The bombshell announcement that General Motors will cease production at its Oshawa plant in late 2019 sent shockwaves through the city and Durham Region.
But the question is: will those shockwaves of the shutdown, and the loss of 2,500 jobs, reverberate through the local housing industry?
“To what effect this will have on real estate is not yet clear. I believe this may have a temporary impact on Oshawa. Oshawa has a strong economic base and the Durham Region market will continue to be a great place to live and raise a family,” said Dennis Roberts, president of Durham Region Association of Realtors in a press release.
Emidio DiPalo, president of the Durham Region Home Builders’ Association (DREB), says as a partner in the region and in the city of Oshawa, the local industry is very cognizant of job losses. “We are fearful of the collateral damage to the city and region, but we know our residents are resilient.”
‘Collateral damage’ could be a negative impression of the city left in the mind of would-be home buyers.
Fortunately, Oshawa has been steadily diversifying since the 1980s when GM employed more than 20,000 people. It’s no longer the city’s largest employer. Manufacturing in Oshawa accounts for only 9 per cent of jobs, according to DREB, making it the fourth largest sector behind health care, retail and education.
Other major employers in the city include the Ontario Ministry of Finance with 2,710 employees; Lakeridge Health with 2,342 and collectively, Durham College and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology with more than 3,500. The city is also popular with commuters who travel to Toronto or Markham to work, thanks to some of the lowest housing prices in the GTA (average $497,372) and the extension of Highway 407 to Simcoe Street.
Tyler Philp, a sales representative with Century 21 Infinity Realty Inc. Brokerage, says the job loss only affects a small portion of the community. “Oshawa thrives on the education sector, its downtown core and the Darlington Nuclear Plant (just east of the city). GM wasn’t a big factor in the overall community housing structure in regards to housing.”
Roberts says “we will overcome this and grow stronger with the help of all levels of government.”
“The thousands affected are an unfortunate casualty of big business,” says Philp. “We see the need now for creating an attractive platform to attract more businesses to open up shop in Oshawa. We hope to see initiatives to create jobs in the maintenance or clean-up of the left over industrial buildings and swift action to rectify the solution to making Oshawa attractive again for businesses.”
DiPalo says he is hopeful that negotiations with GM will result in finding a way to keep the plant with its flex line open – perhaps to produce the environmentally friendly electric car the company is speaking of — and to save some jobs.
“It’s not the first time Oshawa has faced adversity. There will be difficult times, but we will find a way to come through,” says DiPalo.