On November 1, 2017, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, announced a multi-year immigration levels plan to increase the number of immigrants to our country to 310,000 in 2018. That is a substantial rise of approximately 13 percent over this year’s number. Then in 2019, the number will increase to 330,000, and in 2020, to 340,000. That adds up to nearly 1 million immigrants over the next three years.


The reasons for welcoming immigrants to Canada include fostering economic growth as our population ages and fewer people are going into skilled labour jobs. Toronto is a natural magnet for immigrants – we are the largest centre of research, education and innovation in the country. We have internationally renowned educational institutions and a leading-edge manufacturing industry.


Many of the immigrants who will come to Canada in 2018 – likely tens of thousands – will settle in Toronto, and of course, as I have said many times, they have to live somewhere. As so many immigrants are used to apartment-style living, they naturally graduate to condominiums when it comes to purchasing new homes. Those who are not prepared to buy will turn to renting, and our condos in Toronto are filling a major rental accommodations gap. However you slice it, when we think of our city’s future, we need more condominiums!


You can read the Government of Canada’s news release here: www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/news/2017/11/news_release_growingcanadaseconomicfuture.html


Several years ago, I would have advised a one-bedroom + den over a one-bedroom suite, because of the flexibility it offers. Now, with the proliferation of families choosing condominium living in Toronto and the GTA, my advice has changed to suggest a two-bedroom suite. Often the difference in price to jump to two bedrooms is well worth it. Of course, investing in a suite is always about return-on-investment, so factor in all aspects of your purchase.

One-bedroom and one-plus den suites in condominiums on transit lines will always be snapped up by those who want urban living without having to own a vehicle. We are, however, seeing a trend toward two-bedroom designs as investments. In addition to families, post-secondary students can share costs in condos located close to colleges and universities. Keep in mind that our universities are among the finest in the world. In fact, University of Toronto ranked 22nd out of the 980 schools considered in the World University Rankings 2016-2017. Parents often purchase a two-bedroom condo suite for their own child and rent out the other bedroom to another student to help offset costs. At the end of the exercise, they have built equity rather than spent money on a dorm room for years, with no financial return.

That second bedroom can become an office, nursery, artist studio … the possibilities are amazing. So are the potential rents. A rule of thumb is that rent is on average $3.50 per square foot. Let’s say a 500 square-foot, one-bedroom suite rents for $1,750 a month and a two-bedroom design at 700 square feet goes for $2,450. With two people sharing expenses, neither has to pay out $1,750.

And talk about demand! With the skyrocketing prices of low-rise homes and our regular influx of immigrants who are used to high-rise apartment-style living, condos will continue to augment Toronto’s rental market. Invest wisely and reap the rewards!


The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) has just published the final version of new mortgage rules, which include a “stress test” to make sure home-buyers with uninsured loans can withstand a hike in mortgage interest rates. This will impact those who place down payments of more than 20 per cent. Those who put down less than 20 per cent are required to purchase mortgage insurance, and they have had to complete a stress test since 2016. The new change for uninsured mortgagees, which is intended to dampen the housing market, will come into effect on January 1, 2018.


According to the new rule set out by OSFI, borrowers would be stress tested in one of two ways: two per cent higher than their current mortgage rate, or at the five-year average rate posted by the Bank of Canada. This does not, however, apply to mortgage renewals if the borrowers remain with their existing lending institution. Move-up purchasers are most likely to be affected by the new stress test. Fortunately, today’s experienced buyers are educated and savvy, especially investors, who are likely to be able to absorb the effects of the stress test.


OSFI’s announcement is being met with mixed responses. It reminds me somewhat of the backlash that occurred in the spring, when our provincial government announced its 16-point Fair Housing Plan to cool down the market. People feared that those rules would bring the market to a halt. Here we are, however, months later in the GTA, and as far as new condominiums, we are on track to have a year equal to or even better than 2016.


Time will tell what OFSI’s stress test will do to our market. Keep in mind that OFSI’s move is in line with our Canadian conservative banking practices, which helped us to avoid the huge shadow that sub-prime mortgages placed on the U.S. economy a few years ago. As I said, time will tell. Let’s hope for the best!

Peter and Adelaide Condos—Born in Toronto, Made in Toronto

I was in a recent meeting where everyone in the room was asked to introduce themselves and where they were from. When my turn came around I said, “Barbara Lawlor, born in Ireland, made in Toronto!” The line got a great response from my colleagues, many of whom, in typical Toronto fashion, were born someplace else.

I borrowed the line from a marketing campaign that just launched in support of Peter & Adelaide condos. This landmark development by Graywood is coming to the Entertainment District this fall, delivering contextual design and world-class amenities in one of Toronto’s best neighbourhoods. Wrapping in and around three historic properties, Peter & Adelaide is a contemporary 47-storey tower from the same developer who brought the Residences of The Ritz Carlton to Toronto.

It’s a marquee project, by a first-class developer in the neighborhood that has few rivals. There is going to be a spectacular rooftop swimming pool, as well as an expansive indoor and outdoor amenity program on the 3rd floor podium. That is in addition to all the restaurants, bars and film festivals you could ever want or need right outside your door.

Graywood’s ambition for the project was to develop a building that was recognizably made in Toronto. Drawing on the firm’s 30-years of experience, Graywood pulled together a stellar team of local designers and consultants which includes BBB Architects, Union 31 Inc. and MBTW Group. A Toronto-made team for a Toronto-made project that is nothing less than world-class.

What I love about the line Made in Toronto, is all the meanings that gets packed into those three words. Not only do they celebrate the leading-expertise that Toronto’s development industry has accumulated over the years, they also speak to the wonderful diversity that has come to define life in Toronto. Like I said, there aren’t too many meetings that I attend in this city that don’t include a collection of colleagues who were born somewhere else.

It’s Toronto that’s brought us all together.


Over the years, I have written about the increase in popularity of furniture designed to maximize space – perfect for a condo. Well, with condos becoming THE popular new home choice across the GTA, there are now sections of large furniture stores, and even entire stores dedicated to condo-inspired furnishings. As brilliantly designed as today’s suites are – even the most compact – the need is there to make the most of every square foot. Cleverly designed furniture is a major approach to this concept.

Simply Google condo furnishing ideas, and you will discover a wealth of information on items such as desks that fold down into Murphy beds, expandable dining tables (like the ones we grew up with, only on a less grand scale), chairs that have bookshelves built in (yes, it’s true!), tall wall units with doors, floating chairs and tables, and beds with storage underneath. Oh, and remember the ottoman? It is not just for footstools anymore. Modern ottomans come in a variety of styles and configurations, and can serve as extra seating, storage pieces, and even coffee tables. As you browse through furniture stores online or in person, ask about the possibility of having features customized to meet your individual condo needs. Many companies offer this service.

Before you think a condo square footage is too small, check out what’s available in furnishings – and then enjoy selecting the items that will turn your condo “house” into a comfortable, spacious home.


It was only five years ago that ELAD Canada introduced Emerald City at Don Mills Road and Sheppard Avenue East in North York – and the progress on this master-planned condominium community has been phenomenal. The three residences in Block A are already completed and occupied. In Block B, three more are under construction and one is nearing completion, including Fifth on the Park, which will feature a major retail component at the base of the podium. In Block C, another tower is sold out and in pre-construction. Following that resounding success, ELAD Canada has recently launched The Point, adding an eighth landmark condominium to the mix.


Besides a fabulous location across from Fairview Mall, close to the Don Mills subway station and major highways, Emerald City offers its own central gathering spot, the Parkway Forest Community Centre. Now completed and well in use, this facility has a green roof, teaching garden and commercial teaching kitchen for green thumbs and avid cooks; a full-size gymnasium, weight room, running track, dance studios and incredible 5,000 square-foot aquatic centre for those who love to keep active; plus a youth lounge, craft rooms and YMCA-run daycare for families.


Another outstanding element of Emerald City is its massive colourful public art cones created by Canadian artist Douglas Coupland. Anyone driving by the intersection will know immediately that this is a special community.


For cohesiveness, all of the towers in Emerald City feature elegant exteriors by WZMH Architects. Tanner Hill Associates is appointing the interiors, making for a prestigious design team. The Point will have its own amenities for entertaining and exercising, along with an inviting lobby and concierge service.


When you consider the amount of rent people pay today, it is obvious that many of them can afford monthly mortgage payments, but it is the down payment that usually holds them back from buying. With today’s new home and condo prices, as well as the new stress tests on mortgage approvals, what’s a first-time buyer to do? As challenging as it is to enter the marketplace, people are buying their first homes every day. They are finding ways, because they understand the wisdom of owning, as a lifestyle and financial investment for their future.

My advice is to do whatever you can to buy the most you can. First, look at what the government has in place to help you in the form of tax credits, RRSP withdrawal allowances and GST/HST rebates. When you shop for a new home or condominium suite, chat with the sales representatives about potential incentives that will make your choice more affordable. Trust me, builders and developers WANT to help you get into homeownership.

Think of other things as well. Can your family help with the down payment? CMHC reports that one in four buyers is getting financial help from their parents.

Might you co-purchase a suite or home with a friend or relative? Another consideration is adjusting your attitude toward your first home. Nowadays, most first-time buyers turn to condominiums because it is what they can afford. With the ongoing demand for condos in the GTA, this is a wise first step into homeownership. Even the most compact suite designs “live” larger than their square footage. And even living in a studio layout at a good address is better than paying someone else’s mortgage with rent.

SO – my advice is to get into the market a.s.a.p. and start earning equity. Pull out all the stops. Check out CMHC’s “Homebuying Step By Step” and “Condominium buyer’s guide” online at www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/buho/. You will be glad you did!


Ontario’s Ministry of Government and Consumer Services has just announced an increase in consumer protections for condominium communities, to take effect this fall. These reforms result from the government’s public consultation process.

The new regulations include the improvement of communications between condo corporation boards and owners, new disclosure requirements for directors in order to avoid conflicts of interest, mandatory training for condo directors and mandatory education requirements for condo managers applying for a general licence, and clearer rules for access to condo corporations’ records and participation in owners’ meetings.

In a nutshell, the Ministry is addressing transparency, and I applaud this step. Education is hugely important today, especially when you consider that some of our condos encompass up to 700 units. Our condo boards represent a lot of people, so their responsibility is tremendous. For the most part, owners who put their names forward to serve on the boards are well intentioned, but they may not have the insight and acumen to adequately address the decisions that have to be made. These new regulations are comforting when we think about the sustainability of our condo residences.

With condominiums representing the highest and best use of our urban land, there will only be more high-rise living in the future. More transparency, education and regulations will increase owners’ peace of mind and improve their already high quality of life.


Those who have recently purchased a new home or condominium in Toronto may be avoiding spending money on a vacation this summer. Well, here is some great news – our city is one of the best in the world for a staycation! The number of summer activities, events, concerts, festivals and other get-togethers is incredible. I spent a few minutes on the Internet and found far too many to list here.

For example, take the long weekend in early August. You can choose from Caribana with its parades, parties and concerts; the Summerworks Festival of up-and-coming theatrical talent; the Toronto Food Truck Festival; and the Art & Music Ontario Festival – OR attend them all! The following weekend, Toronto will be home to the Kultura Filipino Arts Festival, Waterfront Night Market, Taste of the Danforth and Jerkfest, the celebration of Canada’s jerk food. And of course, we have our beloved Canadian National Exhibition to look forward to. This year’s CNE will take place from August 19 through September 5. This fabulous event is one of North America’s largest fairs, attracting 1.5 million visitors each year.

Those for whom the “dog days of summer” include taking along their dogs, Toronto features several parks with off-leash zones. Check out www.blogto.com/toronto/the_best_dog_parks_in_toronto/ And of course, being a waterfront city, Toronto has wonderful Harbourfront Centre with activities for all ages. Whatever you consider fun, explore our beautiful city for eclectic dining establishments from fast food to fine dining, live theatre, outdoor and indoor concerts, museums, art galleries and shopping, shopping, shopping. Visit Toronto.ca for festivals, events and things to do.

Staying in Toronto for the summer? Lucky you!


Well, we knew it had to happen eventually. For the first time in seven years, The Bank of Canada raised its key interest rate. The rise to 0.75 per cent prompted all five major Canadian banks to increase their prime rates to 2.95 per cent from 2.7 per cent. This quarter point will have an effect on variable rate mortgages and lines of credit, of course, but historically, this is a minor blip for most Canadians.

Those who have been in the homeownership market for decades remember all too well the double-digit mortgage interest rates of the 1980s, which peaked at just over 21 per cent. A quarter point over today’s historically low rate seems little enough to pay when you consider the value of an investment in housing.

Contrary to those who suggest this rise in rates will slow down the home-buying market, it may in fact spur fence-sitters to purchase now, before rates go up again. Remember, real estate is a cyclical business. In the long run, those who ride out the fluctuations are glad they did.