5 reasons to love the Bloor W bike lane project

On Wednesday, May 4th, City Council voted to install a pilot bike lane on Bloor St W, between Shaw St. and Avenue Rd.  The lanes have now been in place for a couple of months.   The pilot will be monitored for 1 year.
Top 5 reasons to build bike lanes on Bloor St even if you don’t ride a bike:

  1. Most patrons of the Bloor Annex don’t drive there. 90% of patrons in the Bloor Annex arrive by walking, cycling or transit.
  2. Customers arriving by bicycle spend more money and increase retail sales. Portland State University researchers found that customers who arrive by bike spend 24% more per month than those who arrive by car. After the construction of a protected bike lane on 9th Ave in New York City, local businesses saw a 49% increase in retail sales.
  3. We can get the city moving. More than 80% of the time, Bloor St has 2 lanes of parking and 2 lanes of car traffic, treating half the roadway like a parking lot. Installing bike lanes would retain those 2 lanes of car traffic and 1 lane of parking. We can give Torontonians more transportation options and get the city moving.
  4. Torontonians want to ride more often. Over 70% of Torontonians would cycle more if infrastructure were improved. People are already biking in droves on Bloor. Adding protected lanes would allow drivers and cyclists to co-exist in their own safe, predictable space.
  5. If you build it, they will come. Study after study demonstrates that after protected bike lanes are installed on main streets, cycling volumes increase significantly. Cycling volumes nearly tripled on Adelaide after protected bike lanes were installed. And motor vehicle volume flows as before.

Here is a link to the on-line article from Cycle Toronto

Cloud based Property Management solutions for do-it-yourself owners.

 

Why Use Property Management cloud based solutions?

As a property owner, you know the name of the game is organization. You have to manage lease applications, rent payments, maintenance requests and listings of vacancies, among other things. Whether you’re using a pen-and-paper manual method or a handful of programs to get the work done, there’s an easier way. Online property management software helps to automate many of your chores. Most rental property management software comes in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) format, which means you don’t need to install software on every computer used in your office. In the cloud-computing environment, all you need is a web browser and an internet connection.

The best property management software is efficient, has features that foster better communication between tenants, owners and property managers, and lets you manage rent and vendor payments all in one place. Propertyware, AppFolio and MRI Software are excellent examples of what to look for in an online property management solution.

Here is a link to a review of the most popular platforms.

 

How are Realty Taxes calculated fo mixed-use buildings in Toronto?

This update is from the City of Toronto Website.

 

2016 Property Tax Rates

Your final 2016 property taxes consist of a City levy, education levy and transit expansion levy.

Residential Properties

The City levy has been calculated by multiplying your property’s 2016 phased-in assessment by the City’s tax rate, as approved by Toronto City Council.

The education levy is calculated by multiplying your 2016 phased-in assessment by the education tax rate, as set by the Province of Ontario.

The transit levy is calculated by multiplying your 2016 phased-in assessment by the transit tax rate, as approved by Toronto City Council.

Multi-Residential, Commercial and Industrial Properties

Properties that are subject to a tax increase will continue to be protected by capping.

The annual allowable tax increase (cap amount) will be calculated based on 5 per cent of the previous year’s Current Value Assessment (CVA) multiplied by the applicable tax rate.

Properties with tax decreases will continue to have a portion of their tax decrease withheld to fund the cap on properties subject to increases.

Here is a link to the City of Toronto Website showing the tax rates for 2016 and information on future targets for reducing rate hikes for commercial properties.

Ontario Gets Failing Grade for Commercial Property Taxes

Nov 24, 2015

property taxes
The Globe and Mail reports that the C.D. Howe Institute has handed out report cards on Canada’s business property taxes – and Ontario gets a failing grade.

The Toronto-based think tank’s third annual business-tax-burden report gave Canada’s biggest province “Fs” for both the simplicity and transparency of its business property tax structure. Prince Edward Island was the only province awarded straight “A’s.”

The study graded provinces as well as the largest city in each province on two matters: How straightforward their tax structures are (the ideal being a single effective tax rate for all business properties, based on valuations no older than the previous year); and how easy it is for prospective investors to find and understand public information on the tax structure.

“Ontario has arguably the most complex, opaque, unaccountable and inequitable provincial [business property tax] regime in Canada,” the report said. “It levies [tax] rates that differ by municipality, by property class within a municipality, by property within a property class and even by component of a single property’s assessment.” It added that Ontario’s structure for assessing property values “results in a constant assessment lag of approximately four years.”

When property and land-transfer taxes are included, the study found that Saskatoon has overtaken Calgary as the city with the lowest overall tax burden on new business investment. Montreal is the highest-taxing city.

 

 

Artscape – Making Housing More Affordable for Artists on Queen W.

Sept. 24, 2015

One of the ugly truths about gentrification is that those that start the process of urban renewal are eventually displaced as the neighbourhood becomes pricier.  This is certainly the case for the artists who were located in the live/work loft buildings in the area known as the Queen West Triangle which area borders Queen W. on the North, Dovercourt on the East and Dufferin to the West.

Known as the SoHo effect, artists living in the area were being threatened to be displaced by new construction condo development.

artscape triangle lofts

Artscape, working with a local organization called Active 18, the City and the condo developer took over the administration of 70 units in the development.  Some were rented out, but for me, the remarkable thing they accomplished was to introduce a mechanism where those in the arts community could buy units at below market prices in order to avoid being displaced.   In order to assure that the buyer of the units do not simply sell them at market value down the road, Artscape instituted a system based on the Option for Homes model, a non-profit program operated in conjunction with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing corporation (CMHC).  Artscape offered the unit to those earning a living as full time artists at market value but with a second mortgage for 25% interest and payment free. In return any increase in value over 5% per annum would be shared equally between the unit holder and Artscape. The second mortgage made the cost of ownership affordable and ensured that the owner of the unit could not sell without Artscape’s consent. Buyer of units must come from Artscape’s waiting list and meet the Artscape criteria which has income thresholds supported by tax documentation (Artscape).

Artscape Trinity Lofts, with the sale of condominium live/work spaces for artists at more affordable prices, was the first project of its kind for Artscape.  Although the original owners just moved in this year, and it is therefore too early to establish how the resale of units will work in practice, it appears that the model will ensure that the arts community will have sustainable affordable housing in the area.

Bathurst Street – Built Form and Land Use Study.

June 10, 2014

The City has been working with stakeholders to come up with a plan to amend the zoning on Bathurst Street to allow for, in some cases, higher density and mixed uses.  The street has been divided up in to 8 different areas that the city feels have unique characteristics.  Different recommendations are being made for each area.

Bathurst Street Study Area

The proposal from City Planning is:

  • Intended to reinforce existing character and function of Bathurst Street
  • Respect and conserve the cultural heritage,
  • Ensure appropriate transition between new development & existing housing &  uses in Neighbourhood Areas
  • Supports fine-grain Pedestrian Shopping Areas in Mixed Use Areas

This can have a major impact on property values on Bathurst Street as well as major arteries in the immediate area. Please contact me to discuss how this could impact your properties value.

City Planning will be recommending draft Official Plan policy to implement the Built Form and Land Use Study. You may have received a notice in the mail for an Official Plan Amendment Statutory Meeting to be held on June 17th 2014. However, the Statutory Meeting for the Official Plan Amendment will now be held on August 12, 2014 and a new meeting notice will be sent out.
At the June 17 Toronto and East York Community Council meeting, City Planning will be recommending changes to the zoning by-law for retail and service uses based on the attached study by toronto PLanning:  Built Form and Land Use Study.

OREA Reports Toronto Land Transfer Tax has a Huge Negative Economic Impact.

June 10, 2014

chain image

New research released by the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) says the city’s Municipal Land Transfer Tax is causing a ‘massive loss of economic activity in the City of Toronto and a corresponding loss of thousands of jobs.”

The report conducted by Altus Group Economic Consulting, says the economic losses incurred by the City of Toronto between 2008 and 2013 included a loss of 38,278 resale home transactions, a loss of $2.3 billion in economic activity, a reduction of $1.2 billion in GDP, a loss of 14,934 full-time jobs and a loss of $772 million in wages in salaries.  This is a huge price to pay for an additional $300 million in municipal tax revenue.

The full article can be found at  http://www.donttaxmydream.ca/

Last year I wrote a research paper on the effects of the Toronto Land Transfer Tax (LTT) on the municpality for my Urban Studies course at the University of Toronto.  If you would like to read up on the history of the Toronto LTT and how other countries have fared with similar taxes,  the research paper can be found here:  Implications of the Toronto LTT.

 

Alexandra Park Revitalization Project has Started

May 22, 2014

The first phase of the revitalization of Alexandra Park has begun!  There are few opportunities left in downtown Toronto where redevelopment can actually change the streetscape of the city.  The revitalization of Alexandra Park promises to be one of the most profound – if development goes through as planned, Augusta Ave. one of the few gateways to Kensington Market will be extended through the development allowing through traffic to extend from Queen W. up to College.  In addition, more storefronts will be built along the south side of Dundas St. W.  as part of the mid-rise market condominium units slated for the location, making the section on Dundas W between Spadina and Bathurst a much more walkable and lively thoroughfare.  It is anticipated that the entire project will take up to 10 years to complete.

alexandra park redevelopment

Tridel, the city’s private partner, will refurbish 473 rental units, replace 333 rental units with new apartments, and build 1,540 new condos, some in buildings up to 13 storeys high. Tridel illustrates how the community will fit in to the surrounding area in their SQ Development website where sales are already taking in place for the first phase at Queen W.  More info can also be found at the Toronto Community Housing website.

 

 

Cyclists and Bike Lanes Have a Positive Impact on Shopping.

May 20, 2014

It turns out that cyclists and Bike Lanes are GOOD for business.  The Toronto Cycling Think & Do Tank together with the School of the Environment at the University of Toronto completed a study in November 2013 on the economic impact of cyclists and bike lanes on local retailers and businesses in urban areas in North America.  The study focused mainly on Toronto where a recent Spacing Magazine article in their  Bike issue revealed that between 2006 and 2011 there was a 75% increase in overall bicycle use.  In the lower west end of the city (Ward 19 – Trinity – Spadina) an astonishing 11.35% of all trips were taken by bike.  Two Toronto studies also showed that cyclists in pre-war urban neighbourhoods contribute significantly to businesses’ sales and are in fact higher per-capita monthly spenders than drivers

bike posts ttc

The report attempted to answer 4 questions:

1. How can transportation infrastructure best serve urban businesses?
Is urban transportation infrastructure in tune with modern mode share realities? How accurate are current mode-share perceptions
among business owners? Is the current allocation of resources optimal?
2. Are cyclists good for business?
Who are cyclists as a demographic, and what does this mean for businesses? What is the economic potential of catering to cyclists in
North America today?
3. How does bicycle infrastructure affect businesses? How does removal of on-street parking affect
businesses?
How do bicycle lanes and other forms of cycling infrastructure affect the business environment? What if bike lanes are competing
for space with on-street parking?
4. Can bike lanes and on-street parking coexist?
Are configurations that accommodate both bicycle lanes and on-street parking more desirable where viable? Are they ever viable?

Of special interest to commercial and investment property owners is that  “evidence suggests bike lanes effectively act as a catalyst for economic activity. For example, the implementation of  physically separated bike lanes in New York City led to widespread economic benefits along the streets where these lanes were located. These bike lanes contributed to a 49% increase in retail sales in businesses located on 9th Avenue compared to a 3%  increase borough wide, 49% fewer commercial vacancies on Union Square, compared to a 5% increase borough wide, and a large  increase in bicycle volumes on First and Second Avenues accompanied by 47% fewer commercial vacancies which compared to 2%  more vacancies borough wide.”

Another interesting detail mentioned in the report was that “the perception that customers are likely to arrive by car in dense urban areas continues to be held by many retailers – even if other travel modes have firmly established themselves as the most popular. Studies conducted in downtown neighbourhoods of Toronto and Vancouver have shown that business operators tend to overestimate the number of customers arriving by car, and that the volume of customers who arrive by car is small in comparison to that of those who don’t (see graph below). In The Annex, a landmark  Toronto neighbourhood where customers are more likely to arrive by cycling than by driving (12% cycling mode share vs. 10% car mode share), retailers overestimated the car mode share on average by 100%. Merchants from Bloor West Village, where car use is more prevalent, also over-estimated the number of drivers visiting their stores by 100%.

perception bike-car

 

Bicycle infrastructure has the power to bring very positive economic impacts to businesses along our main streets in Toronto and can help to relieve pressure on our over-burdened transportation infrastructure!  To read the entire article go to the Toronto Think & Do Tank website:  Cycists, Bike Lanes and On-Street Parking: Economic Impacts

U. S. Commercial Real Estate Market in Recovery.

May 8, 2014

This is an article in the April addition of CCIM magazine about the recovery in the secondary US Commercial Real Estate markets.  These were the areas hardest hit by the recession.   Urban areas like Manhattan and San Francisco didn’t dip significantly and prime properties are trading in these markets at a 4% cap – hard to build in much growth at those returns.  Many investors are moving to secondary markets such as Pittsburgh, Minneapolis and Phoenix.  Transactions are up, prices are up and Cap Rates are down…  

CIRE-MarApr14-p27a-WEB

CIRE-MarApr14-p29a-WEB-cap rates

“Growing confidence in the economic and commercial real estate market recovery has been a boon to investment sales in the past 18 months. Fueled by interest rates that remain near historic lows, investment sales surpassed $355 billion in 2013 — up 19 percent over the $299 billion in sales that occurred in 2012, according to Real Capital Analytics. After a considerable dry spell, secondary and even tertiary markets across the country are experiencing a spike in investment sales. – See more at: http://www.ccim.com/cire-magazine/articles/323456/2014/03/surfs#sthash.7mQot8Df.dpuf