Tag Archives: affordable housing

Liberals look to ease affordability concerns with release of housing strategy

Liberals look to ease affordability concerns with release of housing strategy

The plan will put a heavy focus on housing supply building tens of thousands of affordable housing units over the next decade and repurposing other cash to maintain housing supplements.

There are expectations that the plan will also include a new portable benefit that low-income renters can carry with them through the market.

Those are just two of a number of anticipated measures aimed at making housing in Canada more affordable, particularly for the 1.7 million households that are forced to spend more of their disposable income than they should on housing.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be in Toronto to unveil the details of the plan, while Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos travels to Vancouver to make a simultaneous announcement on the West Coast to mark National Housing Day.

Recently released census data found that 1.7 million households were in “core housing need” in 2016, meaning they spent more than one-third of their before-tax income on housing that may be substandard or doesn’t meet their needs.

Outside of Vancouver, the cities with the highest rates of core housing need were in Ontario. In Toronto, close to one in five households were financially stretched the highest rate of any city in the country.

The government hopes that building 80,000 new affordable rental units, along with billions more in spending over the next decade, will lift 500,000 of those families out of core housing need and help a further 500,000 avoid or get out of homelessness.

The details of how the spending will roll out are of keen interest to housing providers and cities. Municipal leaders have been meeting with federal officials this week to talk about the national housing strategy.

The Liberals laid the financial backbone for the plan in this year’s federal budget, promising $11.2 billion over a decade in new spending. About $5 billion of that money the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. is expected to turn into $15 billion by leveraging $10 billion in private investment.

Still, most of the money won’t be spent until after the next election in 2019, which concerns anti-poverty groups.

Those groups are planning demonstrations in multiple cities today, demanding the Liberals spend the full $11.2 billion before the next election.

Source: The Canadian Press

Liberals look to ease affordability concerns with release of housing strategy

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Mississauga Moves Towards Making Housing More Affordable

Source: Insauga.com – by Ashley Newport on October 17, 2017

It’s no secret that housing in Mississauga (and the overall 905 area) has become increasingly more expensive over time. With detached houses costing buyers $900,000 to $1 million and compact condos selling for over $400,000, residents are turning to the rental market and being equally as disappointed to see that prices are no more kind there (in some cases, two-bedroom suites can cost close to $2,000 a month).

The housing crisis is one that Mississauga has been, to its credit, taking seriously.

The City of Mississauga’s Planning and Development Committee recently adopted the city’s first housing strategy: Making Room for the Middle: A Housing Strategy for Mississauga.

According to the strategy, there’s a pressing and dire need to create affordable housing for middle income earners who are in danger of being priced out of the city.

Some of the draft’s findings are alarming, even though they’re not at all surprising.

Some key facts:

  • A home is considered affordable when its inhabitants spend 30 per cent or less of their earnings on housing costs
  • 1 in 3 households are spending more than 30 per cent of their income on housing and research suggests this number will rise
  • Middle income households typically net between $50,000 and $100,000 a year
  • Middle income earners include nurses, teachers and social workers
  • People who want to purchase homes can typically afford to pay between $270,000 and $400,000, meaning their only options are condos and a limited selection of townhouses
  • Housing prices are adversely affected by supply and demand imbalances (there’s much more demand than there is supply)
  • The average rental unit costs $1,200 a month
  • Rental inventory is 1.6 per cent (which is troublingly low)

The city is focusing on middle income earners because they typically make too much to qualify for government assistance, but still cannot afford to rent or purchase homes in the city. When people are priced out of their communities, the social and economic fabric of the area is compromised. If the middle class is forced to move further away, the city will only be suitable for very high and low-income earners–something leaders are hoping to prevent.

The city says the Strategy is Mississauga’s plan for fostering a supportive environment for the development of a range of housing that is affordable for all. While it targets middle-income households, it will also benefit lower-income households.

To be clear, the Region of Peel is responsible for subsidized housing (meaning housing associated with low-income earners who require special assistance to afford adequate shelter in Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon). While attention must still be paid to lower-income residents (Peel has a notoriously long subsidized housing waitlist and too few shelters for those in need), middle-income households have not been widely supported in terms of housing supply.

Generally speaking, middle-income earners—think social workers, journalists and clerical workers—do not qualify for financial assistance and cannot afford housing at current market prices.

Ideally, the strategy will help provide opportunities for lower-income households by freeing up supply.

The strategy offers 40 actions supported by the Mississauga Housing Advisory Panel, a group of over 20 housing professionals from the public, private and non-profit sectors that shared their knowledge, advice and solutions. It also includes a five-year action plan centred on municipal powers and funding partnerships to achieve its goals.

“Housing is an issue that touches every Mississauga resident and business,” said Mayor Bonnie Crombie. “Council has already endorsed in-principle, actions to protect existing rental housing and create a housing-first policy for surplus lands. Making Room for the Middle: A Housing Strategy for Mississauga is the City’s plan to provide, together with our partners, a supportive development environment for a range of affordable housing.”

So, what has the city proposed?

  • Petition senior levels of government for taxation policies and credits that incent affordable housing
  • Pilot tools such as pre-zoning and a Development Permit System to develop affordable housing in appropriate locations (close to transit systems, for example)
  • Encourage the Region of Peel to develop an inclusionary zoning incentive program for private and nonprofit developers
  • Continue to engage with housing development stakeholders
  • Encourage the Region of Peel to investigate the cost of deferring development charges on the portion of affordable units provided in newly constructed multiple dwellings

The city has also been working to legalize accessory units (better known as basement apartments). At this juncture, basement suites remain a very viable option for people looking for affordable units, as the suites tend to cost $1,000 or less. Right now, most units remain unregistered and the city is responsible for levying fines against landlords operating unregulated units.

“Making Room for the Middle: A Housing Strategy for Mississauga defines how the City of Mississauga will address the affordable housing crisis in our City,” said Crombie in a statement. “We’re ready to do our part to ensure that those who want to live in Mississauga can afford to do so. The strategy provides bold, innovative solutions to increasing affordability. Safe, affordable housing is a pillar of a complete city and we will achieve our goals if we work together with our partners to create a supportive development environment for a range of affordable housing for all.”

According to the staff report, the strategy has received wide support since its release on March 29 from residents, agency partners and the building and development industry.

Speaking of the development industry, it appears that one affordable housing project is already in the works.

A few weeks ago, we learned that a brand new building development has been planned for the City Centre area.

The Daniels Corporation, the development firm who has built multiple properties in the City Centre and Erin Mills Town Centre areas in the city, is slated to construct an affordable housing project at 360 City Centre Drive.

Since this building will help the city fulfill its mandate, council will a provide a sizeable $2.7 million to the Region of Peel to offset development charges for the project.

The Region approved funding of the much-needed project to the tune of $65 million ($65,966,522, to be exact) on June 22. After approving funding, the Region asked Mississauga to “consider granting relief from City Development Charges (the aforementioned $2.7 million) by waiving or providing a grand to offset such DCs.”

As for how the development will work, 40 per cent of the units (70 in total) will be Rent Geared to Income suites. These units will take residents off affordable housing waitlist. The city also says that 60 per cent (or 104 units) will be set aside for renters and owned by the Region. They will be available to middle-class residents.

A second tower on the same podium will boast market-value units, creating a mixed-income property on City Centre grounds.

The movement of the affordable housing strategy is encouraging, especially since the city has been working to build consensus for sometime now.

The Mississauga Housing Forum held last spring enabled stakeholders to hear from renowned housing experts, “road test’ the strategy and provide their input. City staff say they have since have fine-tuned the strategy based on the feedback received.

“We heard from our residents and stakeholders and are taking action,” said Ed Sajecki, commissioner of planning and building. “Our strategy reflects the input we received. We can now create, together with our partners, a housing affordability solution that could be a model for other Canadian cities.”

The city says the next steps include actions to help preserve purpose-built rental housing, support for the Region of Peel in implementing its programs, and ongoing work with senior levels of government to make their surplus land available for affordable housing and provide standardized local housing data to measure housing affordability.

The final strategy will go to Council for approval on October 25.

 
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Ontario’s potential rental housing crisis in 11 statistics

Ontario Rental Housing Crisis-compressed

Earlier this week, the Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO) published a major report prepared by Toronto-based real estate market data firm Urbanation on the state of the Ontario rental market with a focus on the province’s largest region, the GTA.

A number of the report’s key findings will come as no surprise to those who have recently searched for rental housing in the city and surrounding region. Demand for rentals has hit multi-decade highs, according to the report, “driven by robust economic and population growth, job creation for prime renter cohorts, and a decline in homeownership affordability.”

While the report makes some encouraging observations on expected increases to the rental supply, the housing advocate concludes that a significant supply shortfall will remain and likely worsen unless the pace of construction ramps up quickly to meet demand.

Without policy action, the FRPO expects Ontario renters, especially those in the GTA, will experience mounting challenges in finding suitable housing.

Here are 11 stats from the report that illustrate the difficult market conditions that the province’s renters face:

1. The vacancy rate for purpose-built rental buildings sat at a 15-year low at the end of 2016. It was 2.1 per cent in the province and 1.3 per cent in Toronto.

2. The vacancy rate for Toronto condos — many of which are purchased by investors and added to the city’s rental pool — was even lower at the end of last year, sitting at a seven-year low of 1 per cent.

3. Eighty-five per cent of purpose-built rentals in Ontario are over 35 years old. Upgrading this aging existing stock will require a significant investment from rental owners, possibly to the tune of $5 billion over the next 5 years, the report estimates.

4. When looking at the age distribution of renters, the 25 to 34 year old demographic made up 21 per cent of total renter households in Ontario, making this cohort the “prime renter age segment.” The 35-44, 45-54 and 65+ age segments each made up 19 per cent of the total. Over the next five years, however, the prime 25 to 34 year old segment will see “accelerated population increases” thus further increasing demand for rentals.

5. Immigration to the Greater Toronto Area represented 30 per cent of Canada’s immigration total. Ninety thousand immigrants came to the region in 2016 and a similar number are expected to arrive in 2017. As the report notes, the majority of recent immigrants rent when they arrive.

6. After hitting a five-decade high in 2011, the homeownership rate in Ontario is expected to “flatten or decline in the next 10 years.” Affordability issues, higher interest rates and stricter mortgage policies are all expected to contribute to this trend.

7. By mid-2017, the cost disparity between owning and renting in the GTA remained at its highest level in more than five years.

8. On the rental supply side, purpose-built rental development reached its highest level since the 80s in both Ontario and the GTA. However, after the new rent control measures were unveiled as part of the province’s Fair Housing Plan, the rate at which new purpose-built rental buildings were proposed slowed when compared to previous quarters, with some projects originally proposed as rental even indicating a change to condominium.

9. On the rental demand side, the report forecasts that rental demand will outweigh supply by approximately 57,500 units over a 10-year period, or 5,750 units per year. This unit total “does not necessarily represent the level of additional rental development required to bring the market into a state of balance, but rather represents a level that keeps conditions from worsening over time.”

10. There is only one rental unit under construction per 1,000 GTA residents. In Vancouver, the ratio is over three rental units while in Montreal, it’s two units.

11. According to the report, rental starts need to double immediately and eventually triple from current levels just to satisfy demand.

Ontario Rental Housing Crisis-compressed

Source: Buzz Buzz News Canada –  

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New financing rules could drive more consumers into more volatile mortgages

Proposed changes to mortgage rules may force some consumers to consider more volatile variable rate mortgages in order to qualify under a strict stress test proposed by Canada’s banking regulator.

Guidelines published by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions in July, which the agency is now receiving feedback on, would change the qualifying rules for uninsured mortgages in Canada — a less regulated segment of the market made up of consumers who have down payments of 20 per cent or more.

The rules under consideration would force consumers to qualify for loans based on the rate on their contract plus 200 basis points, a move that might lead some people into shorter term loans that have lower rates and are therefore easier to qualify for.

“It could be one of the unintended consequences,” said Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist with CIBC World Markets Inc., about the changes. Tal believes OSFI will modify its proposal before it is finalized and one of the factors under consideration could be how the rules might discourage Canadians from locking in their rates.

Rob McLister, the founder of ratespy.com, said the potential impact of the changes can be seen when examining the current yield curve, which shows longer term rates are still much higher. As an example, with the prime rate now 3.2 per cent and the average discount on a five-year variable rate mortgage around 65 basis points, that means those consumers would have to qualify based on a rate of 2.55 per cent plus 200 basis points or 4.55 per cent.

 

“Generally, the variable will be cheaper. Maybe the one-year or two years (even more so). We have people who can’t qualify because of 10 basis points. I think it will force at least 10 per cent of uninsured borrowers to look at shorter-term rates that have more risk,” said McLister, who notes the average five-year fixed rate mortgage is more like 3.19 per cent.

Those consumers looking for the safety of a five-year rate would end up having to qualify based on 5.19 per cent with the 64 extra basis points meaning they could get a larger loan by borrowing at short-term rates.

The Bank of Canada has raised its overnight lending rate twice in the last two months and may do so again in October. Such hikes, which affect variable-rate products that are tied to prime, are part of the risk that comes with a floating rate product.

CONVENTIONAL BORROWER

McLister said a typical conventional borrower would qualify for a home that’s about six per cent more expensive by choosing a lower more volatile variable, one- or two-year rate instead of a “safer” five-year fixed.

That assessment was based on latest median household income from Statistics Canada, average non-mortgage debt, a 30-year amortization and a 20 per cent down payment

The OSFI changes fly in the face of previous government policy, which had tried to entice people into longer-term products by making the qualifying easier.

Consumers with less than 20 per cent down on a mortgage and their loans backed by Ottawa already must qualify based on the five-year Bank of Canada qualifying rate of 4.84 per cent. That rule change was made in October, 2016 but previously those high-ratio borrowers could use the rate on their contract if they were locking in for five years or longer.

Robert Kavcic a senior economist with Bank of Montreal, said households in Toronto — currently facing rapidly declining sales and an average price correction of almost 25 per cent from the April peak, can withstand more rate increases but he agrees people on the fringe may turn to shorter-term money to get into the housing market.

“I think the goal is to make sure people can pay higher rates two or three years down the road,” said Kavcic.”It does sound like there is more caution (about proposed changes) given what is happening in the Toronto market.”

Source: Financial Post – Gary Marr gmarr@postmedia.com

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Larger mortgages a by-product of income growth, low interest rates

Larger mortgages a by-product of income growth, low interest rates

A prolonged regime of low-interest rates along with a steady trend of rising incomes have more than doubled the amount that Canadians are able to borrow for their home purchases, according to the latest report by a public policy think-tank.

In its newest study titled “Interest Rates and Mortgage Borrowing Power in Canada”, the Fraser Institute stated that from 2000 and 2016, interest rates decreased from 7.0 to 2.7 per cent, while household income rose by 53 per cent nationwide. These developments have increased the maximum size of mortgage homebuyers can qualify for by 53 per cent.

In turn, these trends might have contributed to the prevailing environment of elevated housing prices in metropolitan markets nationwide.

“Increased borrowing power, brought about by falling interest rates and rising incomes, is potentially the most overlooked and least understood factor influencing home prices across Canada,” Fraser Institute president Niels Veldhuis said.

Mortgage-borrowing power in Calgary increased by a staggering 161 per cent, the greatest nationwide. Meanwhile, Vancouver saw a 118-per-cent growth in this metric. Montreal posted 115 per cent, and Toronto saw a 100-per-cent rise.

“This increase in borrowing power — in simple terms — means that an average Canadian family, dedicating the same share of their income to monthly mortgage payments, can afford a mortgage that’s more than twice as big now as it would have been in 2000,” Veldhuis explained.

Interested parties can access the full study here.

 

Source: MortgageBrokerNews.ca by Ephraim Vecina

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Commentary: Supply not the main factor in Toronto’s housing woes

Commentary: Supply not the main factor in Toronto’s housing woes

While various quarters have cited supply scarcity as a central driver in Toronto’s long-running housing affordability issues, latest census data actually belies that notion, according to a Bloomberg analyst duo.

In their latest piece, markets observers Erik Hertzberg and Theophilos Argitis argued that “the most important question remains the extent to which speculation is driving demand.”

“Ideally, fundamentals such as demographics and employment are at play, and the price gains reflect natural household growth getting ahead of supply. If that’s true, the market should eventually stabilize once new supply kicks in,” Hertzberg and Argitis wrote. “A situation where speculators are bidding up prices would be much more problematic.”

“Canada’s 2016 census, which the statistics agency is releasing piecemeal this year, is providing some insight into the debate. The results: supply may not be the big problem many people thought it was.”

The data revealed that between 2011 and 2016, the total number of Toronto households increased by 146,200 (up to 2.14 million). To compare, the number of newly completed homes stood at 175,825 projects.

“In other words, supply of new houses exceeded real household demand by almost 30,000 over those five years,” the duo stated. “That throws cold water on the argument — voiced particularly by the industry — that the city’s affordability crisis won’t be resolved unless the government introduces measures to help increase supply.”

More importantly, Toronto is rapidly running out of buildable space, “evident in census data that show its population density has surpassed 1,000 people per square kilometre for the first time ever, another factor that should continue supporting prices for detached homes.”

Source: Mortgage Broker News – by Ephraim Vecina15 Aug 2017

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Solving the enigma of Canada’s housing bubble

A real estate sold sign hangs in front of a west-end Toronto property Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy (Graeme Roy/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

If Yogi Berra were alive today, he’d probably describe the Toronto housing market like this: Things are so good, they’re bad. And if they get any better, that’ll be worse.

In February, the Teranet-National Bank house price index showed prices in Greater Toronto rising 23 per cent over the previous year – or about 21 per cent faster than the rate of inflation. Homes in neighbouring Hamilton were up 19.7 per cent. Even in Metro Vancouver, long the hottest market but which recent policy changes have somewhat cooled, prices are up 14.3 per cent. Most of the rest of the country, however, looks relatively calm.

But not Toronto. It’s become such a sellers’ market that – another Berraism – nobody wants to sell.

In response to surging demand, the number of properties offered for sale has dropped. Potential sellers are holding off putting houses and condos on the market, because they assume the longer they wait, the higher prices will go.

“In the first two months of 2017,” writes Simon Fraser University public-policy professor Josh Gordon in a recent report on Toronto housing, “new listings dropped despite rapidly rising prices, likely because even more sellers now expect prices to climb higher. That has sent the sales-to-new-listing ratio soaring, which is a good proximate indicator for future house price increases.”

In other words, prices in Toronto appear to be feeding on themselves. Why? It’s the psychology of FOMO – the fear of missing out. Purchasers fear that, unless they buy now, they’ll miss out on ever owning a home. Potential sellers fear that, if they sell now, they’ll miss out on windfall profits from inevitable price jumps. Based on the past few years, these have become rationally held beliefs. Speculation is now wisdom.

If you’re already a homeowner, it’s wonderful. If you’re a young person, an immigrant or middle-class, it’s depressing. If you’re an economist or a banking regulator, it’s terrifying.

Toronto has long shown signs of a classic bubble, and so has Vancouver. And when housing bubbles burst, they send tsunamis rushing through the financial system, and the entire economy. Just look at what happened in the United States in 2008.

That’s the danger. And the best way to address it is to try to carefully let some air out, before the balloon pops.

A real estate sold sign hangs in front of a west-end Toronto property Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy (Graeme Roy/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

So what’s been driving prices in Toronto and Vancouver? A lot of things – some of which can’t be changed, or shouldn’t be.

There are the Bank of Canada’s record low short-term interest rates, a response to weak domestic and global economic conditions. Should Ottawa be agitating for higher borrowing costs, across the entire economy? Obviously not.

The Bank itself is also reflecting a worldwide savings glut, which has pushed global bond yields and mortgage rates to the floor, while pushing up the value of a lot of investment assets. Can Ottawa or the provinces address that? Not really.

Some of the price increases are a reflection of population growth, with the Greater Toronto Area adding nearly 400,000 people between 2011 and 2016, and Greater Vancouver growing by 150,000. Should government policy aim to stop people from moving to these successful cities? Absolutely not.

However, housing in Toronto and Vancouver has also been driven skyward by other factors. Greater Montreal, Canada’s second-largest market, has the same low interest rates, and over the last five years, it’s added twice as many people as Vancouver. But Montreal prices have not been bubbling.

The price boom in Toronto and Vancouver has been far beyond what population and income growth would suggest. For example, there tends to be a long-run relationship between average incomes and average housing prices. That’s because, as Yogi Berra might have put it, people can’t afford what they can’t afford – except when they can. In Toronto and Vancouver, the unaffordable is now the norm.

Average home prices are normally expected to be about three times median family incomes. As of last summer, that’s roughly where things were in Montreal, Ottawa and Calgary. But in Toronto, prices were more than eight times family income. Vancouver? Nearly 12.

Last year, the situation finally pushed British Columbia to act. The government introduced a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers, which appears to have had an impact. Vancouver prices actually dipped late last year, reversing steep gains earlier in 2016.

The levy, which doesn’t apply to immigrants, had a dual effect. It discouraged non-resident speculators, while also signalling to the entire market that prices might not go up forever.

(Unfortunately, B.C. recently undermined the measure, by watering down its application, and creating a price-inflating program of interest-free loans for first-time homebuyers.)

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa is now also musing about a foreign-buyers tax for Toronto. As in Vancouver, it might calm the market, and it’s hard to see how it could hurt. Non-resident investors are likely only a small part of the picture – the data is still poor – but they may be having a significant impact on prices and psychology.

Economists keep sounding alarms about a Canadian housing bubble; the latest comes from the Bank of International Settlements. A popped bubble will harm the entire country, but the entire country is not in a bubble. There’s no need for a national plan to throw cold water on buyers from Halifax to Ottawa to Edmonton. Policy has to go after the problem where it makes its home, in Southern Ontario and B.C.’s Lower Mainland.

Source: The Globe and Mail – Published Friday, Mar. 17, 2017

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