All We Want For Christmas Is … The Real Estate Remix

Christmas
It’s been a dynamic year in the Toronto housing market, with peaks and valleys and joy and tears. Jumping into the holiday season we asked some of the industry’s influential players what is atop their wish lists.

It’s a magical time of year. The city is lit up and glittering, store windows are brimming with festive cheer, and family, friends and colleagues are clinking glasses in a celebratory salute. Anything seems possible.

In the spirit of holiday wishes, and hopes for a bright 2018 ahead, Toronto Storeys talked to some old friends about their wishlist this year.

If they could ask for one thing in GTA real estate, what would it be?

Tim Hudak
Tim Hudak

Tim Hudak is CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association. Hudak spoke with Toronto Storeys in February about his OREA role and top housing issues, including affordability, intensification and transit.

His holiday hope? The three things that matter most in real estate: Supply, supply, supply. And — perhaps not surprisingly for the former leader of Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario — less government.

“Our wish is for more happy home owners throughout 2018. Ontario realtors want to see more young millennials and new Canadians achieve the dream of home ownership, as well as for growing families to have the chance to upgrade to a larger home.”

“To achieve this wish, we need immediate action on increasing housing supply, lowering taxes and hydro bills on homes, and having all levels of governments ease off on further intervention to the housing market.”

Ken Greenberg

Ken Greenberg is an award-winning global urban designer and principal of Greenberg Consultants. He spoke with Toronto Storeys about gentrification in Toronto in March. His most recent Toronto project, The Bentway — the “unique and innovative public space under the Gardiner, joining seven neighbourhoods” — opens its skate trail on Jan. 6.

Greenberg’s holiday wish? It’s simple: He wants people to be able to live close to where they work.

More specifically, Greenberg wants the outdated concept of “employment lands” — still being embedded in new policy, such as the provincial “Places to Grow 2017” growth plan — to be integrated with mixed-use communities, instead of isolated as a standalone category.

That same growth plan from the province, in fact, directly contradicts itself, Greenberg says. In one section, it espouses the healthy communities that benefit from mixed use — employment, retail and housing, all together in walkable communities. Yet in another section, it suddenly describes prime employment areas as prohibiting residential purposes.

“Toronto is a pioneer in mixed use,” Greenberg says. “All the successful areas of our downtown are now mixed use, so it’s an unfortunate throwback.”

He points out that simply expanding and modifying this “employment lands” concept to include mixed-use living would allow Toronto to flourish along transit lines — and costs nothing.

“Basically, the regulations at both the provincial and municipal levels are still enforcing this idea of separated land uses … I think it’s one of these issues, with no expenditure of public money, it’s now possible to unleash great outcomes by simply awakening to the fact that these policies are out of date.”

His policy paper on the topic has been posted to the website for the Ryerson City Building Institute, where he is vice-chair.

Babak Eslahjou

Babak Eslahjou, founding principal of CORE Architects and internationally consulted expert on emerging urban areas, has more than 150 condominium projects throughout the GTA. So it’s fair to say he’s helped craft the image of Toronto we see today. Eslahjou was featured in the Toronto Storeys Salon: An Evening of Architecture roundtable in June.

Eslahjou’s hopes for the New Year? An issue that takes courage to confront.

“What I would like to wish for is a new and bold Toronto zoning bylaw. The current zoning bylaw is decades old and does not respond to the city that Toronto has become and will need to become.

“For example, the current zoning allows for 30 metres’ maximum height in the King and Spadina area, where most existing towers are over 120 metres. The zoning bylaws need to be more relevant in an atmosphere void of the OMB (Ontario Municipal Board).

“This will take a lot of political and planning courage on behalf of the city to approach the development industry, the communities and the general public and rationalize a vision for the future of Toronto. This plan needs to be more in sync with the province’s goals and it needs to eliminate the confrontational approach that currently exists.

“This is very critical in serving the interests of the public and in helping the normalization of real estate costs for Toronto homeowners.”

Richard Silver

Richard Silver is the senior vice-president of sales for Sotheby’s International Realty Canada. Silver chatted with Toronto Storeys in May about his fascinating start in real estate and his former perch atop the Toronto Real Estate Board.

So what does Silver want this year? It’s more about what he doesn’t want.

“At a time when we need more rental properties to be built in the marketplace, the provincial government’s move to insert rent controls will stifle the building on new rental properties. I would hope that they would lift any restrictions on rent control. They have always caused more negative damage than positive change.”

“The government needs to streamline the building process so that more units can be built. More supply usually helps to smooth out the market in terms of price. Forget rent controls and encourage building … that will be more positive for the marketplace.”

Debbie Cosic
Debbie Cosic

Debbie Cosic is the founder of project sales and marketing company, In2ition Realty. Cosic described the origins of her booming business — halfway between a full-service firm and a think tank — to Toronto Storeys in November.

What would make Cosic’s team happy this year? More financing programs that help Torontonians give their families the gift of a home.

Their whimsical wish was hands-down the most festive in the bunch:

“May our politicians and policy makers have the foresight and good grace,

to approve more funding for the good people of the GTA.

There are so many around us who yearn to own,

young people, new immigrants, renters and even those grown.

There are many amazing programs that exist today,

but these aren’t something Santa brings on his sleigh.

They come from collaborations like Trillium Housing and Vanmar Constructors,

whose 5-per-cent-down-program helps buyers overcome a major obstruction.

The program doesn’t stop there, purchasers are given a subsidized no payment mortgage loan — you can’t find this elsewhere.

A package of accomplishment, pride and homeownership,

wrapped perfectly together into one amazing gift!

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season filled with happy moments and unique traditions,

from Debbie Cosic and the team at In2ition.”

Some responses have been lightly edited.
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