A snapshot of Toronto’s economy & construction sector as we wrap up 2019

In this blog post, Tembo will give its readers an overview of the state of Toronto’s economy and its major financial indicators. In this way, Tembo hopes to reveal the overall good shape, flexibility, and versatility of Toronto’s economic state. All in all, Toronto’s economic indicators are very positive.

The Macro-Economy

  • Unemployment is at 6.9%, slightly higher than the national figure but still a decent number, remember that population is rising by 70,000, placing pressure on job creation.
  • Mean hourly wages in Toronto meet provincial and national averages, at $29.
  • GDP is growing by roughly 2%, at the rate of inflation, it’s projected to stay at this amount for the next several years. The economy had a strong growth spurt from 2014-2017
  • Toronto’s economy boomed from 1998-2001, averaging rates of well over 5% in those years
  • There are 1,572.4 million jobs are in Toronto, contributing to an office vacancy rate of 4.1%, there have been only 10 business bankruptcies in our City this year
  • The industrial vacancy rate is 1.5%, down from 5.5% in late 2013
  • Consumer prices rose by 1.7% this year
  • Retail sales in Toronto will exceed $32 billion for 2019, most of which was cars and car parts

Buildings under construction

  • There are 246 mid and high-rise buildings under construction in Toronto as of October 2019, up from 202 in October of 2018
  • The pace of building continues to rise, Toronto is competing with New York City for the title of most mid to high rise construction in North America
  • 2022 will be a giant year for construction in our City as there are a huge number of supertall buildings that will be completed in that year
  • These will include the 83 floor The One building at Yonge-Bloor, YSL Residences at 85 floors just down the street, and Sugar Wharf Tower D on Queens Quay which will reach 70 floors
  • This article from the Financial Post has lots of information and an interactive video of some of the supertall structures that are being built right now: https://business.financialpost.com/real-estate/property-post/vertical-city-80-new-skyscrapers-planned-in-toronto-as-demand-climbs

Housing

  • Disappointingly, housing starts in Q3 2019 were 9% lower than in Q3 2018 but are up 11.5% from Q2 2019
  • There were roughly 5,000 housing starts in Q3 2019, most of which were apartments and condos
  • The average house price in our City is $925K

Most analysts and experts consider Toronto’s economy to continue

to remain healthy and reasonably stable in the coming years. Analysts believe the biggest threats are high debt levels, a rapid rise in interest rates, or a severe recession from abroad.

An Overview of Toronto’s HousingTO 2020-2030 plan

The City of Toronto is unveiling a broad, ambitious 10 year plan to address the major issues of homelessness, housing stress, and a lack of affordable housing options for tens of thousands of City residents.

The plan seeks to pool together resources from many City divisions, the province, and the federal government to invest over $20 billion in the next decade. At its heart, the plan seeks to bring together government, non-profits, and banks to cooperate on models to get as much affordable housing built as is possible. Pressure on politicians to address public housing repair bills, the lack of cheap aparments and homes for Torontonians, and increasing rents and housing prices is steadily building. In many ways, the housing crisis is augmenting inequality and is reinforcing poverty. A serious chunk of Toronto’s population is spending massive chunks of their disposable income on rent.

The plan has the following key goals:

Creating 40,000 new affordable rental homes approvals including:

·         18,000 new supportive homes approvals for vulnerable residents including

people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless

·         A minimum of 25% (10,000) of the 40,000 new affordable rental and supportive

homes dedicated to women and girls including female-led households

·         Preventing 10,000 evictions for low-income households through programs such as the City’s Eviction Prevention in the Community (EPIC) program

Improving housing affordability for 40,000 households:

·         31,000 households to receive up to $4,800/year/household in Canada Housing

Benefit

·         9,000 households to continue receive housing allowances

·         Maintaining affordability for 2,300 non-profit homes after expiry of their operating

agreements

·         Providing support services to 10,000 individuals and families in supportive housing

Improving housing conditions for 74,800 households by repairing and revitalizing

Toronto’s rental housing stock, including:

·         Repair of 58,500 Toronto Community Housing units

·         Revitalization of 8 TCHC communities to add 14,000 new market and affordable

homes with 5,000 replacement homes across the city

·         Bringing 2,340 private rental homes to state-of-good repair

·         Assisting 10,010 seniors remain in their homes or move to long-term care facilities

·         Providing property tax relief for 6,000 eligible seniors

·         Providing home repair assistance for 300 eligible low-income senior

homeowners

·         Redeveloping 1,232 City-owned long-term care beds and creating 978 new beds

utilizing provincial investments

·         Supporting the creation of 1,500 new non-profit long-term care beds

·         Creating 4,000 new affordable non-profit home ownership opportunities

·         Assisting 150,000 first-time home buyers afford homes through first-time Municipal

·         Land Transfer Tax Rebate Program

Is this enough to solve Toronto’s affordable housing crisis? Probably not, but the scale of the initiatives outlined in the plan and its aggressive nature in tying together a wide array of agencies, levels of government, and private and non-profit players shows how serious the city’s leaders are in trying to make tangible impacts in addressing what is the paramount socio-economic challenge our City faces. The HousingTO 2020-2030 plan will be voted on by Council next week. 

Where will GTA housing be next year?

The CMHC recently released a report which attempts to predict the state of housing in our city next year.

The report is bullish, suggesting prices on average will rise by roughly 5% – taking the average home price to between 740-850K. By 2021, the CMHC thinks prices will hit almost 950K. These huge home prices are expected to be sustained even as the same report suggests that home construction numbers will rebound to levels at the time of the 2017 boom peak. The big factors which will underpin these price rises are the predicted strong gains in employment in Toronto, growing migration from other provinces, and growing levels of immigration to the city. The recently re-elected Liberal government will push the immigration level to over 400K, a move that is unlikely to be opposed by the Green Party or the NDP. 

While housing starts (new home construction) are predicted to go up to as high as 36K units by 2020, this is still completely incapable of even remotely satiating demand. Only in late 2021 will pressure on the rental market begin to ease slightly, as the number of new units going online in the market is reaching multi-decade highs. This is sad news for the hundreds of thousands of Torontonians who are living in housing insecurity and who are dealing with bidding wars for rental units, a dream for landlords – who have never had it this good. In other words, don’t expect big changes, things will remain tight, competitive, and above all, expensive. Additionally, CMHC believes that mortgage payments will remain stable over the next years, suggesting that interest rates won’t be swinging widely up or down – this is one of the few good pieces of news in the report for prospective buyers and homeowners who are not interested in selling. 

On the supply side, as we’ve written and explained many times, there’s simply very little capacity for builders to meet the huge demand needs we have. Toronto is building more high rises than any other city in North America, and much of our best land for low density suburban subdivisions has been eaten up. Even with the provincial government already pushing through anti-red tape deregulation measures that will benefit and speed up construction, there is not much that can be done unless all three levels of government come up with a serious, meaty, and very aggressive pro-development housing policy with strong incentives and specific targets. But this is unlikely. At the end of the day the factors which are keeping demand strong aren’t budging, and the forces preventing supply from growing massively aren’t present.

A Very Good July for Real Estate

Just look at these numbers, a 4.4% increase in prices from June figures, sales up over 24% from July 2018, and overall sale prices up 3.2% from July of 2018.

The average Toronto home sold for just over $806K. The number of properties that were sold went up to 8,595 from 6,916 from June. This is a huge increase, and all of those numbers were well above official inflation rates. As always, supply of the most desired real estate was tight, driving up prices, limiting options, and redirecting supply to less dense markets and different real estate products. Listings were down 9% from July 2018 numbers, outlining the extent of declining stock. In the rules of supply and demand, when supply contracts prices rise, and the cooling of the market that we’ve been used to recently definitely cooled the market.

tress tests are still around, but their shock has subsided. Families that were locked out by the tests have had more than a year to re-calibrate, to save more money, and discover new financing options. Some may have decided to buy a condo instead of a town-home, or decided to start their real estate equity in a small town as opposed to a cozy suburb. Prospective buyers who saw a cooling market pulled their listings and decided to wait the market out. The contraction in listings that followed are now seeing their impacts fully felt and that pressure is starting to turn 2-3% increases into 4% price increases. All in all, the market is re-orienting back to a more dynamic state, at least for now. 

 

But Tembo feels that certain international pressures could align to add even more oxygen to GTA real estate. First off, as we’ve reported, the Fed cut rates. Within a few days, President Trump lambasted the Fed for not cutting rates FURTHER. Market changes and instability that Tembo will outline in its newsletter have created immediate international reactions to the Fed rate cut and other socio-economic and political changes. Tembo predicts that the BOC will cut rates soon, especially if the pressure to keep monetary easing going builds up in Washington and around the world. Home prices across Canada have remained roughly static for the last two years and rate cuts at home could shift that momentum to price growth. 

On the Return of Low(er) Interest Rates

It’s back to the future time in Canada. The steadily higher interest rate trajectory that was to be the new normal now appears to be officially dead and buried. With the U.S. Fed signalling an end to higher interest rates and trumpeting its newfound zeal and preparedness to accommodate markets, the BOC had no choice but to emulate.

The BOC’s head body, the Governing Council, made the point that an “accommodative policy interest rate continues to be warranted.” The BOC made its point about the need to keep rates stimulative at the same time as it cut its GDP growth forecast for the national economy to 1.2% from 1.7%. Canadian bond yields and the dollar both fell in response to the news. The clarity of the BOC’s words are striking and diametrically opposite from its firm and disciplined messaging when it repeatedly made the point that it needed to raise rates not long ago. It also suggests that there is an anxiety with monetary policy heads and a perception that the economy increasingly requires propping up. 

 

In Tembo’s opinion, the BOC’s announcement is extremely important for all Canadians and particularly for mortgage holders and prospective home buyers. This announcement from the BOC is strong positioning for stimulus, lower rates, and potential buying of stocks or securities to boost prices, reinforce demand, and service the financial sector. 

 

The implication of this announcement outlines the incoming reality of lower rates, cheaper mortgages, and the BOC reinflating the housing bubble back to more dynamic levels. Canadians should prepare for tighter finances to be safe but should also expect money to become cheaper in the months to come. 

On Toronto’s Move For More Affordable Housing

With sky-high real estate prices, extremely limited supply, and a vacancy rate incomparable to its international competitors, Toronto is in the midst of a housing crisis. Housing, transit, and affordability were the key issues for politicians in last year’s Mayoral and Council elections. 

Toronto Mayor Pushes Housing Now Plan

Incumbent Mayor John Tory made tackling the housing supply issue a key commitment if re-elected, and many City Councillors emulated that promise. A week ago, the Mayor successfully persuaded his Council colleagues to endorse his Housing Now Plan and to vote it through. The plan is an aggressive measure being heavily pushed through by the Mayor and senior City bureaucrats. 

The Housing Now plan calls on the City to facilitate the transfer of surplus land to private sector partners so as to develop it into housing. A certain amount of the finished units are to be set aside as affordable units with controlled rent. This is geared to benefit low income families. Toronto has a massive list of individuals and families waiting for affordable housing. In total, the plan is expected to result in 10,000 new units of real estate.

As Toronto has a weak Mayor system, its Mayor does not have executive powers and serves more as a glorified City Councillor acting as the Chair of Council. Unlike many of his American and international counterparts, he has no veto over votes, and cannot directly replace the departmental heads of the City’s large civil service. 

Officials have been eager to push the plan through given its importance, and this effort has been largely supported by City Councillors. The Housing Now plan was opposed by many of the city’s more left-wing politicians, who believed it did not go far enough and that its targets and limitations were not ambitious enough.

All levels of government will continue to increase their intervention in the real estate market so as to spur more development for an increasingly impatient pool of prospective buyers.

 
Now Creative Group August 10, 2017 1 Comment

Tembo Tips: How to Save on Moving Costs

How to save on moving costs

Purchasing a new home in the current housing market already takes quite a toll on your finances. Considering all that is involved in moving from one place to the next, these costs can add up quickly. However, there are steps that can be taken to reduce moving costs and allow you to set aside a little something extra to go towards your mortgage payments each month.

Do Your Research & Ask For Multiple Quotes

Research moving companies in your area to find out what services they offer, and how much they charge for these services. Make sure that you provide these companies with ample information regarding where you are moving to, and what you require from them. Different companies will offer different packages and rates depending on your needs. Consider the costs associated with the size and weight of your items, the amount of mileage and gas included in the quoted price, as well as the various moving supplies and number of movers that may be included in each quote. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and request a price match or discount if you come across a deal that you may not have been offered.

Consider Doing It Yourself

Depending on the number of belongings you have and the distance that you are moving, it may be more beneficial to complete the move without hiring professionals. Keep in mind, that costs do add up quickly and this may not always be the most cost-effective method. Consider the cost of a moving van, boxes, and other supplies that you will need to complete your move. Reach out to friends and family who may be willing to assist with loading and unloading; saving you from the cost of hiring professional movers. Make a list of everything that you will need as well as items that you may already have, and compare the total cost to the quotes you have received from moving companies to determine the best option for you.

Get Rid of What You Can

Reducing the amount of items you are taking with you will ultimately cut down costs by decreasing the weight of your load, as well as the number of boxes needed. Does your old furniture fit in your new space? Make sure you take measurements and are sure that everything you are moving has a space in your new home. If it doesn’t fit – get rid of it! Selling gently used items that you no longer need will also make you some money that you can use towards your moving supplies. Is the item worth less than the cost to move it? The cost to move an item should be a fraction of the cost to replace it. Don’t be afraid to sell it and purchase a new one for less than the cost of moving it.