Monday Morning Quarterback

Toronto Politics | September 21, 2020


Why do we play fantasy football?

Seriously.  I’m asking.

My “Monday Morning Quarterback” blog posts have nothing to do with football.  It’s merely a colloquialism for “hindsight,” and I like the way it sounds for a blog headline referring to topics from last week.

But since we’re at it, and since I just spent ten minutes searching for a picture of a quarterback, maybe we should address the question at hand?

I started playing fantasy football in 1998 during my first year of university, which means I’ve been playing longer than anybody I know.  That either makes me really cool, or really nerdy, and I have a bad feeling I know which one it is.

In 2020, fantasy football is all the rage.  Daily leagues are a billion-dollar business, as professional sports gambling legislation in the USA over the past couple of years has opened the floodgates.  But for those of us old-school guys, being in a league with your buddies can never be replaced.

I started my league in 2002 when I was away at school, and through our 18th season, we had only ever had one coaching change.  Up until this year, of course, when we had two.

At times, I wonder why I didn’t leave with those two guys.  Perhaps it was the guilt of knowing the league would fall apart if a third team left, namely, the league Commissioner, which I am.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with fantasy football, this must sound incredibly odd to you.  And then for those of you who do know all about the past-time, perhaps you can relate.

Fantasy football is awful.  There.  I said it.

And yet I can’t leave.  It has this hold on me that I can’t explain.

Losing your league on Sunday, are you?  Well, snap at your wife, be short-tempered with your kids, pound the steering wheel in traffic, and slam your fork down at the dining room table when peeking at your iPhone reveals that some third-string running back just vultured your stud’s touchdown.  It’s all part of the process.

Lose your week, and your Sunday is ruined.  So too are the days of everybody close to you, who share your misery.  Go to work on Monday, and feel down.

Win your week, and your Sunday is exhilarating.  The air is crisp, the sun is warm, you smile for no reason, and you laugh at things that aren’t funny.

Why, oh why, do we do this to ourselves?

I hate fantasy football.  I really do.

But I will probably never stop playing…

Last week, in between dropping Darrell Henderson Jr. for Jerry Jeudy, there were a lot of real estate stories that I bookmarked and hoped to come back to this week.

What makes for an interesting real estate story, in my eyes, is different from the next person.

But there are two in particular that I wanted to come back to, and neither deal directly with houses or condos.

Alas, for those of you looking for market stats, stories about offer nights, or descriptions of cool properties, these two articles aren’t for you.

They both have to do with the intersection of government and real estate, which of course, means I’m about to go on some fiscally-conservative rant, right?

I dunno, I’d like to think I’m somewhat level-headed about this, no?

Maybe that is my problem.  When the inmates are running the asylum, it pays to simply go with the flow.

The first story provides a headline that made me shake my head, then sigh aloud, then sit down and read the article, and then channel my inner old man and start shaking my fist at a cloud…

“Canada Mortgage & Housing Corp Says It’s Changing Name To Better Reflect Changing Mandate”
Canadian Press

This article appeared in multiple news outlets, since it was authored by CP.

Now, if you’re a cynic, like me, you probably already know why the CMHC is changing its name, and how utterly ridiculous this all is.

But before my two cents, here’s the article:

OTTAWA – The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. will be getting a new name in the coming months, part of a larger rebranding by the federal housing agency to better reflect its changing mandate.

The head of the Crown corporation says the decades-old name overemphasizes the financing of home ownership and does not do enough to highlight housing affordability.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Evan Siddall says changing the name would better align with the corporation’s present – and its future.

The Liberal government made the agency a key overseer of the national housing strategy, involving tens of billions of dollars in combined federal, provincial and private-sector funding and financing.

Federal legislation is needed for an official name change, but Siddall says that doesn’t prevent the organization from using a trade name.

A new name along the lines of “Housing Canada” will be the subject of consultations with the 2,000-strong workforce at the agency.

“I would not blame other people for how they perceive us, because the only people who control that is us,” Siddall said Thursday.

He said the word “mortgage” in the current name conveys that CMHC is a financial institution, which is partly true. But it neglects its focus on helping people afford a place to live, whether that be through buying, renting or a social housing program.

“We’ve looked at this question of what our brand is, whether we could use something that was different even without a legislative change,” he said.

“Those are all things that we’ve looked at and that I think actually we should do and we’ve talked about it pretty openly in the company.”

Last year, CMHC set the ambitious goal of providing all Canadians with homes they can afford and meet their needs by 2030.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an economic hurdle on the path to affordability.

CMHC said last week that about $1 billion worth of mortgage payments were deferred each month during the pandemic. The agency’s annual residential mortgage industry report also said fewer Canadians are likely to get ahead on their mortgage payments this year, compared with 2019.

Siddall said the pandemic has significantly changed how governments look at housing among other parts of the economy.

“People always talk about the current moment as being an inflection point,” he said.

“There’s a moment now that policy-makers are reflecting on and we’ll see what happens in the coming weeks and months, but this is for sure a moment like that.”

 

Okay, so where to start?

First, I would say that I always get a kick out of stories like this, since it’s a bunch of people spending time on things that really, truly don’t matter, when there’s a lot of other things that need to be done!

This is our government at work, folks.

Like the people who sit around and discuss why “man-hole cover” isn’t inclusive enough, and why we need to change it, the discussion about the name “CMHC” is ridiculous, since I’m willing to bet that less than 20% of all Canadians know who CMHC is.  Yes, you do.  But you’re reading a real estate blog, and there’s a high-percentage chance that you’re of above-average intelligence.  But the average Joe or Jane on the street?  He or she doesn’t know and doesn’t care.

So why the hell are we spending time on this?

Again, my cynical side is having a field day with this!

The CMHC does, in fact, stress the mortgage aspect of housing, but their primary role is to insure mortgages, plain and simple.

Many readers of this blog have commented, and lamented, the absurd burden that the CMHC puts on the tax-payers, by insuring mortgages, and taking on the risk that lenders would, could, or should carry.  Is it possible that the CMHC is trying to get away from that?  I mean, not the insurance itself, since that won’t happen, but rather the knowledge that this is what CMHC does?  Perhaps a name change to something more in line with helping people would take the eyes and ears away from the massive risk that CMHC places on Canadian taxpayers?

“I would not blame other people for how they perceive us,” says Evan Siddall, who doesn’t seem to be well-liked, and who has had a really, really tough year at the helm of CMHC.  Perhaps this is Siddall’s parting gift before he steps down next year?

As noted in the article above, the CMHC has set a goal of “providing all Canadians with homes they can afford and meet their needs by 2030,” which is as akin to a child-like fantasy.  When my daughter says, “I want to eat chocolate all day, for every meal, and never brush my teeth,” I think it’s equally as realistic and likely as what the CMHC has proposed.  In fact, it’s probably more likely.

So why does the CMHC do this?  Why say something so absurd and unbelievable in full view of the public eye?

Well, because I think many people out there believe the hype.  I think, given the hundreds of billions of dollars that have been handed out by the federal government this year, that it’s not unreasonable to assume that another decade of Liberal rule could see massive changes to housing as we know it.

So perhaps the Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation changing its name to de-emphasize the mortgage aspect of the corporation and cast a light on what the government will do to provide “housing for all,” moving forward, is where all this is headed.

Another article from last week that I just couldn’t leave alone is this one:

Vancouver Mayor To Introduce Housing Program Aimed At Middle Income Earners
Canadian Press

I’ll be honest – when I saw this headline, I merely assumed this would be about some form of shared-equity mortgage or incentive for borrowers.  I was not prepared for what’s proposed below…

Vancouver’s mayor is set to introduce a new housing program that he says would allow middle-income earners to own homes in neighbourhoods where they’ve been priced out.

In a media release, Kennedy Stewart says almost 60 per cent of residential neighbourhoods in the city are reserved for homes that only the top 2.5 per cent of earners can afford to buy.

He says the program, dubbed Making Home, would make home ownership possible for households making $80,000 a year.

It would allow existing homeowners to create up to four market homes on a standard lot, provided that two additional below-market homes are set aside as affordable for middle-income households.

“We know that tens of thousands of residents are looking for better options to create vibrant communities and stay in Vancouver, but these kinds of homes simply don’t exist for middle-income households,” Stewart said in the media release from the city.

“This policy addresses social, economic and environmental equity, and it allows Vancouverites to make better use of our existing land base.”

Up to 100 individual projects will be allowed in neighbourhoods zoned for single-family detached homes and duplexes, with certain requirements and restrictions related to the height of any new builds, the retention of trees, the preservation of rental units and homes with heritage designation.

Jake Fry, co-chair of Small Housing B.C., helped draft the proposal and says the plan is dramatic and subtle at the same time.

“We’re looking at communities helping themselves build and reinvigorate the type of housing that is currently there, and making it attainable for a much more broad array of incomes,” Fry said.

He says homeowners will have the opportunity to redevelop or make additions to their properties, adding more living units without increasing the size of the home by too much.

Fry says the city won’t be funding any of these projects, but suggests if homeowners can’t fund the projects themselves, they could partner with a small builder or B.C. Housing.

Jennifer Bradshaw with Abundant Housing Vancouver says she’s excited by the project, but predicts the majority of units will go to the children of homeowners.

“There just aren’t going to be enough available,” said Bradshaw. “This doesn’t necessarily help us, but it will help some people.”

Stewart is expected to introduce the program on Wednesday, with the goal of sending proposed guidelines for the pilot project to city council for consideration by the second quarter of next year.

 

See what I mean?

The article starts by lamenting that 60% of residential neighbourhoods are reserved for the top 2.5% of earners, as though this is somehow newsworthy, or a novel concept, or unfair.

In a related story, only 0.00001% of people ever get to play quarterback for the New England Patriots, and yet there’s no program to allow poor athletes to take snaps, so I can never understand why people refer to the result of supply and demand interacting in a free real estate market as unfair.  But I digress…

In any event, the article took a severe turn when the idea of building four homes on a standard lot was introduced.

Huh?

I thought the headline said something about a “housing program aimed at middle-income earners?”

Oh, wait, the program isn’t about making housing affordable for middle-income earners, but rather allowing them to become real estate developers, speculators, and financiers!

You can’t make this up!

Existing homeowners will be allowed to build four houses on their properties, so long as two are set aside for middle-income earners.

Um, stupid question, but what about low-income earners?  Where do they fit into all this?

The most amazing part of this program is that, once again, the government is shifting the responsibility to provide housing to constituents from the public sector to the private sector.

If you can’t solve the housing woes of a city or province, just ask the citizens to do it themselves!

“Hey guys, would you mind turning your single-family dwelling into four small houses, and provide two of them to a particular class of people that we’re currently trying to appease?  That would be awesome, thanks!”

This is how many levels of government solve problems in 2020.

And can you imagine the uproar there’s going to be?  Sure, not every homeowner in every neighbourhood will be allowed to build four units, but just imagine if your next-door neighbour suddenly added three bachelor pads to his backyard.  How would you and your other neighbours react?

How much uproar is there going to be to this program?

In case you missed it:

“…Fry says the city won’t be funding any of these projects”

Like I said.

Shifting the public responsibility to the private sector.  Just amazing!

Of course, no article is complete without wallowing.

Jennifer Bradshaw with Abundant Housing Vancouver says she’s excited by the project, but predicts the majority of units will go to the children of homeowners.

“There just aren’t going to be enough available,” said Bradshaw. “This doesn’t necessarily help us, but it will help some people.”

When somebody hands you a slice of bread, you complain that it’s not a sandwich.

I wish Ms. Bradshaw would have used this forum to point out that the government isn’t actually going out and building affordable housing here, but rather hoping a change in legislation would do so.

I don’t think any two people in the province could agree on exactly how this program will play out.

This is one of the stranger pieces of real estate related public policy I’ve seen in a long time, and I wonder how long until we see similar changes here in Toronto.

Opening up pockets of downtown Toronto to laneway housing was a step in the right direction, but I would stop short of allowing homeowners to build four units on their lots.

So that’s it for this tepid Monday, folks.

Just a wee bit colder outside, and a little darker in the mornings too.

But nothing quite warms the heart like real estate statistics though, right?

See you Wednesday!

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6 Comments

  1. Francesca

    at 6:46 am

    I follow Vancouver real estate closely as my MIL lives there and my husband and I secretly long to live there one day although we love Toronto. I did read the article you are referencing David. Two other major areas of contemptuous debate there are the huge increase in condo insurance rates and the possible sale of the leasehold land owned by the city of Vancouver in Falsecreek south which is a prime central area close to Granville market. My MIL lives in a rent controlled coop in this area and she risks losing her home along with many other low and middle income residents if the city decides to not renew the leases which are set to expire in the next 2-20 years and sell the land to developers. There is so much talk there about creating affordable living options but then things like this are in the wings. If this were to happen, my retired MIL living, on a modest income would have to move to the burbs to be able to find a place similarly priced. I love how the news always has articles promoting how both Toronto and Vancouver are trying to find solutions for affordable housing yet these solutions are often full of contradictions.

  2. Appraiser

    at 9:00 am

    “I hate fantasy football. I really do.

    But I will probably never stop playing…”

    Yes, David this regard you are both refreshingly honest and completely irredeemable at once.

    “They both have to do with the intersection of government and real estate, which of course, means I’m about to go on some fiscally-conservative rant, right?”

    What do you think of this sequence of events and how it will impact the throne speech and the future of Canada? I like where we’re going here and I’m afraid it won’t be fiscally conservative.

    First: “Secretary-General appoints Mark Joseph Carney of Canada – Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance” https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/personnel-appointments/2019-12-01/secretary-general-appoints-mark-joseph-carney-of-canada-special-envoy-climate-action-and-finance

    “Canada’s oilpatch braces for more scrutiny after Mark Carney sees half of world’s reserves left in the ground” https://financialpost.com/commodities/mark-carneys-new-focus-on-climate-financing-would-lead-to-greater-scrutiny-oilpatch

    The indomitable Mr. Carney returns Canada in March, https://www.macleans.ca/economy/mark-carney-heads-to-ottawa/.

    The press speculates Carney is entering politics.
    “Liberal insiders see Carney as Trudeau successor”
    https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/liberal-insiders-see-carney-as-trudeau-successor-star-reports-1.1265197

    Instead (wisely) Carney surprises everyone and becomes Vice Chair and Head of ESG and Impact Fund Investing at Brookfield.
    https://bam.brookfield.com/press-releases/2020/08-26-2020-131930311

    “Trudeau seeks advice from Mark Carney on economic recovery plan” https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/trudeau-seeks-advice-from-mark-carney-on-economic-recovery-plan-1.5058179

    Mark Carney is an international financial superstar. He already had the clout of the UN behind him from which to cajole corporate climate change deniers. Now he has reverted to his previous Goldman Sachs training to use his considerable financial skills on a very pragmatic level at Brookfield.

  3. JF

    at 10:09 am

    David what do you think of Cam’s stint with Pats early as it might be..more so what did you think about last night’s game and ending in particular..Cam being overconfident..I for one am rooting for him to succeed again hate as much as I do NE..guy needs a redemption story and a Ring..

  4. RPG

    at 6:43 pm

    Governments no longer have any choice but to force the private sector to pick up their slack. Contrary to popular thought, money doesn’t grow on trees. Voters want it all. They just don’t want to feel as though they’re paying for it.

    This example out of Vancouver is more of a litmus test. 100 individual projects? That’s dipping a toe in the water.

  5. cyber

    at 10:58 am

    I wouldn’t call this policy as ‘shifting the public responsibility onto the private sector’ – surely you would agree that it is not a government’s job to develop, fund and provide actual housing for middle income individuals and families who can already afford shelter, though maybe not to their exact preferred location/size. (A different story from truly affordable housing needs where some sort of land grants / affordable construction loans / direct rent subsidies are needed as there is almost no way for private market to profitably provide the housing at certain income levels given cost of land at our large population centres.)

    It really just paves way for ‘as of right’ duplex/triplex/four-plex renovations/redevelopments on well serviced urban lots in established neighbourhoods and takes away the blocking and associated costs/timelines that NIMBYs often create as part of the rezoning process.

    And surely we all here believe in laws of supply and demand – with more middle income housing supply created, it keeps the existing (relatively) affordable housing stock affordable for longer.

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