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With the city core just a quick streetcar ride way, and the prices of homes still quite reasonable given the local amenities and proximity to downtown, Little Italy is a great choice for home buyers looking to live in a downtown Toronto neighbourhood that is alive with activity.
Don’t let the name deceive you – the days are long gone where the neighbourhood was the primary landing point for Italian immigrants coming to Canada. The affordable homes in Little Italy have been attracting a diversity of cultures for many years. More recently however, Little Italy’s Edwardian and Victorian row houses and semi-detached homes have been enticing urban professionals and young hipsters wanting to live near what is now a hub of Toronto nightlife and shopping.
Little Italy is a lively, internationally diverse neighbourhood, reaching south from College Street to Dundas Street West, and west from Bathurst to Ossington. Once the landing point for waves of Italian immigration following World War Two, the area still holds a distinct Italian influence – but now with a strong Portuguese presence, as well as a mix of young people and urban professionals wanting a location within easy reach of the city’s centre.
Little Italy homes offer an eclectic mix of types and styles, but the most common are typical Edwardian and Victorian row or semi-detached houses, some with whimsical touches such as round windows. Multi-unit residences are more prominent here than in the Trinity-Bellwoods neighbourhood directly to the south. Homes remain reasonably affordable for a prime inner city location.
With the city core a quick streetcar ride away, and the prices of homes still quite reasonable given the location, Little Italy homes and real estate offer a great choice for home buyers looking to live in a downtown neighbourhood with wonderful character and activity.
The heart of Little Italy is the shopping, dining and entertainment strip along College street, centred on the intersection of College and Clinton. As might be expected, some of the city’s best-loved Italian restaurants are here, including many of the original eateries, lunch counters and cafés that hark back to the neighbourhood’s roots.
Food markets, traditional bakeries and neighborhood retailers share the street comfortably with art galleries, trendy bistros, boutiques and exclusive fashion shops — while the modern-minded shopper may prefer the multi-level, glass-roofed galleria with its shops, restaurants, cinemas and a Marriott hotel.
Black-clad nonnas may still shuffle along sidewalks with the day’s groceries, and elaborate tile shrines to the Virgin Mary may still bless many of the houses – but the influx of Italian and Portuguese immigrants from whom this neighbourhood derives its soul slowed over the years. In their place came professionals looking for a foothold in the city, and 20-somethings eager to live within stumbling distance of the bars along the College strip.
It’s a real estate ecosystem in which all parties thrive: the bar kids lend the area a cachet that attracts affluent homebuyers, who in turn fund the retirements of the blue-collar immigrants. Teeming with restaurants, gelato parlours and cafes, the area’s enduring popularity has sparked a few new condo projects that promise to mix up the College streetscape. Bracketed on the east and west by the million-dollar homes along Palmerston and Dovercourt, the typical semi-detached Victorian will still run from around $600,000 up to closer to $800,000 for larger, updated homes.
Little Italy real estate is affordable and an attractive bargain for young buyers. In the 1980s, the neighbourhood began to see an increase in young professionals moving in to take advantage of the housing prices. Most houses are semi-detached two stories and in Edwardian and Victorian row house styles. They have spacious rooms, but, without their original mouldings and woodworking. Most Little Italy real estate make great fixer-uppers and are perfect for individuals looking for a downtown residence at a reasonable price.
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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Each month, our local home builders’ association receives several market intelligence reports from the Canadian Home Builders’ Association. This month’s newsletter contained a number of items that I thought would be of interest to new-home buyers in the GTA.
Dr. Peter Andersen, CHBA’s consulting economist, notes that this year will be much busier than expected for construction activity of all types. Housing starts have surged and residential construction has picked-up again. Non-residential construction, always a second-half cyclical performer, is in a solid expansion. A strong office leasing market and a declining office vacancy rate are signaling the onset of an office tower construction cycle.
Housing starts averaged 248,000 at annual rates in the first quarter – an increase of 17% from the same period a year earlier. This is far above the 2005 housing starts total of 225,481 units and also the annual cyclical peak of 233,431 units set in 2004.
The March starts figures were striking – 252,300 at seasonally adjusted annual rates. The first-quarter surge reflected both single-detached and multiple-unit starts. Housing start forecasts for 2006 are being revised upwards as a result of the monthly performance through the first three months of the year.
The resale market is always a good indicator for new-home demand. It is still hot and shows no sign yet of affordability stress. First-quarter sales were at an all-time record high, after adjusting for seasonality. Sales of existing homes and condos in March continued at close to record levels. This is also good news for renovation demand as the stimulus to renovation from resale housing activity, which works with a lag, shows no sign of slowing down. The national average resale price in March in major markets was up by 11.5% year over year.
RBC affordability index
High home prices and utility costs in the last three months of 2005 pushed home affordability to its highest level in 10 years, according to the Royal Bank of Canada.
RBC’s affordability index measures the proportion of pre-tax household income it takes to service the costs of owning a home. Despite the fact that incomes continue to rise, this increase does not match the hikes in mortgage rates, house prices and utility costs.
Income growth in Canada is starting to accelerate, wages are rising, but the increase in house prices has been faster. Add to it higher interest rates and overall size of rising mortgages, so affordability is going down.
Vancouver and Calgary were hit the hardest as housing prices soared in the last quarter of 2005. Affordability is expected to get worse in the first half of this year, but should level off by year’s end.
The construction industry is concerned after hundreds of construction workers from Portugal and other countries have been deported as the new Conservative government moved away from Liberal government promises of an amnesty plan.
Promises of an amnesty gave hope to underground workers who came forward to file refugee claims as a result. Their attempts to stay in the country legally ended up getting many of them deported. Canada’s current immigration system is tailored to educated immigrants, and blue-collar workers often do not qualify.
“This is insanity,” says immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman. “We have an immigration system that is supposed to supply workers for jobs, but these blue-collar workers who are needed cannot qualify to get in.”
There is a major labour shortage in the construction industry – an industry that accounts for 9.5% of Canada’s total gross domestic product and 7.5% of Ontario’s alone. It is estimated that there are between 10,000 and 15,000 illegal immigrants working in southern Ontario’s construction and hospitality industries, and 200,000 undocumented workers across the country. Deportations are therefore a major threat to the construction industry.
The Canadian Home Builders’ Association wrote a letter to Immigration Minister Monte Solberg, supporting the work foreign workers do in the homebuilding industry and urging him to resolve the labour shortage.
Solberg says the government is working with the provinces to ensure labour needs are met. “We understand the process doesn’t work well for a lot of people. We’re trying to fix that. The ideal situation is for people to go through the process.” He ruled out an amnesty, he said, because he doesn’t want to encourage people to come to Canada illegally.
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