Canada's Condominium Magazine
2017 was full of ups and downs, highs and lows, triumphs and let-downs. Although there was plenty to celebrate — Canada’s 150th birthday among them — the real estate market dominated the news, with plenty of ups and downs. On the up side: great new condo developments, protective new condo rules, along with a welcome shift to vertical living — important, long term, in urban planning. Sotheby’s reported 2017 revealed that sales of luxury condos were up 5% over 2016 — despite the summer lulls and drops.
On the let-down’s side, major market interventions created stress and uncertainty for current owners trying to sell or up-buy, and set the bar high for new owners to enter the market. Whatever your take on 2017, new developments, real estate regulations, legislation, etc. made for quite an interesting year, to say the least. As we settle into a new year and look ahead at the possibilities for tomorrow, we take a moment to reflect on 2017 and the impact that it had on Toronto and its residents.
Amazing new developments, that changed the skyline of Toronto forever — such as the iconic Ten York from Tridel are certainly notable ups in the 2017 look back:
Toronto Housing Market Fluctuations
The housing market kicked into high gear in early 2017, with prices rising more than 33 per cent. This prompted the Ontario government to issue a Fair Housing Plan in an attempt to cool the market and curb out-of-control rates. The plan included a 15 per cent foreign speculators tax, which raised some concerns that taxes might negatively impact the economy. The plan was effective in cooling the housing market, though it did not have as tremendous of an effect as the government had hoped. First-time homebuyers are still unable to find affordable housing. However, the Greater Toronto Area has reported a 16-year low vacancy rate of 1.1 per cent.
On the up side, luxury condos were up 5% in 2017, and condos — especially new pre-build and new condos — contined to trend strongly. Condos, became the affordable choice in Toronto.
Way back in June 2017, new condo sales soared. Even after Ontario government interventions attempted to cool the market, condos remained strong — while detached home sales and resales plumetted (as compared to 2016.):
Condo Act Amendments
Condo owners, tenants, and managers have long deliberated over condo insurance and who is responsible for costs associated with repairing units or common areas, as well as a number of other issues. The first phase of amendments were made to the Condo Act, and new regulations were enforced on November 1st. These included changing the way meetings are held, the process for calling meetings, who can call them and participate, etc.
Sidewalk Labs Project at Quayside
Google announced an agreement to invest $50 million in the development of the 12-acre waterfront district known as Quayside. Sidewalk Labs also announced plans to expand the project with an 800-acre smart city called Sidewalk Toronto. Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff stated, “Sidewalk Labs scoured the globe for the perfect place to create a district focused on solutions to these pressing challenges, and we found it on Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront, along with the perfect public sector partner, Waterfront Toronto.” The process kicked off with a Town Hall on November 1st. Torontonians were invited to learn more about Sidewalk Toronto have their questions answered.
Sidewalk Toronto welcomed Torontonians to join the conversation at a community Town Hall:
Ontario Began Changing the Auto Insurance Industry to Fight Fraud
An auto insurance industry overhaul was announced, in which changes would be made to combat fraud and reduce insurance rates. The plan, referred to as the Fair Auto Insurance Plan, included the following:
- Implementing treatment plans for common collision injuries
- Reducing diagnosis and treatment disputes by instituting independent centres to examine more serious injuries
- Combatting fraud through the Serious Fraud Office, which will launch in spring of 2018
- Directing the Financial Services Commission of Ontario to review risk factors used to calculate premiums, and ensuring drivers in certain areas are not subject to unfair rates
- Ensuring that contingency fees are fair, reasonable and transparent
The plan was also designed to modernize the auto insurance rate approval process, reduce red tape, and strengthen consumer protection through amendments to the Insurance Act.
Lyft Arrived in Toronto
Ridesharing company Lyft expanded beyond US borders in December. Lyft General Manager Tim Houghton stated that the move to Toronto was “a no-brainer.”
“Right now, we feel that we are at the right stage as a company, where we can do Toronto justice, and what that means is really studying the market to make sure we understand Toronto’s transportation needs, working with regulators to make sure we’re compliant with all local regulations, and really that we are a good partner,” said Houghton.
Despite a very unwelcoming response from competitors, Lyft received a positive reception from residents, who were happy to have another, cheaper transit option available.
Canadians Prepared for the Legalization of Marijuana
The Canadian government introduced legislation which, if passed, would legalize marijuana. As the Cannabis Act passed through the House of Commons and went through Senate, many people became concerned. Condo owners and property managers became particularly concerned about the impact such legislation would have on their buildings and their tenants. Among the concerns for condo owners, property managers, and tenants were the following:
- Damage to units and common elements, including damage by moisture from marijuana plants
- A disproportionate use of utilities such as electricity and water, which are required in great quantities to grow marijuana plants
- Increased fire hazards due to people drying marijuana in a household
- Odours from plants getting into other units
The Cannabis Bill is designed to legalize pot for users and producers, with certain limitations, while allowing provinces to regulate the production and usage. The bill is also intended to limit criminal charges associated with marijuana usage, thus providing relief for an overworked criminal justice system and keeping otherwise law-abiding citizens from being criminalized and tarnishing their reputation.
Ontarians Discovered Ineligible Power Generator Expenses
Ontario residents discovered that they had been charged millions of dollars for ineligible power generator expenses over the years. According to a Lysyk report, nine generators claimed $260 million in ineligible expenses between 2006 and 2015. Some of the expenses for which users were charged included: staff car washes, carpet cleaning, landscaping, scuba gear, racoon traps, and road repairs. One generator even went so far as to claim $175,000 for coveralls and parkas over the course of two years. The discovery prompted residents to call upon the province’s Independent Electricity System Operator to release the names of the power generators involved so that action could be taken.
The past twelve months have certainly been a rollercoaster ride for Torontonians. Here’s to another year. May it be a little less hectic and much more fulfilling for all of us.