Feeling at Home in the Heart of Toronto
Elaine Smith – The New York Times
Travelers flying into Billy Bishop Airport after dark see the Toronto skyline shimmering like a diamond necklace.
Sparkling along the Lake Ontario shoreline are dozens of high-rise condominiums, lights gleaming through their glass facades. Many of these condos are in the downtown core and were built over the past decade, as city living came back into fashion. Today, real estate agents say, such units are being snapped up as fast as they go on the market.
A city survey released in March, “Living in Downtown and the Centres,” attributes the popularity of housing in Toronto’s core to its proximity to work and transit options, cultural and entertainment sites, and the venues for the city’s major league basketball, baseball, hockey and soccer franchises.
The city, home to 2.5 million people, is planning for another half-million residents by 2031, and its official development plan identifies the downtown as one area where residential growth should take place. In the past five years alone, the downtown population has grown to approximately 200,000, an 18% increase; while the number of condos downtown has risen to about 112,000 – an increase of 23%.
“Many people like the convenience of not driving to work. They enjoy being in the center of everything and the downtown has lots of restaurants and shops,” said Oksana Jancevic, a sales representative at Royal LePage Real Estate Services who specializes in downtown properties. She settled here herself after relocating from Lithuania 10 years ago.
The description makes sense considering that more than half of all downtown residents are single and between the ages 20 and 44, according to the new survey. More than 50% have at least a university degree and one third have annual household incomes of more than $100,000. When it comes to couples, 30% are childless.
Bryan Wang, 30, fits the profile. The Singapore native came to Toronto to attend college and now works as the marketing director of a high-tech company.
Three years ago, “I was renting a 390-square-foot bachelor unit and paying $900 each month,” he recalled. “They were planning to raise my rent to $1,000. Around that time, banks were offering really low mortgage rates and I thought that $1,000 was ridiculous for what I was getting. I might as well buy.”
He spent $250,000 to $300,000 for a 630-square-foot, or 58-square-meter, one-bedroom unit in a 30-story high-rise on the Esplanade, near the lakeshore and close to the bustling St. Lawrence Market, a popular weekend farmer’s market. He walks to work, shopping and entertainment and the convenient location allows him to forgo a $126-a-month transit pass.
“I’ve always been a downtown person more than a suburban person,” Mr. Wang said. “I can walk out of my building and there’s life outside. I like having everything within reach, too.”
Thanks to its conservative banking system, Canada escaped the sub-prime mortgage crisis that ravaged the U.S. housing market. In recent years steady economic gains — and low interest rates — have fed market growth, with condominium construction leading the way in Toronto.
The Toronto Real Estate Board estimates that 17,000 condominium units were completed across the city in January 2011, 10,000 more than in January 2001. And they sold for an average of $336,748, an increase of 7% from a year earlier.
Ms. Jancevic said the downtown core market did slow at the beginning of the global economic crisis but “price-wise, the only place downtown went was up.”
Gilles Duranton, a real estate economist who teaches at the University of Toronto, noted that the city’s official development plan encourages density. So does the tax structure: commercial and industrial buildings are taxed at four times the rate of condominiums and single-family homes.
“The city is prosperous, new people are coming in and the supply of housing is limited,” he said, noting that one reason for the condominium boom “is that developers cannot build much else, unless they tear down bungalows.”
Most of the downtown high-rise units are sold long before construction begins; developers won’t break ground until a substantial proportion of the units are sold, Ms. Jancevic said. Some of those buyers are residents from elsewhere in Ontario, as well as foreign investors, including some from Asia.
Mr. Duranton noted that recently some of the downtown condominium development was moving into what once was considered “no-man’s land” — near the elevated Gardiner Expressway that runs parallel to the lakeshore. Once the projects are completed, views of Lake Ontario and proximity to transit and amenities will be joined by the buzz of traffic.
Contact the Jeffrey Team for more information – 416-388-1960
Laurin & Natalie Jeffrey are Toronto Realtors with Century 21 Regal Realty.
They did not write these articles, they just reproduce them here for people
who are interested in Toronto real estate. They do not work for any builders.
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