Category Archives: student housing

Six benefits to investing in real estate

Over the past three years, the Government of Canada has had to cut $5.2 billion dollars in spending and eliminate 19,200 jobs in the federal public service. If your position had the title ‘scientist’ and you worked in ‘research,’ you were at greater risk of being put on the chopping block.

My husband was a prime candidate for cutbacks, but he was saved from these rounds of layoffs. As an ex-federal government employee myself (I decided to leave on my own terms rather than waiting for the golden handshake), it has re-emphasized for me how important it is to not have all your eggs in one basket (i.e., your corporate job). 

The time and effort it takes to build up a real estate portfolio can test your will, but when you stick with it, the benefits are worthwhile.

Here is my list of the six benefits of investing in real estate:

1. The courage to walk away

The headaches of the corporate world: endless meetings, business travel, red tape, bureaucracy at its fullest, reorganization, hiring freezes, more cutbacks, the impact on your health.

Putting up with this for years and years isn’t always worth the upside and perks a job might offer.  Even if you don’t like your job, having real estate investments to fall back on can give you the courage to walk away from it all, like I did.

I decided to walk away from that job and from higher-level positions that would have sucked up more of my time so that I could balance what’s important in my life. I think Frank (played by John Goodman) in The Gambler said it best (although with a few more curse words):

“… You get a house with a 25-year roof… you put the rest into the system at 3-5% to pay your taxes and that’s your base, get me? That’s your fortress of [f—king] solitude. That puts you, for the rest of your life, at a level of f— you. Somebody wants you to do something, f— you.  Boss pisses you off, f— you!”

2. The time to get healthy

You know that getting in shape and eating healthy is very important, but you constantly have other commitments in life that take up all your free time. You know that’s bad for your health in the long term. Even if your life isn’t stressful, you probably could benefit from more free time.

As you develop an income from real estate, it becomes easier to balance everything in life because it’s possible to be less reliant on a salary, and to be able to afford more time off. Examples include stepping back from your day job, building healthy habits, and placing health as a top priority. I decided to do all that, by taking extended time off to repair my 18-year-old shoulder injury and committing more time to dance and sports, rather than work.

3. The opportunity to take a sabbatical

Imagine a big dream vacation, one that takes you away for several months. It’s difficult, isn’t it, because you don’t have limited vacation time or the funds to pay for it? Having a real estate portfolio that pays you might be the push you need to take a break from work and go on a sabbatical. You might want to travel for an extended period of time, experience other cultures, and naturally wake up without an alarm clock, an agenda or a plan.

After enjoying a sabbatical where I was able to recharge, travel and spend more time with family, I decided to permanently leave my engineering career with the government.

4. Time to pursue interest-based work

Maybe you’ve wondered what it would be like to do something different, like going back to school, trying a new career or starting up your own business. It’s very liberating to know that you have options and you can choose work that balances with your values/beliefs, such as family and personal goals, rather than work that is driven by money.

I left engineering for good more than a year ago and decided to pursue interest-based work.  My motto is to work as long as it is fun, rather than work because of the security, benefits or pension.

5. Early retirement

Dedicating time to building a nice nest egg in real estate can afford you extra time later in life.  The best thing about early retirement is having more time to do what you want to do. You can afford a less structured life, such as waking up without an alarm clock and penciling in more fun activities, like volunteering or staying at home with the kids.

I haven’t gotten to this point (yet) but I’m actively working towards it. Life is too short to spend 40 years at your peak working so that you can ‘retire’ for the last 30 years.

6. The ability to pay for your kids’ education

If you are one of those people who hates volatility (as experienced in the stock markets) and likes steady returns and lower levels of risk, then investing a bit of capital to buy a property might be the easiest and most stable solution. It is almost impossible to get significant returns without taking a significant risk in paper assets. However, buying property works best when you have time to wait while a tenant pays down a mortgage.

I bought a few properties before my kids were born and now I’m patiently sitting back so that 20 years later, when there are no more mortgages, the rental income can go towards their education.

I’m happy to say that I’ve personally experienced the first four benefits of owning real estate and am on my way to experiencing the rest. I know that real estate is not for everyone and building a portfolio can be a difficult journey, but I’ve been able to survive the ups and downs, and I can safely say that real estate is my favourite way to create financial security for myself and my family.

Source: Canadian Real Estate Wealth; Tracy Ma is a mother of twins and a real estate investor in Ottawa, Ontario. Connect with her at Financial Nirvana Mama where she shares free tools, videos and articles on managing your real estate portfolio. Her mission is to empower women about investing and help them to reach their financial nirvana.

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Affordable housing advocates urge action on growing crisis

Quebec Moving Day 20130701

There are more than 4 million renters in Canada, as housing affordability nears crisis level

Four out of every 10 renting households in Canada spent almost a third of their income on rent, above the level that experts say is sustainable, affordable housing advocates said Thursday

Six affordable housing groups across the country Thursday unveiled theRental Housing Index, an in-depth look at the finances of Canadian renters.

Based on data culled from Statistics Canada from 2011, the interactive, map-based index looks at the state of affairs in Canada’s rental market. Despite constant headlines that seem to suggest home ownership is a Canadian obsession, more than four million households in Canada rent — that’s about 30 per cent of all the households in Canada.

While homeowners in many markets are keenly aware of rising prices in recent years, the numbers Thursday suggest renters aren’t immune to the increasing cost of housing.

Widespread problem

The problem is especially acute in some of Canada’s biggest cities. In Toronto, the group says there are 105,215 rental households that spend more than half of their total income on rent. That’s more than one out of every five renters in the city.

Quebec Moving Day 20130701

A man moves a mattress on moving day in Montreal, a city where close to 60 per cent of the population rents. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

The ratio is based on gross income, which means the amount of money being spent on housing costs is actually even higher when one considers after-tax income.

In Vancouver, 136,025 households spend almost a third of their income on rent, and almost a quarter of the city’s renters spend half their money on rent.

Montreal may be the most rental-heavy city in the country, due to rents that were for a long time comparatively low for a city of its size. But those days are long gone, the data suggests. Close to 60 per cent of the city’s residents are renters, but more than one out of every five — or 108,875 in total — are spending half of their income on rent.

Nationally, 40 per cent of renters spend almost a third of their income on rent, and almost one in five spent half their money on it.  Affordable housing experts say a ratio that high puts them at high risk of becoming homeless, which costs the broader system a lot to address down the line for things like health care and other social services, in addition to a long-term erosion of the tax base.

Officials on hand Thursday said it will take time and money to fix the problem, but stress that action is cheaper than inaction.

“All the symptoms that come up from housing affordability we have an unlimited amount of money for,” said Tony Roy, chief executive officer of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association. “But all of those things are far more expensive than this core issue of rental housing affordability.”

Roy said the federal government has paid to build roughly 650,000 social housing spaces over the years, many of which are desperately in need of upgrading and repairs. Most of those units were built prior to 1993.

“This isn’t about more money being spent, it’s about using our money in a more wise way,” Roy said, noting that Ottawa spent $1.7 billion on social housing this year.

The issue has come up on the campaign trail, with the Liberals unveiling a plan that they say addresses the issue. The plan announced this week would provide $125 million per year in tax incentives for developers and landlords to build and renovate rental units, and would make investment in affordable housing and residences for seniors a priority.

Last month, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said his party has a plan to create 10,000 social housing units “very rapidly” if his party forms the government.

A request for comment from the Conservative campaign on what its affordable housing policy is was not immediately returned.

Source: CBC News Posted: Sep 10, 2015 11:44 AM ET

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Hamilton and Toronto are hottest housing markets in the country

Gurinder Sandhu, executive vice-president at Re/Max Ontario Atlantic, says more Canadians who work in Toronto and Vancouver are buying homes in nearby areas, like Hamilton, where they can get more for their money.

Source: The Canadian Press Posted: Apr 17, 2015 10:20 AM ET

The Hamilton-Burlington housing market joined Toronto as the areas with the largest house price increases in Canada over the first quarter of 2015.

That’s according to realtor group Re/Max.Realtor, which says the average sale price in Hamilton increased by eight per cent to $443,706 in the first quarter of 2015. That matches the percentage increase in Toronto and is one percentage point ahead of increases in Vancouver.

The Re/Max report says some of the effects of the increases in the larger centres is spilling over into nearby regions.

The average sale price of a home in Vancouver grew seven per cent year over year to $874,869, a figure that includes everything from condos to detached homes.

In the Greater Toronto Area, the average residential sale price grew eight per cent from a year ago to $594,827.

Gurinder Sandhu, executive vice-president at Re/Max Ontario Atlantic, says a growing number of Canadians who work in pricey Toronto and Vancouver are buying homes in nearby areas where they can get more for their money.

Victoria saw sales climb 23 per cent with average prices up two per cent to $569,070, while Barrie saw sales grow 11 per cent year-over-year as the average price gained six per cent to $365,201.

“Regions outside of Vancouver and Toronto, including Victoria, Hamilton-Burlington, Barrie, have all reported this spillover effect from Canada’s highest priced regions,” Sandhu said.

“These regions have seen more sales activity, as well as price gains, as buyers look to get more value for their money by expanding their boundaries. They’re willing to go for a longer commute and get larger properties for the money that they spend.”

In Toronto, more and more buyers are putting in offers on properties before they are even listed online, Sandhu said. Real estate agents are tapping into their networks to learn about places about to go on sale by word of mouth, in order to help clients secure purchases in a fiercely competitive market.

Price gains across the remainder of the country were more modest, in the low single-digit range, with a handful of regions registering slight declines.

The average sale price in Calgary slipped two per cent to $474,251, while in Regina, it fell six per cent to $308,355.

The number of single homebuyers has also been on the rise across the country, Sandhu said.

“This marks a shift in life milestones as previously home ownership often came after marriage,” he said.

Could former Hamilton Asylum for the Insane become student housing?

Hamilton developer Steve Kulakowsky wants to turn the Century Manor into student housing for Mohawk College students.

Hamilton developer Steve Kulakowsky wants to turn the Century Manor into student housing for Mohawk College students. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

‘There are so many buildings in Hamilton that have been lost over time,’ developer says

By Jeff Green, Samantha Craggs, CBC News Posted: Mar 23, 2015 8:43 AM ET Last Updated: Mar 23, 2015 8:48 AM ET

It’s a building that has been described as neglected, derelict, a slum and haunted — but to one local heritage developer, there’s nothing scary about the former Hamilton Asylum for the Insane.

“The proposition that it’s been empty for 20 years doesn’t scare us,” says Steve Kulakowsky, a partner at developers Core Urban Inc.

Kulakowsky wants to turn the Century Manor, located near St. Joseph’s Healthcare’s West 5th Campus, into student housing for Mohawk College.

Not only that, Kulakowsky says he wants to preserve the building’s heritage, something the developer has a knack for with previous projects in the Herkimer Apartments, the Empire Times building, the Witton Lofts, and three other heritage properties on King William Street, not to mention the abandoned alleyway project beside the Sirloin Cellar.

‘It’s kind of sitting there rotting’


Steve Kulakowsky says he’s not deterred by the building’s age.

“Century Manor is, as you know, a pretty significant heritage building on the west Mountain. Right now, it’s kind of been derelict. The last time it was used was 1995, mid 90s. Now it’s kind of sitting there rotting,” Kulakowsky said.

Whether he and his team get a chance to purchase the Mountain Brow relic is a whole other matter.

Century Manor is one of Hamilton’s oldest buildings and an example of Victorian Gothic architecture. Once called the East House, it was home to a treatment program for alcoholics, a forensic psychiatry program and a school and treatment program for adolescents before it closed in 1995.

The province has declared it a heritage building.

Heritage advocates have accused the building’s owner, Infrastructure Ontario (IO), of“demolition by neglect,” and were denied access to the building to see its condition.

Governments, not-for-profits, get first crack at buying Century Mansion

  • Century Manor is described as a prime spot for ghost hunters. The province owns the 1884 building, and local heritage advocates fear it will soon disappear off the map.
However in March, IO decided to put the property up for sale. It will not, however, head straight to the open-market, said IO real estate communications manager Jeff Giffen.

“Per our guidelines and procedures, information on properties that are surplus to provincial ministry program needs are circulated to provincial, federal and municipal levels of government, government agencies, and registered not-for-profit entities, to determine interest in acquiring the property for continued public use,” Giffen said. “If any of these bodies express an interest in the property, the property may be sold directly to them at market value without exposing it to the open market.”

That would mean 12 hectares of land beside a hospital, across the street from a college campus and overlooking Hamilton’s escarpment would have to be passed up by government at all levels, as well as not-for-profit groups, before Kulakowsky’s team could get a crack at it.

The condition of the building, its past, and its current reputation does not deter Kulakowsky.

“It’s so early days. We’re just saying we’re interested in it. If we’re able to have the conversation, we’ll have the conversation,” Kulakowsky said. “We think we’re qualified to fix the building and if there’s no other use from the public’s perspective in terms of non-profits, we’d like a chance to fix it.”

As for why he wants to turn the former insane asylum into student housing, it’s two-fold.

“We’re interested in it because we support the heritage of Hamilton. We also support purpose-built student housing,” Kulakowsky said. Single-family homes keep getting converted around Mohawk College, he said. This project would be “a way of mitigating more single family homes being converted, and saving a heritage building.”

IO stressed that “no decision” to sell, or name a price for that matter, has been made. They would not even say if IO has spoken with any prospective buyers.

However Kulakowsky said he has an email chain with the province about the property, that the pair have been in communication for the past two years.

“There are so many buildings in Hamilton that have been lost over time,” said Kulakowsky. “It’s a significant building. It has nice architecture. Kids don’t need to live in a refurbished dorm residence. They can live in something that’s innovative and inspired.”