Toronto’s Modular Housing Initiative – A Rapid Response to the Need for Affordable Housing

The City of Toronto is moving forward on its plan to increase the supply of affordable housing across the city. As part of the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan, the City committed to create 1,000 new modular homes in Toronto. The Modular Housing Initiative is an innovative and cost-effective way to build small-scale infill housing while providing a rapid, dignified response to connect people experiencing homelessness with homes and appropriate supports to help them achieve housing stability.

Modular housing Opens in new window, which is essentially prefabricated housing, is built off-site in a factory and transported to the site for assembly. City Council has approved the construction of the first 250 modular homes on City-owned sites in 2020 and 2021.

The first two modular buildings are already completed providing 100 new homes with support services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Here is a link to the City of Toronto’s website showing the project completed and under construction: Toronto Modular Housing Initiatives

Transit-Oriented Communities: Why We Need Them And How We Can Make Them Happen.

 

Matti Siemiatycki and Drew Fagan from the University of Toronto wrote an interesting white paper on development near major transit hubs in Ontarion.  Here is an excerpt:

The provincial Places to Grow regional growth plan and Metrolinx’s Big Move that date back about 15 years both mandate the concentration of growth in transitoriented nodes. This strategic vision was reinforced by the 2011 publication of Metrolinx’s Mobility Hub Guidelines, which provides detailed urban form and design direction.

More recently, the terminology at Queen’s Park has shifted from transit-oriented development to transit-oriented communities. This subtle distinction highlights that the goal is not merely to spur any development adjacent to transit, but rather to create complete communities. In 2019, Metrolinx’s updated 2041 Regional Transportation Plan identified Urban Growth Centres throughout the region, committing that the “GTHA will have a sustainable transportation system that is aligned with land use, and supports healthy and complete communities.”

The updated 2020 Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe further prioritizes “intensification and higher densities in strategic growth areas.”8 The Transit-Oriented Communities Act has been described by government officials as a key step toward just this kind of development. But the act’s lack of detail – it is just six brief sections long – raises questions about the act’s intent, including the fact that it includes no definition of what might constitute a transit-oriented community beyond saying that it is a development project “of any nature or kind” connected to the planned transit lines. This means that the ultimate impact of the act just may be to clear the way toward faster development in which the first D (density) dominates at the expense of the other two Ds (diversity of land uses and design).

Here is a link to the entire paper: Transit Oriented Communities

Landlord Tenant Board during Covid

The Government of Ontario has passed legislation to freeze rent at 2020 levels. This means that rents will not increase in 2021 for the vast majority of rented units covered under the Residential Tenancies Act.  The permitted rent increase for 2022 has been set at 1.2%.  https://www.ontario.ca/page/renting-ontario-your-rights

Toronto to deem nearly 1,000 buildings as heritage

The City of Toronto’s Preservation Board recently passed legislation that lists almost a 1,000 properties located on major streets in the centrral regions of the city as historical.  As the Globe and Mail’s Alex Bozikovic points out, “this broad-brush move…is the most dramatic change to heritage in the city in a generation. It reflects a belief among preservationists that the old commercial main streets need to be saved at all costs.  But the future and the past may collide here on the Danforth. The city’s planning department sees those same buildings as sites for redevelopment. Toronto will add about a million people in the next generation. It needs much more housing and the city’s plan would put much of that housing on sites like this.”

The listing of properties as historically significant will at another level of government that owners have to navigate through in order to get a building permit especially when renovations require changes to the façade or include additions.  An historical designation can have an affect on property value as it makes development more difficult, but not impossible, to to demolish an existing structure to build more density.  Here is a link to Toronto’s Historical Registry

Below is a link to the article:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/toronto/article-toronto-to-deem-nearly-1000-buildings-as-heritage-but-are-they/

New Condo Investors in Toronto Face Growing Risk that Rent Won’t Cover Expenses

This is an interesting article on the carrying costs of residential condominiums.  The underlying message is that carrying costs including realty taxes, maintenance fees and debt service are now higher for investors as property value and interest rate increases are rising faster than rental rates.

There are many other investment vehicles available for Real Estate investors including mixed use and multi-residential properties that offer better returns.  Although these types of investment require a little more management, I expect they won’t be subject to the same risk as the resiendital condo market.
Read the CBC article here, or here for Globe and Mail Subscribers.

King Street Pilot Data Seemingly Contradicts Complaints From Business Owners

Toronto officials say data from debit- and credit-card machines show total consumer spending inside the city’s King streetcar-priority zone is in line with the rest of the city – even though some King Street restaurateurs complain the pilot project is killing their businesses.

 

 

Business owners in the area have teamed up to protest the pilot project, saying it drives their customers away. Data analysis by the city tries to prove these claims unfounded, considering seasonal factors and a particularly cold January, but does this take business demographics into consideration? Some businesses rely heavily on available street parking and don’t see as much business from pedestrian traffic, while others strive under the new pilot.

In either case, streetcar traffic on King Street has undeniably improved, with 25 percent more riders during the morning rush, 27 percent more in the evening, and 16 percent more riders overall.

Read the full article from the Globe and Mail

Evaluating Creditworthiness

 

In the many strip malls  nationwide, owners might deal with one supermarket or big box store – a rated tenant – and dozens of smaller businesses that are non-rated tenants.

Although nonrated tenants such as restaurants, nail salons, boutiques, and office tenants may be creditworthy, no existing methods consistently and accurately rate these tenants. As with banking, real estate leasing does not have foolproof strategies to make credit decisions.

Despite the lack of a credible rating process to judge credit, landlords execute leases with nonrated tenants every day. In fact, these tenants make up the vast majority of commercial leasing tenants

How do you determine creditworthiness for a nonrated tenant? What factors should be considered for tenants existing under a larger parent company? Being diligent, mitigating risk, and staying solvent are key to establishing the right agreement with a nonrated tenant.

Read more on the topic here

Real Estate Asset Protection

 

Ownership of real estate has many benefits from an investment and tax standpoint. There is downside risk, however, since the value of real estate holdings may be significant and can be used to cover damages awarded in a lawsuit. Therefore, it’s important to consider asset protection strategies relating to real estate holdings in order to minimize such risk.

This piece covers insurance and best practices for holding real estate and protecting your assets.

Find the full article here

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.