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Majority of Canadians still hold on to dreams of home ownership





Amid the growing popularity of the rental market as the top choice of those with an eye towards affordability, a clear majority of Canadians still see home ownership as the ideal state of affairs.

In a new survey, real estate information portal Zoocasa found that 74% of Canadians see ownership as a crucial milestone. Only 25% said that that they are already living in their preferred asset types.

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The results were remarkably similar to a recent analysis by Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, which indicated that 83% of the country’s young households would not hesitate to purchase and move to single-detached homes if costs are not an issue.

“The popular perception is that people in modern families have typically preferred multi-unit and city centre locations, when in fact what the report shows is if price were no object, they would prefer single family homes,” Sotheby’s International Realty Canada president and CEO Brad Henderson told HuffPost Canada.

Read more: In Canada’s top markets, neither rent nor ownership provides relief

The Sotheby’s report added that elevated single-family home prices are mainly responsible for pushing most people away from ownership. Indeed, 56% of the Zoocasa respondents admitted that if these market conditions continue, ideal housing would become well out of reach.

Despite these economic realities, 41% of Canadians still believe that they will be able to afford their dream homes sometime in the future. And nearly 3 out of 4 (71%) asserted that the federal government should be doing more to ease first-time buyers into the market.


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What’s the real cost of building the proposed GTA West Highway?





The Ontario government is about to make a big decision that will tell us a lot about what the future of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area will look like. The reason is that, according to the Ministry of Transportation (MTO), the fate of the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the GTA West, AKA Highway 413, will be decided within the next 60 days.

The EA estimates the highway will cost $4 to $6 billion to construct, excluding the expense of land expropriation and ongoing highway maintenance.

But the real societal costs of building the GTA West highway would include the loss of thousands of acres of farmland, paving over the last remaining forested area in Vaughan, increased air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. These are costs we all bear.

For those who think the highway will alleviate congestion and speed up their commute, don’t bet on it.

Research indicates that ‘induced demand’ results in an ‘if you build it they will come’ scenario. In other words, building a highway will encourage more people to drive, adding to existing congestion.  The goal of transportation planning should be to reduce, not increase, vehicle miles travelled (VMT). New highways that attract new drivers run counter to this goal.

Beyond the financial costs, this highway would put a toll on health for those living near it.

Traffic is the largest source of air pollution in the GTHA and health impacts of air pollution from tail pipes affects one in three Canadian homes. Recent research by the University of California indicates that brain function and development may be affected by even low levels of air pollution. There is an opportunity to reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and improve our health by driving less, driving electric vehicles, taking public transit, biking and walking. The government can help by making it easier for more people to take transit, not by building more highways.

Recently approved provincial land use policy encourages compact mixed use development connected by public transit to discourage highway led development. These changes were made because the cost of sprawl has proven to be too onerous. So why build the proposed highway 413 when it doesn’t directly serve the urban growth centres of Brampton and Vaughan?

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Toronto is getting a new highway but people don’t like where it’ll be located





The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is getting a new 400-series highway and transit corridor across York, Peel and Halton regions, but not everyone is on board with the provincial government’s preferred route.

The GTA West Corridor is set to include a four-to-six lane 400-series highway, separate infrastructure dedicated to transit and passenger stations, truck parking and “intelligent transportation features.”

Today, the Ontario government released a map outlining the preferred route for the project which they say “incorporates feedback received from stakeholders and the public as well as new land use and environmental information.”

The province said the preferred route for the GTA West Highway consists of the route and interchange locations, and that preliminary design and further consultations will be moving forward over the next two years as the design is further developed.

The Environmental Assessment (EA) for the GTA West Corridor is expected to be complete by the end of 2022, according to the province.

“The GTA West Corridor will help alleviate traffic congestion and improve the movement of people and goods across the province,” said Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney in a statement.

But Environmental Defence, a Canadian advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend the environment, says otherwise.

“The announcement today, confirming the preferred route of the GTA West Highway, otherwise known as Highway 413, is disappointing,” said Environmental Defence’s program director, Keith Brookes, in a statement.

“Ontario does not need another 400-series highway. This destructive plan will destroy communities, damage the environment, and deliver essentially no benefit to commuters.”

Brooks said the preferred route announced by the government today will see a strip of concrete and asphalt rip through the Greenbelt in Vaughan and across the Whitebelt in Caledon and Brampton.

He said it will also pave over a couple thousand hectares of prime agricultural land, and cut through the headwaters of the Credit and Humber Rivers — crossing rivers and streams approximately 53 times in total.

But it’s not just the highway’s placement that Environmental Defence opposes, its the entire project.

“The highway would cause more urban sprawl, put more cars on the road, and lead to more carbon pollution and air pollution in the communities through which it would pass. Transportation is the largest source of carbon emissions in Ontario,” said Brooks.

He added that an expert panel appointed by the provincial government determined back in 2017 that “a proposed highway in the GTA West corridor is not the best way to address changing transportation needs,” and that modeling showed that the proposed Highway 413 would only save drivers roughly 30 to 60 seconds per vehicle trip.

Recent modeling estimated that pollution from traffic causes almost 900 premature deaths per year in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). We don’t need another highway, more cars, and more pollution,” he said.

“The government should listen to the evidence and the advice of experts and cancel the planned Highway 413.”

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This is why buying a house in Toronto is so expensive





Toronto and Vancouver are in constant competition for who can have the most expensive real estate market in the country, and despite the pandemic and current economic recession, home sales continue to boom in both locales.

While would-be homebuyers crossed their fingers for a lucky break as a result of the health crisis and resulting months of lockdown, the Toronto market said “eff you” and returned with a vengeance after a brief blip, with prices continuing to rise citywide to over $100,000 more than they were last year, on average. Prices actually tripled between 2000 and 2017, and are only going up.

Even shacks on decent plots of land in the city are going for prices unaffordable to most, and many millennials are coming to terms with what they’ve always sort of known: they’ll likely never be able to own anything in Toronto, seeing as anyone looking to afford a home in this city realistically needs to have a six-figure income.

But aside from the obvious factors of being a growing hub for a slew of industries, being a world-class city that is one of the best on the planet to live in, and having a thriving nightlife, restaurant, and music scenes along with tons of opportunities, there are a few other reasons why buying a house in Toronto is so damn expensive.

Taxes and fees

Development charges — which have increased by as much as 878 per cent since 2004 — add more than $150,000 to the price of an average new-build condo. These fees go to the city when a developer applies for a building permit, and are then transferred to the buyer in the end price.

There are also land transfer taxes, which are paid to the province upon the closing of a real estate sale and add, on average, $54,000 to the price of a detached home in Toronto, per the Financial Post.

Property taxes, which will not impact a home price but will certainly limit who can afford to buy the property based on their long-term financial situation, accrue to be thousands of dollars per year on your typical detached home in the city, which on average now goes for $1.52 million.

These fees all go toward upgrading city infrastructure needed for residential areas, like sewage, water and roads, and are higher in Toronto than other cities.

“One reason in particular for our high Land Transfer Tax and Development Charges is that provincial legislation restricts how the City of Toronto can generate cash flow,” real estate representative Steve Fudge says.

“Unlike many North American cities, Toronto cannot add a surtax on income, or a sales tax on products (like gasoline), or tax education or health care facilities. Yet.”

Immigration and foreign investment

Hundreds of thousands of immigrants come to Canada each year, and being the biggest city in the country and the locus for so many industries and so much economic activity, Toronto is an easy choice for a place to settle down.

This means a growing population and increased competition for limited housing in the city.

And then there are foreign investors, who drive up property values beyond reasonable levels — and Toronto is now the world’s second-most overvalued housing market, with foreign investors owning somewhere around $38 billion of the city’s housing supply.

Ontario has thankfully implemented a non-resident speculation tax of 15 per cent as of 2017.

Low lending rates

With mortgage rates in Canada slashed to record lows due to the pandemic people are now able to afford more house with less. This increases competition amid an uncertain time when buyers would normally be inclined to put off big financial jumps like real estate purchases.

Also, because Canada’s banking system is so strong, a housing crash like the one that happened in the U.S. 12 years ago is highly unlikely.

Those darn boomers

Those who had the foresight to invest in real estate in the city back when things were actually affordable — aka baby boomers — are pretty unlikely to let go of their property to downsize, relocate or move into retirement homes earlier than absolutely necessary.

According to a study by consulting agency Altus Group per the Financial Post, single-family homes — that is detached, semi-detached and townhouses, which still make up a large chunk of housing in Toronto and are the most expensive type — are “the preferred living option” of 71 per cent of Torontonians aged 65-74.

“People generally want to stay in their homes and, increasingly, support systems are in place to allow this to happen,” the news outlet says.

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