On The Value Of Land In The GTA

In May of 2017, the RGF Real Estate Fund LP bought the Toronto Region Board of Trade’s Woodbridge area golf course. The 290-acre course was iconic, the sight of many golf tournaments, networking events, and business function since its opening in the mid 1960s. Many golf courses are being sold across North America. High land values, declining golf use, and enormous demand for housing is driving the changes.

Woodbridge Golf Course
Only one third of the land sold can be developed; roughly 100 acres. The other two thirds of the sold golf course are green space off limits to real estate construction. Even though this is the case, the developer has said that the capacity to develop the 100 acres will be very profitable. The developer plans some 600 detached residential units and 60 townhomes. This plan was presented to the city of Vaughan and has yet to be fully approved. Many local residents are opposed to the development proposal, fearful of increased traffic, noise, and pollution.
In April of 2015, the 400 acre York Downs golf course was sold for $412 million. Both York Downs and the Country Club are courses adjacent to valuable suburban real estate and they are similarly sized. Assuming a similar valuation, it can be assumed that RGF bought the Country Club for roughly $300 million. Despite the fact that only a third of the course can be developed, this massive purchase will likely be very profitable. These transactions highlight the extent of housing demand in the GTA.

Bank of Canada’s Huge Announcement On Mortgage Bonds

On Friday, November 23rd at 10am, the Bank of Canada issued a ‘market notice’ announcement with big implications. For the first time, the Bank stated that it would begin making innovative additions to its balance sheet: the purchase of mortgage bonds, or mortgage backed securities.

The news was not announced in a press conference or a press release, but a sleepy ‘market notice’ at the bottom of the Bank’s media/press page on its website.

So, What Are Mortgage Bonds?

A mortgage bond, or mortgage backed security (MBS), is a financial product that is made up of many mortgages, let’s say 100 for example. These mortgages are usually issued at the same time, at the same mortgage rate, and generate interest (income for the purchaser). Buyers could be Canadian banks, foreign banks, and domestic and international investors. 
Mortgage backed securities were at the heart of the 2007-8 financial crash. The bonds were given the highest credit ratings, (what’s safer than a mortgage/house as an investment?) and were scooped up by clients all over the world. What buyers didn’t know was that many of these mortgages were poorly underwritten, and very risky. When foreclosures started kicking in the bonds went bust, and clients lost tons of money.

Why Is The Bank Of Canada Announcement So Significant? 

By now purchasing these bonds, the Bank of Canada is directly providing a powerful stimulus to the banking system and the real estate market. If Banks can now profitably sell mortgage bonds to the central bank, it is likely that their incentive to further increase mortgage debt will rise. This could have a negative impact of the quality of bank underwriting, and will provide a boon to housing prices by facilitating higher demand.
Tembo will keep an even closer eye on the Bank of Canada, this news signals that simply watching rates is not enough. This added central intervention into market brings more risk to Canada’s housing system. You heard it here first.