What’s driving condo development?

With a surge of articles both in the United Kingdom and Canadian Press, one has to ask what is driving condo development in cities? Is the demand being created by home-owners who need housing and would like to live in mid to high-density development? Or is it by foreign investors that are using condominium development as a form of investment? I believe it is a very fine line between the two group, with the amount of people immigrating into Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area we must create housing for them to live and with current planning constraints condos are able easily justifiable. However, most condominiums lack the size for today’s modern Canadian family.

According to French and Hopkins (2012) “There is definitely a foreign investment component to the new condo industry – it makes up the vast majority of sales right now.” All the articles on this topic echo the same sentiment that there is nothing wrong with foreign investment since it is beneficial for trade. However, this is a correlation between foreign investment and the demand for housing and inflation of prices. Meaning, as long as there is development and higher house prices it is good for the economy.

With condos increasing the housing stock, there is data showing not all of the units are being sold out. With this in mind and the current lack of affordable housing in the GTA there should be some type of policy allowing that these units being able to house those that need access to housing. But, maybe this is too much of utopian thinking..  Marotte (2014) points out “the units end up staying empty or only briefly occupied…One study last year said that nearly one-quarter of condos in some Vancouver areas were empty or occupied by non-residents.”

I think it will be difficult to attempt to solve this question in a short blog post, yet one factor of condo development is foreign investments. If the rise in condo development continues municipalities should start thinking of by-laws that will allow for a certain percentage of condo units being allocated for affordable housing. With a policy like this, it would continue to allow for development and at the same time house those that lack the access to housing.

Here are some more articles that discuss the rise of condo development and foreign investment:

Londoners miss out as homes built as ‘safe deposit boxes’ for foreign buyers

CMHC releases data on foreign ownership of Canadian condos

Foreign investment cuts both ways in Toronto condo market

Percentage of Toronto condos owned by foreign investors is very low, CMHC says

Japanese real estate investment in Canadian cities and regions, 1985–1993

Photo By: Chris Baker

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Uncategorized

What drives waterfront development?

Kurt Reid

Kurt Reid

This week I had the opportunity to visit Waterfront Toronto head office and tour some of the revitalization projects taking place with my urban planning program. The organization was formed through a partnership of three levels of Canadian government (municipal, federal. and provincial). With the main objective to revitalize the harbour through sustainable developments, building affordable housing, and by redeveloping brownfields. Since brownfields are an interest of mine, the discussion was very captivating. After hearing about the organization and  having them present both their future and completed projects it was time for the tour. We visited the Courus Entertainment Site, the new George Brown Waterfront Campus, and Sherbourne Common. All of which that look amazing and all have some form of sustainable design.

During both the presentation and the tour a question which I wanted to ask came to mind, what drives waterfront development? Now, I am aware of the decentralization of industries which are one of the processes behind the changes the waterfront. The decentralization of industrialization saw industries move away from the city-core and into the fringes. This is associated with  land development, geographic industrialization, and metropolitan planning. Another process is the suburbanization of industry. this is related to decentralization, where industries began to move away due to advancement in technology and transportation. These industries no longer had to rely on ports and  railways lines as a method of moving their goods. These two changes are instrumental for the creating of brownfield sites.

 

evolution of port - Bird

 

However, there is another theory by Bird (1963) that examines the evolution of ports. Bird’s model can be used for almost any port transformation in the Global North. The steps involve in the evolution of ports include:

  • Setting (Geographic Consideration)
  • Expansion (Construction of Docks and Railway Lines)
  • Specialization (Ports being specialized for certain activities)

With these spaces now unoccupied and no longer serving use, it’s time  for them to be re-purpose. To me, the driving forces behind Toronto’s transformation are  due to both the decentralization of industries and the need to attract investment. One of the objectives from Waterfront Toronto was to attract the creative class and the tech-based economies to the waterfront.

In summary, the transformation of habour in Toronto and other ports around the world are intriguing. Ports were always a form of trade and economic activity. From the trade of fish and pelts to coal and the shipping of goods. Ports are currently being modernized to fit today’s current economic market, with spaces for the creative class. The transformation of brownfield sites is beneficial since it is a form of reducing sprawl by re purposing these landscapes for residential and commercial uses. My hopes are that these future brownfield sites located in Toronto are equitable.

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Further Reading

Lewis and Walker (2001) – Beyond the Crabgrass Frontier: Industry and the Spread of North American Cities 

De Sousa (2001) – Turning Brownfields into Greenspaces in the City of Toronto

Birds (1963) – The Evolution of a Port (The Anyport Model)

The Globe and Mail – Sun Life moving away from Bay Street 

 

Photos by:

Eric Aranu – Toronto Skyline 

Andrew Badgley – Sugar Beach 

 

 

 

Urban

Knocking the Corners off the Square Mile

The Chief Planner of London, Peter Wynne Rees discusses some of the methods use in planning the City of London and the difficulties of planning a historic city. During his presentation he mentions vertical development and comments:

“Building tall is a last resort, it is not a first resort. Only build tall if you run out of land and you still need to accommodate people because you are an amazingly successful. Don’t build tall because you think it will make your more successful than you were before.”

This comment echoes the current condo boom taking place in Toronto, were a majority of these condos are built mainly for economic reasons, than actually solving the problem of sprawl and or housing inequality.

 

Read more: An urban planner warns: Beware of the too-cheap Toronto condo

Read more: Condominium development and gentrification: the relationship between policies, building activities and socio-economic development in Toronto.

Photo by: Kirill Strax 

 

Urban

Walkable communities may prevent childhood obesity

Crosswalk

A recent study published in Environmental Health Perspectives conclude that walkable communities may excess weight gain in children.

The researchers state. “overall, built environment characteristics that may increase walkability were associated with lower BMI z-scores in a large sample of children. Modifying existing built environments to make them more walkable may reduce childhood obesity”.

Read more about the article: Characteristics of Walkable Built Environment and BMI z-scores in Children: Evidence from a Large Electronic Health Record Database

Photo by: John Verwey

Public Health Urban