On March 13 the federal and provincial governments announced $11-million for 75 units of affordable rental housing at a mid-rise residential redevelopment opening shortly at 275 Woodbridge Avenue in Vaughan. York Region has contributed $35-million to the development that features energy-saving measures, permeable paving and a three-stream waste management system.
Canada's housing market saw another so-called payback sales drop in February, when the national average home price slumped by five per cent from a year ago, after a surge in sales late last year from homebuyers looking to purchase ahead of this year's new mortgage rules.
The latest monthly figures from the Canadian Real Estate Association showed that sales volume was down 16.9 per cent in February compared with a year ago, and down 6.5 per cent compared with January.
February's home sales decline marked the second consecutive month-over-month decline and the lowest reading in nearly five years, the national association said.
“The drop off in sales activity following the record-breaking peak late last year confirms that many homebuyers moved purchase decisions forward late last year before tighter mortgage rules took effect in January,” said Gregory Klump, CREA’s chief economist in a statement Thursday.
The federal banking regulator's tougher rules, which took effect Jan. 1, now require a stress test to be applied even to borrowers with more than 20 per cent down payment.
To qualify for federally regulated mortgages, borrowers must be able to afford interest rates that are two percentage points above the contracted rate or the Bank of Canada's five-year benchmark rate, whichever is higher.
The stricter residential mortgage lending regulations introduced by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions were aimed at reducing risk in the market amid high housing prices.
CREA's latest monthly statistics show that home sales were down in February in almost three quarters of all local housing markets tracked by the national association.
The widespread pattern was yet another indication that recent regulatory changes, and not local market conditions, were behind softer sales activity in early 2018, said RBC economist Josh Nye.
"The roller coaster ride that was Canada’s housing market in 2017 has continued this year with resales posting another sizeable decline in February," he said in a research note.
The number of homes sold nationally hit a record high in December.
But homebuying activity has also since been dampened by the Bank of Canada's move in January to hike interest rates to 1.25 per cent. The quarter-point increase was the central bank's third since last summer, after hikes in July and September.
"While the give-back related to the pull-forward in activity experienced late last year, as buyers rushed to close deals prior to the updated B20 rules, appears to have been largely complete in January, the softness in sales nonetheless persisted this month," said TD economists Michael Dolega and Rishi Sondhi in a research note.
"We believe that much of it has to do with lingering uncertainty, with additional regulations introduced in the B.C. budget adding further tensions, along with B20 impacts and rising rates."
In February, the B.C. government unveiled additional measures in its budget to tackle the housing market, including raising its foreign buyers tax and expanding it to areas outside of Vancouver, while bringing in a new levy on speculators.
The national average house price for homes sold in February 2018 was just over $494,000, down five per cent from a year earlier. But excluding Toronto and Vancouver, the country's most active and most expensive markets, the national average price was just under $382,000, up 3.3 per cent from $369,728 a year ago.
The number of newly listed homes in February increased by 8.1 per cent, following a plunge of more than 20 per cent in the month prior. However, new listings across the country in February were still 6.4 per cent below the 10-year monthly average and 14.6 per cent below the peak reached in December 2017. New home listings in February were also below the levels recorded every month last year except January 2017.
TD's Dolega and Sondhi point to these listings as some of the "modestly encouraging details" in the latest CREA report.
"New listings also perked up a little during the month, suggesting rising confidence on the part of sellers after recent B-20-related volatility," they wrote.
The TD economists expect sales activity to stabilize sometime in mid-2018.
"We look for prices to drop, on average, this year, though balanced-market conditions across much of the country should mitigate the magnitude of the decline," they wrote.
"We expect conditions to improve next year, with price growth returning to the market alongside a rise in transaction activity."
Many people know about the risk of illness when consuming raw dough or batter that uses raw eggs. Did you know that consuming raw flour can also be risky? Flour can be contaminated with harmful bacteria such as E. coli and should only be consumed once cooked.
Although licking the cookie dough or the chocolate cake mix can be tasty, it's really not worth the risk because eating even a small amount of contaminated flour can make you sick. Flour is a raw ingredient that should be consumed only after being cooked. Eating uncooked flour contaminated with E. coli can cause an infection. Symptoms can include stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. E. coli infections can be serious enough to require hospitalization.
Most at-home chefs know that flour gets almost everywhere in the kitchen. But if that flour is contaminated with E. coli, your hands and other surfaces that come into contact with it can be contaminated too. You should handle raw flour no differently than you would handle raw meat.
While anyone can get an E. coli infection, pregnant women and young children ages five and under are among those most at risk to develop more severe health problems, including kidney failure, seizures and stroke. Although rare, death can also result from an infection.
Here are some tips for cooking with flour:
In order to prevent cross-contamination, keep raw foods, including flour products, separate from other foods when you cook.
• Use separate bowls, measuring cups and utensils to keep flour, raw dough and raw batter separate from ready-to-eat food.
• Do not add flour to foods that will not be cooked, such as milkshakes and ice cream mixes.
• Bake or cook items containing flour, including flour used for thickening.
• For products such as cake mixes, follow package directions for proper cooking temperatures and specified times, as these may contain raw flour.
The federal government is looking at a real estate developer’s proposal to build 50,000 units of affordable housing primarily in Toronto and Vancouver a plan valued at as much as $14-billion that could become a big part of Ottawa’s national housing strategy.
According to a proposal submitted to Ottawa, the project would be led by the Creative Housing Society, an independent non-profit group to be based in Toronto. Creative Housing was established last fall by Ian Gillespie, a prominent Vancouver real estate developer whose firm, Westbank, is active in Toronto and Vancouver.
The founding partners of Creative Housing, according to the proposal, would be Westbank, Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC), Allied Properties REIT and an investor such as a pension fund. The project would be open to other investors. The plan is to leverage public money with private-sector investments.
CMHC on Tuesday said Creative Housing is one of several organizations that the Crown corporation is consulting. CMHC wants “innovative” ideas and collaborations, it said, but it did not comment on the status of the proposals. Westbank declined comment.
Creative Housing, if it proceeds, would be a part of the national housing strategy announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last November. At the time, plans were vague, but it was billed as a $40-billion investment over a decade.
In the federal budget two weeks ago, Ottawa allocated $1.35-billion of new money to CMHC for “building more rental housing for Canadian families.” The first chunk of money is $447-million for the 2018-19 fiscal year, which begins April 1.
“Beginning in April, 2018, several initiatives will be launched as part of the National Housing Strategy,” CMHC spokeswoman Audrey-Anne Coulombe said in an e-mail on Tuesday. “More information on those initiatives will be available soon.”
A primary focus for affordable housing is Toronto and Vancouver, where real estate has become extremely expensive for the average person. Creative Housing’s goal is to build 50,000 units, mostly rental. They would be designed for median-income households, workers such as teachers and bus drivers.
The median household income in Vancouver and Toronto is a little less than $80,000 a year, according to Statistics Canada.
In the Creative Housing proposal, CMHC would be the primary lender. Institutional investors in the private sector, such as pension funds and insurers, would provide most of the equity capital. Westbank and Allied would also contribute some equity. Land owned by cities, provinces and the federal government would be used as building sites.
Adam Vaughan, a Liberal MP in Toronto who is parliamentary secretary for housing and urban affairs, said the challenge to build affordable housing is complex and will require a variety of partnerships. Creative Housing is one idea, but it is not yet a formal application, Mr. Vaughan said, as Ottawa has asked for more information.
“It’s a very ambitious program, but it’s a little short on details,” he said.
Jennifer Keesmaat is expected to be in a leadership role at Creative Housing. Ms. Keesmaat was chief planner for the City of Toronto from 2012 through 2017. She could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Before the February budget, Finance Minister Bill Morneau suggested a plan was in the works. On Twitter in late January, he posted a picture with Ms. Keesmaat and thanked her for meeting to discuss “creative housing.”
“Canada is back on the housing file,” Mr. Morneau tweeted.
On Tuesday, questions to Mr. Morneau were passed on to CMHC.
Ms. Keesmaat has also spoken out on affordable housing recently.
“Vancouver and Toronto need affordable rental housing - and lots of it quickly,” Ms. Keesmaat wrote on Twitter last week. She said “something exciting” was coming soon.
In any plan, CMHC will play a key role. Its rental construction financing initiative was launched a year ago, to provide $2.5-billion in low-cost loans to support the construction of new rental housing. In the February budget, the government boosted CMHC’s lending capacity for rental construction by 50 per cent to $3.75-billion over the next three years.
Luxury home sales in the Greater Toronto Area, Oakville and Hamilton-Burlington have fallen by almost 60 per cent year-over-year, according to a RE/MAX report.
The real estate company says 76 freehold and condominium properties in the GTA sold for more than $3 million between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28, down from 180 sales during the same period last year.
In Oakville, six homes in the same price range sold early this year, in comparison to 15 a year ago.
Homes priced above $1 million in Hamilton-Burlington saw a 55 per cent drop to 59 homes sold at the start of the year from 133 in 2017.
Though RE/MAX says the luxury market's record-breaking pace from last year has slowed, it is still expecting plenty of activity this year.
Already RE/MAX says it has seen increases in luxury home sales in the GTA's Kingsway/Princess Anne Manor and Rosedale neighbourhoods, where 10 homes have sold so far this year, including the most expensive one for $8.4 million.