenbelt legislation makes land in the 905 more constrained and thus more expensive. There are 100,000-120,000 people coming to the GTA every year, all of whom need somewhere to live. Demand is not letting up. Land is less available. People don’t want to commute, they are preferring downtown over the suburbs. So many factors are affecting the price of land and the type of housing being built, it is not as simple as “removing structural barriers” to magically make everything less expensive.

Toronto condos
But construction of new condo units has blossomed, in some cases making up as much as 80% of new residential construction, nearly half of it in Toronto’s core.

Comment: For the reasons I stated above.

With so little affordable housing, renters are getting hit hard as well, with many rents in the downtown more than $2,000 a month or about half of the income of the lowest 40% of wage earners.

Comment: But those lower wage earners can go to apartment buildings, where the rents are half what they are in new investor-owned condos. Just because some rents are high does not mean they are ALL high.

The TD survey says affordability has dropped to the point where Toronto is not far behind New York.

Economists say it takes 6.5 times the average income to buy a house in Toronto compared to 6.1 times the average income in New York City.

Comment: And those numbers are simply wrong. 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.

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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.

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Proud to live in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood

This Junctionite knows the boundaries of his hood, and is annoyed when outsiders attempt to lay claim to his community’s good name.

Edward Keenan – Toronto Star

I live in The Junction.

Like many people who live in The Junction, I’m proud of my neighbourhood. In fact, a certain self-referential pride in living in The Junction is often a defining trait of local residents.

If you’re inclined, you can ride the Junction 40 bus route out to a party organized by The Junction Project social group, held at The Junction City Music Hall, where you could sip beer made around the corner at the Junction Craft Brewery and talk about how sad it is the Junction Flea has lost its lot, or perhaps discuss the proposed JunXion condo development — the news about which you might have read on the blog Junctioneer.

I’m pretty sure I’ve never lived in a neighbourhood where residents spend as much time talking about how much they like living in the neighbourhood. And saying its name while doing so. It’s fun to say. Try it: “Junction.”

Junction Railway History
One word for this characteristic might be “insufferable.” But we like to think of it as “having a strong sense of identity.”

But we’re not the only ones who like saying it, apparently. Another favourite topic of conversation around my house these days is the frequency with which people call other places The Junction. It comes up more and more frequently.

Comment: Sure, some of it is simple mistakes. Others want to borrow some neighbourhood “cool”.

An identity-deficient neighbourhood just to the east of us held a contest a few years ago to name itself, and settled on “The Junction Triangle.” This sound-a-like name for a near-ish place leads to all kinds of confusion. Headlines in the Star and the CBC and elsewhere recently have carried news of interesting people doing interesting things in The Junction — putting a curling rink in their backyard, for instance — but when you read the story, you often learn these people actually live in the Triangle. Or not even: often the neighbourhoods of Carleton Village and Wallace Emerson are said (by real estate agents, especially) to be in The Junction Triangle or The Junction, and as often as not those places now get called “The Junction,” too. In this newspaper.

Comment: But there have been all sorts of historical precedents for various names. From West Toronto Junction to West Toronto to The Junction to The Junction Triangle. As with many things, the names and boundaries have been fluid over time.

The Junction Keele and Dundas
I’ve been trying to explain to my editors why I find this annoying — why they should respect my insistence that these very fine areas of town not be confused with mine. I point to the history of The Junction stemming from its roots as the once-independent city of West Toronto Junction, its unique legacy of prohibition that endured until the local ban on booze sales was lifted less than 20 years ago. I explain about the preserved pre-war streetscape and the local salvage shops and park communities and sense of fierce, proud community.

What’s in a name? I explain that like Kleenex or Xerox protecting their trademarks once upon a time, we fear something we’re proud of is in danger of being rendered meaningless by overuse to describe similar but different things. Or that it’s like naming your baby something perfect and unique, and then having a close friend or family member choose the same name for their child. I appeal to the universal editor’s instinct for simple accuracy.

Comment: Wanna talk about The Beach/es? According to some people, it stretches as far north as Danforth. I mean, really?

But even as I rationalize my defensive pride, I can’t ignore that there’s also something else at work. I recall as a child living and going to school in what was then called South Riverdale (since rebranded “Riverside”), how insistent those who lived in increasingly desirable Riverdale insisted on their distinction from the ungentrified South. I recall how aghast residents of the Beach(es) were when real estate agents started branding Main and Gerrard “the Upper Beach.” I remember activist Annex sweaterheads scoffing at the suggestion that the area west of Bathurst Street had anything to do with them at all. And I remember what I thought of all those objections.

Comment: Hey, when I was a kid living at Broadview and Gerrard, we just called it Chinatown. Some might have called it Riverdale. But back in the early 1980s, no one really cared.

Keele and Dundas the Junction
I thought they were plain old snobs, who had invested money and some of their identity in a neighbourhood they viewed partly as a status symbol, a residential label that carried cultural cache. They saw their distinction diminished by the casual expansion of neighbourhood boundaries.

Comment: But there is financial gain to be had. Real estate in hot or trendy neighbourhoods is worth more than that in other areas. Having a house in “The Beaches” makes you sound like you have a nice place that is worth a lot of money. Selling your house? That listing looks better if it says your house is in The Beaches, The Junction or Riverdale. It wasn’t done for nothing, there is money and bragging rights riding on it.

One irony is that when my family and I first moved to the neighbourhood more than eight years ago, apartments right on the Dundas West strip were advertised as being in “Upper Bloor West Village” or “High Park North.” Perhaps that’s where part of the snobbery of longtime residents (and early gentrifiers like us) comes from: we recognized the value of the neighbourhood before anyone wanted to say they were from The Junction.

Yuck: sentiments don’t get any more hipster than “I was into that band before anyone.”

As I acknowledge the uglier impulses at work, I hope it’s clear that while my love of my neighbourhood is real, my objection to the democratizing of the name is mostly in fun. In a city of neighbourhoods like Toronto, the area rivalries and odd internal squabbles (Beach! vs. Beaches!) are — like professional sports allegiances — part of the fun.

And I might as well note there are plenty of Junctionites who would look down their nose at me in exactly the same way. We live north of the railroad tracks, in the part of the neighbourhood often called “The Stockyards” because of its meat processing history. Although it’s firmly inside the boundaries most neighbourhood (and historical) maps designate as The Junction, the psychological boundary of the tracks north of the Dundas St. strip are the end of many residents’ mental maps of the neighbourhood (and the local business association’s boundaries, too).

Comment: Which is true. And neighbourhoods are defined as much by people’s gut feel and mental images. Which means you are playing the same game. While living in an area most would NOT consider to be The Junction, you claim historical precedent to justify your use of the term. You just defeated your entire argument… Take Yorkville, for instance. Historically, it reaches all the way east to around Church and south to Hayden or so. Yet no one considers anything east of Yonge to be Yorkville. Heck, even a small part of The Beaches is technically Scarborough (once you cross Victoria Park), but no one is ever going to argue that the RC Harris plant is NOT in The Beaches.

Sometimes people will condescend, “Technically, you don’t really live in The Junction,” or “it’s nice you managed to stay so close to The Junction.”

To which I’ll just point to the street sign at the intersection nearest my house, which reads “Junction Road,” and explain a bit of history.

Comment: But then you would argue against people calling the area inside the 3 CN rail lines “Junction Triangle”. It is a triangle formed by rail lines, two of which form “the junction” for which your neighbourhood is named.

Go ahead and call me insufferable. Call me a snob. Just don’t tell me I don’t live in The Junction. And don’t try to tell me people at Lansdowne and Dupont do.

Comment: No one has EVER said that Lansdowne and Dupont is part of The Junction. Heck, that is Davenport Village, which they are VERY proud of. But in the same vein, don’t tell other people what neighbourhood they do or don’t live in.

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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.

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