Toronto Star (Tess Kalinowski)/October 24 – The price of a new construction single-family home fell 7.1 per cent — about $85,000 — year over year in September to $1.1 million on average. Condo prices, meanwhile, have continued to climb — up 19.4 per cent to $789,643 — an increase of $128,455 in a year.
Although they dominate the new-home market, the number of condo sales was down 20 per cent compared to September 2017 — which is also 20 per cent below the 10-year average for that housing category, according to numbers compiled by Altus Group for the Building and Land Development Association (BILD) on Wednesday.
Overall, the number of new-construction home sales nearly doubled last month to 1,747, compared to 974 in August, a healthier bump than the usual post-summer jump. Condos and stacked town homes accounted for 1,494 of those sales.
The 253 single-family home transactions — detached, semi-detached, townhouses and link homes — fell 28 per cent year-over-year, a 77 per cent decline from the 10-year average.
BILD CEO David Wilkes attributed the stronger month-to-month sales to a “re-awakening of consumer confidence” based in part on the new federal trade pact with the U.S.
He attributed softer single-family home prices to supply and demand.
“We’ve just come through a period of fairly soft demand, so perhaps that’s a reaction from the market to that,” said Wilkes.
The inventory of available condos and stacked town homes rose in September to 8,820 units, about five months’ supply. That includes homes that are complete, those in the pre-construction and construction phases. But a healthy Toronto region market should have nine months’ to a year’s worth of inventory given the population growth in the Toronto region, according to BILD.
That lack of supply is responsible for driving up the cost of condos, narrowing the price gap between those dwellings and single-family homes, said Wilkes.
The inventory of single-family lots rose to 5,132 in September, from 2,607 last year.
Globe and Mail (Saira Peesker)/October 28 – Business groups are praising proposed changes to Ontario’s apprenticeships system, saying it will ease labour shortages, but labour advocates say businesses will shift work onto apprenticeships as a way of reducing costs.
The provincial government on Tuesday unveiled the Making Ontario Open for Business Act, a bill that scraps many employment reforms introduced by the previous government. The new law would eliminate paid sick days, freeze the minimum wage for two years and allow companies to pay temporary or part-time workers less than full-time staff doing the same work.
The bill will also change the apprenticeship system. It would increase the ratio of apprentices to trained workers, or journeypersons, allowed on a job. This change affects 33 trades in which apprenticeship ratios are required and set by the Ontario College of Trades after independent reviews that involve industry and public consultations. The bill also proposes eliminating the College of Trades, the regulatory and enforcement body for tradespeople created in 2009.
“There have been persistent challenges in how the skilled trades in Ontario are regulated, the amount of College membership fees that apprentices and journeypersons are subject to and the complexity of the rules,” stated a release from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.
Stephanie Rea, the ministry’s director of communications, said the bill’s intent is to reduce regulatory burdens on all parties and to encourage more people to become apprentices. The province has promised to release a plan in early 2019 for phasing out the College of Trades.
Business groups such as the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) applauded the apprenticeship system reforms. They said the changes would make it easier to hire apprentices and address a growing labour shortage.
“For more than a decade, both apprentices and employers alike have been urging the provincial government to remove barriers to apprenticeship training,” Plamen Petkov, CFIB’s vice-president for Ontario, said in a release. “Reducing artificial ratio restrictions, which were eliminated in most other provinces years ago, will allow more young people to enter the trades and pursue a meaningful career.”
Many manufacturing companies have long been asking for these changes, said Ian Howcroft, chief executive of Skills Ontario, a non-profit that promotes trades careers to young people. He said there was “quite a bit of controversy” when the College of Trades was created.
“Many felt it was too unnecessary and bureaucratic while others felt it would professionalize the trades,” he said, noting Skills Ontario doesn’t take a position and will work with whatever structure is in place. “In my personal view, it was off to a rocky start from the beginning … it had a complicated governance structure and it became a partisan issue.”
Financial Post (Guest contributor, Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli)/October 26 – Last month, I had to deliver the sobering news to Ontario families and businesses that the previous government left us with a $15 billion deficit for the year 2018-19.
It’s a difficult number for many people to comprehend, but it signifies an urgent need to address a dilemma that is both fiscal and moral in nature.
Our public debt is a whopping $338 billion. The fourth largest line item in the Ontario government budget remains the interest payments on that debt, currently to the tune of $11.9 billion annually.
Debt-servicing costs are crowding out spending on our cherished public services, not only for our generation, but also for future generations. Our interest payments represent a fifth of our healthcare budget; almost half of our education budget, and nearly $1 billion more than what we spend on post-secondary education and training in this province.
Ontario’s debt amounts to more than $24,000 for every man, woman, and child.
Given the reality of the province’s situation, there are those who suggest the only options before us are deep cuts to public services or tax increases. Both approaches would be unacceptably harmful to Ontario families and businesses.
There is another way — a way that is modest, pragmatic and reasonable.
Premier Doug Ford and our government have said time and again, we believe in efficiencies, not cuts. We believe in investing in our frontline workers. We believe in transforming government by spending smarter, working smarter, and respecting taxpayers’ dollars.
Rather than raising taxes, we can find ways to deliver programs more efficiently and find four cents on the dollar to balance the books without hurting taxpayers. We can fund programs based on evidence and measurable outcomes to make sure Ontarians see value for their money and corresponding improvements in how they receive public services.
Here’s a case in point: OHIP+. Our government fixed the universal program to cover only those who did not have existing prescription drug benefits and to cover any outstanding eligible costs after the private plans are billed. We will save hundreds of millions of taxpayer’s dollars, while ensuring all children and youth under-25 are covered — and this was done without a single job being cut.
Here’s another: the Ontario College of Trades. Created in 2013, the college added another complex, unnecessary layer of rules and bureaucracy for skilled tradespeople. Our government is introducing legislation that, if passed, will wind down the college and modernize the current apprenticeship system, while still enabling the Ministry of Colleges, Universities, and Training and the Ministry of Labour to certify and oversee the trades as they did effectively before the college was established.
Creating a culture of efficiency and innovation will be key to our path to balancing the books. Through our Red Tape Reduction roundtables, our Big Ideas Challenge, and the Planning for Prosperity consultation, we received countless ideas from people across the province on how to make government work better for them. We’ll have more to say on those ideas soon.
In order to address our challenges and start Ontario down a path toward fiscal sustainability, it will take a team effort and a lot of hard work. Everyone across the province will need to pitch in so we can protect our cherished public services for this generation and future generations.
We have a monumental job ahead of us, so we need to focus on modernizing and re-inventing government to work better for taxpayers, and begin the proper management of public finances.
Global News (Linda Nguyen)/October 28 – When Vanessa Witkowski and her husband were tasked with selling his grandmother’s home, they both knew they didn’t want to do it the traditional way.
What they wanted was to have a more transparent process and to avoid wasting time “playing games” with potential buyers.
So, they decided to put the house up for auction.
“We really didn’t like the traditional process. My husband and I would rather see the home sell to someone that truly loves it and values it, and not just have someone lose out on the bid because of any undisclosed information,” said 47-year-old Witkowski.
The east Toronto home will be posted next month with a starting bid of $650,000 through On The Block, a Toronto-based brokerage that specializes in online real estate auctions.
Currently, in the majority of real estate transactions, interested buyers are asked to submit a bid through a blind offer process not knowing if there are other bids, or what those bids contain.
Through this method in a hot housing market, buyers often can blindly offer more than what they initially planned on spending in hopes of beating their competitor, and sellers often come out on top.
Although Witkowski wants the home to be sold for a fair price, she wanted to ensure all those interested can make serious, informed offers, so she chose to have the house sold in an open, online auction.
In Ontario, realtors are permitted to share the price of a competing offer with another buyer, but only if all parties involved agree to the auction process. Although allowed, the practice is rare, especially in a market where demand still outstrips supply.
The Ontario Real Estate Association, the industry group which represents more than 70,000 realtors, is taking it one step further.