Thursday, April 27, 2017

More People Are Buying Toronto Real Estate That Shouldn’t, And Half Are At Risk of Defaulting

Toronto real estate buyers scrambling to get in the market are increasingly taking out high-ratio mortgages, with far too little income.

The number of people that shouldn’t be purchasing Toronto real estate, but are buying anyway, is skyrocketing. At least that’s the consensus from the latest high-ratio mortgage data we scored from the Bank of Canada (BoC). According to these statistics, more people are entering into high-ratio mortgages, and they’re doing it with a high loan to income ratio as well. The combination makes these buyers perfect candidates for defaulting on their mortgages.

High Ratio Mortgages

High ratio mortgages are ones with minimal equity in the home (i.e. the down payment the buyer had was really small). The industry defines a high ratio mortgage as any mortgage with a loan-to-value ratio of more than 80%, which basically means anyone with less than 20% down. These types of loans have little risk for the lender, since the borrower also has to pay the cost of securitization (a.k.a. they have to buy default insurance). Keep in mind, the default insurance the borrower is required to purchase actually covers the bank in the event of a default, not the borrower. The borrower still assumes all risk.
Experts say you should have a loan-to-income ratio of less than 300%. In plain english, this means your mortgage should be 3x your gross income max (less if you have significant debt). If you make $100,000/year, and want a $400,000 condo – you should have $100,000 as a downpayment (25%). Any less, and your chances of carrying that loan become increasingly more difficult. If you’re high leverage, and have a mortgage over 300% of your annual income, you’re at a large risk of default. If that ratio exceeds 450% and you’re also a high-ratio borrower on top of it, the odds are stacked against you.

Toronto Seeing More High Leverage Loans With A High Loan-to-Income Ratio

Recently, Toronto has seen a massive increase in people who have high leverage loans, and also have high loan-to-income ratios. According to the BoC, “almost half of the high-ratio mortgages originated in Toronto in the third quarter of 2016 had LTI ratios exceeding 450%.” That’s right, 49% of high ratio mortgages also had a dangerous loan-to-income ratio. The same quarter in 2015 saw 41%, and that quarter in 2014 was just 32%. So the loan quality has been rapidly deteriorating over the past couple of years.

Spreading Beyond Toronto

The problem isn’t just isolated in Toronto, it’s spread to surrounding cities. Oshawa and Hamilton both saw high-ratio mortgages with high loan-to-income ratios more than double in the past 3 years. BoC analysts saw the ratio increase from 10% to roughly 25% over that time. Now I know Oshawa is the Manhattan of Eastern Ontario, but I’m not sure a high-leverage mortgage that’s out of your budget is a smart idea.
The quality of loans deteriorating rapidly over the past two years should be a sign of how healthy this market is… or isn’t. Toronto real estate prices have had a thirty year run, without much resistance. Suddenly over the past two years, people that shouldn’t be buying houses are scrambling to get into the market. These buyers are taking out loans they’re likely to default on. Since they’re insured, banks have little to no risk, but as I mentioned above, the risk still falls on the buyer. Unfortunately, this doesn’t just impact the people who are taking out these risky mortgages, it’s contributing to rising prices for responsible homeowners as well.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Toronto Community Housing Corporation TCHC: Government plans closure of hundreds of social housing units

Toronto Community Housing, the largest social housing provider in Canada, is planning to close 400 homes next year because of a lack of repair money.

Those closures, on top of 600 units to be boarded this year, would bring the total number of shuttered homes to 1,000 by the end of 2018.

There are now more than 181,000 people on the wait list for subsidized housing.

The fact that hundreds more people will lose their homes was outlined to board members at a meeting Tuesday, just days ahead of a provincial budget announcement that has left city officials seriously concerned the city will be short-changed on social housing.

“We should be discussing how to open new affordable housing units, not debating how many we’re going to have to close,” said Councillor Joe Cressy, who is a member of the board.

“In a city as wealthy as ours, in a province as wealthy as ours, it is an absolute failure on the part of all levels of government if we close units.

“Full stop.”

Toronto Community Housing, which manages nearly 60,000 units across 2,100 buildings, needs to secure an additional $350 million for repairs next year in order to prevent further closure of homes that will no longer be safe to live in.

The repairs are substantial; in 2016, they included fixing roofs, structural deficiencies, elevators and mechanical issues like plumbing.

Closing units means TCH is responsible to re-house those that are displaced, putting additional pressure on the waiting list that has continued to grow since 2007.

The original 10-year repair plan approved by the city budgeted a total $2.6 billion. Of that, $1.73 billion in funding is still needed. The plan called for spending $438 million next year.

But Toronto Community Housing’s vice-president of facilities management, Sheila Penny, explained only $82 million is available.

Of that, $38 million will come from further mortgage refinancing — which has up until this point largely financed the more than $900 million in repairs spending.

Eyes are now on the province, which is set to unveil a budget on Thursday.

Although Premier Kathleen Wynne recently indicated all three levels of government should be working together on housing in 2017, reinvesting in social housing would mean a reversal of decades of provincial downloading of the responsibility for the homes.

Unveiling her government’s Fair Housing Plan last week, the premier made no mention of social housing.

That announcement was met by a statement from the city’s housing advocate Councillor Ana Bailao.

“Toronto strongly encourages the province to step-up, and provide much needed funding, to help prevent the closure of social housing units in Toronto,” it read, in part.

On Tuesday, Bailao’s message was direct on the closure of social housing units: “If we don’t continue the (repairs) program, then it’s going to get even worse,” she told the Star.

“We have to know if we can count on them to address this huge housing issue.”

Mayor John Tory said he too has received no assurances about provincial funding.

“It’s time for all hands on deck to keep this city great and to make it a place that’s fair to live for all people,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Housing Minister Chris Ballard’s office offered no details when asked about the issue by the Star this week.

“Canada’s new government agrees with Ontario that there is a need to invest in housing and infrastructure. We are ready to strengthen our partnership with the federal government to ensure that our most vulnerable people are not left behind,” said a statement from spokesperson Theresa Lubowitz.

The $82 million in repair money budgeted for next year does include $23 million from the federal government’s first phase of social infrastructure dollars announced last year.

As part of its 2017 budget announcement, the federal government dedicated $11.2 billion to housing over 11 years, falling short of the $12.6 billion over eight years request from mayors of major municipalities, including John Tory.

But the federal government has yet to elaborate on how much will be available for social housing repairs and how much of it will be available for next year.

“We’re just not sure yet how the federal money will flow and how it will be allocated. We’re hopeful we get more information on this soon,” Toronto Community Housing spokesperson Brayden Akers said in an email

The federal government was unable to provide clarity on the matter this week.

“Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is currently working on detailed program designs, and, as a result, the mechanisms through which funding from budget 2017 will flow will be announced later,” wrote Mathieu Filion, spokesperson for Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, who is responsible for housing.

Former interim CEO Greg Spearn, whose sudden resignation was announced Tuesday, has been sounding the alarm on the repair backlog for the past two years, noting they would hit a wall in 2017 without dedicated funding.

He told the Star earlier this year that TCH would be on track to close a unit a day in 2018 if more funds were not secured.

If TCH does not keep up with repairs, it is estimated more than 7,500 homes will need to be boarded up — more than 10 per cent of the entire portfolio.

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Toronto Real Estate: Bubble Indexes, House Price Illusion, and Mortgage Warnings, Ross Kay - April 24, 2017

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Toronto Real Estate: Rent control measures could lead some Ontario condo investors to sell: report

New rent control measures unveiled last week by the Ontario government could push some small investors out of the condominium market, according to a new report.

Urbanation, a research and consulting firm specializing in the Toronto condominium market, said the imposition of rent control by the government on recently built units is the "single biggest and potentially most harmful change" introduced in the government's plan.

Last week, as part of its plan to tackle hot housing prices, the government revealed that rent control will now be extended to all units, including those built after 1991, which had previously been exempt.

Ontario's Fair Housing Plan also means annual rent increases for existing tenants can be no higher than the rate of inflation. Under the plan, rent increases will be capped at 2.5 per cent, even if the rate of inflation is higher.

In its report, Urbanation said the average pre-sale investor with a 20 per cent down payment on a condo unit finished this year will have carrying costs equal to the going rate on the rental market. "So even with historically low interest rates, a rental investment with the maximum allowable borrowing limit generates zero net income."

Urbanation also said that while condo investors who bought several years ago have a stronger cash flow due to their lower purchase prices and mortgage carrying costs, those who purchased more recently are at greater risk of rising costs, and may prematurely decide to sell.

"This would lead to an outright reduction in the supply of rentals in the GTA and would eventually negatively impact new condo sales volumes, which would have wider reaching consequences for the overall housing market," Urbanation said.

Citing Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. estimates from 2016, Urbanation said that about half of recently finished condos were used as rentals.

Urbanation said that without small investors, condo development would be drastically reduced and the rental supply would be dramatically lower than it is today, leading to even higher prices and rents.

The group said that given how fast prices have risen recently, even incremental increases in interest rates will mean higher holding costs that far exceed the rent controlled limit.

"The bigger issue is that rent control will eventually cause condo investors to begin to shy away from making new purchases, effectively slowing new development … and choking off the market's key source of new rental supply," Urbanation said in its report.

Thus far, the province's plan has been met with mixed reaction. On the day it was unveiled, a group representing low-income families applauded it, while the Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario panned it.
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Toronto, TTC subway air pollution on par with Beijing smog, study finds


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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Ontario’s rent and housing reform: 16 big changes, explained in charts

What Ontario is doing:
  • Expanding rent control to all private rental units
  • Introduce legislation to strengthen the Residential Tenancies Act
  • Making sure multiresidential apartment buildings are charged property taxes at similar rates to other residential properties
  • A $125-million program over five years “to further encourage the construction of new rental apartment buildings”
Background: Ontario’s current two-tiered system for rent control is a loophole left over from the Mike Harris era. In the 1990s, the Progressive Conservative government removed rent control on new rental properties but left them intact for properties built before 1991. The result has been a development boom for condos, which are exempt from rent control, and whose residents can see rent hikes of 30 per cent or more. But even for buildings under rent control, landlords have methods for forcing tenants out or making renovations that allow them to charge higher rent; a recent Globe analysis of data from Ontario’s Landlord and Tenant Board found that eviction applications have jumped 23 per cent since 2013. 

Foreign buyers and speculation

What Ontario is doing:
  • Introducing a 15-per-cent “Non-Resident Speculation Tax” in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region
  • Partnering with the Canada Revenue Agency to strengthen reporting requirements and make sure taxes are paid on real-estate purchases and sales
The backstory: To crack down on real-estate speculation, Ontario is taking a page from British Columbia’s playbook. Last August, B.C. introduced a 15-per-cent tax on residential properties bought by owners who aren’t Canadian citizens or permanent residents, which sent property sales plunging almost immediately. But another side effect has been a dip in property transfer tax revenue, one of the province’s key sources of income. 

‘Property scalpers’ beware

What Ontario is doing:
  • Working to “understand and tackle” real-estate practices that allow “paper flipping,” which includes using assignment clauses for real-estate speculation
  • Reviewing rules for real-estate agents to “ensure that consumers are fairly represented”
The backstory: Mr. Sousa has spent the past few weeks promising a crackdown on “property scalping” in Ontario, which he described as “those who go into new developments, buy up a slew of properties, and then flip them, while avoiding paying their fair share of taxes.” That phrase didn’t make it into Thursday’s announcement, which instead referred to “paper flipping.” In B.C., the use of assignment clauses for real-estate speculation came to be known as “shadow flipping” after a Globe investigation of the practice, which led to legislative changes in B.C. cracking down on it. Here’s an explanation of how it works. 

Vacancy tax

What Ontario is doing:
  • Introducing legislation to let Toronto “and potentially other municipalities” introduce vacancy taxes
The backstory: Last year, Vancouver – where 6.5 per cent of the housing stock is vacant, according to a recent study, the city’s highest proportion in 35 years – became Canada’s first city to impose a vacant housing tax. (The city is still implementing the 1-per-cent tax, with the first payments due in 2018.) Toronto Mayor John Tory has actively sought to follow Vancouver’s lead.

Other changes

What Ontario is doing:
  • Create new market housing and affordable-housing units with surplus provincial land
  • Creating a “Housing Supply Team” to identify obstacles to housing developments and work with developers and municipalities to address them
  • Establishing a group to advise the government on the housing market and the effects of the newly announced changes
  • Educating consumers on their rights in real-estate transactions
  • Giving municipalities “flexibility” to use property taxes to fuel development
  • Overhauling standards for elevator repair
  • An updated Growth Plan with municipalities to address density and “an appropriate range of unit sizes”

Overview: What the market looks like

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Ontario Finally Cracks Down On Toronto Housing Bubble: Launches 15% Foreign Buyer Tax

Almost a year after Vancouver, ground zero of Canada's housing bubble inflated with Chinese "hot money", implemented a foreign buyer tax, and just weeks after Toronto's housing bubble officially went nuts as prices soared 33% Y/Y, prompting economists such as David Rosenberg to demand a government intervention, Ontario's Liberal government has finally cracked down on foreign buyers and according to CBC will join Vancouver in slapping a 15% tax on home purchases by non-resident foreigners, while expanding the province's existing rent control system to cover all tenants.
The moves come after the price of the average home in the Greater Toronto Area jumped 33 per cent in a year, triggering warnings of a real estate bubble, as well as after reporting by CBC Toronto revealed landlords slapping massive rent increases on tenants.   
The announcement, which is expected to be made Thursday morning, will include in addition to the foreign buyers tax and expanded rent control, the following measures:
  •     A rebate of development cost charges to encourage building of more rental housing.
  •     A standardized lease document for all tenants.
  •     A ban on flipping of pre-construction units by speculators.
  •     A review of the rules governing the conduct of real estate agents.
The full details will be unveiled at 9 a.m. today by Premier Kathleen Wynne, in Toronto's neighbourhood of Liberty Village, along with Finance Minister Charles Sousa and Housing Minister Chris Ballard.

The highlight, however will be the 15% foreign buyer tax, which after being implemented in Vancouver halted the local housing bubble dead in its tracks and led to a sharp pullback in both home price appreciation and a torrid pace of transactions. Some more details:
Sources with knowledge of the announcement tell CBC News that Ontario will impose a 15 per cent tax on residential real estate purchases by anyone who is not a citizen or permanent resident, if they are not living in the province. Called the "Non-Resident Speculation Tax," it is similar to the tax imposed in Metro Vancouver last year, but with a rebate for homebuyers who become resident within a limited time period after the purchase. 

The tax will apply to purchases in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, an expanse of land that includes the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, as well as the surrounding region stretching from Peterborough through Barrie, Waterloo and the Niagara Peninsula to the U.S. border.
In addition to the tax aimed squarely at Chinese buyers, the Ontario government will bring all tenants under the province's existing rent control system, ending the exemption that currently allows unlimited rent increases in units built after 1991. The change will mean annual rent increases for all tenants who stay in their rental housing will be limited to Ontario's inflation-based guideline (which this year is set at 1.5 per cent), unless the landlord gets approval from the Landlord and Tenant Board.
The province will also introduce reforms making it harder for landlords to get approval for a higher-than-inflation rent hike. For instance, landlords who have yet to repair elevators after being ordered to do so will be unable to apply for such an increase. Ontario will also bring in a standardized lease, such as exists in Quebec, to stop landlords from putting illegal clauses in their contracts with tenants.
To make up for the expansion of rent control, CBC adds that the government will announce new incentives to developers for building dedicated rental accommodation targeted at the middle- and lower-income market. The key incentive will be an up-front provincial rebate of development cost charges. In addition, the government will free up more provincial land for building affordable housing, both for sale and for rental.

Additionally, the government will ban speculators from "assignment flipping" in the pre-construction housing market. The move is targeted at investors who put deposits on multiple units at pre-construction prices — typically in condominiums, but sometimes in new subdivisions — then sell the title for profit before the building is complete, a process known as assignment. Sousa has previously signaled his intent to target such investors, labelling them "property scalpers" who are driving up prices. 

Finally, anyone who buys real estate in Ontario will have to reveal their citizenship and place of residence. The measure was promised by Sousa last November, but takes effect on Monday, along with a range of other disclosure requirements. Buyers will also be required to state whether the property is to be used as a primary residence or investment, whether the buyer is acting as a representative for the eventual owner, and to reveal the names behind any numbered company purchasing real estate.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Toronto Police Union Wants Pride Funding Pulled After Floats Banned

The union representing Toronto’s police officers is urging the city to pull an annual grant to Canada’s largest Pride parade after the event banned police floats.

In an open letter released by the union Wednesday, a committee representing LGBTQ officers in the force said it would be unacceptable for the city to give the roughly $260,000 grant to an event that excludes certain municipal employees.

The committee said officers would feel completely devalued and unsupported by the city if the funding continued.

The plea comes weeks after a similar call from a Toronto city councillor, who said the grant should be voted down until the city’s Pride parade returns to its “core principals of equity and inclusivity.”

In January, Pride Toronto adopted a list of demands issued by the Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter, including banning police floats from the parade.

Members of the anti-racism group held a sit-in part way through the parade last July, stopping it from moving forward for about a half hour, until Pride organizers signed the list of demands.

Black Lives Matter said it opposed police presence in the parade because it could discourage marginalized communities from participating.

About a month after Pride Toronto’s ruling, Toronto’s police chief announced the force would not be participating in the annual event this year, citing divisions within the LGBTQ community as a key motivator.

The city still provides policing, transportation and other services for the Pride parade, which would not be affected even if the grant is revoked.

Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, read the open letter Wednesday at city hall, where he was set to deliver it to Mayor John Tory.

“When any city employee, regardless of their job function, is disinvited from an event hosted in the city of Toronto, we feel it is simply a conflict of interest and unacceptable that the City of Toronto remain a sponsor,” he read.

“We can think of no example in Canada where either a public or private employer has been a lead sponsor for an event their employees were asked not to participate in.”

Pride Toronto said although the city’s police service will not be participating this year, individual LGBTQ officers were welcome to march in the parade.

“Toronto city council has provided valuable support to Pride through funding and support services. In turn, we provide the largest economic impact of any festival in the city,” the organization said in statement Wednesday night. “We hope this reality will be front of mind for council as they consider our funding this year.”

The issue of police participation in Pride parades has also emerged in other Canadian cities in recent months.

The Vancouver Pride Society has asked officers in that city to show up in fewer numbers and without their uniforms at the request of the local chapter of Black Lives Matter.

Halifax police have also announced they would pull out of the city’s Pride parade this year in light of the “national debate” about law enforcement participation in such events.

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Toronto Homeowners Cash Out of Hot Real Estate Market

TORONTO — Sarah Blakely recalls feeling some trepidation when she and her husband shelled out more than $300,000 for a modest 1 1/2-storey house in a less-desirable part of Toronto.

Seven years later, they found themselves on the right side of a hot housing market, with values tripling in a 'hood suddenly considered up-and-coming for young families seeking detached homes.

They recently sold that renovated three-bedroom for more than $1 million and now expect to live mortgage-free in a four-bedroom purchase in their hometown of Ottawa.

The 34-year-old says it made sense to cash out of a city that was draining their finances, energy and family time.

"My husband and I saw an opportunity to take advantage of the recent gains in real estate and to move to a less expensive city to live mortgage-free, support our savings for retirement and also to be closer to family," says Blakely, whose new home has nearly twice the square footage.

And they may have taken action at just the right time.

Blakely's real estate agent Josie Stern says the market appears to be cooling, and doubts Blakely could fetch that same jackpot sale today.

"A little bit of air has been let out of the bubble," she says.

Many buyers and sellers are waiting to see what will come of Tuesday's scheduled meeting between Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa and Toronto Mayor John Tory, who are expected to discuss ways to rein in Toronto's hot housing market.

Meanwhile, the Ontario government is promising to announce affordability measures soon.

Stern says some buyers are delaying their purchase in anticipation of possible fixes.

"Buyers have been in such a stressful situation for so long that now they think somebody is going to save them and they're waiting," says Stern. "They've dug their heels in, they're tired of competition and then there's those that are still proceeding, but there's been quite a big pullback from buyers."

Sellers who've bought new homes are rushing to list their old property, she adds, but many are not getting the high bids seen a month ago.

The Toronto market has been astonishing, with the average sale in the Greater Toronto Area skyrocketing last month to $916,567. That's up 33.2 per cent from a year ago.

With strong demand and limited supply, it wasn't uncommon for bidding wars to result in sales hundreds of thousands of dollars above asking. And a lot of those sellers took those dollars out of the Greater Toronto Area where they can get more acreage, less congestion and still pocket a fair bit of cash.

"We're finding that a lot of people are leaving the city," says Stern, who estimates that about a third of her 35 sales this year involved sellers either downsizing to condos or moving to more affordable markets.

"It's empty-nesters, it's (couples with) babies, it's all kinds of people that are doing this."

Even with a new uncertainty in the air, it's still a seller's market, she adds.

One of her biggest sales was a $2-million listing that went $575,000 over asking in February. The sellers moved to the commuter city of Burlington, Ont.

They're joining buyers priced out of the Toronto market who have gone looking for cheaper housing in smaller communities across the Golden Horseshoe, spurring other sales spikes in the region — Hamilton-Burlington homes jumped 22.6 per cent during the first two months of 2017 compared to a year earlier.

Still other buyers are looking farther afield.

Remember that relatively inexpensive Nova Scotia mansion that dominated Facebook last month?

Real estate agent Wanda Graves of Eastern Valley Real Estate says it's sparked more inquiries from Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and B.C. house hunters suddenly hip to Eastern Canada's charms.

Nova Scotia sellers are taking notice, and are marketing to out-of-province buyers now considered increasingly likely to make an offer.

"They know that there are buyers out there and now it's, 'How do we reach them?'" says Graves.

Before selling for $455,000, the mansion in Newport Landing, N.S., drew more than one million views on her company's website and 36,000 shares on Facebook.

It's a story Vancouver real estate agent Melissa Wu knows well.

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Toronto's Housing Bubble Also Causing Trouble For Employers

At the end of a recent hiring process, recruiting firm IQ Partners believed it had found the perfect candidate for a vice-presidency with the Canadian Professional Sales Association. He ticked all the boxes – a senior executive in the field with the right résumé and the requisite expertise. He wanted the job, too. But he turned it down for one reason: Toronto’s housing prices.

After looking at listings, the candidate realized he couldn’t afford a “comparable home” in a move from Mississauga to a neighbourhood closer to the CPSA’s downtown office.

“Despite it being a very attractive job and being interested, he decided to decline simply because of the complications around home prices,” said IQ Partners’ managing partner, Bruce Powell. “These situations happen all the time.”

Increasingly, recruiters and employers are grappling with apprehensive job seekers who simply aren’t sure Toronto warrants its soaring real-estate prices. Typical wage gains have fallen far behind housing prices, which jumped more than 30 per cent in the past year. The issue appears to be most acute with executive positions, which attract talent with higher housing expectations.

“This is a state of emergency right now,” said Toronto Region Board of Trade president and chief executive Janet De Silva about the need to reduce housing costs to avoid seriously damaging the local job market. “The challenge is that at a certain point, it’s both the housing market and the lack of regional transit, and it’s a double whammy.”

Twice in the past month – at a dinner with international CEOs and during a visit from a Saudi Arabian delegation – Toronto’s international business community identified the looming housing crisis as a “top of mind concern,” Ms. De Silva said.

“It’s just the overall cost of doing business in Toronto and their ability to recruit in the talent that they want,” she said.

As a result, recruiters are seeing candidates take jobs closer to their bedroom communities, forcing businesses to either move out of the city or toward its core.

“The companies that aren’t geographically positioned around transportation hubs aren’t as attractive,” Mr. Powell said.

He believes that if IQ Partners wasn’t located across from Union Station, many of his own employees, who commute by GO train from places such as Ajax, Barrie, Milton and Oakville, wouldn’t be able to work for him.

Women, in particular, are choosing to abandon job searches, unable to juggle the cost of housing with families and long commutes, according to Ms. De Silva.

As a result, the Board of Trade has begun research into the impact the tough real estate market has already had on Toronto’s ability to attract talent.

Ms. De Silva points out that almost 80,000 new residents are moving into Toronto annually. The Board of Trade estimates the city needs 30,000 new rental units to match that flow. With just 1,500 new units each year, Toronto is nowhere near matching that target.

“We need to fast-track more rental properties,” Ms. De Silva said. “[We’re in] panic mode, where folks feel like if they don’t get in now, they’re never going to be able to afford it.”

Not all firms or sectors have felt the same impact, however.

Sean Kogan, a managing partner with staffing firm Recruiting in Motion, deals with job classes that fall below the traditional $150,000 cutoff for executive status. RIM matches candidates primarily in the $60,000 to $80,000 salary range. Mr. Kogan says that job market remains buoyant and the flow of candidates hasn’t yet slowed.

But he has his concerns.

“I think it might [slow]. I can’t imagine that if [housing prices] keep going up we won’t see an impact,” he said. “The price of jobs has not gone up nearly to the extent that the real-estate market has gone up.”

Mr. Powell says it’s easier now to hire for entry-level jobs than for senior positions because there’s a higher proportion of young workers, in the early years of their careers, living in condominiums closer to the downtown.

“It’s this interesting dilemma where we can help a company like CPSA hire their sales reps more easily than we can help them hire their VP of sales,” he said.

Gassia Maljian, the executive search director for digital recruiter Creative Niche, hasn’t seen tech companies match the rising cost of housing with increased compensation, either.

“Tech companies based in Toronto offer wonderful perks like subsidized lunches and gym memberships, but when you get down to it, salaries aren’t changing and they aren’t reflective of the housing market,” she said. “Those perks are great, but they don’t pay the rent.”

In the creative world, companies are increasingly moving to Hamilton to attract younger, cheaper talent. Animation studio Awesometown Entertainment is one of several creative companies to move to Toronto’s neighbour to the west, according to Glen Norton, the director of the city’s economic development office.

“You can get lost in the creative world in Toronto because it’s

just so big, and here you can make a name for yourself and plug into a network,” Mr. Norton said.

“It makes it really easy for us to hire juniors who, when they’re coming out of school, it’s much more affordable to reside somewhere closer to Hamilton,” Awesometown president Lucas Lynette-Krech said.

Hamilton’s real-estate prices are soaring too, though. And Mr. Norton fears young people may begin to bypass the city to move even farther out, to communities such as Brantford.
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Toronto to be Canada's Most Expensive Rental Market

A new report suggests that Toronto rental rates continue to increase as the Ontario government mulls over new rental control measures that could be tabled as early as the upcoming April 27 budget.

According to apartment listings website Padmapper, the median rent for a one bedroom in Toronto surpassed the $1,750 mark for the first time, on the heels of a 4.9 percent jump in the median price for such units this month.

Last month, the site also tracked a 4.9 percent increase. Since Padmapper began recording the median rental rates in Toronto for one and two bedroom apartments, they've risen from $1,320 and $1,650 (June 2016) to $1,760 and $2,270 in the span of 10 months.

If the trend continues, this puts Toronto on track to pass Vancouver as the most expensive rental market in the country by this summer. The median price for a one bedroom in Vancouver has hovered at $1,900 for the last three months, while Toronto's witnessed steady gains.

There may, however, be relief in sight. In addition to possible rent control measures, another recent report from Urbanation claims that rent for condo units in Toronto decreased in the first quarter of 2017.

Urbanation cites increased supply as the force behind stabilization in the market, though many would argue that the rates for condo rentals in Toronto became unaffordable long ago.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Toronto Mega City Amalgamation, Mike Harris, 20 Years Later

Twenty years ago this month, Mike Harris introduced Bill 103 at Queen’s Park, forcing Toronto’s amalgamation with what still seems like malice. Little wonder the provincial Tories have never recovered. Toronto has become their political graveyard. But the road to governing can be greased with a little Toronto love.

Exactly 20 years ago this month, Toronto was embroiled in a civic upheaval unmatched in our memory. The provincial government imposed a controversial merger on the six municipalities that stretched from Etobicoke Creek to the Rouge River, Lake Ontario up to Steeles Ave.

The forced amalgamation of Toronto, York, Etobicoke, East York, Scarborough and North York was resisted with verve, vigour and the kind of civic passion unparalleled since the huge majority of residents (three in four) had their protests squelched.

Mike Harris introduced Bill 103 at Queen’s Park. The entire creation, it seemed, hollered “No” — in referenda, nightly vigils, legislative filibuster and with the amplification provided by every available democratic tool. To no avail. The majority Tory government carried the day. The old city was history. A new one would be born eight months later. And everywhere, the citizens vowed never to love the child born out of what amounted to a political assault akin to forced marriage.

The fight has gone out of the dog — reality never matches the warnings of doom and destruction, so people forget what they had and what they’ve lost and celebrate survival where spectacular success was possible. But look close to the surface and the wounds are only now healing.

Of course, this sounds like strange doctrine to so many. Hundreds of thousands of newcomers have since arrived. The only Mad Max mayor they know of is Rob Ford, not the original Bad Boy Mel Lastman. Ancient grievances between old Toronto and the regional government of Metro Toronto are lost on them. They don’t get the stubborn, latent whine from Scarborough that the burbs get no respect.

Market Value Assessment. A New Deal for City. Downloading. Relics of the past, yes, the very near past. Still, one rarely hears calls for de-amalgamation.

By the time the amalgamated government took office on Jan. 1, 1998, the metropolis had grown weary. And Harris bludgeoned what little fight was left by turning the bazooka on the city with an unprecedented dump of service costs and cuts on the new city, rendering it almost stillborn.

Queen’s Park used to pay close to three-quarters of capital costs and half the operating costs for the TTC. Harris advised the new government it was getting out of paying the operating costs and grudgingly supplied a diminishing percentage of the cost of building the system and supplying it with vehicles.

Housing, a social cost if there ever was one, became Toronto’s responsibility. He stopped paying for sections of highways and dumped the cost on the city. And those costs have framed the fiscal arguments for the past 20 years.

The changeover was so tumultuous and seemingly designed to destabilize the city that, in order to survive, Toronto had to pull together.

Understand, this was the time the province filled in the tunnel already being built for the Eglinton West subway — yes the very route where the Crosstown LRT is being built now. Harris said no to the Spadina extension now going up to Vaughan. He acquiesced to Lastman for the Sheppard Subway, but short-turned it at Don Mills Rd., instead of all the way to the Scarborough Town Centre.

To many reading this, it is ancient history. But there are direct lines from our current fiscal issues to those decisions. Due to heroic, sustained advocacy, much of the social service costs — minus housing — have been taken back. It was the Liberal government, led by Dalton McGuinty, that started the repair. That might explain the persistent deference to the Libs.

So was the amalgamation the correct decision? I still think so, though it has never felt comfortable to hold that view, contrary to allies on most other fronts. The union was a natural evolution of a relationship that had survived more than 150 years.

But Harris executed the act with what still seems like malice and malevolence.

This was an act of sheer terror, a hatchet job that hacked the city to near death. We’ll never know what a unified Toronto might have accomplished — lovingly spawned after a proper gestation period and welcomed into the world with the appropriate crib and balloons and care package.

Instead, we got a new municipality, grieving a civic divorce, forced to exist in an arranged marriage with a good portion of its household income stolen by the source of the upheaval.

Little wonder the provincial Tories have never recovered. Toronto has become their political graveyard.

During the provincial election next year, the Tories could win the province by sweeping everywhere but Toronto. Again. But the road to governing can be greased with a little Toronto love.

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Toronto Housing Bubble Going Nuts

Based on fundamentals? You gotta be kidding.

Residential property sales in Greater Toronto soared 17.7% year-over-year to 12,077 homes, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB). New listings jumped 15.2% to 17,052. Prices for all types of homes, based on the MLS Home Price Index Composite “Benchmark,” soared 28.6%. The “average” selling price soared 33.2%!

That average selling price of C$916,567 is up from C$688,011 a year ago. Over the past five years, it has doubled!

The heavenly manna was spread across the spectrum. For condos, the average price in Greater Toronto soared 33.1% to C$518,879; for townhouses it soared 32.9% to C$705,078; for semi-detached houses, 34.4% to C$858,202; and for detached houses, 33.4% to C$1,214,422.

Even the house price bubble in Beijing cannot compete with this sort of miracle; new house prices there increased only 22% year-over-year in February. And Sydney’s fabulous house price bubble just flat out pales compared to the spectacle transpiring in Toronto, with prices up only 19% in March.

Vancouver has its own housing bubble to deal with. But there, the government of British Columbia has tried to tamp down on wild speculation with various measures, including a transfer tax aimed squarely at foreign non-resident investors, with “mixed” success.

Now the great fear in Toronto’s real estate circles is that the government of Ontario might impose similarly cruel and unusual punishment on the participants in this spectacle. Some measures are on the table, with folks wondering how to stop the bubble from inflating further and causing even greater harm to the real economy when it deflates, as all bubbles eventually do.

They’re reluctant. It seems they want to see how BC’s measures are washing out in Vancouver. The central government too is trying to fine-tune some macroprudential measures, but they’ve had absolutely no effect on Toronto’s housing bubble. And the Bank of Canada, which has been fretting about the housing bubble for a while – always couched in its very careful terms – refuses to raise rates. Everyone is talking. No one dares to do anything real about Toronto’s house price bubble.

In Toronto, according the real estate folks, it’s all based on fundamentals. It’s based on supply and demand and very rational calculated thinking, and there is no bubble in sight, lenders are just fine, and if Canadians are locked out of the housing market, so be it, it’s just a shortage of housing, really. So TREB President Larry Cerqua is glad the efforts to tamp down on it all have not come to fruition, in part due to TREB’s vigorous lobbying:

“It has been encouraging to see that policymakers have not implemented any knee-jerk policies regarding the GTA housing market,” he said in a statement.

“Different levels of government are holding consultations with market stakeholders and TREB has participated and will continue to participate in these discussions,” he said. “Policy makers must remember that it is the interplay between the demand for and supply of listings that influences price growth.”

Singing a similar tune, Jason Mercer, TREB’s Director of Market Analysis, explained the basic supply and demand problem:

“Annual rates of price growth continued to accelerate in March as growth in sales outstripped growth in listings,” he said. “A substantial period of months in which listings growth is greater than sales growth will be required to bring the GTA housing market back into balance.”

And he told policy makers to tread carefully: “As policy makers seek to achieve this balance, it is important that an evidence-based approach is followed,” he said. This is a gravy train, and it must be allowed to speed on until the last cent has been extracted.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this will end in tears. What we don’t know yet is when it will end in tears, and whose tears it will end with. But we already know: When it does end in tears, real estate organizations will first be denying it, and then they’ll be clamoring for a bailout of their stakeholders – so it will end in the tears of others.

Even the big Canadian banks are fretting. “Let’s drop the pretense. The Toronto housing market and the many cities surrounding it are in a housing bubble,” Bank of Montreal Chief Economist Doug Porter warned clients. But the bubble’s deflation would push the city into a fiscal and financial sinkhole.
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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Unoccupied Homes in Toronto, Almost 100,000

Statistics Canada, show the City of Toronto saw Vancouver’s 25k+ unoccupied homes, and trumped it by another 74k units. Now with over 99k unoccupied homes in the city, speculation of Toronto real estate might be worse than previously thought.
Hold my beer Vancouver, we got this. The newly released 2016 Census numbers from

99,236 Homes Not Regularly Occupied

The number of homes in the GTA that aren’t being occupied is growing almost as fast as the price of shelter. The latest numbers show that 99,236 homes are not regularly occupied, as identified by the owner of the residence. This represents 4.5% of all homes in the city, and a 10.5% change over the past 5 years. The general population grew by 4.5% during the same period, which means this trend appears to be accelerating.
The rate of irregular occupancy was mostly skewed up by a few concentrated pockets. Most of the city came in under the 5% level, but a few areas were nowhere near that. The highest rate was in the Concord area of Vaughan, which came in at 35.27%. Interesting since a number of new projects are slated to hit the area…you know, because who doesn’t want a pied-à-terre next to the Ikea.

Downtown Toronto The Most Units

Downtown Toronto averaged higher than the rest of the city. The area South of Bloor Street, East of Roncesvalles Ave., and West of Yonge Street showed an average of 8.79% unoccupied. This number is also significant because the volume of housing is much higher. For instance the Fashion District (King West) had a massive 3,316 units (21.81%) not regularly occupied. The corridor going up Yonge Street also had a higher than usual concentration when compared to the rest of the city.

Why Are They Empty?

I know what you’re thinking, foreign buyers! Well, foreign buyers aren’t usually census respondents so these are most likely domestic residents. AirBnB, pied-à-terre, or short-term renting are all uses I’ve heard from owners of multiple Toronto homes. The most popular reason however, is likely plain ole’ speculation. One of the consequences of living in a city with a red hot real estate market is flippers will hang on to inventory until they believe they’ve hit peak. In fact, a few months ago we observed that 1 in 3 homes in the city were being sold as never been lived in, despite many having been built a few years ago.
Speculation isn’t a bad thing by itself. There’s nothing wrong with flipping units for the purposes of making a profit. This could present a problem however if Canada’s record consumer debt has anything to do with this.

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Downsview Park GO Station in Toronto

The Downsview Park GO Station is a unique project in collaboration with the TTC and their Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension.

GO Transit and the TTC are collaborating on the new Downsview Park Station, which will allow customers to transition between subway and GO train service, much like they do at Union Station. Located just west of Sheppard West and Chesswood Drive on the Barrie corridor, GO train service will be above ground and subway service below ground.

The station will be fully accessible and will include elevators, escalators, ramps and other features necessary for customers to travel with ease throughout the station. A public concourse will be built below the rail to facilitate customers transferring from GO to TTC service.

GO will have its own station integrated into the subway station, which will consist of a 12-car platform with a snowmelt system, heated shelters, bike shelter, an accessible platform and a GO ticket sales booth.

We plan to start GO Train service at Downsview Park Station in late 2017 to coincide with the start of service on the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension. Note that Downsview, TTC’s current line 1 terminus station at Sheppard West and Allen Road, will be renamed Sheppard West.

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Toronto Condo Renters Hurting From City’s Red-hot Housing Market

Prospective homeowners in Toronto aren’t the only ones getting burned by Toronto’s red-hot housing market.

According to a new report by Urbanation, a real estate consulting and market research firm, the average rent in the city jumped by a record rate of 11.7 per cent year-over-year in the fourth quarter of 2016, thanks to a shortage of listings.

This marked a “dramatic acceleration” from the same period last year, which saw rates jump by 4.2 per cent.

On the back of this spike, monthly rent for a typical 719-square-foot unit reached nearly $1,990 in the Greater Toronto Area.

Rents saw the biggest rise in Toronto downtown core, as the average price for a condo was $2,134, up 12 per cent from the fourth quarter last year.

Meanwhile, the average rate in the suburbs of Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough rose by seven per cent to $1,857. Rent in the 905-region was also up six per cent to $1,739.

The data, which was released Monday, indicated that rents have climbed, in part, thanks to rising resale prices for condos, which jumped 15 per cent during the same period, enticing owners to sell their units rather than use them as rentals.

At the same time, Urbanation said that there has been less turnover as fewer renters have been willing to move as they take note of the high cost of renting in the open market.

Urbanation said the number of condo units in the GTA that were rented through the Multiple Listing Service system in 2016 declined for the first time since it began tracking the data in 2011, falling 2 per cent to 26,602 units.

The real estate research firm also noted that the share of the total inventory of rental condos dropped from 9.3 per cent in 2015 to 8.5 last year, while units that were resold climbed from 7.1 per cent to 8.1 per cent.

This trend was particularly evident in the fourth quarter of 2016 as final closings for new condos surged by 34 per cent year-over-year, while total rental listings fell by 8 per cent, dragging down lease volumes by 4 per cent annually.

“The undersupply of rentals in the GTA continued to worsen throughout the year, causing rents to surge alongside home prices and further deteriorating housing affordability across the region,” wrote Shaun Hildebrand, Urbanation’s senior vice-president.

Occupancy delays for condos under construction also contributed to the slowdown in rental activity, according to Urbanation.

The growth in renters also seems to be spurring developers to build rental units, rather than condos.

Urbanation found that applications for rental apartments jumped by 7,586 units in the fourth quarter to 27,812.

Despite this upcoming boost in stock, Hildebrand said there needs to be a greater focus on developing rental units.

“While less pressure on rent growth may arrive in 2017 due to a temporary rise in new apartment completions, it (has) become clear that more attention needs to be paid to building rentals over the longer-term,” he wrote.
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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Downsview Park Built For People and Nature, Combines a Park and TTC Subway and Urban Infrastructure

Does Downsview Park have a future as Toronto’s version of New York City’s Central Park?

This idea was shown to me — literally — on a recent tour of the park in a golf cart. We were there, planting trees for the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute (check it out at on one of the beautiful, clear days we’ve had this past fall.

David Anselmi, a director with Canada Lands Company, the crown corporation in charge of the park, offered to drive me across the 291-acre swath located in northwest Toronto, at Sheppard Ave. and Keele St. For nearly 50 years it was the military base CFB Toronto before closing in 1996.

Canada Lands has invested $45 million in a new chapter for the park that will make the property into a multi-purpose urban centre. In its 20 years as a city park, progress has been quiet. Among Downsview’s biggest achievements was hosting 800,000 in 2002 for Pope John Paul II’s World Youth Day. Today, things are quieter but progress is underway with some iconic features such as the Lake, the Meadow and the Mound. And Anselmi is clearly proud of it. This past year, 125,000 visited the park that hosted 22 major events.

One of the first things on our tour that I spied were new public washrooms. “OK — good start,” I thought. If I’m going to visit a public park, I want washrooms and I want the doors to not be locked as they are so often are in places like this. 

Next: The Orchard, a variety of 400 specially chosen apple trees. This wonderful idea reminds me of a similar park in Strathcona, AB., where large planters of edible flowers and vegetables include a sign that reads: “Help yourself.”

Then we motored over the hill to a magnificent view of a nine-acre man-made lake. This is actually a stormwater retention pond that serves more than 400 surrounding acres of land. The lake is full of waterfowl, water plants and has a walking/running path that goes around it. 

Other features of the new Downsview Park:
WILLIAM BAKER WOODLOT: This 27-acre park is the perfect place for kids to play and adults to absorb some oxygen. The 1856 homestead of the Boakes family was located here, and the forest provides a reminder that the property provided a real home to real people long before it became an Air Force base in the late 1930s. 

LOVE SPORTS? Chances are you will find a sport to your liking at the park’s Hangar Sports Complex. Soccer, basketball, volleyball, ball hockey and other recreational sports activities are all accessible to the public. Details at

LOVE WILDLIFE? This park is teaming with wildlife. The lake provides a magnet for much of it, but everywhere in the almost-300 acres there is evidence that Mother Nature is making a home here for herself. Song birds and beneficial insects are enjoying the substantial wetland areas that have formed naturally through a disciplined approach to development of the land.

LOVE TO WALK, RUN AND/OR BIKE? The Circuit Path stretches 2.7-kilometres along the outer ring, with paths criss-crossing through it, to The Meadow in the middle. Most of the paths are well lit and wide enough a baby-stroller, a runner and a bicyclist to share.

TREES: As well as the mature trees in Boake’s Grove, thousands of new trees have been planted across the property. Nothing man-made can match the contribution trees make to our social and recreational while also enhancing the health of our natural environment. The only problem is that they need time to grow. And time will make this park spectacular.

LIVING THERE: Mattamy Homes is building there now, in their Stanley Greene community. Many more units are to come over the next 10 years. 

Will Downsview become to Toronto what Central Park is to New York City? A few comparisons:
  • Central Park is 843 acres. Downsview is almost 300 acres.
  • Central Park has a 22-acre lake.
  • Central Park took 25 years to build and is now 160 years old. That is, give or take, about seven generations.
I have no doubt that in seven generations Downsview Park will hold a significant place in the hearts of Torontonians. While the park is not currently well known and not travelled nearly as much as it could be, the new subway station at the park (on the Toronto-York Spadina extension) and growing awareness of this gem will change all of that.
As all of us are told when we try and grow up too fast: “It takes time.” The pre adolescent Downsview will no doubt grow into a beauty.
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Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Legend of Late Toronto Biker Johnny Sombrero AKA Harry Barnes Lives On

Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral of Johnny Sombrero, the larger-than-life leader and founder of the Black Diamond Riders Motorcycle Club who died last week at age 81.

Hundreds of mourners packed a Toronto funeral home Saturday to pay their respects to Johnny Sombrero, the larger-than-life leader and founder of the Black Diamond Riders Motorcycle Club who died last week at age 81 after a lengthy battle with diabetes and heart disease.

“The legend lives on,” said one grey-haired biker wearing a BDR patch who attended the visitation and service on Weston Rd., not far Sombrero’s north Toronto stomping grounds.

The remembrances were attended by members of several affiliate clubs including the Houston-based Amigos MC, with some travelling from the U.S. to offer their tributes. Also known as Harry Barnes, Sombrero is survived by his wife of 58 years, Maire Barnes, five children and seven grandchildren.

While he had brushes with the law decades ago, including a court case over his storage of a gun collection, friends and colleagues remembered him as an old school throwback to the day when bike gangs were about freedom and rebellion and showed respect for one another.

News reports in 1963, however, described the then 28-year-old as a “beefy, tough-talking” leader of a 200-strong gang of thrill-seeking riders that “terrorized high school dance halls, staged brawls and administered serious beatings to whoever was considered an opponent.”

The article also reported on a series of “lightning police raids” on BDR headquarters that saw Sombrero jailed for three months on a liquor charge.

As well, BDR riders took part in a clash in the early 1990s with rival Canadian motorcycle club the Satan’s Choice after a reported attempt to encroach on the gang’s Sudbury territory resulted in a melee in the parking lot of a hotel.

And the Star described a “motorcycle gang battle” that resulted in charges against Barnes, who the report described as a plumber by trade, after a bar fight left a man with a brain injury that required surgery.

A reputation had built up around Sombrero and BDR as evidenced by a reference in the 1980s Blues Brothers film that was a nod by actor Dan Aykroyd to the club from his home province.

Despite the notoriety, Sombrero’s daughter, Sabrina Robinson, said he was loved by many, including the children in north Toronto who would gather around the leather jacketed biker’s Indian motorcycle when he rode into their neighbourhoods.

“A lot of people have an idea what a biker is,” Robinson said. “But he wasn’t like that. He never smoked, didn’t do drugs,” and he didn’t like tattoos.

“He was colourful and he definitely had an independent streak,” added Toronto lawyer David Costa, who defended the then aging biker in 2011 against unsafe firearms charges that were dismissed after a gun expert for the defence testified Sombrero met or exceeded the requirement of safe storage laws.

“He didn’t like to be pushed around,” Costa said, noting as well that Sombrero was an expert collector and gunsmith who provided firearms consulting services to Hollywood moviemakers.

Sombrero’s daughter said her father’s life as Supreme Leader of the BDR began when he founded the club 60 years ago in his late teens, inspired by a love of guns, bikes and the open road.

She said the BDR club and charter continue to exist, although original members who are still alive are mostly in their seventies.

Robinson said her father should be remembered as a uniquely Canadian “cultural icon” and a patriot, noting that his body was adorned with a poppy at the open-casket viewing. She said he lived life to the fullest and stuck to his credo — no guts, no glory.

“He was true to his principles and absolutely loyal to everyone around him.”

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Toronto Star offers new coffee delivery service

After a difficult summer that saw the newspaper lay off more than 50 employees and reveal that it posted a $24.3 million loss in the second quarter of 2016, the Toronto Star is hoping to capitalize on a traditional morning routine to change its fortunes.

On Monday, the country’s second-most read daily newspaper announced that it is launching a new service called Headline Coffee, which brings its readers in the Greater Toronto Area “high-quality, ethically-sourced ground or whole-bean coffee,” each month at the cost of $20.

“Toronto residents love their coffee and they love reading the news,” states the press release.
“Now, the Toronto Star is matching coffee lovers and one of their favourite pastimes with the launch of Headline Coffee."

The newspapers said 75 per cent of its readers enjoy a cup of a coffee while enjoying the Star's content.

The service promises to bring its users a new coffee from a different part of the world each month.
The Star is likely looking to capitalize on Canadian’s coffee culture.

According to a study released earlier this month by global marketing research company Euromonitor, Canucks trail only the Netherlands and Finland in terms of litres of java consumed per capita.
The venture from the Star comes on the heels of the announcement in August that it was slashing its ranks by 52 jobs.

It also revealed in July that it posted a $24.3 million loss in Q2, in part because of costs related to the shuttering of its printing plant in Vaughan, Ont.

The newspaper industry in Canada has been struggling as a whole, as readership has migrated online and advertising revenues have dwindled.

Research has shown that daily paid circulation as a percentage of Canadian households has dropped from just under 50 per cent in 1995 to 20 per cent in 2014.

Meanwhile, the Star saw its average weekday paid circulation drop from 237,141 in 2014 to 192,084, according to Newspapers Canada.

Some experts have even predicted that there will be “few, if any, printed daily newspapers” in Canada by 2025.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Affording a home in Toronto harder now than it has been in 25 years: report

Maybe we should stop letting so many people immigrate into this country until we get our house in order? Just a thought.
Keeping a roof over your head making you feel like you’re in the poorhouse?

It's not your imagination.

It’s now harder to afford a home in the city that at any point in the last 25 years, according to a study released Tuesday by RBC.

The study tracked housing affordability through a measure that looks at the percentage of median household income being spent on mortgages, utilities and property taxes. The higher the number, the more people are being squeezed to afford their homes.

At about 60 per cent, the number is the highest it’s been since about 1990 — right before a housing bubble burst in Toronto — and represents a 2 per cent increase in the last five years.

A lack of supply and overwhelming demand is driving the surge, said RBC senior economist Robert Hogue.

“The thing is people still want single detached homes,” he said.

And, there simply aren’t enough of them to go around.

But there's a bit of a difference from 1990 in terms of condos. “Condo prices continue to rise at this stage but no where near as much as with single detached homes,” said Hogue.

Hogue said condos are still a “relatively affordable” option in the city, especially compared to Vancouver, where property values have gone up by 30 per cent in the last year.

“That’s clearly not sustainable,” he said.

“In Toronto, I would argue it’s probably not sustainable either, but it’s not as extreme, and there’s probably more room for a soft landing scenario to unfold.”
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How hot is a TTC subway car in Toronto?

This is what happens when the government tries to run something. Privatize.

It is hard to say exactly when Bianca Spence reached her breaking point because the points were many. Maybe it was the day she stepped on a subway car in Toronto’s west end in early July, as she does every other work day, then got off at her destination, soaked through with sweat and feeling wilted and wondering: why is this happening to Toronto subway commuters?

To people riding the east-west subway line, where one in four cars are without air-conditioning, but not north-south, where the city’s newer subway trains are operating and commuters from some of the tonier neighbourhoods in Canada’s largest city are travelling in cool and delicious air-conditioned splendour?

Or maybe it was the day, not so many days after the first, when Spence woke up extra-early to curl her hair for an important work meeting, before enduring another hell ride on one of the transit system’s now infamous “hot cars.”

“It had been pointless to even bother trying to look good because when I got to work I was a sweaty mess,” says Spence, who works in publishing and, for a few days this week, was on vacation and staying in an air-conditioned apartment in Ottawa.

“So I threw it out there on Twitter after that, and kept going with it, and the longer he didn’t answer me, well … ”

He is Toronto Mayor John Tory. Thanks to Spence’s personal crusade on social media — she repeatedly challenged His Worship to ride a “hot car” with her — she has a subway date (time to be determined) with the politician.

“I hope we do it soon,” she says. “The kids are going back to school, so the cars will be even more crowded. It will be an entirely new rush-hour reality.”

But what is the reality? How hot is the Toronto subway “hot car” hot?

Consider: Tokyo has subway pushers, cramming passengers into cars like sardines; Buenos Aires has pickpockets and no air-conditioning; Moscow has derailments and suicide bombings; and yet commuters in other places somehow soldier on.

When Toronto sweats, people start crying about how inhumane it is to perspire on public transit or worse, detect the scent from others who have.

I am from Toronto, not born here, but I have lived here, more or less, since the age of three. I cringed when I heard my fellow citizens bellyaching over the hot-car mess, since didn’t they understand that it is exactly what the Rest of Canada expects from Toronto?

We waft along on our cloud of self-importance (ROC would say), suffer from Toronto as centre of the universe delusions (ROC would say) — and then when it snows we call in the army — see Mayor Mel Lastman, January 1999 — to fight a blizzard because we’re soft and spoiled. Now we’re too sweaty? Good gravy.

Further research was required. I needed proof. (I commute by bike during spring, summer and fall. There are cars aplenty, but no hot subway cars.) So, I drank three large glasses of water, bought a thermometer from the dollar store near our offices and descended into the Sherbourne subway station at 1:03 p.m. Tuesday.

The air was humid, but not uncomfortably so. I was dressed in shorts, a T-shirt and sandals. The thermometer, which I tucked in my pocket, registered 24 C.

A subway appeared. I stepped aboard and was hit by a wall of … air conditioning. The next car had air conditioning, too, while the passengers, including a giggling wee tot in a stroller, appeared happily sweat-free.

Next car? Bingo. The air was still, unpleasant. Hotter than the 28.4 C Environment Canada was reporting at street level at 1 p.m.

Sarah, a university student, sat across from me, sipping on a juice, eating a green apple. Her advice: “Stay hydrated. It gets awful in here.”

At 1:30 p.m., my thermometer registered 30 C. The woman beside me was wearing purple socks. Her eyelids drooped. A man two seats over had his eyes closed and hands clasped on his knees, as though in prayer.

A fresh-faced teen in pants and a Blue Jays jersey produced a chilled bottle of water from his backpack. “Is that cold?” his friend asked.

The mood in the car was subdued. Sweat beaded at the back of my neck. On some lower inner-belly level, I felt nauseous. The kid with the ice water took another swig. I began to hate that kid.

At 2:05 p.m., I was done. Out. Off. My nether regions were uncomfortably warm, my armpits ripening, my thermometer was registering 34 C — and rising.

A voice crackled over the public address system. There was a service disruption at Old Mill station to the west. Commute times would be longer than normal.

There was no mention of the heat.
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Three youths arrested amid disturbances at Toronto CNE’s Youth Day

Will the police or media publish the names and photos of these thugs? I wonder what their father have to say about this?

Three youths have been arrested after trouble broke out at the Canadian National Exhibition Tuesday night.

The CNE closed down nearly three hours earlier than scheduled on Youth Day due to safety concerns.

A 16-year-old girl, and a boy, also 16, have been charged with assaulting a police officer, while another male, 17, has been charged with drug possession, according to Sgt. Steve French.

Police were initially called after 9 p.m. for reports of gunshots, which they later confirmed were false.

The skirmishes were mainly pushing and shoving, staff Sgt. Andrew Stinson said.

“The CNE is experiencing one of the busiest nights of the Fair as a result of the popularity of Youth Day,” said the CNE in a statement.

“CNE organizers are winding down operations early as a proactive measure to curtail overcrowding and ensure the safety of our guests.”

David Hart, who was visiting the Ex with his friends, said he saw a group of about 60 youths running through the park earlier in the night.

“They all just started running in one direction, scared the crap out of everybody, nobody knew what was going on, and then 20 minutes later, the same thing in another direction,” Hart said.

“Just scared the hell out of everybody.”

Hart was in line for a ride, he said, when a “frantic” employee told him that the grounds might be shut down in the next 10 minutes.

Around 9:30 p.m., all the lights and rides were shut off.

Ryan Daly said he arrived at the Ex with his fiancée and two children around 8 p.m. He said there were groups of teenagers “running around all over the place, having little fights all over the place,” adding he kept hearing about small scuffles from family members who were in different parts of the CNE.

Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said Tuesday night that officers were on scene assisting with crowd control as the people tried to depart at once.

“There are more people than can be accommodated on each train,” she said, adding that riders were being very patient.

The CNE will be resuming regular hours Wednesday, said French.

According to French, the 17-year-old male will appear in court Wednesday morning. The other two have been released.

This isn’t the first time the CNE closed early due to the popularity of Youth Day. Last year, operations were shut down an hour early.
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Toronto CNE shuts down early due to 'overcrowding' , reports of fights by black people Black Lives Matter BLM

Here we go again, black youths causing more trouble. This is why many white people don't go to the CNE like they once did, and "the EX" is paying for it financially.
The Canadian National Exhibition shut down a few hours earlier than planned on Tuesday night due to overcrowding and fighting inside the fairgrounds.

The CNE said on its website that it was experiencing one of its busiest nights due to the popularity of Youth Day, when the price of admission was reduced to $6 per person after 5 p.m.

It said the early closure was a "proactive measure" to curtail overcrowding and ensure the safety of guests.

Police said there was no risk to public safety, but officers on horseback and others were deployed to the lakefront facility to disperse the large crowds.

Const. Craig Brister said there were a number of fights inside the grounds but no injuries were reported and there were no arrests.

The CNE gates close usually at 10 p.m., but rides and other attractions continue to operate until midnight for those already inside.

Virginia Ludy, the general manager of the CNE, told television station CP24 the trouble began with some "large groups of youths" on the midway.

"Their behaviour became a little bit undesirable and started running through the midway and just for public safety reasons, we made the decision in consultation with the Toronto Police Service that we were going to shut the fair down," Ludy said.

"The issue is the behaviour of a few. A few have ruined it for a larger group of folks who were down here tonight just to enjoy the fair."

The CNE is Canada's largest fair and has been staged at Toronto's Exhibition Place for 138 years.
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Black Lives Matter hijack Pride Toronto town hall meeting

Were you expecting anything different from black racists? 
TORONTO - Hundreds of members of Toronto’s gay community packed the Daniels Spectrum in Regent Park Tuesday to discuss where Pride Toronto goes from here following months of controversy.

The dialogue was supposed to be "respectful" -- or at least that was how Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam put it to the crowd -- about what to do following the controversial move by Black Lives Matter, Pride's honoured group, to disrupt the July 3 parade with a sit-in that led to the recent resignation of executive director Mathieu Chantelois over allegations he'd subjected staff to racist and sexist comments and sexual harassment.

But in a move reminiscent of their Pride Parade tactics, BLM members and their supporters quickly hijacked the Town Hall, using the platform to rail against police and shout down any viewpoints other than their own.

Speaker after speaker argued BLM was right to want the police out of the parade and anyone who dared to disagree was shouted down, jeered and called racist.

Gary Kinsman, who was part of the first lesbian and gay pride committee in 1981 following the infamous Bathhouse raids, suggested to the crowd that 2016 has been a year of "very virulent anti-black racism" and as long as any members of Toronto's gay community are "under attack" by the police, the community should not collaborate with them.

A woman named Jocelyn said the police are not needed at the parade and that the gay community can keep itself safe.

"Police harass and kill some members of our community," she said to sustained applause.

When community member Joe Clark dared suggest he filed a complaint to Pride's dispute resolution process about BLM's tactics in the July 3 parade, he was jeered and bullied with taunts of "f---ing racism"; "it's a racism zone" and orders to the meeting's facilitator Tanya De Mello (who tried her best to keep order) to throw Clark out for allegedly being racist and violent.

Elizabeth Plukhovska was also mocked and accused of being racist when she suggested that police should not be banned from the parade.

"Allowing the police to participate shows how far we've come," she said, adding that Pride Toronto should not "tolerate aggressive behaviour" even from its honored group, a comment went over like a lead balloon in the emotionally charged meeting.

It seemed the die had already been cast at the meeting's start, when co-chair Alicia Hall told the crowd Pride Toronto had signed an agreement to work with BLM on their demands.

She said the ban on police participation in the parade -- the most "contentious" demand -- will be sent to Pride’s dispute resolution process for a decision.

A DRP panel will be announced next month, she added.

The DRP process was the same means used to declare that Queers Against Israeli Apartheid did not disseminate hate and was fine to march in the parade.
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