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There’s some good news on Canada’s housing supply front; the country’s housing starts rose 8% in April.

According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the trend in housing starts was 257,846 units in April, up from 253,226 in March, when they had declined slightly from the previous month.

The trend measure is a six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR) of housing starts.

“On a trend and monthly SAAR basis, the level of housing starts activity in Canada remains historically high, hovering well above 200,000 units since June 2020 and increased from March to April,” said Bob Dugan, CMHC’s Chief Economist. “The increase in monthly SAAR housing starts in Canada’s urban areas was driven by higher multi-unit and single-detached starts in April. Among Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, Toronto was the only market to post a decrease in total SAAR starts, which was driven by lower multi-unit and single-detached starts.”

CMHC uses the trend measure as a complement to the monthly SAAR of housing starts to account for notable swings in monthly estimates and to obtain a clearer picture of upcoming new housing supply. However, the measure should be taken with a degree of caution. “In some situations, analyzing only SAAR data can be misleading, as the multi-unit segment largely drives the market and can vary significantly from one month to the next,” warns the CMHC.

The standalone monthly SAAR of total housing starts for all areas in Canada in April was 267,330 units, an increase of 8% from March. The SAAR of total urban starts increased by 10% to 245,324 units in April. Multi-unit urban starts increased by 14% to 178,092 units, while single-detached urban starts increased by 1% to 67,232 units. Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 22,006 units.

At a time when many fingers point to a lack of supply as the main culprit behind Canada’s housing crisis, this is some encouraging news for Canada’s market.

The annual pace of new home construction in April surpassed analysts’ expectations

 

The annual pace of new home construction in Canada was up 8% in April compared with the previous month, the country’s national housing agency has revealed.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) said the seasonally adjusted annual rate of April housing starts was 267,330 units, up from 248,389 in March, with the annual rate of urban starts increasing by 10% to 245,324 units.

Multi-unit urban starts registered a 14% annual rate increase to 178,092, and the pace of single-detached urban starts was also up – rising 1% to 67,232.

The six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts, which came in at 253,226 units in March, rose to 257,846 units last month, while rural starts saw a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 22,006 units.

The overall seasonally adjusted annualized rate of housing starts surpassed analyst expectations, with forecasts having come in at 246,000 units ahead of the CMHC announcement.

The news marks the latest stage in Canada’s housing market cooldown

National home sales and prices fell across Canada in April as the country’s housing market continued to cool following two years of record-breaking activity, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).

Home resales were down 12.6% across the country from March to April, with the home price index also falling by 0.6% to $866,700. That marks the first time that measure, which accounts for pricing volatility, has declined since April 2020, just before the housing market began its unprecedented pandemic-era surge.

The actual national average home price was around $746,000 in April, CREA said, meaning that figure has now declined for two months in a row after peaking at over $816,000 in February. Still, prices remain around 7% higher than the same time last year.

CREA chair Jill Oudil said in a press release that many housing markets across the country had cooled off “pretty sharply” over the last two months, with the steady climb of interest rates and buyer fatigue two of the main reasons for the slowdown.

On a year-over-year basis, national home sales plummeted by 25.7% after setting a record for the month of April in 2021. The number of newly listed homes declined by 2.2%.

Though the latest stats from April show the beginnings of what might be a downturn in the GTA real estate market at large, it seems that one housing type is still in huge demand, at least when looking at the first quarter of this year so far.

While many stakeholders predict a cooling of prices and activity in Toronto’s ever-more-fervent market sometime this year, the numbers from the experts at Urbanation show that condos, particularly new units, have been selling very well this quarter across the region.

The first three months of 2022 marked the hottest Q1 on record, according to the firm’s latest report, with 8,253 units sold — a big jump of 55 per cent since Q1 of last year.

This is interestingly contradictory to the numbers that the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board reported for April specifically, during which the number of transactions for not just condos but all home types in the GTA plummeted 27 per cent from March 2022 and a massive 41.2 per cent from April of last year.

But, as anyone in Toronto can attest to, new condo buildings have been going up like wildfire in recent years, which would also explain another staggering stat from the Urbanation report: the fact that last quarter’s numbers exceed the 10-year average of new condo sales per quarter by 60 per cent.

With the housing type being the only reasonable entry for many into the city’s ultra-pricey market — that is, for many among the few who are able to get into home ownership at all — it makes sense that residents are vying to get their hands on condos in particular, especially when they are potentially cheaper pre-build.

They are also extremely appealing to investors both foreign and homegrown, who tend to hog multiple homes and sit on them to sell for profit later, or rent it out short- or long-term

This may be why a record high 94 per cent of all the new units in development in Q1 of this year were sold, making available stock hit an 18-year-low.

“New condominium demand has been far outweighing supply during the past two quarters, as total sales far exceeded the total number of units launched for presale,” Urbanation notes.

“Despite the strength in pre-sale demand, the level of construction activity underway in the GTA also declined for the first time in two years.”

Interestingly enough, downtown Toronto had the slowest price appreciation in the GTA for new condos — so unlike us! — at 14 per cent over the last year, compared to 23 per cent in Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, and the 905.

For resale units, average prices downtown increased by 13.7 per cent year-over year, 21.6 per cent in the outer-416 and 27.8 per cent in the 905.

The price for the average resale condo across the region has also now hit more than $800,000 for the first time, showing just how ridiculous the market here remains.

This article will appear in the forthcoming May issue of Investment Executive.

Ottawa’s proposed new anti-flipping rule represents a significant change in real estate taxation, providing the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) with clarity regarding when profits on a home sale are subject to full taxation and limiting access to the principal residence exemption (PRE).

Under the proposed rule introduced in the 2022 federal budget, an individual who sells a residence within 12 months of acquiring it will be deemed to have flipped it unless they qualify for an exemption due to a “life event.” Any profit from the sale of residential real estate (including rental property) within a year would be taxed as business income and be ineligible for either the 50% capital gains rate or the PRE.

Under current rules, if the CRA thinks you’re flipping houses, they must argue that was your intention, said MaryAnne Loney, a partner with McLennan Ross LLP in Edmonton. Under the proposed rule, “if you’re under a year and you don’t fall into one of those carve-outs — that’s it, you have business income, there’s no further debate.”

Armando Minicucci, a tax partner with Grant Thornton LLP in Toronto, said the proposed rule, with its defined time threshold, gives the CRA “clarity” in deeming profits from a sale as business income.

Tax experts suggest, however, that the anti-flipping rule is unlikely to achieve the government’s stated goal of curbing speculation. Taxpayers will work around the new rule, either by delaying the sale of a home beyond a year or by attempting to qualify under one or more of the eight life-event exemptions.

“There are so many exemptions that it’s hard to see how this is going to apply to too many people,” said Mike Moffatt, assistant professor with Ivey Business School at Western University in London, Ont.

Said Loney: “I think you’re going to end up with a lot of people who are selling at 13 months who might have otherwise sold earlier.”

Under the proposed rule, life events that qualify for exemptions include property sold in cases of death, disability, the birth of a child, a new job, divorce, insolvency, personal safety or natural disaster. The government indicated that details regarding the exemptions would be set out in upcoming rules and that it would consult on draft legislation, which is pending.

The government could still tax profit from the sale of a home as business income if the property is sold after a year or a homeowner is eligible for an exemption, but would have to make the case that the seller was flipping. That can be a heavy burden and take a lot of time, Loney said.

In the budget, the Liberal government argued that “property flipping — buying a house and selling it for much more than what was paid for it just a short time prior — can unfairly lead to higher housing prices.” The proposed anti-flipping rule would “ensure profits from flipping properties are taxed fully and fairly.” The proposed rule would take effect Jan. 1, 2023.

In an email to Investment Executive, a spokesperson for the Canadian Real Estate Association said it was seeking more information about the anti-flipping rule and the implications, but did not say whether the association supported the proposed measure.

Moffatt suggested the exemptions could make it challenging for the CRA to administer the rule: “Whenever you come up with subjective rules that force CRA to make a decision, [the agency] can get themselves into trouble.”

The CRA could take a lenient approach, Moffatt suggested, and “wave through a bunch of borderline cases,” compromising the effectiveness of the proposed rule, or take a stricter approach and risk denying an exemption “that they should allow — and you know that’s going to be a front-page story.”

The government’s proposed anti-flipping rule fits with measures taken in recent years to enforce eligibility rules governing the PRE. Beginning in 2016, for example, the government began requiring taxpayers claiming the PRE to report details of the sale in their annual tax return. Previously, if a property was a taxpayer’s principal residence for every year they owned it, they didn’t have to report the sale on their tax return to claim the PRE.

“The CRA had no insight into what was going on out in the market” prior to the reporting change, Minicucci said.

In recent months, the government has sent education letters to individuals who may have applied the PRE in error, providing the taxpayers with the opportunity to correct or amend their returns.

The PRE is an expensive measure for the government in terms of forgone revenue, said Dino Infanti, a partner and national leader, enterprise tax, with KPMG Canada in Vancouver. Considering the significant gains realized in the housing market in recent years, the government is trying to ensure that those who are claiming the PRE are, in fact, eligible.

Minicucci said the CRA may have some justification for the new anti-flipping rule, “as much as I hate to admit it. By keeping it to 12 months, you’re narrowing [application of the rule] to people who are blatantly in the market to flip properties.”

Nevertheless, the rule could hurt people who sell homes but are not engaging in flipping, Minicucci said. He cites the example of a client who sold a cottage in 2021 within a year of purchase after they realized “cottage life just wasn’t for them.” With the recent run-up in prices, the client sold the property for significantly more than what he paid, resulting in a capital gain. Under the proposed new rule, because the client had sold within a year, the profit from the sale would have been fully taxable as business income.

Moffatt expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of the proposed rule, saying that most speculation occurs on secondary properties, not primary residences, and that the 12-month threshold might not deter flippers. He suggested, however, that the government could expand the scope of the rule in the future.

“I do wonder whether this is the thin edge of the wedge,” Moffatt said. “You start out with a system that would apply to almost no one and then over time start to eliminate some of the exemptions, extend the period from 12 months to 24 months to 36 [months], and so on. I think that’s a real possibility here.”

Minicucci agreed the government could adjust the proposed rule if it isn’t successful. However, he believes rising interest rates could curb speculation even before the proposed rule becomes effective.

“The main goal was to try to calm the market with respect to the constant increases in house values,” said Minicucci, speaking in late April. “After the past few weeks, that probably occurred anyway.”

A new home finance survey from the Bank of Montreal has found that, among other things, more Canadians are looking to buy in major city centres as business picks up once again at urban offices.

The survey notes that interest in buying a home in a major city centre has risen 5% since last year. This comes after many Canadians began looking beyond the boundaries of large cities for their housing choices, spurred on by work-from-home arrangements and rising home prices in the last two years. Now, not only are city centres attracting more interest from buyers, but BMO notes that preference for moving further from the city has seen a similar decline.

Those aren’t the only changes in Canadian’s buying plans according to the survey. Across the board, results seem to indicate that Canadians have become increasingly prepared to change their plans in response to rapidly changing housing conditions.

According to Hassan Pirnia, Head of Personal Lending & Home Financing Products, BMO Financial Group, “Financial hurdles are having a major impact on the purchase plans for these consumers in terms of what they will buy and when they will buy. Most understand that they will need to spend more; the impact on timelines is split, with some buying sooner before prices go up more and some holding off to see if prices come down.”

The results of the survey indicate that 68% of respondents were willing to change how much they spend on a home purchase, with 73% of those willing to spend more. The reasons listed for spending more on a home include increased home prices, growth in income, and increased savings because of the pandemic.

More than one-third of respondents expect to pay 10% or less for a down payment and two-fifths are relying on help from family to have enough funds.

Overall, the survey found that the amount Canadians expect to spend on their homes has increased 26% in just the last year with the average spend coming in at $588,000. Buyers in Ontario had the highest expected spend at $790,000 and the highest increase from last year, going up over $200,000.

Finally, more Canadians are rushing for mortgage pre-approval amid the uncertainty of rising interest rates. 30% of survey respondents said they are already pre-approved to buy, up 8% from last year, with another 43%3 planning on getting pre-approved in the future.

“Market conditions are quickly changing,” said Robert Kavcic, Senior Economist, BMO Capital Markets in the report. “We could see much more balanced conditions very soon as the Bank of Canada is expected to raise interest rates further through the remainder of the year. That will bite into affordability and possibly temper market psychology. Longer term, underlying fundamentals are still strong thanks to a firm job market and demographic support.”

Ontario’s provincial budget, released late this afternoon, was short on new housing measures but nevertheless earmarked $2B to build community infrastructure.

The funds will be invested in the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund over five years and will be deployed across 424 small, rural and north communities in the province, where old roads, bridges, water and wastewater infrastructure will be both rehabilitated and built anew. A total of $1.3B in provincial relief will support critical municipal services like public transit and shelters through new federal-provincial investment of $632M, of which the province is asking the federal government to be a full partner.

The budget also announced that Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative Party will spend $230M through 2023 to augment health care capacity, including critical care in hospitals across the province of Ontario.

The budget also promises to expedite development timelines for all housing types in a bid to deliver homes faster, although the budget did not specify how it would achieve this ambition.

The Landlord Tenant Bureau (LTB) and the Ontario Land Tribunal will receive $19.2M over the next three years to help alleviate their backlogs. In the former’s case, hearings were backlogged by around four months before the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has grown to somewhere around seven months.

There were 48,422 applications filed with the LTB in 2021 — down from more than 160,000 over the two previous years — of which 24,481 were requests to evict tenants who weren’t paying rent. With such massive caseloads, it remains to be seen if the government’s money will relieve the backlog.

“One of the defining affordability challenges of our time is housing. Our province is growing and every year, people from across Canada and around the world choose Ontario to build their careers and raise their families, here in Ontario. But every single year, they’re putting pressure on our housing supply and the dream of homeownership becomes further and further out of reach,” Provincial Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said. “In fact, as part of our plan, we’ll increase the housing supply by building 1.5M new homes over the next 10 years. It’s time to put more housing options within the reach of families who so badly need them. When we talk about building new homes for families, we say, let’s get it done.”

Homeownership is one of the major values that many Canadians share. After all, it’s often seen as a major milestone in one’s life to be able to buy your first home. This is not surprising when you consider the many benefits of homeownership both financially and for quality of life.

Among Canadians, it’s the older generations who have the highest levels of homeownership, largely due to the fact that older people have had longer to become financially established. Similarly, younger people tend to have the lowest levels of homeownership as many are still working to become established financially and save for a down payment.

Most people who are saving to buy a home naturally want to do so as soon as possible, but this can take a long time. Statistics show that young people are buying homes often, though most first-time buyers are well into their 30s before they enter the housing market.

In this article, we will look at when the average first-time buyer purchases their home, how much they spend, and other important statistics of homeownership as it relates to age.

What is the average age of a first-time buyer?

If you are a young adult eager to make your way into homeownership, you may want to have some patience. According to a study conducted by Money.co.uk, the average age of a first-time homebuyer in Canada is around 36.

While that’s not too old, it’s pretty late when compared to other major life milestones. The average Canadian university graduate is around 25 years old. On average, mothers are about 29 when they have their first child and the average age for a Canadian couple to get married is around the same age. This means that buying a home may very well be one of the later major steps you take in life.

That doesn’t mean some aren’t buying homes younger. Statistics Canada indicates that around 43% of Canadians aged 20-34 own their home, however, this is about 30% lower than any other age demographic. They also note that young people today are getting into the real estate market at a much slower pace than older generations such as the baby boomers and increasingly more people are living with parents or family later in life.

How much do first-time buyers spend?
The same Money.co.uk study that determined the average age of a first-time homebuyer also polled buyers on how much they spent on their purchase. According to the results, the average first-time home buyer in Canada spent about $340,000, though this figure is a couple of years old and value will depend a lot on the area where the purchase is made. A more recent poll from the Bank of Montreal found that first-time buyers in Atlantic Canada planned to pay the lowest for their first homes, with those in British Columbia and Ontario expecting to spend the most.

A more recent market insight report from Teranet shows that first-time buyers spent the least of any buyers in Ontario. Their average home value was above $500,000 and over $600,000 in Toronto specifically.

The rapid increase in house prices in Canada has led many young people to feel that saving for a down payment is exceedingly difficult. As a result, some have had to turn to other options in order to purchase a home. For example, the number of first-time buyers using gifted money for a down payment has risen to just under 30%, while at the same time, the sizes of these gifts have risen as well according to a report from CIBC. Younger people also tend to make less money, and as a result, are more in the market for cheaper homes with both lower down payments and lower mortgage payments.

Beyond affordability issues, the discrepancy in home values may also simply be a reflection of lifestyle values for younger buyers. Many of the youngest buyers, will not yet have large families who need as much space and may opt for smaller homes. Young professionals without children may be more likely to buy comparatively cheaper condominiums, whereas growing families tend to prefer larger more expensive properties.

Furthermore, those who are buying a home at an older age are more likely to be moving from a home they already own, making it easier for them to leverage their existing equity into larger homes.

Who is buying the most houses?
While we explained earlier that young people tend to have a lower level of homeownership in Canada, this doesn’t tell the whole story. Remember, many people will buy their homes to live in for many years, some even for their whole lives. This means that though more older people own homes, they aren’t necessarily on the market right now.

This is backed up by a recent report from the Bank of Canada, which indicated that about half of all purchases from 2014 to 2021 were by first-time homebuyers, with the other half divided between repeat homebuyers and investors. However, the overall share of first-time homebuyers has been falling, especially in areas like Ontario and British Columbia where investor activity has been on the rise. The same internet report from before indicates that in Toronto, where home prices are some of the highest in the country, first-time buyers made up just 27% of sales with 24% alone going to multi-property owning investors.

How old should you be to buy your first home?
There is no right age to buy a home – it simply depends on when you can afford it based on your own circumstances. Based on the data covered in this article, we can offer some advice for first-time homebuyers hoping to begin their home buying process:

Buying young if you can
First of all, if you can afford to purchase a home and plan on living in it for many years to come, most experts would say to go for it. It can be one of the best financial investments you will make and will provide numerous lifestyle benefits as well. And, the sooner you buy, the sooner you can pay off your debt and the longer your home can build equity.

Be patient with yourself
For those still looking to buy or trying to save for a down payment, be patient. As covered before, purchasing a home can happen much later than many other life milestones, so don’t feel like you are behind if you don’t buy in your twenties and don’t feel too late if you are older than 36. Everyone achieves goals at different ages in their life so don’t feel the need to compare yourself to others too harshly. There is no set timeline for everyone to accomplish certain things.

 

First-time purchases are made easier with smart decision making
First-time homebuyers can make their purchase more attainable through careful choice of what they want to buy. The varying amounts of first-time buyers in different regions and the generally low spending of first-time buyers indicate that those who are successful in buying their first home made smart decisions about what and where to buy. Be realistic about your budget and remember you can always scale up later as your requirements change. Also, consider looking to buy in a cheaper area that may help you buy sooner.

Take advantage of first-time buyer programs
Finally, keep in mind there are many things you can do to help make your home purchase a little easier. Especially for first-time buyers, there are programs and incentives in place to ease your financial burden. Naturally, those who can get financial help will be the best off, but other federal, provincial, and municipal programs can go a long way to helping you get there faster.

Condo buyers in the Greater Toronto Area might have noticed that the price of units have jumped considerably across the region this past year.

New data released by the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) shows that there were double-digit annual price gains between Q1-2021 and Q1-2022. The average GTA condo apartment selling price increased 22.5 per cent from $645,303 to $790,398 year-over-year. This marks a $145,095 annual hike to the average GTA condo price.

“The GTA population will grow at or near record levels over the next few years, supported by a strong regional economy. The condominium apartment segment will be an important source of housing, both for people looking to purchase a home and also those looking to rent,” said TRREB’s chief market analyst, Jason Mercer, in the report.

“This will continue to support price growth, but the pace of price appreciation may moderate as the market becomes more balanced over the next year,” he added.

Condo prices in the City of Toronto shot up $133,874 — a 19.8 per cent increase — year-over-year, rising from $675,979 to $809,853 in Q1-2022. Out of the six individual markets TRREB analyzes, Toronto is the most expensive to buy a condo in, followed closely by Halton Region, where the average condo suite now costs $805,859.

Condo apartment prices in Durham Region grew the most over a year, where the average price increased from $447,246 to $658,860 annually, a $211,614 or 47.3 per cent difference. York Region ranked behind Durham Region for the most annual price growth, where the average condo price jumped $176,275 or 28.9 per cent from $609,754 to $786,029 between Q1-2021 and Q1-2022.

Condo sales fall 15% from Q1-2021

GTA condo sales “remained strong historically,” last quarter, but were down from Q1-2021 levels.

In Q1-2022, TRREB recorded 7,932 sales through the MLS systems, down 15.6 per cent compared to the record 9,399 transactions that took place in Q1-2021. Although first quarter sales were down, TRREB explained in its report that new condo apartment listings were “basically flat,” which meant that condo buyers felt some relief in terms of market conditions.

“Condominium apartments represent a key market segment in the GTA, providing housing for an array of households. Many first-time buyers see condos as an affordable entry point into homeownership,” said TRREB president Kevin Crigger.

“At the other end of the spectrum, condos provide a luxury alternative for many households. It is also important to note that investor-owned condominium apartments have been an important source of rental supply over the past decade,” he added.

In Q1-2022, the City of Toronto reported the most condo units sold. Last quarter, the city recorded 5,384 transactions, down 16.8 per cent from Q1-2021’s 6,474 unit sales.

Annual sales dropped in all of TRREB’s markets with the exception of Durham Region, where the number of condo that traded hands grew 6.8 per cent yearly from 176 to 188 units sold. York Region reported the biggest drop in sales, which fell 20.6 per cent from 1,116 to 885 transactions between Q1-2021 and Q1-2022. The ‘Other Areas’ market came close to York Region’s levels, where annual sales fell 20.4 per cent from 49 to 39 transactions.

While the price of a new construction condo reached record highs in the Greater Toronto Area during March, sales in the region saw a change from the market’s “breakneck pace,” of the past few months.

According to the latest information from the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), there were 4,115 total new home sales in March, a 21 per cent drop from the same month last year. Yet, the number of sales in March was still 12 per cent above the region’s 10-year average.

Condo apartment sales accounted for most of the product sold last month, recording 3,277 transactions for units in low-, medium- and high-rise buildings, stacked townhouses and loft suites. March’s condo sales were down seven per cent from March 2021 and 34 per cent above the 10-year average. The majority of March condo sales were logged in Toronto, where 2,124 transactions took place.

New single-family homes — which includes detached, linked and semi-detached houses and townhomes but excludes stacked townhomes — reported 838 homes sold in March. Compared to the same period last year, new single-family home transactions decreased 50 per cent and were 32 per cent below the 10-year average. York Region reported the most single-family home sales in March, with 254 properties exchanging hands.

Year-to-date, 10,974 new GTA homes have sold during the first three months of 2022. There have been 2,089 single-family home sales (down 61 per cent from 2021) and 8,885 new condo sales (a 50 per cent annual increase) so far this year.

Edward Jegg, research manager at Altus Analytics at Altus Group, noted in the monthly BILD report that total new homes sales stayed strong in March, “[but] signs of slowing are emerging, as higher interest rates alongside record prices start to impact demand.”

The price of a new condo apartment in the GTA hit a record in March, reaching a new benchmark of $1,252,515, a 17.7 per cent increase over the last 12 months. Single-family units experienced an even higher rate of annual price growth, rising 27.3 per cent over the past 12 months to a benchmark of $1,838,396.

Demand continued to outpace supply in March. Although nine condo apartment projects were opened last month, remaining condo inventory dropped year-over-year for the tenth month in a row down to 7,220 units. Remaining inventory for single-family homes was more than 50 per cent lower compared to March 2021, falling to 830 units. Remaining inventory is defined as units in pre-construction projects, developments currently under construction and completed buildings.

“Although new home sales eased in March compared to the exceptionally strong pace of the past few months, demand continued to outpace the supply of new homes, leaving the region with an inventory shortfall,” said Dave Wilkes, BILD’s president and CEO, in the report. “We cannot let short-term market variations mask the root causes of the housing supply and affordability challenge in the GTA. We need to keep our eyes on the long-term solution—building more new homes.”

Fourth in (what I hope) will be a series on population growth, migration, and what’s going on with Ontario’s housing market.
TL;DR: Although housing completions did not keep up with population growth from 2015–19, they did increase. However, despite the GTA being the prime destination for international talent, the housing completion growth largely happened outside of Toronto CMA.
Earlier this week, Smart Prosperity published a report authored by Mohsina Atiq and me called Forecast for Failure: How a broken forecasting system is at the root of the GTAH’s housing shortage and how it can be fixed. Among other things, it examines how Ontario experienced rapid population growth from international sources after 2015, and how Ontario’s Growth Plan that governs the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) failed to both forecast and accommodate this growth:

There have been a number of thoughtful comments and questions around the release of the paper, one of which is, “how did housing completions across Ontario respond to this increase in population?”
If we look across Ontario, housing completions did go up somewhat after 2015. I’ve broken the data down into apartments (which includes both ownership, including condos, and rentals) and everything else.

But where were these units built? That’s a tougher question to answer than it should be, because our data is terrible. Well, that’s not entirely true — the data is out there, but the user interface to access the data is atrocious. Completions data, at the Census Subdivision (CSD) level, is available from CMHC but it’s impossible to access a time series, for every CSD. So that limits my analysis.
If anyone can figure out how to scrape the CMHC website to get housing completions data, for every CSD in Canada, I’ll be eternally grateful. I’ll even pay money!
Because of this limitation, I decided to get data for the City of Toronto, Toronto CMA, and Ontario as a whole. The boundaries of Toronto CMA are shown here in grey:

First, let’s start with apartment units. I’ve divided the data into the City of Toronto, Toronto CMA excluding the City of Toronto, and the rest of Ontario.
We’ve seen an increase in the number of units, in all parts of Ontario, in the last couple of years.

That City of Toronto spike in 2015 is wild. I’d love to learn more about it.
For the last few years, the proportion of apartment units built outside of Toronto CMA has been fairly steady at 30% or so.

Next, let’s consider all forms of housing excluding apartments. These include single-detached, semi-detached, and row housing. Very few of these units are built in the City of Toronto itself, primarily due to land constraints. In the rest of Toronto CMA, there were elevated completions in 2017, and 2018 was right around 2011–14 levels. Since then, housing completions have been under the level seen at the beginning of the decade.
Contrast this to the rest of Ontario, where housing completions, last year, are now 50% higher than they were at the beginning of the 2010s.

As such, the proportion of non-apartment housing units built outside Toronto CMA has risen from 55% a decade ago to over 75% last year.

Here is another way to look at the data. We’ll compare two five-year periods: 2011–15 to 2016–20 (so we’ll exclude 2021). Completions of non-apartment units went down in Toronto CMA, but up a fair margin in the rest of Ontario.

It’s really not hard to figure out why we’ve had so many young families drive until they qualify to the rest of the province.

 

Homeownership is getting out of reach for many

As Ontario’s sizzling real estate market puts home ownership out of reach for many Canadians, a growing number of prospective buyers are looking west in hopes of achieving their white-picket-fence dreams.

Like newlyweds Vineet Mrug and Kushbu Mistry, who relocated to Calgary from their hometown of Toronto last year, some residents of the GTA and other hot Ontario markets are moving to Alberta for what they believe is their last opportunity to own an affordable piece of real estate in a large Canadian city.

“We entertained the idea (of staying in Toronto), but it was very short-lived, just because of the sheer price of homes,” said Mrug, adding he and his wife made the move with the intention of starting a family soon.

“In Ontario, especially Toronto, within our budget we were restricted to a two-bedroom condo. And that really would not have cut it for us, with the kind of plans that we had.”

Mrug and Mistry ultimately purchased a 250 square metre home with a walkout basement and a large backyard in Calgary’s northwest neighbourhood of Valley Ridge.

“We got three times the amount of house for the same amount of money,” Mrug said. “We’re very happy with our decision.”

Mrug and Mistry’s experience is not unique. A quick perusal of housing-related forums on online mediums like Reddit turns up dozens of recent inquiries from GTA residents asking about weather, commute times and popular neighbourhoods in Alberta cities, especially Calgary.

Realtors in the western province are also buzzing with anecdotes about what they say is an unusually high number of inquiries from Ontario. Those stories appear to be backed up by Statistics Canada data, which says Alberta led the country in interprovincial migration in the fourth quarter of 2021, for the first time since 2015. On a net basis, the majority of Alberta’s new interprovincial migrants in the fourth quarter came from Ontario.

“We’re starting to see that migration based on affordability,” said Don Kottick, president and chief executive of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada. “I think we’re seeing some of this driven by the old FOMO, the fear of missing out. People are going to look where you can still afford a house.”

The benchmark price for detached homes in Calgary rose to $620,500 in March, which is over $73,000 higher than December levels and 20% higher than levels recorded last year. Many homes are receiving multiple offers and selling over the asking price.

On the higher end of the market, the uptick in activity is even more dramatic. Detached and attached home sales in the $1 million-plus price category in Calgary rose 71% and 258% year-over-year respectively, according to Sotheby’s.

But even as Calgary home prices rise, they pale in comparison to what prospective homebuyers are facing in other parts of the country. In Toronto, the average selling price in March of 2022 was $1.3 million, according to The Canadian Real Estate Association, while the composite benchmark price in Metro Vancouver for the same month was $1.4 million.

While the federal government committed in its most recent budget to taking steps to cool Canada’s overheated housing market, for many first-time homebuyers, it’s too little, too late. Data analyst Ryan Sekulic – who had been working in the UK – accepted a job at Calgary tech company Helcim last year, after looking at opportunities in both Toronto and Vancouver.

“None of the jobs I was looking at in Toronto or Vancouver paid enough to justify living in either of those cities,” said Sekulic. “I did eventually want to be a homeowner, and I’ve bought one now ? which would have been impossible there.”

Canada’s housing affordability crisis has coincided with Alberta’s recovery from years of recession due to depressed oil prices, which may be another reason Eastern Canadians are once again looking west. According to the Conference Board of Canada, Alberta is projected to lead the country in economic growth in both 2022 and 2023 due to surging commodity prices. The province is also working to diversify its economy, with some success – both Calgary and Edmonton have seen rapid growth in their local tech scenes.

Outside buyers also appear to be attracted to Calgary’s proximity to the Rocky Mountains. Recreation properties in Alberta are now the most expensive in all of Canada, outstripping even B.C., according to a recent report from Royal LePage Realty. In Canmore, a desirable mountain town located 80 km west of Calgary, single family home prices have soared 33% year-over-year, to $1.36 million.

While much of that demand is still driven by Western Canadians, local Royal LePage realtor Brad Hawker said a growing number of Canmore properties are being snapped up by Ontario retirees.

“They’re cashing out of a (high-priced) market, leaving segments of Ontario, and coming here for a combination of more affordable real estate and a different quality of life,” Hawker said, adding he doesn’t expect the threat of rising interest rates to slow that specific trend.

“I honestly don’t see it changing. A lot of those buyers are cash buyers,” Hawker said. “They aren’t putting a mortgage on the property anyway, so interest rates aren’t relevant to them.”

 

Source: Bloomberg News

Canada’s annual inflation rate surged to 6.7% in March, a new 31-year record and a higher figure than financial analysts had expected.

Statistics Canada announced that the country’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by a full percentage point last month over February’s figure, surpassing Bay Street’s prediction that inflation in March would come in at 6.1%.

That news comes a week after the Bank of Canada announced an oversized rate hike following its April policy rate meeting, with that half-percentage-point increase taking the central bank’s trendsetting interest rate to 1.0% after remaining steadfastly low at 0.25% throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wednesday’s StatCan announcement indicated that prices had risen in each of the eight categories tracked by its data. Transportation costs posted a particularly noteworthy 11.2% increase over last year, spurred by a rise in gasoline costs of nearly 40% since the previous March.

Homeowner replacement costs ballooned by 12.9% compared with the same time last year, with grocery store prices also recording an 8.7% year-over-year hike.

According to the agency, inflation had also worsened thanks to ongoing supply chain snarls, a feverish housing market and the continuing global crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Prince Edward Island posted the highest inflation figure among Canada’s provinces and territories, coming in at 8.9%. Second were Manitoba and New Brunswick at 7.4% each, with Ontario recording a figure of 7.0% and Quebec coming in at 6.7%.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, Canadian home prices have experienced significant upward momentum, a trend that is expected to continue into the spring market.

According to new market reports, the Teranet–National Bank National Composite House Price Index (HPI) has increased 31.2 per cent between March 2020 and March 2022, two years since the onset of the pandemic.

Daren King, an economist with the National Bank of Canada, stated in the monthly report that household preferences for housing have changed dramatically over the past two years, a pattern that has driven market demand up and pushed available home supply down. As a result, extreme price increases have been recorded in many of the composite’s 11 census metropolitan areas (CMAs) during the pandemic. Home prices in Halifax, Hamilton and Ottawa-Gatineau have climbed at the highest rate compared to the other nine CMAs, up 65 per cent, 55.4 per cent and 39.8 per cent since March 2020.

“Judging by the current market conditions, characterized by limited supply, and continued strong demand, prices should continue to rise during the strong spring period – especially since many buyers can still get the mortgage rates that they were guaranteed before the recent increases,” said King. “However, the upward trend in prices is expected to fade in the second half of the year.”

King added that NBC expects housing demand to be less robust and for price increases to become more modest as mortgage rates rise in the coming weeks and poor affordability conditions persist.

Without seasonal adjustment, the composite HPI grew by a record 18.4 per cent year-over-year in March, an increase that matches the record growth seen in August 2021. This increase was mainly driven by Halifax, Hamilton and Victoria, where prices jumped 34.7 per cent, 28.5 per cent and 22.8 per cent from March 2021 to March 2022 before seasonal adjustment.

For the other 20 CMAs not included in the composite HPI, yearly price increases were observed in all of them, ranging from 28 per cent to 37.5 per cent.

Between February and March, the composite index rose two per cent after seasonal adjustment, the second-highest increase on record after May 2021 and higher than the 1.7 per cent increase reported in February. Before seasonal adjustment, the composite HPI was up 2.1 per cent monthly, higher than the 1.5 per cent growth observed in February.

Ten of the 11 CMAs included in the composite HPI reported monthly growth after seasonal adjustment, most notably Halifax (5.4 per cent), Hamilton (3.3 per cent), Toronto (2.7 per cent) and Ottawa-Gatineau (2.4 per cent). Quebec City was the only CMA to report a drop in prices, which were down 0.6 per cent month-to-month. For the other 20 CMAs not included in the composite index, monthly growth was observed in 19 of them.

The Teranet–National Bank HPI is an independent representation of changes to Canadian single-family home prices by the National Bank of Canada and Teranet Inc. The measurement is based on sale price data from property records of public land registries. Using repeat sales methodology, all homes that have been sold at least twice are considered in the HPI calculation, which tracks the price increase between two sales of the same property.

The Ontario government has announced that it is investing more than $19 million over the next three years in an effort to help reduce the longstanding backlogs and accelerate decisions at the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) and Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB). The funding will help appoint more impartial adjudicators at both bodies, and support additional technology at the land tribunal as a means to resolve cases more quickly.

“We are making even more investments in the Ontario Land Tribunal and the Landlord and Tenant Board to help clear longstanding backlogs and drive faster decisions so we can get more shovels in the ground,” said Attorney General Doug Downey. The investment addresses a key recommendation found in the Report of the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force that suggests to increase resources at the Ontario Land Tribunal so homes can be built faster.

“This investment will allow the Tribunal to schedule hearing events and issue decisions quicker and more efficiently than before,” said Greg Bishop, Alternate Chair for the Ontario Land Tribunal. (Hirings that started in 2019 of new adjudicators have already helped to reduce a longstanding backlog cases of the Ontario Municipal Board/Local Planning Appeal Tribunal – now the OLT – by more than 60%.)

According to the announcement released by the Province, investments at the OLT will support faster case resolution by increasing the number of full-time adjudicators and case processing staff, by creating flexibility to address caseload trends by appointing more part-time adjudicators, by more than doubling the capacity for the use of expert land use planning mediators to help settle disputes earlier and narrow issues for faster adjudication, and finally, by improving IT platforms to improve access to services online.

Investments at the Landlord and Tenant Board will raise staffing, allowing the Board to more quickly resolve existing backlogs.

“As the ultimate impartial adjudicator, investing in the Ontario Land Tribunal as well as the Landlord and Tenant Board will help break the cycle of delays and appeals – getting homes built faster and helping tenants and landlords resolve disputes,” said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Anyone hoping to purchase in cottage country this year can expect to face growing prices as buyer demand continues to outstrip available home supply.

New market projections released by Royal LePage forecast that the aggregate price of a single-family home in Canada’s recreational regions will rise 13 per cent in 2022 to $640,710 as demand outperforms supply.

However, prices aren’t expected to rise as much as they did last year. In 2021, the aggregate price of a recreational single-family home in Canada grew 26.6 per cent annually to $567,000. During the same time period, the aggregate price of a single-family waterfront property jumped 21.5 per cent from 2020 to $976,000, while prices for recreational condos were up 15.4 per cent yearly to $374,000.

According to a survey conducted with 151 Royal LePage recreational real estate professionals across Canada, 84 per cent stated that their market has less inventory in 2022 than last year for their respective regions. Fifty per cent of respondents reported significantly less available inventory.

“The factors challenging Canada’s residential real estate market — chronic low supply and growing demand — are amplified in the recreational property segment,” said Royal LePage’s president and CEO, Phil Soper, in the report. “Demand for recreational properties continues to vastly outstrip inventory in many cottage regions across the country. Waterfront and mountain-top locations near cities are limited by nature, even in a vast land like Canada, forcing buyers into multiple-offer scenarios.

Soper explained that although the harshest of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are likely in the past and Canadians are getting back to normal activities, the way we view our homes has shifted. The desire for more indoor and outdoor space is expected to long outlive the pandemic, especially as buyers prioritize their desired lifestyle.

“Recreational regions offer greater access to nature and, as a secondary property, can be a good investment if used as a rental home, even in part,” said Soper.

Recreational home prices to rise the most in Atlantic Canada, Quebec
When it comes to pricing, single-family recreational homes in Atlantic Canada and Quebec are anticipated to increase 15 per cent this year, the highest level of price appreciation nationwide.

Recreational properties in Atlantic Canada could average $272,550 in 2022. This is a slight drop in the rate of appreciation from 2021, when prices rose 24.1 per cent from 2020 to $237,000. In Quebec, the aggregate price of a single-family home in the province’s recreational regions is forecasted to hit $356,500 this year. Prices rose at a similar rate to Atlantic Canada in 2021, climbing 24.5 per cent year-over-year to $310,000 compared to 2020.

By comparison, single-family recreational properties in Ontario and British Columbia are expected to jump up in price between 13 per cent and 12 per cent in 2022, respectively. This would bring aggregate prices to approximately $737,890 and $1,029,280 this year.

In Ontario, 91 per cent of respondents in Royal LePage’s survey said that more than half of the properties listed are selling above their asking price, a trend that has also been detected in Atlantic Canada (69 per cent), Quebec (68 per cent) and British Columbia (56 per cent).

For those located in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia, 86 per cent, 84 per cent and 63 per cent of respondents say that there is significantly less inventory this year compared to last year.

“Demand from remote workers has dipped compared to peak demand last year as workers are increasingly heading into the office. However, many buyer hopefuls are still being priced out of the recreational property market in Rideau Lakes,” said Pauline Aunger, broker of record at Royal LePage Advantage Real Estate in Smith Falls.

“Inventory is extremely thin, and I expect that will continue to be the case through the spring, resulting in further price increases this year. With tight competition and multiple offers on just about every listing, the successful buyers are the ones who are coming prepared,” she added.

All-new subway line will bring better, rapid transit to Toronto, create thousands of new jobs and spur economic growth

TORONTO — The province has officially broken ground on the Ontario Line Exhibition Station, marking the start of construction for the new subway line that will support the delivery of better and faster transit for the Greater Toronto Area.

 

“Our government has moved at unprecedented speed to start construction on the new Ontario Line subway,” said Premier Doug Ford. “This project will be a game changer for the city and region and is a key part of our plan to build the roads, bridges, highways and transit needed to move our economy forward.”

Today, the province also released the initial renderings of 14 stations along the 15.6 kilometre Ontario Line that will provide rapid transit between Exhibition/Ontario Place and the Ontario Science Centre. The initial station renderings show early planning and design concepts for the Ontario Line stations, which will connect to more than 40 other transit routes, including GO train lines, existing TTC subway and streetcar lines, and the Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit line.

“Public transit plays a pivotal role in reaching our climate goals and reducing congestion on our roads,” said the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Federal Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities. “The Ontario Line will be a major addition to existing transit options in the GTA, and will enhance commuters’ ability to get to their destination on time and with ease. We are pleased to be partnering with the Government of Ontario and the City of Toronto to deliver this transformational project.”

Upgrades at Exhibition Station will allow GO customers to continue to use the station during major construction for the Ontario Line. These upgrades include opening a new station entrance and exit from Atlantic Avenue, shifting the existing GO rail track and creating a new train platform. A temporary pedestrian bridge will also be constructed over the existing GO tracks to provide customers with additional safe access to trains between Liberty Village and Exhibition Place.

“Building public transit and critical transportation infrastructure has remained at the forefront of our government’s plan to build Ontario and create a better, more successful future for the people who live here,” said Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation. “With all three levels of government at the table, we have worked at an unprecedented pace to move each of Premier Ford’s four priority subway projects forward. With shovels now in the ground on three of Ontario’s four priority projects, we are closer to providing better travel options, alleviating gridlock on our roads, and creating thousands of good local jobs.”

Ontario’s bold transit plan for the Greater Toronto Area includes a commitment of nearly $17 billion from the province for construction. Last May, the Government of Canada announced over $10 billion in funding for Ontario’s four priority subway projects in the Greater Toronto Area – the largest joint investment in transit in the region’s history – which includes the all-new Ontario Line, the three-stop Scarborough Subway Extension, the Yonge North Subway Extension and the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension.

 

Quick Facts

  • Creating a new connection between GO rail and subway services at Exhibition Station will help relieve crowding at Union Station. Coupled with another connection to the GO rail system at East Harbour, the Ontario Line could reduce crowding at Union Station by as much as 14 per cent during the busiest travel hour.
  • By 2041, the Ontario Line will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 14,000 tonnes annually and cut overall fuel consumption by more than 7 million litres a year – the equivalent to nearly 120,000 fill ups at the pump per year.
  • Improving public transit is vital to supporting Ontario’s economic development and recovery.
  • Every $1 billion invested in transit helps support 10,000 jobs and boosts Ontario’s real GDP by another $1 billion.
  • In July 2020, the Building Transit Faster Act became law, providing the province with the tools to expedite the planning, design and construction process of Ontario’s five priority transit projects, including the Ontario Line.

Quotes

  • “In 2019, Premier Ford announced Ontario’s plan for four priority transit projects in the Greater Toronto Area with a historic investment to expand the subway network by more than 50 per cent. In less than three years, our government, in partnership with the Government of Canada and City of Toronto, is thrilled to share that we now have construction underway on three of our four priority subway projects.”

– Stan Cho
Associate Minister of Transportation

  • “Today’s announcement brings our government another step closer in completing the largest subway expansion in Canadian history. By investing in public transit infrastructure, we are making it easier and more convenient for Ontarians to get to where they need to be. Our government’s forward thinking approach to building transit will provide people with the connections they deserve for generations to come.”

– Kinga Surma
Minister of Infrastructure

  • “This is an important milestone in the work all of our governments are doing together to get much-needed transit built. I want to thank the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada for working with the City of Toronto to invest billions of dollars in transit in our city. The Ontario Line is a massive transit project that will be a challenge to build in our city but I am confident that we will get this done and deliver the transit that will help ensure Toronto comes back stronger than ever.”

– John Tory
Mayor of Toronto

  • “The Ontario Line will be a game-changer for transit here in Toronto and the GTA – it will bring 15.6 kilometres of new subway service to the city that will link up with more than 40 other transit options along the way, including GO trains here at Exhibition. These kinds of connections are going to help us speed up travel times and reduce congestion at key pinch points like Union Station. Breaking ground on these improvements puts us an important step closer to giving the people of Toronto the transit relief they need.”

– Phil Verster
President and CEO of Metrolinx

Ontario is raising a tax on home purchases by some foreigners to 20% and making it harder to avoid as it tries to cool a scorching real estate market.

The so-called speculation tax will apply to homes bought anywhere in the Canadian province by foreign nationals and foreign companies, provincial Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said in a statement Tuesday. Currently, the tax is 15% and applies only to homes in Toronto and surrounding areas.

The soaring cost of homes and rents has become a significant political issue in the province of about 15 million people, and Ontario Premier Doug Ford faces an election in June. In Toronto, the average sale price in February was CA$1.3 million, seasonally adjusted.

Since the pandemic started, even small cities and towns, far from Ontario’s major cities, have seen huge increases in home values as buyers took advantage of ultra-low mortgage rates.

The benchmark price of homes in the London and St. Thomas region, about a two-hour drive from Toronto, was CA$749,000 in February, up 84% in two years. In Barrie, north of the country’s largest city, a typical home is now CA$940,000, according to data from the Canadian Real Estate Association.

Nationally, home prices posted a record monthly surge in February as buyers piled into the market ahead of interest rate increases by the Bank of Canada. Benchmark home prices rose 3.5% last month from January, according to CREA data.

Foreign citizens can apply for a rebate from the Ontario tax if they become permanent residents of Canada within four years of paying it. But rebates will no longer be given to international students or to foreign nationals who are temporarily working in the province. The tax has brought in about CA$600 million in revenue since first implemented in 2017, though some of that may be given back, a government spokesperson said.

“There is no silver bullet to solving the housing crisis,” Housing Minister Steve Clark said in a statement. “Addressing the housing supply crisis is a long-term strategy that requires long-term commitment and coordination with our partners and between all levels of government.” The provincial government said it would work with local governments to implement other measures, including taxes on vacant homes.

 

Copyright Bloomberg News

The Ontario Government laid out plans this week for two new transit lines that would further connect the GTA and the Greater Golden Horseshoe region.

The province’s 30-year transportation plan, released on Thursday, details several in-the-works and planned future projects, including the construction of the controversial Highway 413. But amongst the list were two new undertakings: an Ontario Line to Toronto Pearson Airport connection and a Burlington to Oshawa line.

The latest infrastructure plan, entitled “Connecting the GGH: A Transportation Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe,” comes just 12 weeks before the provincial election. Ford committed to spending $82B over the next decade on several transportation projects, including the two highway projects, expanded passenger rail service, new subway lines, and expansions of several existing highways.

Until now, the Ontario Line, an upcoming 16-km Toronto subway line, was set to run from Exhibition in the west up to the Ontario Science Centre in the east. But the province’s transportation plan calls for the construction of an additional transit loop connecting the Ontario Line to “new major transit hubs where regional services connect, including Pearson International Airport and Richmond Hill Centre, and to other subway and GO Rail lines.”

If it comes to fruition, the Ontario Line loop wouldn’t be the only transit option connecting to the Toronto airport. UP Express trains already offer a route between downtown’s Union Station and Pearson Airport, and the planned Eglinton Crosstown West Extension, expected to be complete by 2031, is set to have a Pearson connection as well.

The Ontario Government’s second transit proposal would be an even larger undertaking, geographically speaking. The provincial plan lays out an initial concept for an east-west “higher order transit connection” between Burlington and Oshawa. It would run north of Toronto, connecting to existing and planned GO Rail, LRTs, and subways along the way.

“It would transform the regional transit system from today’s radial commuter network centred on Union Station to an expansive grid, so people can get where they need to go without going through the downtown core,” the report reads. “This new line will build on already protected lands for the 407 Transitway, a bus rapid transit corridor parallel to Highway 407.”

The provincial government will carry out a planning analysis for the projects to confirm feasibility, as well as analyze project options and network connectivity.

“This is a plan with purpose, built on the guiding principle to ‘get it right’ because we simply can’t afford not to,” Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney wrote in the report. “Those choosing to start a family, move for work or build their business in the GGH area are counting on us.”

The projects laid out in the Ontario plan encompass all transit upgrades planned from now until 2051, meaning it may be a number of decades before the two proposed additions become a reality.

From the launch of the first iPhone, to the world’s population reaching seven billion people, a lot has changed in the past 25 years. In that same quarter-century timespan, the Greater Toronto Area’s housing market has also witnessed remarkable transformation.

In its Quarter Century Market Report released today, RE/MAX Canada says that home sales have doubled while prices have soared over 450 per cent in the GTA since 1996, growth that has been supported by market demand and limited home supply. The report examined home buying activity in the nine Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) districts which make up the GTA.

Between 1996 and 2021, over two million GTA homes have been sold, equal to a dollar volume of $1.1 trillion. The number of residential sales has grown 118.2 per cent between 1996 (55,779 transactions) and 2021 (121,712 transactions).

Meanwhile, the average home price has risen 453 per cent over the same 25-year period, with prices climbing from $198,150 in 1996 to $1,095,475 in 2021, a compound annual growth rate of 7.08 per cent.

“Performance of the GTA housing market over the 25-year period has been nothing short of remarkable,” said Christopher Alexander, president of RE/MAX Canada, in the report. “This is especially so when considering this time period was characterized by the tech meltdown of 2000, 9/11, SARS, the Great Recession of 2008, Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan and the on-going pandemic.”

New construction, transportation contributes to Toronto’s real estate growth
Upon examining TRREB’s market districts, RE/MAX’s Quarter Century report found that land availability, particularly within the city’s core, has “waned.” Meanwhile, migration, low interest rates and housing affordability have continued to play a critical role in the growth of the Toronto region.

In the last 25 years, Toronto Central, Halton Region, York Region, Simcoe County and Dufferin County have reported triple-digit sales increases, rising 156.9 per cent to as high as 1,123.7 per cent. Average GTA sale prices have also reached new highs in the last quarter-century, from a low of 301 per cent to a high of 874 per cent.

New construction has been a “significant factor,” in the sales gains seen throughout GTA regions such as Peel, Durham, Halton and York. The GTA’s 905 communities evolved to be affordable alternatives for freehold property purchasers, with starter homes on smaller lots enticing first-time buyers outside of the 416 area, RE/MAX Canada explained. Transportation initiatives like the expansion of the GO train system and 400-series highways have also supported growth, bringing new life to older cities like Milton, East Gwillimbury and Innisfil.

“If you build it, they will come, and they sure did,” said Alexander. “Bolstered by historically low interest rates, a strong economy, grit and determination, buyers both young and old have moved to the city’s bedroom communities.”

GTA housing and development to evolve with land availability
With land in limited supply within the GTA’s 905 areas, the emphasis is moving from freehold homes to high-density properties, RE/MAX Canada noted.

For instance, condos represent one in two sales within Mississauga, while more condo developments are in the works for areas like Brampton, York Region and Pickering’s City Centre.

“The GTA’s housing stock continues to evolve based on land availability. Builders and developers are faced with the harsh reality of a land supply-crunch as affordability remains top of mind with the vast majority of buyers,” said Alexander in the report.

Vertical growth has played a “significant role” in climbing sales levels within the 416 region, as condo apartments and townhomes now account for 76 per cent of sales in Central Toronto. Builders and developers look to existing buildings for potential demolition as many of the existing parking lots and vacant land have been bought up. In other cases, RE/MAX explains that developers have gutted and redeveloped existing structures for housing, such as The Britt in Toronto, formerly the Sutton Place Hotel.

“While the preference may be freehold, the necessity to build vertical communities has never been more apparent in a city where the population has grown by two million people since 1996 and is expected to ramp up in coming years,” said Alexander.