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Found 39 results

  1. All 8 combined total:$530,000,000 Floor space well over: 64,000 sq.ft Article Just imagine someone buys all 8 and asks them to reconfigure it to make it a large residence.
  2. November 14, 2008 by Deyanira Bautista Filed under Montreal Market Report According to the Greater Montréal Real Estate Board’s MLS® system, there were 36,955 transactions from last year until now. 4% less sales compared to last year. In terms of property prices in the Metropolitan Area of Montréal, the median prices of single-family homes and plexes increased by 6% compared to the same period last year, condominium prices increased by 3%. Compared to the first 10 months of 2007, condo sales grew by 5% in the Montréal Metropolitan Area. On the other hand, sales of single-family homes decreased by 7%, and plex sales decreased by 5%. “The median price of a single-family home grew last month by 4 per cent, increasing from $220,000 in October 2007 to $228,000 in October 2008. The plex market retained a stable median price at $329,250, while that of condominiums fell slightly by 1 per cent. This decrease can be explained by the minor decline in median prices of condominiums on the Island of Montréal, the largest condominium market. October’s resale market continues to favour sellers, despite a 9 per cent increase in the number of active listings in the MLS® system.” Source: Montreal Real Estate Board http://montrealrealestateblog.com/
  3. http://www.citylab.com/politics/2014/07/paris-wants-landlords-to-turn-vacant-office-space-into-apartmentsor-else/374388/ Paris Wants Landlords to Turn Vacant Office Space Into Apartments—Or Else The city has a surplus of empty commercial buildings that could better serve as residences. And it plans to fine owners who don't convert. FEARGUS O'SULLIVAN <figure class="lead-image" style="margin: 0px; max-width: 620px; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Oxygen, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 17px;"><figcaption class="credit" style="color: rgb(153, 153, 153); font-size: 0.82353em; text-align: right;">Justin Black/Shutterstock.com</figcaption></figure>Leave your office space unrented and we’ll fine you. That’s the new ruledeclared by the city of Paris last week. Currently, between six and seven percent of Paris' 18 million square meters of office space is unused, and the city wants to get this vacant office space revamped and occupied by residents. The penalties for unrented space will be as follows: 20 percent of the property’s rental value in the first year of vacancy, 30 percent in the second year and 40 percent in the third year. The plan is to free up about 200,000 square meters of office space for homes, which would still leave a substantial amount of office space available should demand pick up. The city insists that, while the sums involved are potentially large, this isn’t a new tax but an incentive. And, if it has the right effect in getting property re-occupied, may end up being little-used. Landlords' groups are taking the new plan as well as can be expected. They’ve pointed out that, while the cost of the fines might be high, it could still cost them less to pay them than to convert their properties to homes. According to a property investor quoted in Le Figaro, the cost of transforming an office into apartments can actually be 20 to 25 percent more expensive than constructing an entirely new building. Many landlords might be unwilling or unable to undertake such a process and thus be forced to sell in a market where, thanks to a glut of available real estate, prices are falling. There is also the question of how easy the law will be to enforce: Landlords could rent out vacant properties at a token rent simply to avoid the vacancy fine. <aside class="pullquote instapaper_ignore" style="font-family: Bitter, Georgia, 'Times New Roman', serif; font-size: 2.11765em; line-height: 1.05556; border-top-width: 5px; border-top-style: solid; border-top-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); border-bottom-width: 1px; border-bottom-style: solid; border-bottom-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); padding: 25px 0px; margin: 30px 0px;">As Paris becomes a laboratory for new legislation to make homes more plentiful and affordable, other European cities would do well to watch it carefully. </aside>It’s too early to see if these predictions will come true, but past experience in smaller French property markets suggests it won’t. The fines have already been introduced elsewhere in France: in the country’s fourth city of Lille (governed by the Socialist party) and in the Parisian satellite town of St Quentin-en-Yvelines (governed by the right wing UMP). So far, neither has experienced a legislation-exacerbated property slump. It’s also fair to point out that Paris is asking for a round of belt tightening from pretty much every group involved in the city’s real estate. The new levy is part of a plan announced last month that will also pressure state and semi-public bodies to release Parisian land for home building. Paris has some fairly large reserves of this, including space currently owned by the state health authority, by the national railway network and by the RATP—Paris’ transit authority, on whose unused land alone 2,000 homes could be built. In the meantime, stringent planning laws are also being relaxed to cut development costs for office converters. They will no longer, for example, be obliged to provide parking spaces for new homes, as they had been until the law change. Finally, starting next year, landlords will get an incentive to rent their properties to financially riskier lower-income tenants by having their rents and deposits guaranteed by a new intermediary, a public/private agency called Multiloc. Coming on top of laws that have relaxed building-height restrictionson the Paris periphery, it’s clear that, for Paris developers and landowners, there’s a decent ratio of carrot to stick. But will it all work? At the very least, Paris deserves recognition for being proactive, especially on a continent where many cities’ grip on the property sector is floundering. Berlin has recently had major new homebuilding plansrejected by residents (for good reason—they were due to get a bad deal), while the U.K.’s number of newly built homes has actually gone down, despite property prices continuing to rise sharply. As Paris becomes a laboratory for new legislation to make homes more plentiful and affordable, other European cities would do well to watch it carefully. (Photo credit: Justin Black/Shutterstock.com)
  4. Urban shift is reshaping Montreal Montreal will be a much greyer city 20 years from now, and the aging of our populace will influence everything from home design to urban architecture to public transportation. It will also be a more multi-coloured city, measured in terms of skin tone, and multi-linguistic, too, as new legions of immigrants flow in, altering its face, flavour and sound. It will be more condensed, with condominiums overtaking expensive single-family homes as the lodging of choice for first-time homebuyers. And it will be a poorer city mired in a heavily indebted province, forcing it to focus on necessities like rebuilding roads and paring down bureaucracies and services rather than investing in grand designs like megaprojects or metro extensions. Economic imperatives will force Montreal to focus on what it’s good at to survive — namely, being itself. The city will endure by hosting festivals and conferences, promoting its flourishing arts scene, throwing successful, peaceful street parties for hundreds of thousands at a time and inviting the world to come. It will market itself as a vibrant, fun, creative place to live, and a coveted vacation destination for legions of retired baby boomers with time on their hands and savings to burn. This in turn will lead the city to become more accommodating to pedestrians and cyclists, with stretches of thoroughfares like Crescent and Ste. Catherine Sts. becoming pedestrian-only enclaves. This is the Montreal 2033 vision of McGill University architecture professor and housing expert Avi Friedman. Author of 12 books on housing and sustainable development, he is called on by cities throughout the world to consult on urban development and wealth generation. He sees in Montreal’s future a metropolis that will be poorer, still paying for past transgressions of inept infrastructure design and inadequate maintenance. But at the same time, it will be buoyed by its four major universities and its cachet as one of the cool hangouts in the vast North American neighbourhood, a magnet for tourist dollars, immigrants and creative minds. “Montreal is a brand. We’re not talking about Hamilton or Markham or Windsor. Montreal is a brand. But we need to learn how to use our brand better,” he said. Statistics Canada released figures in the fall that indicated Montreal was becoming a city of singles. Nearly 41 per cent of its residents who reside in a private dwelling live on their own, as compared to 30 per cent in most large Canadian cities. Our aging population, large number of university students, exodus of families to the suburbs, low immigration numbers and high percentage of apartments are largely the cause. The numbers spurred Friedman to ponder where the city he’s lived in for more than three decades will be in 2033. Major urban shifts, he notes, generally take about 20 years to evolve. “I wasn’t looking for pie-in-the-sky ideas, not Jetsons-type futuristic predictions, just reasonable assumptions based on trends we are already seeing today.” The greatest influence will come from the aging of the huge demographic wave that is the baby boomer generation, which will be between 70 and 87 years old in 20 years. Most will no longer be working, or paying as much in taxes. “Montreal, like other eastern cities, is going to be a poorer city than it is today, which is likely to force greater efficiency of all operations and institutions,” Friedman said. “We will have to learn to do more with less.” As families shrink (the average family size has gone from 3.5 individuals in 1970 to 2.5 in 2006), and house prices rise, demand for smaller living units will increase. The era of the single-family house as a starter home within the city limits will be a thing of the past for most, as it has been in many European cities for a long time, Friedman said. First-time buyers, many of them young families, will move into the many condominium projects sprouting downtown. Older boomers will shift from their suburban homes to condominiums. The ratio of family homes to condominiums, now at a roughly 60-40 split, will probably reverse during the next two decades, he predicted. Already densely populated neighbourhoods like Notre Dame de Grâce will see residents and developers building upward, putting additional floors on houses or commercial buildings to add residential space. (In congested Vancouver, developers have already started stacking condominium complexes on top of big-box stores like Walmart and Home Depot.) Homeowners will transform their basements into separate apartments, and the division of single-family homes into separate units to take in two or more families will proliferate. Houses will be transformed as more people opt to work out of home offices, or as retirees alter their living spaces to pursue their hobbies or their work. And seniors will make room for live-in nannies and nurses to help care for them. There will also be more grab-bars, ramps and in-house escalators. Technological advances will allow many routine hospital procedures to be done at home via computer. Patients will be able to check their blood pressure and other health indicators at home and send the information to their caregivers over the Internet, all the while chatting with nurses or doctors face-to-face via Skype. “Aging in place will be on the upswing,” Friedman said. “There will be less and less reason for hospital visits.” The new superhospitals going up downtown and in N.D.G. will also spur residential development as thousands of hospital workers seek housing nearby. Condominiums have started sprouting already near the hospitals, and close to the métro stations and train stations that serve them. Private medical clinics, for locals and foreigners alike, will be built around and even in hospitals, as the cash-strapped government off-loads more services to the private sector for wealthier clients not willing, for example, to wait three years for a hip replacement. The condominium boom, well underway in Montreal and reaching the saturation point, will continue, although at a slower pace. Montreal is on the verge of a condo crash, Friedman predicted, part of the normal ebb and flow of residential construction that regenerates every five years. “You will hear about bankruptcies, about people going under, all sorts of bad stories. This is common. Then there will be a burst of energy and another wave.” Condominium developers will start incorporating more family-friendly features like larger units, terrace gardens and parks on their properties. Condo towers with shops and restaurants on the ground floor will become more common, as will the SOHO concept (Self-Office, Home Office) common in China, where residences are located on upper floors and small offices on lower floors, and people commute by elevator. Many boomers, liberated from their children and their jobs, will give up their suburban homes to live closer to services and entertainment and downtown. Their influx will spur elderly-friendly changes seen in other cities, such as automatic doors at unwieldy metro entrances. Métro stations will become poles of residential development, followed closely by commercial properties to serve the influx of people. Suburbs like the West Island will see more low-level condominiums of four to six storeys, and available land between municipalities will be slowly colonized, making for one continuous metropolis. The densification, with housing projects like those in Griffintown bringing tens of thousands of residents into the downtown core, will result in an even more active and vibrant city, with offshoots of more shops, restaurants, services and life downtown. Neighbourhoods like St-Henri, Rosemont and Park Extension, relatively close to downtown and well-served by public transit, will be the next regions to see a slow gentrification, Friedman predicted. In a sense, we will mirror Toronto’s growth, but on a smaller scale and with a Montreal twist. “In 20 years, downtown Montreal will be populated by many more people who will bring their flavour, their lifestyle and their unique Montreal brand, with things like after-hours clubs, which is not Toronto,” Friedman said. “This is a fun city, with restaurants and pubs and clubs. I believe it will be a fun place.” Friedman sees Montreal’s four major universities and an increase in immigration quotas to make up for low birthrates as other major drivers of change, with immigrants coming from burgeoning regions like Asia and Latin America and settling in the north and east of the city. Already, roughly 10 per cent of the students in Friedman’s bachelor’s-level architecture classes are from mainland China. Montreal needs to do more to attract the droves of computer engineers from places like China, India and Pakistan who currently see California as their first choice. And tourism, with the many jobs it brings, will be Montreal’s bread and butter. At this phase in its history, Friedman sees Montreal as a city bogged down by the sins of its past, fixated on corruption and mismanagement and with no sense of a grand vision coming from city hall. Things will get more difficult from an economic standpoint, and “poorer cities do nothing. If you have wealth, you can change things,” he said, pointing to bike and public-transit friendly European cities like Copenhagen, Helsinki, Amsterdam and Berlin as examples. There is hope for Montreal’s future, Friedman said. It is articulated in the plethora of condominium towers and cranes on its skyline, in Montreal’s reputation for its joie-de-vivre attitude, open-mindedness and its artistic energy, a magnet for the young, adventurous and creative. But the hope is tempered with this caveat: the successful cities that Friedman has observed, are those whose citizens are willing to enforce change, as opposed to hoping city councillors will do it for them. “Do-it-yourself cities are the successful cities. We have to ask ourselves ‘Are we a forwards city, or a backwards one?’ ” Developments already underway provide an indication of the answer. “The densification of the core we’re seeing here will bring life,” he said, gazing up at the condominium towers growing like mighty redwoods of metal and glass in Griffintown. “This city will be a hopping place.” Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/Urban+shift+reshaping+Montreal/8071854/story.html#ixzz2NF8glXu5
  5. My parents can not stand Old Montreal, anymore and they have been living here since May. They are planning on moving back to the West Island in about 24 months. I told them about prefab homes. My mother was like, those do not work here seeing you need a basement. My father was like you do not need one. So my question is, do you need a basement or can you have something above ground and nothing under?
  6. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-03-14/micro-apartments-in-the-big-city-a-trend-builds Always happy to see quotes from professors at my alma mater, especially when it comes to real estate issues! Micro-Apartments in the Big City: A Trend Builds By Venessa Wong March 14, 2013 6:00 PM EDT Imagine waking in a 15-by-15-foot apartment that still manages to have everything you need. The bed collapses into the wall, and a breakfast table extends down from the back of the bed once it’s tucked away. Instead of closets, look overhead to nooks suspended from the ceiling. Company coming? Get out the stools that stack like nesting dolls in an ottoman. Micro-apartments, in some cases smaller than college dorm rooms, are cropping up in North American cities as urban planners experiment with new types of housing to accommodate growing numbers of single professionals, students, and the elderly. Single-person households made up 26.7 percent of the U.S. total in 2010, vs. 17.6 percent in 1970, according to Census Bureau data. In cities, the proportion is often higher: In New York, it’s about 33 percent. And these boîtes aren’t just for singles. The idea is to be more efficient and eventually to offer cheaper rents. To foster innovation, several municipalities are waiving zoning regulations to allow construction of smaller dwellings at select sites. In November, San Francisco reduced minimum requirements for a pilot project to 220 square feet, from 290, for a two-person efficiency unit. In Boston, where most homes are at least 450 sq. ft., the city has approved 300 new units as small as 375 sq. ft. With the blessing of local authorities, a developer in Vancouver in 2011 converted a single-room occupancy hotel into 30 “micro-lofts” under 300 sq. ft. Seattle and Chicago have also green-lighted micro-apartments. “In the foreseeable future, this trend will continue,” says Avi Friedman, a professor and director of the Affordable Homes Research Group at McGill University’s School of Architecture. A growing number of people are opting to live alone or not to have children, he says. Among this group, many choose cities over suburbs to reduce reliance on cars and cut commute times. “Many people recognize that there is a great deal of value to living in the city,” he says. Friedman calls the new fashion for micro-digs the “Europeanization” of North America. In the U.K. the average home is only 915 square feet. In the U.S. the average new single-family home is 2,480 square feet. The National Association of Home Builders expects that to shrink to 2,152 square feet by 2015. Small living has deep roots in Japan, where land is scarce. “It’s just the way things have always been done,” says Azby Brown, an architect and author of The Very Small Home: Japanese Ideas for Living Well in Limited Space. Three hundred square feet may sound tight, but consider that Japanese families historically lived in row houses outfitted with 100-square-foot living quarters and large communal areas. After World War II, Japan’s homes grew, though not much by American standards. By the late 1980s the average Japanese home measured 900 square feet. Tight quarters demand ingenuity and compromise. Think of the Japanese futon or the under-the-counter refrigerator, a feature of European apartments. The Murphy bed gets a sleek makeover in a mock-up of a micro-apartment on exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York. The 325-square-foot space, designed by New York architect Amie Gross, also features a table on wheels that can be tucked under a kitchen counter and a flat-screen TV that slides along a rail attached to built-in shelves. Visual tricks such as high ceilings and varied floor materials make the space feel roomier. The show, titled “Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers,” displays some of the entries from a design competition sponsored by New York’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The winning team, comprising Monadnock Development, Actors Fund Housing Development, and nArchitects, secured permission to erect a 10-story building in Manhattan made of prefabricated steel modules. Some of the 55 units will be as small as 250 square feet. “The hope is that with more supply, that should help with the affordability of these kinds of apartments so that the young or the elderly can afford to live closer to the center and not have to commute so far in,” says Mimi Hoang, a co-founder of nArchitects. Although tiny, these properties aren’t cheap, at least not on a per-square-foot basis. In San Francisco, where two projects are under way, rents will range from $1,200 to $1,500 per month. In New York, the 20-odd units for low- and middle-income renters will start at $939. Ted Smith, an architect in San Diego, says singles would be better served by residences that group efficiency studios into suites with communal areas for cooking, dining, and recreation. “The market does not want little motel rooms to live in,” he says. “There needs to be cool, hip buildings that everyone loves and goes, ‘Man, these little units are wonderful,’ not ‘I guess I can put up with this.’ ” BusinessWeek - Home ©2013 Bloomberg L.P. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  7. http://www.inman.com/buyers-sellers/columnists/stevebergsman/westmount-canadas-beverly-hills According to wikipedia, Place Belvedere is considered the most expensive street on the whole island. I guess when there is only 10 homes on it, would make sense.
  8. Cities Collapsing throughout the USA The Coming Depression April 7, 2009“With enough abandoned lots to fill the city of San Francisco, Motown is 138 square miles divided between expanses of decay and emptiness and tracts of still-functioning communities and commercial areas. Close to six barren acres of an estimated 17,000 have already been turned into 500 “mini- farms,” demonstrating the lengths to which planners will go to make land productive. The city, like the automakers, has to shrink to match what’s left, said June Thomas, a professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. “The issue is how,” she said. “There’s no vision.” “People are moving out of the city, trying to find work,” said David Martin of Wayne State University’s Urban Safety Program. Those who stay “can’t afford to move out.” “Property abandonment is getting so bad in Flint that some in government are talking about an extreme measure that was once unthinkable — shutting down portions of the city, officially abandoning them and cutting off police and fire service. … [Mayor] Brown said that as more people abandon homes, eating away at the city’s tax base and creating more blight, the city might need to examine “shutting down quadrants of the city where we (wouldn’t) provide services.” He did not define what that could mean — bulldozing abandoned areas, simply leaving the vacant homes to rot or some other idea entirely.” “Cul-de-sac neighborhoods once filled with the sound of backyard barbecues and playing children are falling silent. Communities like Elk Grove, Calif., and Windy Ridge, N.C., are slowly turning into ghost towns with overgrown lawns, vacant strip malls and squatters camping in empty homes.” “In its depth and suddenness, the U.S. economic and financial crisis is shockingly reminiscent of moments we have recently seen in emerging markets (and only in emerging markets): South Korea (1997), Malaysia (1998), Russia and Argentina (time and again). … But there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business interests—financiers, in the case of the U.S.—played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.”
  9. NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Real estate values around the nation have collapsed, and sales of foreclosed and "underwater" homes now dominate many housing markets, according to a report released Tuesday. The report, from Zillow.com, a real estate Web site, revealed that with foreclosures soaring, nearly 20% of the nation's home sales in 2008 were of bank-repossessed properties. Another 11% were short sales, in which homeowners owed more in mortgage debt than their homes were worth. Madera, Calif., had the highest percentage of these distressed sales: 54.6% of all transactions there were foreclosed homes, and another 3.4% were short sales. In Merced, Calif., 53.4% of sales were foreclosures and 4.8% were short sales. In nearby Stockton, 51.1% were foreclosures and 5.4% were short sales. "As more markets turn down and markets that were already down go deeper, the pace at which value is being erased from the U.S. housing stock is rapidly increasing," said Stan Humphries, Zillow's vice president in charge of data and analytics. "More value [was] wiped out in the fourth quarter of 2008 than was eliminated in all of 2007," Humphries said. About $3.3 trillion in home equity was erased in 2008, with $1.4 trillion of that wipeout coming in the fourth quarter alone, according to Humphries. More than $6 trillion in value has been lost since the market peaked in 2005. Those equity losses have put many homeowners underwater, where they're extremely vulnerable to foreclosure. These owners can't tap home equity for the cash they need to pay bills when they run into rough financial patches, and they often find it impossible to refinance - lenders will not loan more than the property is worth. In the United States, 17.6% of all homes are now underwater, according to Zillow, as are 41.2% of all mortgages for homes bought in the past five years. The worst-hit cities are in the once-booming Sun Belt. In Las Vegas, 61.4% of all homes are underwater. Because so many homes are worth less than their mortgage balances, an increasing number have to be sold short. But short sale transactions can take a long time to complete, because lenders have been having trouble keeping up with the flood of requests. "The speed of short sales is a function of the resources being allocated to them by lenders, and those resources are being stretched to the limit," Humphries said. That means lenders may not act on approving short sales for months. The deals cannot go forward without their approval, because the banks must agree to forgive the difference between what they're owed and what the sale brings in. As the time it takes to arrange short sales lengthens, they become harder to complete. Time and money wasted One example of how price declines can doom a short sale occurred recently in Phoenix. Curtis Johnson, a real estate broker there, worked with a health care worker whose hours were being cut and who could no longer afford her mortgage. She fell behind and decided to sell. Johnson was able to find a buyer willing to pay $183,000, and got an approval form the lender. The owner confidently moved out, got a new place and started a new life. But the lender folded and the mortgage went to a new servicer, who took six weeks to approve the deal. "Unfortunately, the buyers who were approved were no longer interested because the real estate market had dropped significantly," Johnson said. "They wrote a new offer, considerably lower then the first, and it was time to start over." Two more offers eventually fell through before a new buyer was found and the owner's bank approved the price, this time at $163,000. On the day of that closing, however, the parties discovered that the buyer's lender had run out of funds and dropped out of the deal. The home went to foreclosure auction before another sale could be arranged. The house is now on the market for $139,900. "[The house is] listed for less than what would have been received had the bank been willing to work with us, and still has not yet sold," Johnson said. Distressed sales like that depress the market for all homeowners. Regular sellers in cities dominated by foreclosures have to adjust their prices downward to compete. The percentage of homes sold for less than what their owners originally paid has leaped up in the past couple of years. In the United States as a whole, 34.6% of the sales made in 2008 were done at a loss. In Merced, 71.6% of all sales last year were for less than the seller paid. Stockton, Modesto and Las Vegas all had in excess of 68% of all homes being sold at a loss. Foreclosures beget more foreclosures by adding inventory to the market, which depresses prices, which increases foreclosures, according to Humphries.
  10. January 11, 2009, 10:00 pm What Will Save the Suburbs? For a long time now I’ve been obsessed with suburban and exurban master-planned communities and how to make them better. But as the economy and the mortgage crisis just seem to get worse, and gas prices continue to plunge, the issues around housing have changed dramatically. The problem now isn’t really how to better design homes and communities, but rather what are we going to do with all the homes and communities we’re left with. In urban areas, there’s rich precedent for the transformation or reuse of abandoned lots or buildings. Vacant lots have been converted into pocket parks, community gardens and pop-up stores (or they remain vacant, anxiously awaiting recovery and subsequent conversion into high-end office space condos). Old homes get divided into apartments, old factories into lofts, old warehouses into retail. Projects like Manhattan’s High Line show that even derelict train tracks can be turned into something as valuable to citizens as a vibrant public park. A brownfield site in San Francisco has been cleaned up and will house an eco-literacy center for the city’s youth. Hey, even a dump (Fresh Kills, on Staten Island) is undergoing a remarkable metamorphosis into a recreation area. But similar transformation within the carefully delineated form of a subdivision is not so simple. These insta-neighborhoods were not designed or built for flexibility or change. So what to do with the abandoned houses, the houses that were never completed or the land that was razed for building and now sits empty? Lands cleared to make way for houses that were not (and may never be) developed. (DigitalGlobe, Sanborn, GeoEye, U.S. Geological Survey; 2008 Google Imagery) Cover of Julia Christensen’s “Big Box Reuse.” Take as an analogous example their symbiotic partner, the big box store. As I learned in artist Julia Christensen’s new book, “Big Box Reuse,” when a big box store like Wal-mart or Kmart outgrows its space, it is shut down. It is, apparently, cheaper to start from scratch than to close for renovation and expansion, let alone decide at the outset to design a store that can easily be expanded (or contracted, as the case may be). So not only does a community get a newer, bigger big box, it is also left with quite an economic and environmental eyesore: a vacant shell of a retail operation, tons of wasted building material and a changed landscape that can’t be changed back. The silver lining in Christensen’s study are the communities she’s discovered that have proactively addressed the massive empty shells they’ve been left with, turning structures of anywhere from 20,000 to 280,000 square feet into something useful: a charter school, a health center, a chapel, a library. (And, in Austin, Minn., a new Spam Museum.) The repurposing of abandoned big-box stores is easier to wrap one’s head around: one can envision within a single volume (albeit a massive one) the potential to become something else. But exurban communities are a unique challenge. The houses within them are big, but not generally as big as, say, Victorian mansions in San Francisco that can be subdivided into apartments. So they’re not great candidates for transformation into multi-family rental housing. I did visit a housing development last year that offered “quartets,” McMansions subdivided into four units with four separate entrances. These promised potential buyers the status of a McMansion with the convenience of a condominium, but the concept felt like it was created more to preserve the property values of larger neighboring homes than to serve the needs of the community’s residents. There has been a nationwide shift toward de-construction (led by companies like Planet Reuse and Buffalo Reuse, the surgical taking-apart of homes to salvage the building materials for reuse, but often the building materials used in these developments aren’t of good enough quality to warrant salvaging. I don’t have the perfect solution for how to transform these broad swaths of subdivisions, and while I’ve heard much talk of the foreclosure tragedy, I’ve heard nary a peep about what to do about it. A recent article in The Times spotted an emerging trend of kids usurping the abandoned pools of foreclosed homes for use as temporary skate parks. (Interestingly, this was big in the ‘70s, as you can see by watching the rad skate documentary “Dogtown and Z-Boys.”) It’s a great short-term strategy for adolescent recreation (and for ridding neighborhoods of fetid pools, which often harbor West Nile virus), though it’s not a comprehensive solution to the problem of increasingly abandoned, ill-maintained and more dangerous streetscapes. But there are some interesting avenues to be pursued. Part of President-elect Obama’s proposed massive public works program, for example, is to be dedicated to clean tech infrastructure. Included in this is the intent to weatherize (that is, make energy-efficient) one million low-income homes a year. One can already see how those in the construction industry can begin to make the shift from new construction to home retrofitting. It’s the centerpiece of “The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems,” the best-selling, Al Gore- and Nancy Pelosi-endorsed book by environmental activist Van Jones. Though we hear a lot in the news about new LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design/) buildings and incentives for implementing the latest green technology, it’s often the case that fixing leaks and insulation are just as effective in reducing the carbon footprint of single-family homes (which account for about 18 percent of the country’s carbon footprint). As people increasingly stay put — and re-sell homes less — this retrofit strategy makes sense. Millions of homes, not just low-income ones, are in need of the sort of weatherization the Obama plan describes. The non-profit Architecture 2030, established in 2002 in response to the global warming crisis, is leading a major effort in this arena with the goal of dramatically reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the building sector by changing the way buildings and developments are planned, designed and constructed. And after decades of renovation-obsession that has simply gotten out of hand, it seems a prudent time to swap Viking ranges for double-paned windows and high-efficiency furnaces. It’s the perfect moment to fix what we’ve got. Despite their currently low numbers, green homes typically re-sell for more money than their conventional counterparts. I still dream that some major overhaul can occur: that a self-sufficient mixed-use neighborhood can emerge. That three-car-garaged McMansions can be subdivided into rental units with streetfront cafés, shops and other local businesses. In short, that creative ways are found not just to rehabilitate these homes and communities, but to keep people in them. __________________________________________________________ “The Ponzi State” New Yorker, February 9, 2009, p. 81 ABSTRACT: A REPORTER AT LARGE about Florida’s real-estate market and the economic downturn. Writer visits a number of inland real-estate developments near Tampa, Florida. Developers there dreamed up instant communities, parceled out lots, and built look-alike two-story beige and yellow houses. The houses sold to some of the thousand or so people who moved to Florida every day. Now many are ghost subdivisions. In one community, Twin Lakes, property values dropped by more than a hundred thousand dollars in the past two years. Writer interviews Angie Harris, a Navy veteran and mother of five, who says of her neighbors, “It used to be people would wave. Now they don’t.” In another community, Hamilton Park, the writer interviews a woman named Lee Gaither, whose only income came from Disability payments. She was facing eviction and planned to sell many of her possessions on eBay. Florida is one of the places where the financial crisis began. Gary Mormino, a professor at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg, tells the writer that, “Florida, in some ways, resembles a modern Ponzi scheme. Everything is fine for me if a thousand newcomers come tomorrow.” The state depends for revenue on real-estate deals and sales taxes. By 2005, the housing market in Florida was hotter than it had ever been. Flipping houses and condominiums turned into an amateur middle-class pursuit. Writer tells about Floridians with modest incomes who made money buying and selling real estate. Mentions one case in which a house appreciated in value by almost fifty per cent overnight. According to an investigation by the Miami Herald, government oversight of the real-estate market was so negligent that more than ten thousand convicted criminals got jobs in the mortgage industry. Flipping and fraud burst the bubble. But in places like Pasco County, it was the ordinary desire of ordinary people to buy their own home that turned things toxic. Tells about Anita Lux, who moved to Florida from Michigan with her husband, Richard. Gives a brief history of Cape Coral, Florida, which was first developed in the fifties by two businessmen from Baltimore. Writer interviews a number of Florida residents who have lost their jobs or homes. A Fort Myers real-estate agent named Marc Joseph tells the writer, “Greed and easy money. That was the germ.” By last year, the highest foreclosure rate in the country could be found in Fort Myers and Cape Coral. Mentions other indicators of the economic hard times, including the closure of auto dealerships and the theft of copper. Writer visits the office of Tampa’s mayor, Pam Iorio, who is determined to build a light rail system to revive the city’s fortunes. A number of people in Florida told the writer that the state needs a fundamental change in its political culture.
  11. Is America's suburban dream collapsing into a nightmare? Suburban neighborhoods are becoming refuges for those outpriced in gentrifying inner-cities. By Lara Farrar For CNN (CNN) -- When Shaun Yandell proposed to his longtime girlfriend Gina Marasco on the doorstep of their new home in the sunny suburb of Elk Grove, California, four years ago, he never imagined things would get this bad. But they did, and it happened almost overnight. art.jpg "It is going to be heartbreak," Yandell told CNN. "But we are hanging on." Yandell's marriage isn't falling apart: his neighborhood is. Devastated by the subprime mortgage crisis, hundreds of homes have been foreclosed and thousands of residents have been forced to move, leaving in their wake a not-so-pleasant path of empty houses, unkempt lawns, vacant strip malls, graffiti-sprayed desolate sidewalks and even increased crime. In Elk Grove, some homeowners not only cut their own grass but also trim the yards of vacant homes on their streets, hoping to deter gangs and criminals from moving in. Other residents discovered that with some of the empty houses, it wasn't what was growing outside that was the problem. Susan McDonald, president of a local neighborhood association aimed at saving the lost suburban paradise, told CNN that around her cul-de-sac, federal agents recently busted several pot homes with vast crops of marijuana growing from floor to ceiling. And only a couple of weeks ago, Yandell said he overheard a group of teenagers gathered on the street outside his back patio, talking about a robbery they had just committed. When they lit a street sign on fire, Yandell called the cops. "This is not like a rare thing anymore," he said. "I get big congregations of people cussing -- stuff I can't even fathom doing when I was a kid." Don't Miss For Yandell, his wife and many other residents trying to stick it out, the white picket fence of an American dream has faded into a seemingly hopeless suburban nightmare. "The forecast is gloomy," he told CNN. While the foreclosure epidemic has left communities across the United States overrun with unoccupied houses and overgrown grass, underneath the chaos another trend is quietly emerging that, over the next several decades, could change the face of suburban American life as we know it. This trend, according to Christopher Leinberger, an urban planning professor at the University of Michigan and visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, stems not only from changing demographics but also from a major shift in the way an increasing number of Americans -- especially younger generations -- want to live and work. "The American dream is absolutely changing," he told CNN. This change can be witnessed in places like Atlanta, Georgia, Detroit, Michigan, and Dallas, Texas, said Leinberger, where once rundown downtowns are being revitalized by well-educated, young professionals who have no desire to live in a detached single family home typical of a suburbia where life is often centered around long commutes and cars. Instead, they are looking for what Leinberger calls "walkable urbanism" -- both small communities and big cities characterized by efficient mass transit systems and high density developments enabling residents to walk virtually everywhere for everything -- from home to work to restaurants to movie theaters. The so-called New Urbanism movement emerged in the mid-90s and has been steadily gaining momentum, especially with rising energy costs, environmental concerns and health problems associated with what Leinberger calls "drivable suburbanism" -- a low-density built environment plan that emerged around the end of the World War II and has been the dominant design in the U.S. ever since. Thirty-five percent of the nation's wealth, according to Leinberger, has been invested in constructing this drivable suburban landscape. But now, Leinberger told CNN, it appears the pendulum is beginning to swing back in favor of the type of walkable community that existed long before the advent of the once fashionable suburbs in the 1940s. He says it is being driven by generations molded by television shows like "Seinfeld" and "Friends," where city life is shown as being cool again -- a thing to flock to, rather than flee. "The image of the city was once something to be left behind," said Leinberger. Changing demographics are also fueling new demands as the number of households with children continues to decline. By the end of the next decade, the number of single-person households in the United States will almost equal those with kids, Leinberger said. And aging baby boomers are looking for a more urban lifestyle as they downsize from large homes in the suburbs to more compact town houses in more densely built locations. Recent market research indicates that up to 40 percent of households surveyed in selected metropolitan areas want to live in walkable urban areas, said Leinberger. The desire is also substantiated by real estate prices for urban residential space, which are 40 to 200 percent higher than in traditional suburban neighborhoods -- this price variation can be found both in cities and small communities equipped with walkable infrastructure, he said. The result is an oversupply of depreciating suburban housing and a pent-up demand for walkable urban space, which is unlikely to be met for a number of years. That's mainly, according to Leinberger, because the built environment changes very slowly; and also because governmental policies and zoning laws are largely prohibitive to the construction of complicated high-density developments. But as the market catches up to the demand for more mixed use communities, the United States could see a notable structural transformation in the way its population lives -- Arthur C. Nelson, director of Virginia Tech's Metropolitan Institute, estimates, for example, that half of the real-estate development built by 2025 will not have existed in 2000. Yet Nelson also estimates that in 2025 there will be a surplus of 22 million large-lot homes that will not be left vacant in a suburban wasteland but instead occupied by lower classes who have been driven out of their once affordable inner-city apartments and houses. The so-called McMansion, he said, will become the new multi-family home for the poor. "What is going to happen is lower and lower-middle income families squeezed out of downtown and glamorous suburban locations are going to be pushed economically into these McMansions at the suburban fringe," said Nelson. "There will probably be 10 people living in one house." In Shaun Yandell's neighborhood, this has already started to happen. Houses once filled with single families are now rented out by low-income tenants. Yandell speculates that they're coming from nearby Sacramento, where the downtown is undergoing substantial gentrification, or perhaps from some other area where prices have gotten too high. He isn't really sure. But one thing Yandell is sure about is that he isn't going to leave his sunny suburban neighborhood unless he has to, and if that happens, he says he would only want to move to another one just like it. "It's the American dream, you know," he said. "The American dream." http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/06/16/suburb.city/index.html
  12. Canada's housing market cools Home prices are still rising but much more slowly.Tyler Anderson/National PostHome prices are still rising but much more slowly. Resale price growth lowest in seven years Garry Marr, Financial Post Published: Friday, June 13, 2008 More On This Story TORONTO -- The Canadian real estate market is being flooded with homes, causing prices to start falling in some key markets, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. The average price of a home sold last month in the country's top 25 markets was $337,071, an all-time record. But that record price was only up 1.1% from May, 2007 -- the smallest year-over-year increase in seven years. "The record number of new listings means more opportunities for buyers," said Gregory Klump. chief economist with CREA. "The resale housing market has evolved in just a few short months." CREA said there were 67,628 new units on the market in May, a 7% jump from last year. It was the second straight month that a record number of houses has gone on sale. The impact on prices is being felt most keenly in Alberta. The average price of a home sold in Calgary last month was $418,881, a 2.4% drop from a year ago. Edmonton sale prices averaged out at $340,499, down 4.8% from a year ago. Unit sales in both Alberta cities are also plummeting. Calgary homes sales were off 34.2% from a year ago while Edmonton sales were down 34.8% during the same period. The home sales are dropping across the country. CREA said on a national basis sales were off 16.9% in May from a year earlier.
  13. Building booms across country HEATHER SCOFFIELD Globe and Mail Update June 5, 2008 at 9:10 AM EDT OTTAWA — Building permits in Canada soared in April, rising 14.5 per cent from March because of widespread residential and non-residential activity in all provinces, Statistics Canada said Thursday. The jump means contractors took out $6.4-billion worth of permits, the highest level since last October. “Canadian builder permits were on a tear in April,” Stewart Hall, market strategist for HSBC Canada, said in a note to clients. The gain surpassed economists' expectations by a long shot. They had been expecting a 0.5 per cent increase, after a drop of 4.5 per cent March. House under construction The Globe and Mail Building permits are a notoriously volatile economic indicator, and economists warned not to get too excited about the big monthly leap. The general trend for building permits in both the residential and non-residential sectors has been down since last summer, Statscan noted. Residential permits rose 13.4 per cent from a month earlier, mainly because of growth in multi-family units such as condominiums. Over the past five years, demand has gradually shifted away from more expensive single-family homes to more affordable multi-family buildings, Statscan said. In April, permits for multi-family units rose 19.1 per cent, while single family homes declined 0.6 per cent. “This report does suggest that some improvement in building activity may lie ahead for the Canadian housing sector,” said Millan Mulraine, economics strategist with TD Securities. “However, the fact that all of this increase came from the volatile multi-units component does suggest ... some give-back in the coming month.” In the non-residential sector, the value of permits rose 16.5 per cent from a month earlier, because of strong commercial intentions. Indeed, commercial permits rose 20.2 per cent, as interest in building hotels and retail outlets surged. Industrial permits rose 6.7 per cent, after a large drop in March, as Alberta manufacturing and primary industries regained some interest. Institutional building permits rose 13 per cent in the month, driven by projects for new medical buildings. “The non-residential sector continued to be positively affected by low office vacancy rates and a vigorous retail sector, despite a drop in corporate profits,” Statscan said. Regionally, all provinces saw gains in April, especially in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, which all posted double-digit increases. Ontario saw the largest increase in dollar terms, with a $2.4-billion leap in the value of permits issued, or a jump of 12.5 per cent. Multi-family homes were the driving force. By city, the largest increase in dollars was in Toronto, again because of multi-family units. “While these gains suggest we will some new housing activity going forward, some of this growth is on the back of declines experienced at the beginning of the year,” said economists at Bank of Nova Scotia. “Thus, despite the fact that permits surged in April, the overall trend remains to the downside.” http://www.reportonbusiness.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080605.wbuildingpermits0506/BNStory/Business/home
  14. March 15, 2009 KEY | SPRING 2009 By JIM LEWIS New York is the capital of glass, the city of windows. Other cities get their gravitas from marble or stone, but New York is made of silica, soda ash and lime, melted to make this vitreous stuff: transparent, translucent and opaque; reflective, tinted, frosted, coated, clear. The slightest shift in the angle of sun fall can hide or reveal entire worlds, and as evening comes the city gradually turns itself inside out — the streets go dark and the buildings open up, offering their rooms like stagelets upon which our little lives are played. 25 Cooper Square: The Cooper Square Hotel Completed: 2009 Architect: Carlos Zapata Developer: Sciame Photo date: Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009 As old as the material is, glass remains a mystery. No one quite knows what goes on, down where the molecules bind — whether it’s a slow-moving liquid, an especially mutable solid or something in between. Still, new compounds appear regularly, with new qualities that promise new possibilities. The substance has never been exhausted, and may yet prove inexhaustible, an endless inspiration to architects and designers as it grows stronger, lighter, clearer and more flexible. 731 Lexington Avenue and 1 Beacon Court: Global headquarters for Bloomberg L.P. and other offices, as well as retail and residences Completed: 2005 Architects: Cesar and Rafael Pelli (Pelli Clark Pelli Architects) Developer: Vornado Realty Trust Photo date: Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009 For this issue, In Sook Kim, an artist with a special interest in intimacy and display, photographed five buildings in Manhattan — chips in the kaleidoscope of the city and homes to some of its most emblematic activities: business, the arts, putting up tourists and, of course, staying in for the night. 405 West 55th Street: The Joan Weill Center for Dance, home of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Completed: 2004 Architect: lu + Bibliowicz Architects L.L.P. Photo date: Friday, Jan. 16, 2009 For each photograph, Kim, who is based in Germany, lit interior rooms with colored gels and arranged the occupants of the buildings in everyday tableaux. She then parked herself across from the buildings with a large-format camera, the glass of her lens facing the glass of the facades, creating portraits of the city as a crystalline beehive, always bright and always busy. 48 Bond Street: Condominium residence Completed: 2008 Architect: Deborah Berke & Partners Architects Developer: Dacbon L.L.C. Photo date: Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/15/realestate/keymagazine/15KeyGLASS-t.html?ref=keymagazine&pagewanted=print
  15. BY JAY BRYAN, THE GAZETTE APRIL 9, 2009 Housing construction in Canada rebounded with surprising vigour in March, with the biggest gains in Ontario and Quebec. Still, hardly anybody believes that this foreshadows a lasting uptrend. And that's probably a good thing. There are signs that some homebuilders have gotten ahead of themselves, creating an excess inventory of unsold homes and condos that needs to be trimmed in order to reduce pressure on home prices. A pessimistic view this week by economists from the Toronto-Dominion Bank is that housing inventories are so bloated that new construction will plunge by more than 40 per cent this year. An alternative view, from Bob Dugan, chief economist at Canada Mortgage and Housing, is that starts must, indeed, drop, but not as dramatically as that. The CMHC forecast is for a decline of 24 per cent, based on the notion that builders actually did a pretty good job of cutting construction when the market weakened, leaving inventories less inflated than in past housing down cycles. The Toronto-Dominion analysis quite possibly overdoes the gloom. One sign of this is that some markets - most notably, Quebec - remain a little perkier than this analysis would suggest. A key reason is that Montreal's big condo market, while somewhat overbuilt, isn't nearly as sick as it might look at first glance. More on this in a minute. In several other cities, however, there is evidence of growing inventories of unsold homes. In most of Western Canada, it's single-family homes, while in Vancouver and Toronto, there are signs of an inflating condo bubble. So many condos are being built in Vancouver, even as a recession takes hold, that economist Grant Bishop, an author of the Toronto-Dominion housing study, expects to see as many as 4,000 unsold new condo units there by the end of this year. In Toronto, where condo construction also seems to be running ahead of anticipated demand, Bishop anticipates a backlog of more than 2,000 units by year-end. There also is concern among some analysts that Montreal is suffering from a huge backlog of unsold condos, based on the large number of new, vacant multiple units. But this represents a bit of confusion about a unique aspect of Montreal's market. In this city, explains the senior Montreal market analyst at CMHC, Bertrand Recher, a huge chunk of the multiple market is in a category that's not nearly as significant in other big cities. It's rental housing complexes built specifically for retirees, a type of housing that's at least twice as popular among retirement-age Quebecers as among their counterparts elsewhere in Canada. When you toss this kind of multiple housing development into the same pot with condos and a few row homes and semi-detached homes, you find, as the Toronto-Dominion study reports, that Montreal's inventory of new, unsold multiples is staggering - more than 3,900. But this adds up apples and oranges. Recher points out that nearly half of this huge number in fact represents rental units for seniors. Since it's rental housing, the notion that it's "unsold" isn't very meaningful. And since these are developments designed specifically for seniors, the danger that they could one day be dumped on the market as condos is minimal. While it's true that there is a large inventory vacant seniors' units - representing about 14 months' supply at the current rental rate - the market in Montreal for such developments remains strong and the demographics of this province's aging population should only make it stronger. As for actual condos, the unsold inventory of new units, at 1,667, is only moderately high, Recher believes. At the current pace of sales, it represents about eight months' inventory, down from a peak of 11 months in early 2007. And while high-priced luxury condos are getting harder to sell, moderate-priced units, typically in the suburbs, are still moving briskly. Across Canada, says Dugan, "I'm not terribly concerned about oversupply" putting more pressure on housing prices. But he does see some areas for concern, like the condo boom in Vancouver and Toronto. [email protected] Projected Average Price of Homes in Montreal Area in 2009 Detached Bungalow / Two-Storey / Condominium 2009* Per cent change 2009 Per cent change 2009 Per cent change Beaconsfield: 290,000 / 5.5% / 370,000 / 5.7% / N/A / N/A Côte St. Luc: 239,000 / 3.9% / N/A / N/A / 229,000 / 1.8% Dorval: 243,000 / 2.3% / 244,000 / 3% / 212,000 / 1.9% Lachine: 224,000 / 1.8% / 232,000 / 3.1% / 247,000 / 2.9% LaSalle/Verdun: 198,000 / -3.4% / N/A / N/A / 165,000 / 4.4% Montreal West: N/A / N/A / 360,000 / -1.4% / N/A / N/A Notre Dame de Grâce: N/A / N/A / 375,000 / 1.4% / 230,000 / 0% Westmount: N/A / N/A / 610,000 / -10% / 260,000 / -5.1% Montreal: 232,375 / 2% / 330,056 / -0.7% / 206,528 / 0% * 2009 prices are first-quarter averages, N/A: Information not available. Source: Royal Lepage © Copyright © The Montreal Gazette http://www.montrealgazette.com/Business/Montreal+condo+glut+illusion/1479696/story.html
  16. Bylaw tweak could allow more drive-throughs Patty Winsa Urban Affairs Reporter Ads by Google A battle to restrict fast-food and coffee drive-throughs in the city’s residential areas may be brewing yet again. An amendment in Toronto’s new zoning bylaws, which go to council for approval this week, counteracts a 2002 city-wide ban that says drive-through lanes can’t be within 30 metres of homes and, instead, applies the standard to the order box only. The amendment could make it easier to put drive-throughs in some locations. The change comes six years after a residents group and the city successfully defended the original ban at the OMB, following a challenge by the Canadian Bankers Association, the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Association along with other business interests, including the OMERS pension fund. “If in fact (the amendment) does undo the intent of the bylaw that we fought three years for and won at the OMB, I’m shocked and outraged,” said Susan Speigel, president of the Humewood Neighbourhood Ratepayers Inc., which raised $30,000 and hired a lawyer to make their case. “I will pursue this with the same dogged determination with which I fought for the original bylaw,” she said. Councillor Peter Milczyn (Etobicoke Lakeshore, Ward 5) pushed the amendment as part of Toronto’s new bylaws, a six-year project to harmonize regulations across 43 zoning areas brought together when North York, Scarborough, Etobicoke, York and East York amalgamated with Toronto in 1998. The situation was complicated by the fact that some of the former cities had a web of bylaws, enacting new sets each time a new residential area was formed. Scarborough had more than 30. The harmonized bylaws went through the city’s planning and growth committee last week and go before city council at its meeting Wednesday and Thursday — the last before the election. Milczyn said he proposed the drive-through amendment after meeting with industry representatives and lobbyists for large companies such as Shell and Esso, who complained the current laneway restrictions were too onerous. “They’ve been attending every committee meeting and deputing and writing on this issue for months and months,” he said. Milczyn proposed a 30-metre distance between homes and the order box, which he says “is the point where there’s the most noise.” The original 30-metre setback was created after city staff did a Toronto-wide report on drive-throughs years ago. “We wanted the separation of the car, noise and fumes, including the order box,” said Joe D’Abramo, the city’s acting director for zoning bylaw and environmental planning, who wrote the original report. “We wanted them pulled away from residential zones. It was quite offensive when they put them right next to one,” he said. Milczyn said he intended the amendment to apply only to corner gas stations with drive-throughs in the outskirts of the city, but the language doesn’t specify that, say planning staff. And even then, it would still contravene the original bylaw. D’Abramo says the amendment put forth by Milczyn requires the order box to be 30 metres away from a residence, but the laneway could be right beside it. The new bylaws are online at http://www.toronto.ca/zoning and can be searched by entering an address or using the interactive maps. What’s new in the amalgamated bylaws Building heights: Say goodbye to stand-alone big-box or liquor stores on main streets in combined commercial-residential areas of the old city. Minimum heights will now be three storeys. Rooming houses: City staff proposed allowing rooming houses in high-density areas, including former boroughs where they were once banned, but the committee decided to defer a decision on the controversial subject until 2011. Group homes: Despite a human rights complaint, the new bylaw requires that group homes, including correctional homes and housing for people with mental health issues, be separated by at least 250 metres. The municipalities had various distance requirements, but mental health advocates such as the Dream Team want none. Restaurants and bars: South of Bloor St., and from the Humber River to Victoria Park, restaurants are restricted to the first floor of a building. Outdoor patios can be at the front or side, but not on the roof or in the back. Industry: The old bylaws had no provisions for propane facilities, but in response to the Sunrise explosion, they are now restricted to industrial zones and must be at least 300 metres from homes. Visitor parking: Council directed staff to include a city-wide ban on paid visitor parking at apartment buildings, which has been in effect for years in North York, but an amendment put forward by Milczyn on Thursday took that off the table. Schools and places of worship: There is no longer an automatic right to put a school or place of worship in a residential area, so as to restrain conversion or elimination of houses. http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/851861--bylaw-tweak-could-allow-more-drive-throughs?bn=1
  17. Montreal Real Estate Pushes Ahead By DORN TOWNSEND Published: June 11, 2010 MONTREAL — When Patrice Groleau began selling a proposed condo development this spring, he thought it would take about a year to sell all 100 units — even though the site is in Montreal’s historic old city and the project will have all the latest amenities. Half the apartments sold in the first month on the market. “The last few years have been mostly good for real estate, but this year has been phenomenal,” said the 33-year-old broker, who works for McGill Immobilier. “Some of the buyers are from elsewhere but 95 percent are local young professionals. A lot of them will buy several units or whole blocks of apartments.” Real estate markets in many cities around the world are still in the doldrums, but in Montreal, Canada’s second largest city, with 1.9 million residents, the downtown area is experiencing a boom and buying frenzy last seen more than a generation ago. Brokers say that new listings in desirable central neighborhoods can receive multiple offers within hours of going up for sale. Since 2003, when the present rush began, 5,500 to 7,000 new condo units have been hitting the market each year. Many of these homes are downtown in new mid-rise developments. According to the Montreal Real Estate Board, the median price of downtown condos has risen about 9 percent over the period, to 210,000 Canadian dollars, or about $198,000. While some downtown addresses can command as much as 1,000 dollars a square foot, in May the average price per square foot in the central city was about 350 dollars. “A lot of the new units downtown are for people in the suburbs looking to downsize, but you also get about 8 percent of sales going to foreigners,” said René Lépine, president of Groupe Lépine, one of the largest developers of downtown residential housing in the city. “I haven’t seen this kind of activity in the city center since the 1970s, when we had the Olympics.” Montreal’s real estate board reported that prices were up 8 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, with sales up 54 percent. While there is disagreement over whether such growth is sustainable, demand is being driven by historically low interest rates, with a five-year fixed-rate mortgage going for about 3.8 percent. In an attempt to pop what many fear is an expanding housing bubble, the Bank of Canada in April began requiring purchasers to put down 20 percent on investment properties. Brokers, however, say such rules are easily skirted with interim financing. And in the two years since the global economic downturn, Canada’s big-five banking oligopoly has continued granting loans for real estate. But, like in the United States, these banks seldom hold on to the mortgages, instead passing them on to a government entity called the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., which insures buyers against defaults. Since 2005, the agency’s liabilities have grown to around 400 billion dollars from about 80 billion dollars. But many of the new homes insured by this national agency are the tiny studios and one-bedroom units like those in Montreal’s downtown towers. That easy financing helped turn Montreal’s real estate scene into something of a Sleeping Beauty story. For decades the city had a lot of real estate for sale, partly because of the departure of several hundred thousand English-speaking residents from 1976 to 1978 because they feared Quebec might become an independent French-speaking country. Afterward, prices rose slowly, and then took off in recent years. “I’m not one of those annoying people who say that Montreal is the best city,” said Ariane Truong, 30, a Montreal native who spent several years in London working as an architect for SOM. “But there’s this intangible, aesthetic quality here these days and when you’re in other cities, you notice that quality is missing.” Two years ago Mrs. Truong returned to her hometown, paying about 350,000 dollars for a refurbished 950-square-foot, or 88-square-meter, one-bedroom condo in the old city. The building incorporates part of the stone fortifications built from 1717 to 1738 to protect Montreal from native Indians and English attackers. Until recently many residents had spurned the area as a tourist magnet. These days the tourists still are ever-present, but the old warehouses have been converted into apartments with ground-floor cafes and restaurants. A mix of young professional residents has returned to live and work. A small but important part of the market is composed of foreign clients who buy into the city for its particular rhythm. Diane Urbain, 28, a transplant from Paris, is typical of the group. She and her husband spent about 520,000 dollars on a 1,600-square-foot cottage in the Plateau, a large neighborhood of row houses known for its public squares and cafes. The French consulate says about 100,000 French citizens are living in Montreal. “When I first arrived here as a student, I thought I’d never leave Paris,” Mrs. Urbain said “But I’ve come to love the way of life of this city.” She talked about the nearby parks where her children play and about biking to work. Vélo Québec, a cycling advocacy group, says that nearly 20 percent of downtown residents use bicycles as a primary means of transport. Yet the French are not the only people who choose Montreal. This year, almost all the units in one new high-end condo tower downtown were sold to Lebanese. The developer marketed heavily in Beirut, and many purchases were made as investments or as homes for children attending universities in Montreal. Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/11/greathomesanddestinations/11iht-remon.html
  18. Video (Courtesy of The Globe and Mail) Luxury homes in Montreal is up 300% Luxury Starter Home for Montreal estimated to be at $1.5 million.
  19. No housing crash in Canada "In most eastern cities, builders continued to enjoy modest price gains." JAY BRYAN, The Gazette Published: 9 hours ago The latest data out of Canada's housing market demonstrate two things clearly: it's going through a significant slowdown, but, just as important, it's not following the U.S. market down the drain. The number of new homes started by Canadian builders in October was down, but only by three per cent, much less than expected by forecasters. So far this year, notes economist Paul Ferley at the Royal Bank, average monthly starts are down by less than five per cent compared with the plunge of 30 per cent seen in the U.S. Still, housing starts in Canada have been drifting down since they peaked at an annual rate of 277,000 two and a half years ago. The rate in October was 212,000. Market analysts believe that pent-up demand for homes has been increasingly satisfied over the past few years. As well, rising prices squeezed affordability for those looking for a first home. Now most analysts believe the construction decline will accelerate in the coming year, as a slowing economy puts more pressure on would-be buyers. Nevertheless, new-home prices as of September (these numbers take longer to compile), were holding up well, reflecting the same resilient demand that has kept home construction busy. A survey by Statistics Canada finds that average new-home prices across Canada were up by 2.1 per cent in September from a year earlier, although there's a lot of variation among major cities. The sharpest price changes were in cities with resource-based economies. In St. John's and Regina, where local booms have yet to peter out, prices were up by 23 per cent. But in Alberta, where an oilsands investment frenzy has cooled recently, gains have ended. In Calgary, the average new home price was down by one per cent. In Edmonton, it fell by six per cent. And after having soared higher than anywhere else in Canada, prices stalled in Vancouver (up 1.4 per cent) and Victoria (no change). In most eastern cities, builders continued to enjoy modest price gains, with the average new home up by 4.8 per cent in Montreal, three per cent in Toronto, 6.1 per cent in Quebec City and 4.3 per cent in Ottawa-Gatineau. There was a similar regional divide in housing starts, with British Columbia and Alberta down sharply from a year ago, while Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario are up. As a slowing economy squeezes prices, it's likely to be the highest-priced markets that will show the most substantial price losses, suggested Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist at the Bank of Montreal. Canada's housing downturn is likely to be much milder than the one in the U.S. because it's fundamentally different, he said. The U.S. housing collapse stemmed from a home-price bubble whose collapse is taking down the whole economy, but the key influence on Canada's generally healthy market is merely the predictable drag from a North American recession. However, a few cities in Canada witnessed such big price gains that they're likely to sell off sharply, Porter said. When the latest resale prices for existing homes come out late this week, he expects to see continued drops in Canada's highest-priced cities: Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. In Quebec and Atlantic Canada, existing home prices have continued rising and should continue to hold up relatively well, he predicted, because their more modest growth remained tied to fundamentals like average incomes. As of September, the average Montreal resale price was up by 4.4 per cent from a year earlier, while Halifax was ahead 10 per cent. By contrast, Toronto was down three per cent, Calgary was off six per cent and Vancouver had lost eight per cent. [email protected]
  20. http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/Realtor+lose+Montreal+listings/9285009/story.html Realtor.ca to lose Montreal listings BY ALLISON LAMPERT, GAZETTE REAL ESTATE REPORTER DECEMBER 13, 2013 7:10 PM Starting Jan. 1, Montreal brokers will only be able to list homes for sale on Centris.ca, a real estate website unique to Quebec. Photograph by: DAVE SIDAWAY , The Gazette MONTREAL — The Canadian Real Estate Association’s popular Realtor.ca website — widely known as the MLS — will no longer list Montreal homes for sale. The Greater Montreal Real Estate Board said Friday its brokers have voted in favour of separating from CREA. Starting Jan. 1, Montreal brokers will only be able to list homes for sale on Centris.ca, a real estate website unique to Quebec. Real estate brokers who favoured separating from CREA won by 66 votes out of 3,826 votes cast. Montreal’s 9,700 brokers will no longer be able to list homes for sale on Realtor.ca — also known as the Multiple Listing Service — or on CREA’s ICX.ca, which features commercial properties. “We were disappointed when we saw the decision,” said CREA spokesperson Pierre Leduc. Leduc could not say how many listings were generated by CREA’s Montreal membership. Quebec’s 17,000 brokers currently generate 80,000 listings on Realtor.ca. Brokers from four real estate boards located in Montreal, Quebec City, Granby and Drummondville have voted to leave CREA, while brokers from the Saguenay and the Laurentians will make a choice on whether to separate next week. The votes follow a lengthy dispute over rising fees for members, duplication of services like the Realtor and Centris websites, along with a brewing turf war over the listing of Quebec homes for a flat fee by out-of-province brokers. The Montreal board has objected to instances of brokers from Ontario — who are not subject to Quebec’s strict professional rules — listing a home in the Belle Province for a flat fee. CREA said it cannot stop its members from Ontario, or other provinces, from listing homes for sale in Quebec. Citing October data, the Montreal board said Centris was the fourth most popular real estate website geared at buying or renting a residential property in Quebec, with Realtor.ca ranked ninth. The most popular site was Kijiji. However, several Montreal brokers told The Gazette they were concerned about the decline in visibility that comes with losing access to Realtor.ca at a time of a softening Montreal real estate market. Leduc said Montreal-area brokers who are unhappy with the “yes vote” can join one of Quebec’s eight boards that are still members of CREA. He said he’s also heard of a “partitionist” movement among brokers who want to set up a separate Montreal real estate board that would remain part of CREA. “CREA will support these endeavours.” [email protected] Twitter: RealDealMtl
  21. How Quebec Cree avoided the fate of Attawapiskat On the eastern shore of James Bay, a very different story. By Terry Milewski, CBC News Posted: May 14, 2013 9:33 PM ET Last Updated: May 14, 2013 11:07 PM ET Read 119 comments119 Freezing, mouldy homes. Sewage contamination. Sick kids. Unemployment. A blockade on the road to the mine. A hunger strike by the chief. That, it seems, is the news from the Cree of James Bay — at least, as it's defined by the desperate community of Attawapiskat, in northern Ontario. Before that, there was the news from nearby Kashechewan. Flooding. Despair. Suicide. And both James Bay towns endured fresh emergencies this spring as the annual meltwaters exposed, again, their rickety infrastructure. But bad news makes headlines and good news usually does not. So we've heard all about the mess on the Ontario shore of James Bay — and next to nothing about the success on the eastern shore, in Quebec. Little noticed by the world outside, the Cree of northern Quebec are writing a startlingly different story than their cousins on the western shore of James Bay. Self-government. Revenue-sharing. Decent schools and new development. Mining companies being welcomed instead of blockaded. And no hunger strikes. Schoolchildren in the northern Cree community of Wemindji, Que., enjoy decent schools, in contrast to their Ontario cousins in Attawapiskat, who have been in portables since their school closed more than a decade ago. It's taken 40 years, but a long struggle is paying off. The neat streets of Wemindji or Oujé-Bougoumou feel like they're on a different planet than Attawapiskat. If the stop signs weren't in Cree, you'd think the rows of warm, solid homes were in a suburb down south. Shiny new courthouses, band offices, recreation centres and police stations are being completed. There's no crisis to summon reporters from Toronto or Montreal. So why is it so different on the Quebec side of James Bay? [...] http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2013/05/14/pol-james-bay-cree-northern-quebec-attawapiskat.html
  22. You’ll probably be surprised if you live in Brookside to know that the median home price went up 17 percent in the past year — to more than $3 million. Actually, that’s Brookside, N.J., No. 10 on Forbes’ list of most expensive ZIP codes. Here they are, with median home price and percentage change from last year. The two New York City areas are listed by ZIP. 1. Alpine, N.J., $4,139,041, -23% 2. Atherton, Calif., $3,849,133, -26% 3. New York 10014, $3,521,514, -24% 4. Duarte, Calif., $3,444,773, +18% 5. Beverly Hills, Calif., $3,367,167, -5% 6. Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., $3,362,493, -12% 7. Santa Barbara, Calif., $3,284,652, -9% 8. Los Altos Hills, Calif., $3,277,500, +4% 9. New York 10065, $3,176,534, -10% 10. Brookside, N.J., $3,121,115, +17% Interesting footnote: “Stop Acting Rich,” Thomas J. Stanley (John A. Wiley & Sons) The author who brought us “The Millionaire Next Door” and “The Millionaire Mind” is back with a volume on the value of thrift, subtitled “And Start Living Like a Real Millionaire.” Stanley’s research finds that those who want to be rich spend a lot more than people who actually are rich — and that the real millionaires’ frugality often had a lot to do with their accumulating real wealth. "About 90% of millionaires lives in homes valued at under $1 million." Meanwhile only about 27% of homes valued at more than $1 million are owned by millionaires. http://www.kansascity.com/business/story/1504749.html
  23. Top 100 of 2010 1. Thompson family -- $23.36 billion 2. Galen Weston -- $8.5 billion 3. Irving family -- $ 7.46 billion 4. Rogers family -- $6.02 billion 5. James Pattison -- $5.53 billion 6. Paul Desmarais Sr -- $4.28 billion ... 100. Andre Chagnon -- $540 million Top 100 (2010) Its quite amazing how the Thompson family dwarfs the other billionaires. Just combining #2, #3 and #4 together, they are still a few billions shy of the wealth of the Thompson family. The largest growth since 2009, was Chip Wilson with a 66.7% increase. Canada's wealthiest neighbourhoods (Courtesy of Canadian Business)