Foreign money pushing up house prices.

The logic-defying and alarming increases in Toronto’s housing prices have affected us in Weston to some extent. The boom is largely taking place outside our borders. While we still live in an affordable area, interestingly the net effect of the current market is lower property taxes for us. This is because higher assessments in other parts of the city mean that those residents are taking a larger share of the total assessment. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that housing prices (and rents) are rising at an unsustainable rate. What are we being told about the rise in housing prices? The big lie is that it’s simply a lack of supply and that more housing is needed. Based on this lie, there are proposals to eat into Toronto’s Green Belt and put more housing there.

A new report issued this week from the Ryerson’s City Building Institute tackles the housing shortage theory and disproves it. While there is enough housing for residents, the seeming shortage is likely caused by money looking for a safe haven in Canada. According to the report, it’s hard to trace foreign money that’s causing the boom but unless we do something about money flooding our city (such as a foreign buyers’ tax or a progressive property surtax), a lot of (especially) young people will be putting themselves at risk, saddled with an impossible debt. This could trigger a financial crisis, once the bubble inevitably bursts causing even more turmoil.

Over to you Province of Ontario.

Smitherman to bid for council in 2018

George Smitherman. From ctvnews.ca

Weston native born politician, George Smitherman has announced he will run for council in next year’s civic election. While he will not run in York South-Weston, he plans to take a shot at one of the three new wards created after a boundary review and council vote last November. The condo boom of the past few years, has seen population growth in the downtown core and Smitherman hopes to end up with a home and seat there.

While a progressive councillor for Ward 11 might have been a big change from the current incumbent, all is not lost. Many vital decisions at council have been won or lost by only a few votes. Mayor John Tory opposed adding three extra wards. Why?  Possibly because the new wards are downtown and could add three progressive voices and votes which might improve the tone and dare I say humanity of Council decisions. As an added bonus, Smitherman has close ties with the Liberal Party of Canada along with Immigration Minister and York South Weston MP Ahmed Hussen so no doubt there will be a strong link to the federal government.

Here begins the speculation that the long term plan is to knock John Tory off his mayoral perch in 2022.

Stay tuned; it should be an interesting ride.

Lions Park steps almost ready.

The view from the top and the first of the two ‘decks’.

The much delayed steps that lead from Hickory Tree Road down to the soccer pitch are almost ready. The steps replace an old wooden set that was falling apart and required constant maintenance. I spoke to a worker who told me that they should be completed by the end of the week.

The steps were made in sections and shipped from Ayr, Ontario. They have been redesigned somewhat and apart from being wider, now have two ‘decks’ which will see double duty as observation platforms when soccer games are in progress. They will make life easier for people walking between Weston and Etobicoke. Unlike the steps further up the Humber at St. Phillip’s Road, there is no bicycle track up these.

Correction made on 26 February, 2017: Since these photographs were taken, workers have begun to install what looks like bike channels along with wooden handrails on either side of the stairs.

The new steps from the soccer pitch.

Work on Kodak lands continues this year.

An interesting article in railwayage.com summarizes the progress expected this year on the Eglinton Crosstown line. Apparently the first track to be installed will go on the Kodak lands later this year as part of the rail yard that will be built there. The line is scheduled to be in service by 2021.

The total cost of the 19 km, 25 station partially (10 km) underground line is estimated to be $6.6B and is a relative steal compared to the $3.2B estimated cost of the one-station Scarborough Subway extension.

Incidentally, our mayor and councillor seem bound and determined to push forward with the Scarborough folly and have rejected a fully-funded seven station LRT. These are the people who successfully voted against basing transit decisions on data.  They didn’t want ranked balloting either. I wonder why.

Area development taking off.

Urban Toronto describes itself as, “Toronto’s premier website focused on condos, architecture, urban development and real estate.” It is read by many in the industry.

There is a recent article in the U.T. site that details future development projects in our area. They believe that the driver of this new activity may be the Eglinton Crosstown LRT with the possibility of a future connection to Pearson Airport.

Read all about it here.

New 10 Wilby Crescent developer to try again.

A few years ago, there was a proposal to build a 10-storey, 131 unit apartment building called ‘The Riverstone‘ on 10 Wilby, just at Hickory Tree Road – it claimed with some justification to be inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water house. Readers may remember that the vehicle registration office was on the site some years ago. The proposal generated lots of interest but not enough to get off the ground.

The site at 10 Wilby Crescent. To the left are the existing condos at 1 and 3 Hickory Tree Road.  Adapted from Google Maps.

In their unsuccessful bid, the non-profit developer Neighbourhood Concepts asked and received permission for two extra floors over the permitted 8. Part of the problem was that the adjacent Hickory Tree Road condos were selling for considerably less at the time. Sadly, Owner and CEO of Neighbourhood Concepts, Nancy Hawley died in 2015 and the site  is now owned by another non-profit developer Options For Homes.  They are requesting permission to build a high rise building double the permitted height to 16 storeys and increase the number of apartments to 234. By way of comparison, the condos (see above photo) at 1 and 3 Hickory Tree Road are 19 stories and the two buildings have a total of 413 apartments.

The 2013 concept drawing of the Frank Lloyd Wright inspired 12-storey Riverstone

There are rules already in place about the height and placement of buildings in Weston but specifically for Wilby Crescent:

Due to the anomalous lot shapes and slope profiles, any rezoning and site-plan applications in the Wilby Crescent area will specifically address appropriate siting and built form considerations in a manner compatible with the unique topographic features in the area.

Planners recognize that this is a special area overlooking the Humber, but Options For Homes wants to build taller and wider and closer to the property line / parkland etc. In a February 2016 meeting with OFH, Council expressed issues with the proposed development citing:

…significant concerns with respect to height, massing, configuration of the building at grade, the lack of landscaping, the relationship between the base of the building and the public realm, shadow impacts, the size of the floor plate for floors 11-16 and the lack of differentiation in the materials between the podium and tower components of the proposed building.

Options For Homes apparently engineered a small land swap to make the site more regular. Adding extra height to a building makes each unit more affordable. If you can add more floors to a building, the cost of the foundations, elevators etc. is spread a lot thinner.

The latest proposal is called The Humber.

Bottom line: it’s probably a done deal – especially since the Weston Southern Weston Road Corridor neighbourhood is already zoned for apartment buildings. The problem once again will be finding buyers but this time, the UP Express is operating and is a short walk away, allowing a commute to Union Station in 14 minutes or Pearson’s Terminal One in 12 minutes. Adding to the attractiveness for first time buyers, the units will be sold at cost with an option to have the difference from market value used as a deposit. Any appreciation will be shared between the homeowner and developer once the homeowners sell, along with the return of the deposit. To keep prices even lower, there will be no community amenities such as a pool or sauna.

The proposed building will be discussed at the next Etobicoke York Community Council meeting on January 17. The City’s Planning Department is recommending a community consultation.

By the numbers:

  • Number of Units: 234
  • Height of building 55 metres or 180 feet.
  • Storeys: 16
  • Number of parking spaces – Cars: 161 Bicycles: 235
  • Apartment Types: 14 Batchelor apts.
  • 33 One-bedroom apts. 69 One bedroom plus den apts.
  • 56 Two bedroom apts. 62 Two bedroom plus den apts.