Category Archives: elderly homeowners

The ballyhooed ‘war on homebuyers’ isn’t real

 

Source: Macleans.ca – September 22, 2017

Regulators have finally realized that Canada is addicted to debt, and are trying to limit the fallout. This is not a bad thing.

Canada’s real estate market has seen a lot of changes over the past year or so. Interest rates have gone up twice. Governments in B.C. and Ontario implemented foreign buyer taxes and other measures to cool housing markets, and the Greater Toronto Area is experiencing a dramatic slowdown in sales. More stringent mortgage stress-tests were introduced for borrowers last year, too, reducing demand. Now yet another change is on the horizon that the real estate industry warns will hit the housing market hard, with spill-over effects to the broader economy. Industry pushback and fear-mongering is predictable when regulations are proposed, but in this case, the housing industry isn’t exactly wrong. A proposed policy change from the country’s banking regulator threatens to reduce home sales, knock some first-buyers out of the market and push others to buy less expensive homes. That is the whole point, in fact—and it may be just what Canada needs.

In July, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) proposed stricter lending criteria for uninsured mortgages. In order to get a loan from a federally regulated financial institution, these borrowers would have to pass a more rigorous stress test and qualify at a mortgage rate two full percentage points higher than the posted rate (OSFI implemented a similar change for insured mortgages, where borrowers have a down payment below 20 per cent, last October). A comment period ended in August, and OSFI is expected to issue finalized guidelines this fall.

With a decision approaching, the housing industry has amped up warnings that the changes spell trouble for the housing market, first-time buyers and the economy at large. Tim Hudak, CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association, said the plans amount to a “war on first-time homebuyers” and that the cumulative impact of tightening measures “risks capsizing the housing market altogether.” The Canadian Home Builders’ Association says housing starts could drop by up to 30,000 units annually, and wipe out anywhere from 42,500 to 91,500 jobs. Mortgage Professionals Canada (MPC), the industry group for lenders, brokers and insurers, warned national home sales could fall between 10 per cent and 15 per cent and reduce property values across the country, when combined with other recent changes and interest rate hikes. MPC supports a much
 milder stress test that it says will provide a buffer “without disqualifying too many middle class Canadians from their dream of attaining home ownership,” according to its submission to the regulator.

Far from mounting an attack on homebuyers, however, regulators are trying to prevent a disaster from befalling those same homebuyers and threatening the economy. I
n what will come as news to no one, Canadians are heavily indebted. The household debt-to-income ratio hit another record high of 167.8 per cent in the second quarter of the year. The debt service ratio, a measure of disposable income put toward loan payments, is set to increase to 16.3 per cent by 2021, according to the Parliamentary Budget Office, a level Canada has never seen. The number of households with a home equity line of credit and a mortgage against their properties has increased nearly 40 per cent since 2011. Non-mortgage debt is rising, too, including i
nstallment loans—high-interest, short-term products. Our profligate spending habits are regularly bemoaned by the likes of the International Monetary Fund, the OECDand the Bank for International Settlements.

RELATED: Drowning in debt is the new normal in Canada

The primary driver of the debt surge has been falling interest rates. The benchmark rate set by the Bank of Canada has been dropping for decades, making it cheaper and cheaper for Canadians to borrow money—especially to buy houses. Canada’s housing boom tracks falling rates closely, particularly since the recession. The Teranet and National Bank House Price Index, for example, increased 72 per cent since January 2008. The gains are more pronounced in Toronto, which saw a 123 per cent surge over the same time period. Not long after the central bank’s two rate cuts in 2015, the housing market in Toronto fell into complete insanity.

Now with the recession behind us and the country recovering from the oil crash, the Bank of Canada believes we can withstand higher interest rates. Governor Stephen Poloz has signalled the central bank is on a tightening path, albeit a very cautious and gradual one.

Still, that marks a dramatic shift after years of excessively loose monetary policy. Previously, Canadians could renew their mortgages and obtain more favourable rates. Now the odds are they’ll have to pay more come renewal time. Those who opt for variable-rate mortgages can expect the same. Because this scenario is new to an entire generation of homebuyers, OSFI wants lenders to ensure borrowers have the means to service their mortgages at higher rates. To some degree, that protects the homeowner from the shock of steeper payments. It also discourages lenders from issuing mortgages that could turn sour and put the financial system at risk. When it comes to uninsured mortgages, after all, the lender bears the risk.

“When you’ve been in such a low interest rate cycle that’s out of sync with what we’ve seen historically, and we see housing markets really go to stratospheric levels, the logic of why these changes come in makes sense,” says Beata Caranci, chief economist at TD. She estimates the proposed OSFI measures will impact about 5 per cent to 10 per cent of sales. That’s not insignificant, but not cataclysmic either. “The vast majority of buyers would still qualify,” she says. OSFI isn’t likely to change direction after the Bank of Canada’s rate hike this month. Should stress-testing hit the market hard, contributing to a bigger-than-expected slowdown in consumer spending, the central bank would likely pause before hiking rates again, Caranci says.

Some of the industry’s concerns are valid, according to Adrienne Warren, a senior economist at Scotiabank. “There’s a bit of a risk of cooling off the market a little too abruptly,” she says. “But saying that, it’s still reasonable to build in some interest-rate buffer on new mortgages, just to limit financial vulnerabilities.” Warren adds there are benefits to eliminating the “distorting incentives” between insured and uninsured mortgages.

When OSFI implemented similar stress-testing measures on insured mortgages last year, some buyers may have attempted to skirt the rules. The Bank of Canada flagged such concerns in its financial system review in June. If buyers have a down payment 20 per cent or more, they’re not required to obtain mortgage insurance or undergo the stress-testing OSFI put in place last year. So
me buyers might be borrowing money from friends and family or taking out loans to reach the 20 per cent down payment threshold, thereby taking on more financial risk. The central bank also noted that borrowers are stretching amortization periods past 25 years. While that allows households to pay off debt more slowly, it also limits their ability to extend the amortization period further to deal with an income shock. OSFI’s proposals could help reduce these risks.

MPC has also argued that these stress-tests will push some buyers to use unregulated lenders that do not fall under OSFI’s purview. That, too, is a valid concern. But it’s not a reason for OSFI to backtrack. Rather, it’s a reason to apply more scrutiny to the unregulated space. Further, Hudak has pointed out that mortgage delinquencies in Canada have dropped and that most households make wise financial decisions, a statement that inadvertently makes a case for OSFI’s stress-testing proposals. Delinquencies are low
because interest rates are low. Higher rates will result in more delinquencies if today’s borrowers don’t have the resources to deal with that reality.

Instead of a “war on homebuyers,” governments and regulators are finally waking up to the fact that Canada has become addicted to debt and real estate, and are trying to limit the potential fallout. There will be turmoil as interest rate hikes and regulations work through the market, but the alternative could be far worse.

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Still thinking of home ownership as an investment? Here’s proof you’re wrong

 

Source: The Globe and Mail

Take some advice from rookie home owner Desirae Odjick about houses as an investment.

As a personal finance blogger, she ran the numbers on the cost of owning a home and concluded that breaking even would be a good outcome when it comes time, many years down the road, to sell. “A house is not a long-term investment,” she said in an interview. “It’s not a miracle financial product. It’s where you live.”

The idea that owning a house is an investment is so ingrained that a recent survey found one-third of homeowners expect rising prices to provide for them in retirement. But rising prices do not necessarily mean houses are a great investment.

Ms. Odjick lives in a suburb of Ottawa, where the real estate market’s recent strength still leaves it way behind price gains seen in the Toronto and Vancouver areas. But her point is relevant to all markets where prices aren’t soaring, and probably to hot markets as well if you’re just now buying a first home and understand that continuous massive price gains are unlikely.

In terms of home upkeep costs, Ms. Odjick and her partner have had an easy time of it since they bought in the spring. But they’ve still had expenses that surprised them. “You can use all the calculators you want and you can plan as much as you want, but until you’re in it you really don’t know what the costs are going to be.”

One example is the $3,000 spent at IKEA to equip the house with furnishings as mundane as bathmats. Another was the cost of term life insurance, which, incidentally, is a smart purchase. Term life answers the question of how the mortgage gets paid if one partner in a home-owning couple dies.

Estimates of the cost of upkeep and maintenance on a home range between 1 and 3 per cent of the market value. Her house cost $425,000, which means that upkeep costs conservatively estimated at 1 per cent would come out to an average of $4,250 per year and a total $106,250 over 25 years. Ms. Odjick is too recent an owner to have much sense of these costs, but the housing inspector she used before buying warned her to expect to need a new roof in two or three years.

She and her partner don’t have grandiose plans to fix their place up right now, but she did mention that they are looking at having children. There will almost certainly be expenses associated with getting the baby’s room ready.

In her own analysis of housing costs, Ms. Odjick estimated the cost of property taxes at 1 per cent of a home’s value. That’s another $4,250 per year. This cost would add up to $106,250 over 25 years, and that’s without annual increases factored in.

The biggest cost homeowners face is mortgage payments. Ms. Odjick and her partner made a down payment of 10 per cent on their home and chose a two-year fixed-rate mortgage at 2.71 per cent. Assuming rates stay level and no prepayments are made, this would theoretically work out to a total of $542,122 in principal and interest over the 25-year amortization period.

But rates have crept higher since mid-summer and could increase further in the months ahead. In a post on home ownership on her Half Banked blog, Ms. Odjick said the idea of rates staying level “is bananas and will not happen.”

Let’s add up the costs of home ownership as likely to be experienced by Ms. Odjick over 25 years. There’s the $42,500 she and her partner put down to buy the house, the $106,250 cost for each of property taxes and upkeep/maintenance and $542,122 in mortgage principal and interest. Total: $797,122.

Now, let’s imagine the $425,000 house appreciates at 2.5 per cent annually for 25 years. That’s in line with reasonable expectations for inflation. The future price in this case would be $787,926, which means Ms. Odjick and her partner would have paid a bit more in costs than they get for selling their house in the end.

Houses can be sold tax-free if they’re a principal residence, so there is something to the house-as-an-investment argument. But the numbers comparing what you put in and what you take out over the long term don’t exactly scream “financial home run.”

Ms. Odjick’s fine with that, because buying her home was a lifestyle decision. “If we’ve lived here for 25 years, even if it does end up costing money, then it will have been a great place to live.”

Are you a Canadian family that has made a financial decision to remain lifelong renters? If you would like to share your story, please send us an email

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This smart doorbell lets you video chat with visitors from your phone

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Ever ignored the doorbell because you didn’t know who was there or weren’t expecting any visitors? Now thanks to a Chicago-based company, you can see who is at your doorstep and even talk to them from your phone.

Smart video doorbell and motion detector, Xchime, is app-enabled and allows users to see anyone at their door from virtually anywhere. Launched on crowdfunding site Indiegogo last week, the innovative doorbell includes a 1080P HD camera with night vision, a smart light and a convenient garage door opener.

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Photo: Xchime/Facebook

Developed by Chicago’s Wireless Input Technology Inc., Xchime is a small, weather-resistant gadget made with stainless steel. Using their phones, Xchime users can have live video chats with visitors, like telling the mailman where to leave a package if you’re not home. Also, visitors can leave  recorded video messages, which can be viewed later on the app.

Xchime also includes features intended to help secure homes. The doorbell is built with a discrete security camera and, whenever motion is detected within a 140 degree field of view, users will be notified through the app. Xchime also has Integrated smart light technology. When motion is detected, the doorbell’s light will turn on automatically in an effort to deter unwanted visitors.

As an add-on accessory, users can purchase a garage door opener kit allowing them to open and close their garage with a push of a button from Xchime’s app. The doorbell retails at $129 USD and the first shipment is scheduled for August 2017.

Source: BuzzBuzz News – 

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Mississauga House Sparks Unbelievable Bidding War

While it’s no secret that GTA houses have never been more in demand, it’s always a little surprising to hear stories about homes selling way (and we do mean way) over asking.

A Mississauga house on Glen Hawthorne Blvd. just sold for $900,000—$261,000 over asking price. The modestly sized, two-story detached home in the Hurontario and Eglinton area was listed quite competitively for $638,800 and generated 24 offers and over 400 showings—200 of which occurred over a two hour period during an open house.

“In 14 years in real estate, that was the first time I ever saw that many people at an open house,” says Milosov Lukaroski, the listing agent with Sutton Group Signature.

While $638,800 is indeed a competitive price that some may say was too low for the house type and neighbourhood, Lukaroski said that the home was one of the smallest in the area and had originally been purchased for much less a few years ago.

“The sellers bought in 2009 for $414,000 with me. I was calculating what increase we see every year on average in Mississauga and I discovered, according to that data, the real price of house was around $650,000.”

Lukaroski also added that he generated interest by marketing the home on social media and targeting prospective buyers in the 25-60 age range who live in and around the Square One area.

“It was a very good decision [to do that],” he says. “People still keep wanting to see it, even though it’s sold.”

As for what drove the wild bidding war, Lukaroski echoed what other real estate experts have been saying for months and laid blame squarely at the feet of a market utterly bereft of inventory.

“Inventory is very low, so people are competing more and more. The last time a house went on sale in that neighbourhood was four months ago. People were bringing certified checks for over $50,000 to showings. I’ve never seen that before. We got eight offers for over $800,000.”

Wild sales like this one are becoming more common, even in the suburbs that surround Toronto. Last week, a home in Brampton sold for $200,000 over asking and a Don Mills home sold for an absolutely incredible $1.15 million over asking.

While it’s actually not unusual for detached homes in the 905 to sell for close to $1 million, the feeding frenzy that ensues when a house goes on the market is indeed a unique phenomenon that’s a boon for sellers and an absolute nightmare for buyers (especially those trying to enter the market for the first time).

Because of persistently low inventory and attractive interest rates, buyers are scrambling to purchase homes at a time when houses—and even condos, in some instances—are quickly becoming something of a rare and precious commodity.

According to the Toronto Real Estate Board, the MLS Home Price Index Composite Benchmark was up 21.8 per cent compared to last year. The average selling price for homes is also up, with the average home going for $770,745 (up 22.3 per cent), with double-digit gains in the average prices for all major home types .

Right now, the average detached home in the 905 (which obviously includes Mississauga) is selling for an astonishing $999,102. Semi-detached homes are going for $651,545 and towns are typically running buyers $604,263. Condos are selling for about $379,169.

“We expected close to $700,000. It was 11:00 p.m. and we sold for $900,000 and people kept trying to bid more,” Lukaroski says. “The market will get crazier, because there’s no inventory at all and interest rates are below three per cent. I came to Canada in 2003 and I’ve been in real estate ever since. Something like this has never happened before.”

Source: insauga.com – by Ashley Newport on February 14, 2017

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Free apps to take with you when you buy your next (or first) home

Buying a house can be daunting, but there some free apps out there that can make the  process a bit more welcoming, helping you with everything from figuring out mortgage rates to jargon to post-close decorating decisions.

Whether you are a first-time homebuyer, relocating or simply want to renegotiate, mortgages don’t exactly lay down a welcome mat. Now that warmer weather is in the forecast and home-buying season is getting into full swing, Josh McConnell reviews some of the free mobile applications that can help you make sense of the complicated mortgage process so you can get on with the fun part of buying a home.

The Canadian Mortgage App

Platforms iOS, Android, BlackBerry

Developer Bendigi Tech Inc.

At a glance This is the app everyone loves to talk about when it comes to mortgages. When asked, both homebuyers and mortgage specialists alike wholeheartedly recommend it. The developer says it has been used more than 2.1 million times with more than 3,000 five-star reviews in the various app stores. Impressive.

What to expect The interface is incredibly easy to use and slick — from the way numbers are inputted to the slider bars to the side menu. But, most importantly, it is loaded with information and rates to help you calculate exactly what you need, whether that’s a variable rate, fixed rate, weekly vs. bi-weekly payments, factoring in income from a tenant, or numerous other variables. Additionally, based on location, it can also calculate first-time homebuyer rebates and land transfer taxes.

Bonuses There is a database of local experts for you to search, which is convenient if you want an all-in-one solution. The app also has some nice extras like graphs, an affordability calculator and the option to expand your amortization schedule.

But… The list of local experts seems to be the developer’s own database, which the experts pay to be in (a source of revenue for the company). It would be nice to have it linked to other databases or even real estate listings for a truly complete solution.

 

Ready Set Home

Platforms iOS, Android, BlackBerry

Developer Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)

At a glance A helpful mobile app offered by the CMHC, which provides mortgage loan insurance, to help you “make informed choices” when buying a home. The app doesn’t just help you figure out what you can afford, but it also explains the terminology, which can sometimes be confusing.

What to expect Whether on a phone or tablet, the app is very straightforward. You build a profile by answering questions — everything from “Is homeownership right for you?” to “Are you financially ready to buy a home?” — and then the app tells you what you can afford, or whether you can afford a home at all.

Bonuses More than a simple mortgage calculator, the app offers some next-steps advice once you’re a homeowner. The app also offers a very handy glossary of terms to help you make sense of everything. Finally, if you are a professional, CMHC also has a Mobile Kit app that works with Ready Set Home.

But… In terms of design, Ready Set Home is pretty bare bones and certainly nothing fancy to look at. It also needs an Internet connection to reference the various articles and glossary. That said, the app does what it needs to do quite well.

Simple Canadian Mortgage Calculator

Platforms iOS

Developer Richard Roschuk

At a glance Sometimes you just want something that does one job without the clutter. This developer says his app takes the complexity out of estimating mortgage payments, and it’s hard to argue with him: There is no branding or advertisements, just calculations.

What to expect The app is very minimalistic in its layout, but colourful and aesthetically pleasing at the same time. The developer says it performs all calculations according to Canadian mortgage regulations using Bank of Canada rates, so you just input figures and quickly get an answer.

Bonuses In addition to calculating interest semi-annually and not in advance, the other option is to switch over to annual compounding, which is an American standard.

But… There really isn’t much else here. The app is essentially a calculator offering approximate payment information stripped of the fees or costs a bank might price in.

The banks

Platforms Varies

Developer Various

At a glance If you just want a basic mortgage calculator, there is a very good chance your bank offers some sort of solution. Some have mobile applications, while others simply use your computer’s web browser for an easy option.

What to expect Bank of Montreal’s My Home app offers a mortgage calculator, direct line to its in-house specialists and ways to keep track of properties. Meanwhile, Bank of Nova Scotia’s app is more for property-finding than anything else, though it still includes Scotiabank’s in-house mortgage tools.

Bonuses Most other major banks, including Royal Bank of Canada and TD Canada Trust, offer some sort of online mortgage calculator through their website. If that is all you need, then it could very well be the better option since a web-interface should work on most devices.

But… Though it can be handy having a tool offered by the financial institution you already do business with, be aware that the bank’s tool will generally point you in the direction of its own products. You could very well be missing out on something from competitors if you don’t take the time to look around.

Home Decorating

Platforms Varies

Developer Various

At a glance Okay, so these aren’t about mortgages, but instead about what happens after you lock in. You have a new house and now you need to decorate it. Some companies offer fun applications that let you shop furniture and décor by digitally placing items around your home.

What to expect Ikea offers a Living Room 3D app (plus apps for other rooms such as the bedroom or bathroom) that lets you create your own room using their products, while also sharing them with a community of other users to compare ideas. There is also Houzz Interior Design Ideas, which lets you take photos of your own home and insert items from a digital catalogue from various companies.

Bonuses Even if there aren’t any products that you like the app’s listings, the decorating exercise is enough to stimulate creativity. At the very least, you can walk away with some great ideas for what types of items you want for each room and then it is just a matter of finding something similar.

But… Most of the time, the app wants you to create an account to use its full functionality. Plus, free apps are generally used to push products (which is how they make money) instead of truly fostering the design process, so it might not have all the features of the expensive design-focused apps you see in various digital stores.

 

Source: Josh McConnell, Special to Financial Post | March 22, 2016

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Four things people always forget to check when buying a new home

Buying a home is no easy task.

With so many open houses and so many choices, by the time you find a property that just has that right feeling, you’re usually tempted to grab for the pen and sign your life away. Take a minute though; because people often get so lost in the appeal of the home and property itself, they forget to consider the surrounding neighbourhood. And believe us, your new home can really lose its luster if its located say, a 30-minute drive away from the nearest grocery store or school. That’s why Canada AM hosts sat down with Real Estate Expert Sandra Rinomato, so that you can get the home you want, in the neighbourhood you want it in.

CONSIDER YOUR LIFESTYLE

Whether you have pets, or are extremely active or consider yourself a foodie–these factors can all influence the areas in which you might want to live. So take a second to think about all the things that are important to you, Rinomato says. Maybe you want a short commute, or want to be in close proximity to a dog park, or restaurants and shopping centres. This should be the first thing you do after figuring out your financing and having an idea of what you can afford.

WALK SCORE

If you don’t own a car or plan to rent the property out in the future, a solid walk score can go a long way (the higher, the better). A walk score is based on your ability to walk from the property in question to things like banks, transit, shopping centres and so forth. Rental tenants can be lured in by a high walk score, and it’s generally a plus to know that convenient services aren’t very far away.

SCHOOL DISTRICT

It’s really easy to move into a new home and then realize it’s nowhere near or a school, or the kind of school you wanted to enroll your children into. Fortunately, there are many resources available online that can show you what kinds of schools are in your area (Ontario’s is right here).

EMERGING NEIGHBOURHOODS

By the time you have everything sorted–the neighbourhood, the school, the walk score, etc.–you might realize there’s no property that checks all of your boxes. Don’t worry, that’s normal. But often, it means sacrifices have to be made and you may have to look outside of your ideal neighbourhood. If this happens, Rinomato has some advice for how to find emerging neighbourhoods, where costs are still low but will rapidly rise in the future. The best way to find these spots is to look at the periphery of areas that are already hot and popular. As the population grows in the core, development will spread to the fringes.

Source; theloop.ca – FEB 26

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Cable companies mum on pick-and-pay and cheaper ‘skinny’ TV packages

TV providers will be offering a new 'skinny' basic package and pick-and-pay options come March. But many details remain secret for now.

In less than a month, big changes are coming that will usher in a new era of pick-and-pay television. But it appears none of the major cable and satellite TV companies wants to talk about it.

CBC News examined many of the big TV provider websites — from Rogers to Bell to Shaw to Telus. We couldn’t find any information about the low-cost, “skinny” basic TV package or added pick-and-pay channel deals they must offer by March 1.

The silence is frustrating some customers who are eager to learn more.

“You’d think because they’re coming soon that they would have these options available to be seen,” says cable customer Chris Mooney, who’s shopping around for a better deal.

Some industry watchers believe customers could be kept in the dark until the March deadline. They suspect TV providers don’t want to spread the word about a basic, low-cost TV package — until they have to.

“It’s a seismic shift that they don’t really want people to know about,” says Daniel Bader, a columnist with the tech site MobileSyrup.com.

“Of course, if it was in their best interest, they would be advertising it,” he adds. “They have absolutely no incentive to tell people there’s a cheaper option.”

The skinny on changes

Last year, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced new rules to give viewers more options. The regulations were sparked by viewer complaints that they were forced to buy big bundles of channels at high prices just to get the handful they wanted.

By March 1, TV providers must offer a so-called “skinny” basic package priced at $25 or less. It has to include mandatory local and regional stations, as well as public interest Canadian channels such as APTN.

Providers can also add selected U.S. networks like NBC and PBS — but the price can’t go up.

Companies must also let customers top up their “skinny” package with pick-and-pay channels. They can offer them either individually or in “reasonably priced” small bundles. Come December, companies must offer both.

In the dark

Cable customer Mooney recently downgraded his current TV package to save money, but he had to give up a favourite sports channel — TSN. He’s anxious to know whether the new offerings will let him get all the channels he wants at a decent price.

So he went online to check out Cogeco and Bell — two TV providers serving Oakville, Ont., where he lives. To his surprise, he couldn’t find any information about the upcoming deals.

“It would be nice to know what they’re going to be so I know what my options are,” he says. “It’s very frustrating.”

There are no rules forcing the cable and satellite companies to advertise early. The CRTC has only mandated that TV providers must promote the “skinny” package by the March 1 deadline “so that customers are aware of its availability, price and content.”

Tech analyst Bader believes that even when providers start promoting the new deal, they won’t go all out, because it’s not in their best interest.

“They’re only going to do the minimum amount required to appease the CRTC,” he says.

Stay tuned

In recent days, CBC News contacted many of the big providers to find out what deals they will be offering come March. Not one shared any details. We also asked the companies why they haven’t posted any information yet.

Bell told CBC News in an email that it hasn’t announced anything yet, because “we’re still more than a month out from March 1.”

Rogers said, “We’ll have more to say about this soon.”

Eastlink stated it will be sharing details on March 1 and to “please feel free to circle back at that time.”

Shaw said it will be spreading the news “in the coming weeks.”

Cogeco stated: “It is too early for us to disclose any information. We will publicly announce our new offerings in due time.”

Telus never responded.

Small player tells all

At least one provider is already offering details. VMedia is a small internet-based TV service with just 18,000 subscribers.

The Toronto-based company has a new Skinny Basic Package already available for purchase, which it boldly promotes on its site. The package costs $17.95 and includes the mandatory Canadian channels plus five American networks.

Co-founder George Burger said that as a newer competitor, his company was eager to offer its deal early and stand out from the competition.

“We were champing at the bit,” he said. “We try to establish ourselves as people who are in favour of choice and flexibility, so as soon as the CRTC gave the green light for this, we went ahead.”

Burger added he understands why other companies would keep their plans quiet for now. He believes they may not want to tip off the competition.

Or, like Bader, he said providers may not be eager to tip off customers about a cheaper, smaller plan.

“They may not want the public to know very much about the fact that the ‘skinny’ option exists, because that’s not very helpful to the business model,” he said.

Whatever their motive, the silence is golden for VMedia, Burger said. “We might as well take a little bit of the spotlight.”

Source: Sophia Harris, CBC News Posted: Feb 02, 2016

TV providers will be offering a new 'skinny' basic package and pick-and-pay options come March. But many details remain secret for now.

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26% of Ontario homeowners struggling to afford homes

A  study finds 1.2 million Ontario residents - especially those under 45  -are under "significant pressure" to cover their housing costs

An analysis of housing affordability — the first to factor in such things as daycare and transportation — estimates that some 26 per cent of Ontario homeowners are under “significant pressure” to cover their shelter costs.

About 480,000 of the estimated 840,000 homeowners being seriously squeezed by monthly mortgage and other costs are middle-class workers under the age of 45 — those who’ve had the hardest time breaking into the house market because of skyrocketing real estate prices and their disproportionate dependence on part-time and contract jobs.

According to groundbreaking research to be released Wednesday by the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis (CANCEA), housing affordability pressures have grown an average of 13.5 per cent across Ontario since 2006.

 

The number is likely to be much higher across the GTA and surrounding Greater Golden Horseshoe communities like Hamilton where house-price growth has been unrelenting, says Paul Smetanin, president and CEO of CANCEA.

But exactly how “pressing” worsening affordability has been in the Toronto area will be part of a second phase of the study, commissioned by the Residential Construction Council of Ontario and to be discussed at a seminar Wednesday titled “The Vanishing Dream of Home Ownership.”

The Ontario housing market has become one where “the needs of some are being crowded out by the wants of others,” says Smetanin, pointing to the growth of foreign investment and low-interest rates that have enabled even mom-and-pop investors, or single professionals, to buy up far more housing than they need, squeezing out those who actually need it.

In fact, real estate tax breaks have actually encouraged investors to buy up more housing or park offshore money in the real estate market, says Smetanin, which has, in turn, seen developers skewing more and more of their building to condos meant for renting rather than living.

“The running assumption in economics is that you’ll eventually be forced out of the market as prices go up. The problem is that housing is a need — just like food or water — and if you need it, there becomes greater and greater pressure on you to get it (regardless of the cost), and that’s what we’re seeing.

“We don’t have a political agenda,” stressed Smetanin, of the four economists, analysts and mathematicians who’ve been studying housing affordability the last six months. “All our research, at the end of the day, is about sustainability.

“What’s occurring at the moment is not sustainable.”

RESCON commissioned the study over growing fears that “we have a housing problem,” said Richard Lyall, president of the association which is a voice for the residential construction industry.

“It used to be we had a social housing problem — people who didn’t have a lot of money couldn’t find housing. But now, that line has moved and we have families, two-income earners, who can’t find affordable housing within striking distance of work.”

 

Not just homeowners are impacted: Some 380,000 renting houses are also facing cost challenges, according to the study.

 

The centre’s analysis stands in stark contrast to measures of housing affordability done regularly by Ottawa and some of the big banks.

Many have reported that housing affordability remains close to historic norms, despite house prices that have more than doubled in Toronto and Vancouver over the last decade, far outstripping annual wage increases.

That’s because those indexes, which date back decades, don’t recognize modern realities — like the staggering costs of daycare, transportation, food and clothing which are all essentials needed to just get out the door to work, says Smetanin.

The centre looked at 14 affordability indexes — about six of them focused just on the Canadian housing market — and found “they are just picking up part of the problem around affordability. This is really about trying to bring them into the 21st century.”

By creating a modelling program called “prosperity at risk,” using sophisticated computer technology, rich census data and complex analytics designed initially by CANCEA to study health care, infrastructure, dementia rates and other major issues, Smetanin’s group has done about “three human years of work” drawing up a new housing affordability index.

They’ve called it the Shelter Consumption Affordability Ratio, or SCAR. It factors in more than the traditional basics — mortgage payments, property taxes and utilities.

“The problem with a lot of affordability indexes is that they are driven by stakeholders (like the big banks, the Bank of Canada or the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) and they are really investment risk barometers that measure their own exposure.

“They don’t really look at human behaviour,” says Smetanin.

RBC issues a quarterly report looking at housing affordability across Canada. Its latest, in August, found that Toronto and Vancouver were edging closer to “risky levels” in the second quarter of this year because of double-digit house price increases that show no signs of slowing.

RBC’s affordability index is focused solely on “housing-related costs” — mortgage payments, property taxes and utilities — rather than “living expenses,” said a spokesperson.

Source: TheStar.com  –  Business Reporter, Published on Wed Dec 09 2015

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Do you know the biggest cost of your new home?

New road construction is one of the infrastructure costs built into development charges.

Development charges are making it more difficult for young families to afford new homes.

So what are development charges? Ontario’s cities and towns pass bylaws to set development charges. They use these charges to collect money from new homes and businesses to pay for critical infrastructure: sewers and water pipes, roads, transit, parks and community centres. There is no doubting their importance.

The Development Charges Act is the over-arching provincial legislation that allows municipalities to collect them.

These bylaws are accompanied by a background study, which outlines the estimated amount and location of development within a municipality, and the related calculations of how the new services will accommodate the new population.

The topic of development charges (DCs) is part of the province’s 80-day public consultation on improving the land use planning and appeals system. I have been writing about the consultation in this space over the past few weeks and will continue to discuss it until the consultation ends on Jan. 10.

BILD and the Ontario Home Builders’ Association addressed DCs during a recent meeting held at our office that sought input from both associations’ members. The province is our partner in economic growth, and we have a lot to say about DCs’ effect on this growth.

In 2012 alone, the industry estimates that more than $1 billion was paid in DCs by new-home owners across the GTA.

But at the end of the day, DCs and other taxes represent one-fifth of the cost of a home in the GTA, according to a study of six GTA municipalities by Altus Group Economic Consulting. That is too much for a young family to take on.

The study involved Toronto, Markham, Oakville, Bradford West Gwillimbury, Ajax and Brampton.

Since 2004, those municipalities have increased DCs between 143 and 357 per cent.

Let’s look at the Town of Oakville, as one example: for a new single-detached home, Oakville charges $23,503 in DCs; Halton Region charges $36,778; Oakville’s school boards charge $4,175 in educational DCs to allow them to acquire land for schools. In total, that new-home owner is paying $64,456 in DCs.

Those DCs are added to new-home owners’ mortgages, and they must pay the interest on those charges for decades.

When DCs are the biggest charge on a home, they pose a threat to the affordability of homes and even the health of the home-building industry.

It’s important to note that our industry employs about 202,700 people and generates $10.8 billion in wages.

 

During the current 80-day provincial consultation, now is the time for citizens ton tell the province about what they think is fair and reasonable to be charged by the municipalities.

Municipalities do have other alternatives to raise revenue. And it’s time they looked at their other options.

 

This column has been updated from a previous version.

Bryan Tuckey is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association and a land-use planner who has worked for municipal, regional and provincial governments. Follow him at twitter.com/bildgta , facebook.com/bildgta , and bildblogs.ca.

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Contractor loses appeal after fraudulent reno of elderly woman’s home

Jack Singer, pictured outside court in 2013, has lost his appeal on a conviction of fraud after his uncompleted renovation destroyed an elderly woman's home.

Contractor loses appeal after fraudulent reno of elderly woman’s home | Toronto Star

A Toronto contractor found to have defrauded an elderly woman, torn apart her home and drained her savings has lost his appeal.

Jack Singer was convicted of fraud in Toronto in June 2013, a decision he immediately appealed. Last week, a panel of judges dismissed his bid, following a hearing at Osgoode Hall on Tuesday morning.

Singer, who had been out on bail pending the outcome of the hearing, had surrendered to the court the night before and was arrested. He did not appear in the courtroom.

The case centered around Singer’s business relationship with Kennis Heath, the woman he convinced to sign up and pay for more than $300,000 of renovations on a $400,000 home. The renovations were not completed, and Heath would eventually be found unresponsive and severely dehydrated in her unheated and badly damaged house.

During last week’s hearing, Singer’s lawyer, Alan Gold, argued that Singer’s fraud conviction was based primarily on what Superior Court Justice Glenn Hainey had called “gross overcharging.” That ruling was based, in part, on Singer charging an estimated $85,000 on top of what he told Heath the work would cost.

But Gold told the appeal panel that overcharging, in and of itself, or without explicit evidence of dishonest conduct, could not be considered or defined as fraud.

“If the law of fraud in Canada became that you are guilty of a criminal offence if you charge more than fair market value, we would have to double the number of jails,” Gold said.

Crown counsel Susan Ficek responded that Singer had left Heath’s home in a shambles and that, despite not finishing the work, he demanded more money — and intended to defraud her.

“He took $300,000 of her money and left her house in an uninhabitable state. And he took the position that the victim still owed him money,” she told the panel.

At the conclusion of the 2013 trial, Justice Hainey described Singer’s conduct as “despicable.”

Heath was “an elderly and vulnerable person and he deliberately preyed upon her and defrauded her of her life savings,” showing no remorse, Hainey said in his June 2013 ruling.

On that day in 2013, Hainey sentenced Singer to two years less a day in jail and ordered him to pay $215,000 in restitution. Singer, who did not speak with the Star during the criminal trial, had maintained his innocence in an earlier interview.

Heath’s son Brian expressed relief at the appeal court decision. “It was a long time coming,” he told the Star. “Hopefully some lessons were learned.”

The story of how Singer came into Heath’s life was detailed in a 2013 investigation in the Star.

In 2008, the then 76-year-old Heath found a pamphlet in the mailbox of her Willowdale home for a company called Stay at Home Renovations. Heath called for a consultation and Singer arrived at her door.

He then convinced her, the trial court heard, to rebuild her chimney, install an eavestrough, build a cedar deck, install a new kitchen and two bathrooms, as well as remove black mould and put in new plumbing and electrical wiring.

The work was not going as planned, but Heath kept her son in the dark. In a preliminary hearing, Heath, who was not well enough to attend the original trial, said Singer left her “living in shambles,” and was just “tearing the house apart.”

It was a worker who sounded the alarm, contacting paramedics who found a severely dehydrated and unresponsive Heath inside a house with no heat and exposed wiring.

Source: Toronto Star – Emily Mathieu