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3 hurdles the GTA housing market will have to overcome in 2019, according to experts

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Toronto new condo market



Photo: James Bombales

While 2018 had no shortage of hurdles for the GTA housing market to overcome, it’s looking like 2019 may not be any easier.

The year started off with the gut punch of a new mortgage stress test, after the market had already spent months trying to adjust to the Ontario government’s Fair Housing Plan.

Now, heading into the new year, it faces historically low rental vacancy rates, lagging housing activity, and climbing interest rates.

For a closer look at these issues, Livabl has rounded up the latest industry commentary, to keep you in the know.

A serious shortage of rental units

With more and more people moving to Toronto every month, the city’s rental market is bursting at the seams.

Its rental vacancy rate currently sits at just 1.8 per cent, according to the latest report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

The record low comes at a time when strong income growth is pushing rents up on a month-over-month basis.

“In Toronto, apartment rents grew above provincial guideline amounts despite turnover rates remaining below provincial averages,” reads the CMHC report. “Toronto continues to post vacancy rates that are near historic lows — providing greater pricing power for units that are vacated as evidenced by high asking rents.”

One solution to the problem has long been condo investors, who buy up units and lease them out to tenants, increasing the city’s rental stock. According to Bullpen Research & Consulting president Ben Myers, the recent provincial roll back of rent control legislation on new housing units could encourage the practice in the new year.

“The biggest impact as a result of this move will be keeping private investors interested in buying pre-construction condos to lease out,” wrote Myers earlier this week. “Condo investors have been responsible for over 75 percent of all new rental supply for the past 20 years in the GTA and without them, rental rates in the GTA would be much, much worse.”

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Sellers’ could begin to avoid the market

After months of sitting in buyers’ territory, the Toronto housing market balanced out over the summer months. But, if home sales numbers continue to cool heading into the new year, that could be about to change.

“The City of Toronto was plunged into buyers’ conditions in the months following the Fair Housing Plan as anxious sellers listed en-masse and flooded the market with new inventory, outpacing sales activity,” reads a recent report on the subject from real estate website Zoocasa. “That market has since recovered to balanced, with a ratio of 57 percent.”

But, with plenty of forecasts calling for a cool start to the new year, sellers’ might be anxious to list their properties, dampening the market further and cutting into sales and prices.

The market saw a drop in sales and a rise in listings in October, which could be a sign of the beginning of sellers anxiety. The Zoocasa report notes that, even if the city entered buyers’ territory, its home prices would still be well above the national average.

High interest rates will cut down on activity

One factor that could cause the market to enter buyers’ territory? Rising interest rates. The Bank of Canada raised the overnight rate to 1.75 percent last month, and is expected to do so again in the new year.

“It’s difficult to identify how much of the recent slowdown in housing activity has been due to tighter mortgage rules versus higher interest rates,” writes CIBC economist Royce Mendes, in a recent note. “But, based on prior estimates of the effects of the rule changes alone, the slowdown in lending has been more precipitous.”

That could mean that October’s sag in housing activity isn’t a one month anomaly, but the start of a larger trend, as would-be home buyers delay entering the housing market.

“Given the lags in monetary policy…the impacts of rate hikes will actually become more apparent [in the new year],” writes Mendes.

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New home? Prepare for the unexpected

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(NC) Buying a house, getting married or having your first baby are all major life events that are likely to affect your finances. But whether you’re in the midst of a major life event or not, it’s important to check in on your finances regularly to maintain good financial health.

Your financial health encompasses things like your spending, savings, borrowing and future financial plans. It also means dedicating a set amount of savings for unexpected future events. It can even include optional credit protection insurance, such as TD protection plans, to help cover your debt balances in case of death, a covered critical illness or total disability.

Even though it can be tough to think about the unexpected, life is unpredictable and it’s important to plan for the unexpected. Find more information at td.com.

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(NC) Throughout life, you may have moments where you’ll make a large purchase or invest in a costly item, like your family home. But whether you’re in the market for your first new property or already have a mortgage, leaving this asset unprotected can be costly.   

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To help protect your debt balances like a mortgage, your bank may have optional credit protection insurance products.

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Is your internet too slow? It’s probably not you

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(NC) We all know the aggravation of a school lesson that just won’t stop freezing or the family video call that looks more like a photo montage. And, as we adjust to the impact of COVID-19 on our day-to-day, that slow connection can have frustrating consequences.

Working from home and learning remotely, both need fast, stable internet, something not enough Canadians have yet. Even if you have fast devices in your home, if the infrastructure in your area is not optimal, your connection won’t be either.

Right now, cities have the infrastructure needed to ensure access. But rural and remote communities are hugely underserved, with fewer than half having high-speed internet, and fewer than a third of households on reservations have high-speed connections.

Fortunately, change is coming. The Universal Broadband Fund is backing projects across Canada right now to ensure the reliable, high-speed internet connections families need to work, study, access services online, and safely stay in touch with each other.

The fund existed before COVID, but as a response to the pandemic, its timetable has been moved up by four years to a target of 98 per cent of Canadians with high-speed internet access by 2026. With the faster pace, at least 90 per cent of us should be connected by the end of 2021.

The fund is focused on improvements in rural and remote communities across Canada to fix the disconnect between internet access for urban and rural households.  This means more remote work opportunities, better access to remote learning and safer access to healthcare, no matter where you live.

It’s not just for good connections at home, either. The improvements mean much better access to mobile networks on highways between remote communities. The result is better, safer navigation and access to emergency services for your family, even on the road in the middle of nowhere. Mobile projects will be focused on serving Indigenous communities and the roads leading to them.

The shape these improvements will take in your area will depend on where you live. Canada is huge, and its communities are hugely diverse, with diverse needs. Keep an eye out for local projects — they’re a small part of something much bigger.

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