Tag Archives: Durham Region
Is your neighbourhood hot or not?
Robyn Doolittle – Toronto Star
When senior market analyst Jason Mercer hears chatter that the Canadian real estate market is overvalued, he shakes his head.
Pinning one statistic to the entire country doesn’t provide an accurate picture of what’s going on, because it’s a different story in every area, he says.
Real estate volatility in Vancouver, for example, where there’s a lot of discussion about whether investors drive the market, is considerably different than in Calgary, where the economy is centred on oil and gas, or Toronto, which runs on a diverse number of industries.
“It’s the same story if you drill down into municipalities in the GTA or individual neighbourhoods in Toronto,” said Mercer, who works with the Toronto Real Estate Board. “Talking about growth in the Canadian real estate market is useful as a broad-based barometer, but at the same time, when you’re talking about various market conditions, asking whether prices are too high, it’s too broad.”
Especially when it comes to Toronto.
In reality, the GTA is a collage of wildly varying markets, often separated by as little as a road. What that means, say experts, is that in the case of a real estate downturn, there likely won’t be across-the-board pain.
Hot areas, such as Milton, Richmond Hill and Markham, stand to handle a certain amount of price correction. Whereas slower markets such as King, Innisfil and Brock might be in trouble.
Recently, TREB began publishing the type of comprehensive data needed to examine these issues.
Since November, the agency has been compiling a “months of inventory” figure for its various MLS zones in Halton, Peel, York and Durham regions, as well as Dufferin and Simcoe counties and Toronto.
TREB analysts did this by comparing each zone’s average number of listings to the area’s average selling time in order to establish how long it would take for all the property to be sold off.
This statistic can be used to gauge a particular zone’s “Hot or Not” status. Viewed through this lens, the data shows next-door neighbours are facing vastly different situations heading into a possible tumultuous 2012.
For example, Newmarket, which would run out of property in just 39 days, is one of the tightest markets in the GTA. But drive 15 minutes west to King City and you’d be in one of the worst markets. If nothing new was put up for sale, it would take 228 days to burn through the King City inventory.
In Whitby, it would take just shy of two months to sell off everything, but 25 minutes east on the 401 in Clarington sellers face around three months.
Dig even deeper to specific Toronto neighbourhoods — TREB has not yet calculated detailed MLS zones for other cities — and conditions swing by a city block.
In the Mimico-Long Branch area of South Etobicoke, TREB predicts inventory would last 96 days. Cross the Gardiner Expressway to Stonegate-Queensway and it’s only 45 days.
And there’s the pricey Bridle Path-York Mills area, with 102 days’ worth of glut. Across bordering Eglinton Ave. in the Mount Pleasant area, properties are gone in 45 days.
William Strange, a professor of urban economics and real estate at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, said logic would have it that zones with smaller inventory stockpiles are more likely to fetch better prices and are more insulated against a weakened market.
“It’s really just a fancy version of the supply and demand story. (In a downturn) the impact will be bigger in markets that have the greater potential for excess supply,” he said.
In Toronto, that means the Beach and Junction-High Park, which are tied at 36 days, are in good shape. While, the Jane and Finch corridor and the pricey Bridle Path, both at 102, are at risk. Consistent high-sale levels in the east end help push Toronto’s overall average to 66. This is in line with the surrounding York, Peel and Halton regions.
All considered, Mercer says the GTA could stand to see the market loosen and still see price growth.
So even though the Canadian Real Estate Association announced it looks as if the national market is slowing down, TREB is predicting “mid-single digit” increases.
Nationally, home prices in December were up only 0.9% compared to the same period a year earlier. But on a local scale, sales were up 8% in the GTA compared to 2010.
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Laurin & Natalie Jeffrey are Toronto Realtors with Century 21 Regal Realty.
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Provincial plan being ignored, report finds
Phinjo Gombu – Toronto Star
Several Golden Horseshoe municipalities are bucking Ontario’s ambitious sprawl-busting plan by submitting local plans that contradict its goals, says a report by the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance.
Others have slowed the process by missing a crucial deadline.
The report warns that if the government doesn’t stand up to these local challenges, its internationally lauded Places to Grow plan could be derailed – leading to unchecked development, worse congestion, and a deteriorating quality of life.
The report, cheekily titled Places to Sprawl, says some big regions, such as York and Peel, missed a June deadline to finalize plans conforming to provincial guidelines. Meanwhile, councils in Durham, Niagara and Simcoe County have passed plans headed for conflict on the crucial question of how much land needs to be urbanized.
Towns and cities have been granted extensions until next summer to develop their own localized plans.
“Our overall assessment of the progress in Places to Grow is there have been some steps forward, some municipalities are taking it seriously, and in some cases the province is doing the right thing,” said Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, one of the report’s co-authors.
“But overall the effort is completely behind schedule and in some places, like Simcoe County and Durham Region, threatens to go totally off the rails.”
Particularly pointed criticism is directed at Durham, which the report says has “completely disregarded the Places to Grow Act.”
“By inflating employment growth numbers by 25,000 over what was determined for the area in conjunction with the Ontario government, Durham council is trying to justify the destruction of prime agricultural land,” it says.
The report also raises alarm about Simcoe County development that leapfrogs north of the Greenbelt in places like Bradford West Gwillimbury, where the province, under pressure, has agreed to a major employment zone off Highway 400.
Waterloo Region gets kudos for strict mining policies and protection of sensitive lands. Halton Region is lauded for mapping out an enhanced natural heritage system of greenbelt-style protections.
The report also praises Toronto for a plan enhancing green space with community gardens and a bylaw requiring green roofs on large buildings.
Places to Grow, launched four years ago, imposes population growth limits, encourages higher density and requires regions to ensure that at least 40% of future development occurs in built-up areas. That involves a massive change in planning rules in southern Ontario, Smith said.
So far, Halton, Peel, Durham and York have estimated they’ll need almost 8,000 hectares of new land for development by 2031 – an area about the size of Barrie.
Durham’s plan illustrates a thorny emerging issue, the report says: municipalities’ use of optimistic job-growth projections to justify expanding their urban boundaries.
Critics say they’re trying to get more land rezoned than is needed. If past experience is any indication, they say, the predicted jobs won’t materialize and much of that rezoned land will end up being used for lucrative low-density housing.
Oshawa Mayor John Gray, head of Durham’s planning committee and a staunch critic of Environmental Defence, dismissed the report, saying Durham’s employment projections are bigger than the province’s because it believes more jobs are needed to create live-work than commuter communities.