Weekend Reading List!


8 minute read

June 14, 2019

Wow, where to start?

I suppose it’s like making a classic 80’s or 90’s mix tape; everybody has his or her own way of laying out the songs.

Me?  Well, I always put the very best song first.  Why not start out with a bang?

I also wanted to finish strong, so I’d put a great song last, but not too good a song, since many times you don’t get to the end of the tape, although things might be different if this were a mix-CD.  A mix tape was different from a mix-CD, since you would always start the CD over from song #1, but you usually wouldn’t rewind the tape; you’d most often simply start where you left off.

Nevertheless, I’d use the 5th or 6th best song as the finisher.  I’d usually use my #2 song as the second song of the set.  Why not start really strong with your two best?

And if we’re mixing multiple bands here, I would never, ever, put two songs by the same band in a row.

Perhaps that’s the one rule I’ll break today, however, as there are a few articles I want to draw your attention to that are on the same subjects.

I’m going to start with the “best” article this week, and I use that word in quotations because I’m being a little bit snide.

This article is definitely interesting, and if we’re looking for entertainment, then this article has it!  To be fair, The Walrus is not mainstream media, so we can’t expect the content not to have a slant.

“Airbnb Versus Everyone”
The Walrus

The sub-heading tells you right off the bat how this article is slanted: “How the tech platform crowds the housing market and threatens neighbourhoods”

Like I said, this tops off our mix-tape themed weekend reading list not because I agree with the content of the article, but because I’m actually amused by how the authors basically try to frame AirBnB as something that is might kill you.

Seriously.  I’m not exaggerating.

Here is the intro:

After living in Vancouver for a year, Becca Young wanted to move back to Toronto with her husband, two-year-old son, and two cats. They looked for the right place for a couple of months and finally found it in a two-building condo complex near the waterfront. It was big enough for all of them, Young and her husband could walk to work, and there was a daycare nearby.

The couple moved in April 2018, and the trouble started soon after. As it turned out, they had chosen a complex that, according to the Toronto Star, had the most Airbnb listings of any building in the entire city—300. The couple quickly had to contend with the consequences. Those ranged from almost weekly fire-alarm pulls and elevator interruptions to loud parties and a wide variety of messes in the building’s common areas. There was even blood spatter in the lobby that stayed up for three days. “I always say that, when I close the door behind me, I love my building,” Young says. “But, between the front door and my apartment door, it’s pretty frigging awful.”

It got worse. In December, there was a shooting inside an Airbnb unit on a different floor, something that put Young and her husband on edge for weeks. “I kept having images of a bullet going through my son’s wall. He sleeps right next to the wall of the party unit.” A few months later, Young was verbally threatened by somebody after she tried to intervene with a man from the Airbnb unit next door who’d been shouting at a woman in the hallway. She and her husband have considered moving from the building, but the city’s increasingly hostile rental market made that idea a nonstarter. In April, they renewed their lease for another year.

Yes, this is what they led with!

This is literally the first three paragraphs of the article, which basically blames AirBnB for every problem a renter will encounter, draws an inference between shootings and AirBnB units, and then blames all of this couple’s future issues on the hot rental housing market, noting that they basically had no choice anywhere in the GTA and were forced to stay.

This entire article, probably written by a man-bun-wearing hippie on a laptop that runs on clean energy, while sitting on a cloud, ignores how the world actually works, and instead is written as though we live in a utopia.

When you see the words “Joe” and “Cressy” in a newspaper article, you can be pretty sure that if the article is not about putting more desperately-needed safe-injection sites in residential family areas only a few steps from playgrounds, then it has to be about his hatred of capitalism and free markets.

A great quote here from Mr. Cressy: “They can operate their platform in a manner that will provide housing stability in our city, as well as neighbourhood safety. They’re choosing not to.”

This is in reference to AirBnB not voluntarily abiding by regulations that Toronto City Council is looking to put into effect, before the legal process has concluded.

Poor, Mr. Cressy!  He blames, wait for it, “money,” as the reason that AirBnB won’t follow the rules that he, and other City Councilors, believe they should follow.

This article made me chuckle a little bit, and that’s probably ignorant and a little sad, since there are issues with AirBnB, but come on!  Just read the first few paragraphs!

Alright let’s move on to the meat of the mix-tape, where a few songs strung together can really get you committed to the entirety of the playlist.

I found it interesting that the following three articles appeared all in the same week, by three different TV news outlets:

“Manitoba Millennials Priced Out Of Local Housing Market”
Global News

“Home Prices Nearly Double What Canadian Millennials Can Afford”
CTV News

“Home Prices In Vancouver Are Quadruple What Average Millennial Can Afford”
CBC News

This go from bad, to worse, right?

Those Manitoba millennials are priced out.  But the Canadian millennials across the board would have to DOUBLE their affordability to get into a house!  And then the Vancouver millennials need to QUADRUPLE!

Bing, Bang, Boom.  1,2,3 and millennials are down for the count.

At the very least, this might be the first you’ve read about Manitoba real estate, quite possibly, ever:

House prices in Manitoba have become unaffordable for the average millennial, according to a recent study.

The report – by Generation Squeeze, an advocacy group for people in their 20s, 30s and 40s – says average Manitoba home prices are 12 per cent more expensive than what young people between 25-34 can afford. ‘

The average home price in this province would need to drop by $34,000 for someone in that age group to be able to afford an 80 per cent mortgage at today’s interest rates.

Alternatively, young people would need to make, on average, $6,500 more per year to make current house prices attainable.

The Winnipeg Realtors’ MLS listings show the average house in 2019 is $331,620.

So, where’s the bus to Manitoba?  I mean, $331,620?  Where can I get some of that?

I’m assuming there aren’t as many high-paying jobs in Manitoba as there are in Toronto, but then again, this article mentions “80 per cent mortgages,” and most millennials are buying their first condo with 5%, 10%, or 15% down payments (those without help from Mom & Dad, that is).  So I would question how this survey defines “affordable.”

A market-bear will suggest that the report uses the 20% down payment number because it’s responsible, and would then go on to suggest that only a shill would pump the tires of a market where buyers only put down 5%.  A market-bull might respond that one of, if not the best reason for investing in real estate is the leveraged gain.

This article actually came out last week, but it’s a great, if not depressing follow-up to those three above:

“Metro Vancouver Price Drops Unlikely To Help Housing Affordability”
CBC News

Along with new taxes on foreign buyers, speculators and empty homes, for a detached home costing more than $3 million owners will also pay both the new school tax and the extra property transfer tax if they sell, Muir notes — and all that is cooling sales in the upper price range.

But he says the effect of those taxes will be limited since “only three per cent of homes sell for over $3 million.”

While overall prices are pretty flat across the market, Muir cautions that anyone looking for significant price relief at the lower end is likely to be disappointed.

That’s because the unintended consequences of other factors designed to cool the market are actually continuing to push up prices at the lower end.

In fact, while sales of apartments dropped 29 per cent over the last year, the benchmark price has continued to go up over 20 per cent over the same period.

Tell me this promotion isn’t targeted at millennials:

“Vancouver Condo Developers Offer Free Wine Or Year’s Supply of Avocado Toast To Woo Buyers In Slowing Market”
The Globe & Mail

That’s not actually going to work, right?

I mean, if “free avocado toast for a year” was worth, say, $2,500, then wouldn’t any intelligent person rather have $2,500?

Wouldn’t a person get tired of avocado toast?  Maybe so tired, in fact, that they stop cashing in their coupons, or whatever the hell the developer would give them?

“Immigrants Less Likely To Own Single Detached Houses”
CBC News

Soooooo…….what can I really say about this, without seeming like a xenophobe?

I mean, am I free to suggest that a headline like this is merely pointing out the obvious?

Canada is not exactly filtering out the poor and unfortunate when it comes to immigration, right?  Not that they should.  But this headline seems to ignore the fact that the borders aren’t only open to caviar-eating, lear-jet-flying emigrants of Switzerland.

From the article:

Immigrants own proportionally fewer single-detached homes than Canadian-born residents, a new report has found, but in Vancouver, the ones they do own likely come with a higher sticker price.

A Statistics Canada study published Tuesday explores the degree to which immigrants are integrated into different segments of the housing markets in Toronto and Vancouver.

It found that immigrants own 43 per cent of all residential properties in Toronto and 37 per cent in Vancouver. 

Maybe I’m alone here, but I see this in a very positive light.

A whopping 43% of residential properties in Toronto are owned by immigrants?  That’s exceptionally-high!  Isn’t it?

What am I missing here?

This article made no sense to me, and the headline seemed inflammatory.

And last, but certainly not least, a war is brewing between the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario, in many areas, but when it pertains to real estate we have this op-ed from the Financial Post:

“Toronto City Councilors Want To Make Housing Even Less Affordable.  Ontario’s Stopping Them”
The Financial Post

Alright, well, I said that the authors at The Walrus were slanted a little to far in the one direction, so I won’t pretend like this column (have we stopped distinguishing between “columns” and “articles” altogether?) isn’t written from the viewpoint of one person’s opinion.

This is what you need to know:

Building more homes just became easier in two of the most densely populated areas in Ontario: Toronto’s downtown core and its “midtown,” a small strip of land centred at Yonge St. and Eglinton Ave. For anyone interested in finding a place to live in those areas, this is great news.

Unfortunately, the responses from many Toronto city councillors and city staff have been more dire. After spending several years preparing and conducting studies, surveys and consultations with the current residents of those neighbourhoods, the city was set to introduce a wide array of (generally unprecedented) new constraints on new development through its “Midtown in Focus” and “TOcore” plans. Among other provisions, it had plans to prescribe how many two- and three-bedroom units must be included in larger new buildings including condo developments, and wanted to prescribe an increase to the required minimum sizes of those units.

The government of Ontario last week wisely overruled those plans. The province determined that the new proposals were incompatible with its growth expectations for the city. In midtown, not only did it significantly relax height maximums, it also introduced language to the plan that will make it easier to build more duplexes, triplexes and other “gentler” forms of density in the area’s so-called stable neighbourhoods. The city’s proposed increases to minimum-unit-sizes requirements were also scrapped. But, cementing a policy analogous to requiring sports stadiums to dedicate 10 per cent of their seating capacity to box suites, the multi-bedroom prescriptions unfortunately survived.

You’ve all heard my opinions on the prescribed number of 3-bedroom condos in Toronto, right?

The City of Toronto wants developers to build a certain number of 3-bedroom condos in every development, as they put it, “for families.”

But there are two problems with this:

1) The City doesn’t specify how large the units must be
2) The City can’t control the price of these units

So the first problem you get is: developers don’t want to build these units “for families,” since families don’t buy pre-construction condos.  So developers build 670 square foot, 3-bed condos, which end up being bought by, you guessed it, investors.

The second problem you get is: prices are expensive!  So if a developer did want to build 1,500 square foot, 3-bedroom condos “for families,” then that family would have to come up with $1.5 Million.

In the second paragraph of the excerpt above, note that the City “wanted to prescribe an increase to the required minimum sizes of those units.”

So they do read my blog?

Too little, too late, however.

And even if the city did mandate not only the number of 3-bedroom condos, but also the size, they would still have to mandate the price for their policies to have any effect on affordability.

Okay folks, that’s it for me this week!

Happy Open Housing!

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

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  1. Chris

    at 10:22 am

    “This entire article, probably written by a man-bun-wearing hippie on a laptop that runs on clean energy, while sitting on a cloud, ignores how the world actually works, and instead is written as though we live in a utopia.

    When you see the words “Joe” and “Cressy” in a newspaper article, you can be pretty sure that if the article is not about putting more desperately-needed safe-injection sites in residential family areas only a few steps from playgrounds, then it has to be about his hatred of capitalism and free markets.”

    Geez… David, I think you could have made your points without those two paragraphs…

    “So I would question how this survey defines “affordable.” ”

    From the report cited in the articles: “Affordability means Canadians do not spend more than 30% of their pre-tax earnings on housing, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).”

    The full report is available here: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/gensqueeze/pages/5293/attachments/original/1560279096/Straddling-the-Gap-2019_final.pdf?1560279096

    As for the Vancouver incentive of avocado toast, I imagine the developer is trying out alternatives to price declines, so as to avoid the kind of press that the Whitby Mattamy Homes attracted when they began to offer homes at lower prices compared to what earlier pre-purchasers had paid.

    1. David Fleming

      at 6:32 pm

      @ Chris

      I was over-reacting to the article from The Walrus. The article was so leftist that I wanted to provide a reaction, simply for effect. Did it work?

      I’m not exactly wrong about Joe Cressey though.

      And yes, I could have made the point without those paragraphs. But sometimes I like to be over the top because I can be. It’s who I am.

      Have a great weekend!

      1. G.I.Joe/He-Man/Parkhurst

        at 6:41 pm

        You are definitely not wrong about Cressy. He is awful. I would ask why doesn’t set up a safe injection site near *in* his home.

        1. IanC

          at 7:48 am

          Because it’s a PUBLIC health issue.

      2. Chris

        at 6:56 pm

        I mean sure, but now rather than discussing the substance of the Walrus article (is AirBnB good or bad, what should we do about it, etc.) the discussion has veered into left vs. right, conservative vs. liberal, fascist vs. communist (obviously an exaggeration).

        I do find it unfortunate that debates and politics these days feel far more tribalist, and rational discussion seems increasingly rare. Calling an author a man-bun wearing hippie, instead of logically picking apart their assertions doesn’t really help that.

        But alas, we are all entitled to be as over the top as we like.

        Hope you have a good weekend as well.

      3. KHB

        at 6:59 pm

        No one has ever accused me of being left wing yet I despise what Airbnb has become.

        When society ignores decades of good zoning, health and safety regulations, and an unfair tax system because there is an app that makes it convenient to avoid the rules, it’s not progress.

        No one wants to live next to an absentee owner Airbnb.

        1. jeff316

          at 10:26 am


  2. Christopher

    at 11:48 am

    House Sigma recently updated their app with “Sold below bought” section and some of the losses in Toronto and the GTA are staggering, >30%. It really highlights how out of control things got in spring of 2017.

    1. Ed

      at 3:11 pm

      Where are you seeing that? Are you searching via phone or laptop?

      1. Christopher

        at 3:13 pm

        Using the iPhone app

  3. IanC

    at 8:55 am

    OMG. I HATE safe injection sites. I wouldn’t want one on my doorstep.

    But I still prefer safe injection sites to doing nothing to reduce preventable deaths.

  4. Landon

    at 2:05 pm

    OMG, “a laptop that runs on clean energy”!!! God save us from s**t like this! It’ll kill us all!!!
    But seriously, folks, … David, WTF? A joke? That’s the best you can do? And you claim to not really be right-wing? Wow, what self-delusion (or barefaced lying).

Pick5 is a weekly series comparing and analyzing five residential properties based on price, style, location, and neighbourhood.

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