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CREA slashes its 2018 home-sales forecast due to tighter mortgage regulations

Posted on 22 December 2017 by admin

Sales activity across the country, the association says, will be reduced by OFSI’s revised mortgage underwriting guidelines.

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) has cut its home sales forecast for next year due to the impact of tighter mortgage regulations that come into effect New Year’s Day, which are expected to rein in spending for some buyers.

CREA said in an updated projection Thursday the banking regulator’s revised mortgage underwriting guidelines, which include a stress test for uninsured mortgages, will reduce sales activity across the country, particularly in and around Toronto and Vancouver.

The association now forecasts a 5.3-per-cent drop in national sales to 486,600 units next year. That new estimate shaves about 8,500 sales from its previous 2018 forecast.

 “With some homebuyers likely advancing their purchase decision before the new rules come into effect next year, the ‘pull-forward’ of these sales may come at the expense of sales in the first half of 2018,” CREA said in a statement.

“Meanwhile, other potential homebuyers are anticipated to stay on the sidelines as they save up a larger down payment before purchasing and contributing to a modest improvement in sales activity in the second half of 2018.”

In November, the number of homes sold through its Multiple Listing Service rose by 3.9 per cent compared with October, led by a 16-per-cent sales spike in the Greater Toronto Area. Sales were up 2.6 per cent from last November, marking the first year-over-year increase since March. That helped send the national home price up 2.9 per cent, year over year, to $504,000.

The number of newly listed homes rose 3.5 per cent in November, which reflected a large increase in new supply across the GTA.

In October, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) announced the final version of its revised guidelines, called B-20. The new rules, which come into effect on Jan. 1, require would-be homebuyers to prove they can still service their uninsured mortgage at a qualifying rate of the greater of the contractual mortgage rate plus two percentage points or the five-year benchmark rate published by the Bank of Canada.

CREA argues the new guidelines make it tougher for potential buyers with more than a 20-per-cent down payment to qualify for a mortgage. These low-ratio mortgages comprise the vast majority of Canadian mortgage originations, it added.

The association also narrowed its forecast for national sales activity this year. It expects sales to decline 4 per cent to 513,900 units in 2017 due to weak activity in Ontario, after the province in April announced measures such as a foreign buyers tax to cool the market.

However, the association expects the national average price of a home to rise this year to $510,400, up 4.2 per cent compared to 2016.

While November sales activity in the Greater Toronto Area was down significantly compared to a year earlier, other large markets posted annual gains, including Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and Montreal.

BMO economist Robert Kavcic noted that the adjustment in the Toronto market is ongoing.

“But strong underlying supply-demand fundamentals should prove supportive next year once the remaining froth gets worked off,” he wrote in a note to clients.

“In all likelihood, Bank of Canada rate hikes and the coming rule changes from OSFI should keep the froth from returning. Elsewhere, look for continued strength in Ottawa and Montreal, stability in Alberta and an ongoing supply-demand struggle in Vancouver.”

 

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Annual rate of homes entering construction jumped in October, CMHC reports

Posted on 16 November 2017 by admin

Vancouver hit a 12-month high as housing starts doubled, while Toronto saw a slowdown in its pace.

OTTAWA—Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says the annual rate of housing starts ticked higher in October as the pace of new construction in the Vancouver region hit a 12-month high.

The housing agency said Wednesday that housing starts for the month came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 222,771 units in October, up from 219,293 units in September.

The annualized pace of urban starts increased by 2.5 per cent in October to 205,935 units, boosted by a 12.5-per-cent jump in multiple urban starts to 149,593. Single-detached urban starts fell 17.1 per cent to 56,342 units.

In Vancouver, the annual pace of housing starts nearly doubled to 34,850 compared with 18,116 in September. Multi-unit starts soared to 30,384 compared with 12,864, while single-detached starts in Vancouver fell to 4,466 from 5,252.

However, Toronto saw the annual rate of housing starts in that city slow to 35,299, compared with 28,049 in September, as both the multi-unit and single-detached categories moved lower.

The overall increase in home starts comes even as the resale market for homes has been slowing this year compared with the fever pitch in the spring.

“We continue to expect a moderation in starts at the national level over the next year that would be more in keeping with what we are seeing on the resale side,” Royal Bank economist Josh Nye wrote in the report.

“The combination of policy changes, including measures set to go into effect in January, and rising interest rates is expected to result in a sustained cooling in existing home sales and less price pressure.”

Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 16,836 units.

The six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates of housing starts was 216,770 units in October, up from 215,153 units in September.

The housing start figures came as Statistics Canada reported that building permits rose in September.

It said Canadian municipalities issued $7.9-billion worth of building permits in September as a 1.7-per-cent drop in the residential sector was more than offset by a 13.9-per-cent increase in the non-residential sector.

 

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Detached Toronto home prices fall, while condo prices soar in October

Posted on 09 November 2017 by admin

The average selling price in October was $780,104, up 2.3 per cent compared with October 2016.

The usual seasonal bounce in re-sale homes between September and October was more pronounced than usual this year in the Toronto region, growing 12 per cent.

But there were still 2,597 — about 27 per cent — fewer sales this October compared to the same month last year.

Home prices also rose 2.3 per cent year over year in October, but new numbers from the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) on Thursday showed some areas are doing better than others.

The average price of a home — including all housing types from apartments to detached houses with yards — rose 2.3 per cent to $780,104, compared to $762,691 last year.

But detached house prices were down 2.5 per cent across the region — a 4 per cent decline in the 905 area to an average price of $910,488 and, a 1.1 per cent drop in Toronto to about $1.3 million.

Condos, however, continued to perform well, up 21.8 per cent across the region to an average price of $523,041.

The divide between the City of Toronto and the surrounding region is a function of the housing stock that’s on the market, said Jason Mercer, TREB’s director of market analysis.

In the 905 there are more detached homes on the market, he said, “so you haven’t seen as much upward pressure on prices there.”

TREB’s annual survey will show how the new mortgage stress tests introduced last month are impacting consumers’ buying attitudes, said Mercer.

“While the number of transactions was still down relative to last year’s record pace, it certainly does appear that sales momentum is picking up,” board president Tim Syrianos said in a press release.

Royal LePage agent Elli Davis, said the number of homes she sold last month was almost identical to the same period last year. After a lull in the summer, buyers are starting to come back to the market, she said.

“Condos under $500,000 are flying,” said Davis.

There is also scarce supply to feed the demand from downsizing buyers for condos priced between $1 million and $3 million.

“We have very little supply, so when a listing comes out everybody’s running to it,” she said.

Some sellers still haven’t adjusted to the new market realities and are pricing their properties in the expectation of selling for the prices their neighbours garnered earlier this year or last year, she said.

Some are struggling with whether to sell their home before buying another.

“A lot of people are still buying first, but they have to be cognizant of what their property will sell for so they can be realistic when we get to that point,” said Davis.

South of Bloor St., from Etobicoke to the Beaches, houses are still selling in multiple offers and two- and three-bedroom condos are being snapped up, said Ara Mamourian broker-partner at Property.ca in Leslieville.

“But what’s really going nuts is the rental market right now,” he said. “We can’t keep a rental property on the market for more than 24 hours without at least two or three applications on it.”

Some consumers have been priced out of the home ownership market, said Mamourian.

“They don’t have the down payment money, but they certainly do have the monthly cash flow to float a nice, high-quality rental. That’s why we’re seeing the $3,000- to $4,000-a-month rental market really do well,” he said, adding that it’s difficult to find a one-bedroom apartment for under $2,000 a month.

“We’re seeing folks double up, taking on roommates, taking on two-bedroom apartments for $1,200 to $1,300 each, versus a one-bedroom that would cost them $2,000,” he said.

In Oakville, where ground-level housing comprises the largest share of the market, things are slower, said Century 21 Miller agent Jamie Vieira.

“Everybody assumed that we’d get busy because of the mortgage rules coming in effect Jan. 1, so there would be some rush to buy but that doesn’t seem to be happening,” he said.

“We have a lot of inventory sitting around and (sellers) trying to wrap their heads around the price. September was slow too,” said Vieira, adding that prices are nowhere near what they were in March and April when the Toronto region housing market peaked.

TREB reported 888 active listings this October compared to only 400 last year. While the average Oakville home price of about $1.09 million is up about $43,000 year over year, the median price fell $67,500.

“We’re up at the peak inventory we had at the end of June and sales are 45 per cent down. Take those two things combined and it’s not a good market,” said Vieira.

In April Toronto region home prices peaked at 33 per cent above the previous year. But the provincial government’s Fair Housing policies, including a foreign buyers tax, immediately cooled the market.

That was followed by two hikes in the Bank of Canada rate and, more recently, more mortgage stress testing rules by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.

The CHMC warned last month that the country’s hottest housing markets remain “highly vulnerable” with evidence of moderate overvaluation and price acceleration in Toronto, Hamilton, Vancouver, Victoria and Saskatoon.

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First-time GTA home buyers take to the skies in condos

Posted on 03 November 2017 by admin

Condominiums house more than 20% of Torontonians and 13% of Canadians, according to the latest census.

Six hundred square feet isn’t huge. But Emily Pickles figures her new condo in Burlington will be larger than anything she could afford downtown.

“Where the market’s at right now it’s a little scary. It was surprising to see what I could get for my budget — it’s not much,” said the 22-year-old TTC customer communications and special events co-ordinator.

When Pickles moves into her place next year, she will join the one in five Toronto Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) households that live in condos, according to the latest census data. That proportion is about the same in Burlington although it’s not part of the Toronto CMA.

For first-time millennial buyers like Pickles, condos have become the de facto starter home, an answer to ownership in the face of big city prices.

But in Toronto, high rises come with questions about whether we’re building the right kind of housing. If not, how do we sustain vibrant high-rise communities suitable for all ages?

In Canada, 13.3 per cent or 1.9 million households live in condos and the Toronto region accounts for 445,650 of those, according to the census.

In Vancouver, nearly one in three households live in condos. Even some smaller cities such as Calgary and Kelowna, B.C. — where the numbers are 21.8 per cent and 21.5 per cent, respectively — have proportionately similar condominium populations to Toronto.

In Toronto the trajectory of condo development is clear. It’s less straightforward in the 905 communities, according to information provided by the city.

“The proportion of households living in condominium units is likely to rise,” said Michael Wright of Toronto planning.

“The bulk of the city’s potential housing supply includes condominium units. For the five-year period ending June 30, 51 per cent of the proposed development projects in the city’s pipeline involve at least one condominium application, and these projects represent 85 per cent of the residential units proposed, under construction or recently built,” he said in an email.

Although condos can range from single-detached homes, town houses and low-rise apartments, the majority of units in Toronto are high rise and, even in the 905, where municipalities are building population densities around the region’s expanded transit system, there’s a clear push to the sky.

For Pickles, who is living with her parents until her unit is ready, the move means home ownership near enhanced transit service on GO’s busy Lake Shore West line.

She put down 30 per cent on the $307,000 apartment, and figures her payments, including condo fees, will still be less than rent downtown.

“Rent is insane,” she said, citing friends whose leasing costs are so prohibitive they struggle to afford the city amenities for which they’re paying a premium to be close to.

Condominiums, which provide about a third of the City of Toronto’s rental stock, have been an effective response to the problem of affording a starter home in Toronto, particularly for millennials. They’re also evidence of Toronto’s oft-touted world class status, said Phil Soper, CEO of Royal LePage.

“One third of housing stock we’ve added since 2011 is condominium. When I was a kid (in 1980) it was 6 per cent. That’s a dramatic change. Clearly we’re adjusting the product people buy into. It’s clear we’ve joined other global cities in a changing social norm where many people don’t expect the white picket fence,” he said.

And condos work for millennial consumers — until there’s a second child in the family.

“When they have that second child, there’s a switch that’s thrown in the direction their lives take for home ownership and they will head to the suburbs just like their parents did,” said Soper of the key millennial consumer segment. “What they’re not doing is buying their first home in the suburbs.”

The potential migration of young home owners to the suburbs could put the city’s vibrancy at risk. But it’s a risk that can be addressed by governments putting the right incentives in place to encourage the development of bigger condos.

The census provides more ammunition for building the housing that planners call the “missing middle.”

Those are the attached town homes and mid-rise apartments that are priced and sized somewhere between the region’s glut of high-rise and single-family detached homes, said Marcy Burchfield, executive director of the Neptis Foundation, which has been studying Ontario’s anti-sprawl growth plan.

It’s housing that accommodates struggling middle- and middle-lower income families, she said. That’s key in a region where the census showed 26.7 per cent of home owners and 47 per cent of tenants are spending more than 30 per cent of their household income on housing.

That’s a clear indicator of financial stress. Add the cost of commuting to the high cost of housing, and the affordability challenge grows again, she said.

“Moving the needle on changing the composition on the dwelling structure of our region is one way of doing that,” said Burchfield.

“That is where we need to focus our efforts. It’s got to be around current transit and where we’re building all this high capacity, high speed transit around the GO stations. That is really where we’re going to start to see movement around this affordability issue,” said Burchfield.

Location near a GO station was a key selling point for Pickles because it puts her on a more frequent train service and it’s a reprieve from the noise of downtown.

“It would be nice at my age to live downtown but I wasn’t fully ready to do that,” she said.

At the same time, owning a home of her own was a priority.

“I wanted to get my foot in the door. I wanted to own my piece of property,” said Pickles. “I wanted to be building something up myself.”

 

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Proposed mortgage stress test is unnecessary, harmful, report says

Posted on 20 October 2017 by admin

A report by the Fraser Institute said the unfinalized lending guidelines could result in a less competitive and more concentrated mortgage market.

TORONTO—A new stress test for all uninsured mortgages is unnecessary and could increase costs for homebuyers, a report by the Fraser Institute said Wednesday.

Study author Neil Mohindra wrote that the proposed stress test “will do more harm than good” by limiting access to mortgages for some homebuyers.

“The mandatory standard for stress testing could result in a less competitive and more concentrated mortgage market,” he wrote in the report.

The study comes as the federal Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions finalizes new lending guidelines.

Among the changes being contemplated is a requirement that homebuyers who have a down payment of 20 per cent or more and do not require mortgage insurance still have to show they can make their payments if interest rates rise.

The head of OSFI has said that Canada’s banking regulator wants to reduce the risk of mortgage defaults because of high levels of household debt.

 “We are not waiting to see those risks crystallize in rising arrears and defaults before we act,” OSFI head Jeremy Rudin said last week.

Canadian household debt compared with disposable income hit a record high in the second quarter. Statistics Canada reported last month that household credit market debt as a proportion of household disposable income increased to 167.8 per cent, up from 166.6 per cent in the first quarter.

However, Mohindra said that instead of a prescriptive test, OSFI could use its existing powers to fix what it believes are deficiencies in policies and procedures.

The Bank of Canada has raised its key interest rate target by a quarter of a percentage point twice this year.

The increases have pushed up the big bank prime lending rates, which are used to determine rates for variable-rate mortgages and lines of credit.

The Fraser Institute is an independent, non-partisan organization that tends to prefer free-market policies over government regulation.

 

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Ontario realtors face new double-ending rules, stiffer fines

Posted on 13 October 2017 by admin

New conflict of interest rules are supposed to protect consumers from unethical real estate agents.

Real estate agents in Ontario will face new conflict of interest rules when they represent both a buyer and seller in a single transaction and tougher penalties when they violate the industry regulations and ethics.

The Liberal government announced on Thursday an update to the Real Estate Business Brokers Act (REBBA) that will see the fines for unethical realtors double to $50,000. Brokerages found breaking the rules will be fined up to $100,000 per violation.

Government and Consumer Services Minister Tracy MacCharles said the government was compelled to act in light of media reports and industry consultations that revealed some agents were double-ending sales to their own benefit.

In some cases agents were manipulating bidding wars so they wouldn’t have to split the sales commission with another agent.

The practice of representing both parties in a sale is properly known as multiple representation.

“Our default will be that multiple representation doesn’t occur. That is a preferred direction we’re going in,” MacCharles told the Toronto Star in an embargoed interview on Tuesday.

Where it turns out a client wants to buy a property listed by their own agent, one party will be assigned to another agent in the same brokerage.

There will be cases, however, where agents still represent both sides of the transaction. But the conditions around those cases are still unclear pending further consultation, says the government.

They could include sales in rural communities where there are not many agents; family situations where the parties are well known to one another; and some commercial sales where the parties have legal advice and sufficient expertise.

In cases where one agent continues to represent both parties, there will be a new, plain language form that both the buyer and seller must sign saying they understand the arrangement and the different role the realtor will then play. (Under the current rules, both parties also sign a written consent form.)

The agent’s role changes in those cases to that of a facilitator where they administer the sale, but are prohibited from providing advice on offers or prices.

“We’re trying to protect our consumers, give some choice to the consumers and recognize this is a significant industry worth millions of dollars, if not billions, every month,” said MacCharles.

The changes will require a beefed-up role for industry regulator, the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). It will transition from a complaints-based agency to a more proactive, investigative regulator. Again, the specifics of how RECO will enforce the new rules have yet to be determined, said the minister.

The new fines will likely be effective by the end of the year. Other changes will take until 2019, she said.

Real estate executives have said that only a small portion of sales involve agents representing both parties.

MacCharles said there were 17,637 transactions in August. But she did not have figures on how many of those were multiple representation transactions.

“Going forward we want these things to be addressed up front through our regulator. We will get the data. RECO will have that in an up-front way. We can monitor the trends, see what we need to do on the regulatory side,” she said.

RECO issued a statement welcoming the changes, saying they reflect its own recommendations.

The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA), which represents 70,000 industry members, also praised the measures.

The new rules will be some of the strictest in North America and the most stringent in Canada, said CEO Tim Hudak.

Acting as a facilitator, “bringing a willing buyer and seller to the table to find a win-win solution,” is a big part of a real estate agent’s job, he said.

The consumer still retains the choice, he said, of whether to opt for the advice of their own agent or go with an impartial facilitated transaction.

“You may be a sophisticated buyer, you may be on your third home, you may be somebody who has background,” said Hudak.

But Toronto broker John Pasalis, CEO of Realosophy, says that reducing the role of the agent to a facilitator means neither party has an advisor and champion in their corner.

“It’s buyer beware and seller beware,” he said.

“They basically represent nobody and are just a middleman bringing a sale together. This is actually worse than what we have now, because under the current rules, the buyer and sellers are still clients so agents have to still represent their interests.”

Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman, the Ontario PC party’s housing critic, said the government needed to do something on the real estate file.

“Anything the government can do to protect the consumer — particularly on issues where you need professional advice, so that they can depend on the accuracy of, and the dependability of the advice.”

The new rules on multiple representation are the first phase of a two-part review of the 2002 REBBA.

 

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CREA expects Canadian home sales to drop to three-year low

Posted on 30 September 2017 by admin

The association projects home sales in British Columbia and Ontario will fall by 10 per cent in 2017, compared to 2016′s record highs.

MONTREAL—Canadian home sales are expected to drop to their lowest level in three years in 2018, driven largely by a decline in Ontario, the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) said Friday.

The association expects that 495,100 homes will be sold next year after downgrading its sales forecast for 2017 on a 9.9-per-cent drop in August compared with a year ago.

It expects sales will fall 2.3 per cent in 2018 following a 5.3-per-cent decline this year to 506,000, or 20,000 fewer than previously forecast in June.

Seasonally adjusted sales in August rose 1.3 per cent from the prior month, due to a 14.3-per-cent boost in the Greater Toronto Area. Still, sales in this area were down 35 per cent from a year ago.

Benjamin Reitzes of BMO Capital Markets said the August data suggests the worst may have passed for the GTA following Ontario policy changes to restrict foreign buyers, but the future is unclear.

“The Bank of Canada’s rate hikes should help contain any renewed exuberance, but if things do heat up again, expect policy-makers to step in before too long,” he wrote in a report.

CREA projects sales in British Columbia and Ontario will fall by about 10 per cent in 2017, compared to record highs set in 2016.

The association said sales in August were down in nearly two-thirds of all local markets, led by the Greater Toronto Area and nearby housing markets.

In Vancouver, August sales were up 7.3 per cent from July and 21.3 per cent higher than a year ago.

“Experience shows that homebuyers watch mortgage rates carefully and that recent interest rate increases will prompt some to make an offer before rates move higher, while moving others to the sidelines,” stated CREA President Andrew Peck.

The average price for a home sold last month was $472,247, up 3.6 per cent compared to a year ago. Greater Toronto was up 3.1 per cent and Greater Vancouver 17.9 per cent.

Excluding these regions, the national average price was $373,859.

The national average price is forecast to rise by 3.4 per cent to $507,700 in 2017, lower than its prior forecast because of fewer luxury home sales in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region of Ontario.

However, it is expected to dip by 0.6 per to $503,500 next year largely reflecting that a record number of high-end home sales around Toronto earlier this year likely won’t be repeated in 2018.

Newfoundland and Labrador sales this year are forecast to decrease by 8.1 per cent and Saskatchewan 4 per cent.

Alberta is projected to have the country’s largest increase at 7.4 per cent, but that’s still below the provincial 10-year average.

Sales are forecast to grow 5.4 per cent in Quebec and 5.7 per cent in New Brunswick.

Manitoba and Quebec are the only two provinces expected to set new annual sales records in 2017, while sales in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are on track to come up just short of all-time record levels.

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Toronto house prices likely already near bottom, RBC economist says

Posted on 15 September 2017 by admin

As real estate prices continue to drop following Ontario’s market-cooling policies, economist Robert Hogue says Toronto is likely to mimic Vancouver’s experience.

Toronto’s roller-coaster real estate market took a swoop lower in August, the fourth-straight month that the average sales price in Canada’s largest city declined from a dizzying record high set in April.

The Toronto Real Estate Board said Wednesday the average price for all home types in the Greater Toronto Area last month was $732,292, down 1.8 per cent from July and 20.3 per cent below April’s GTA average of $919,086.

The Ontario government introduced more than a dozen measures in April — including a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers — following a price spike in the first months of the year, which started with an $768,301 average GTA price in January.

Sales in the Toronto area have cooled since the Ontario government’s move and August sales continued that trend with a 34.8 per cent plunge from the same month last year.

Premier Kathleen Wynne says April’s 16-point plan was responding to a “really overheated” market.

“It’s had a cooling effect. We don’t know exactly what all of the factors are there, but we’ll be working with the real estate board both in Toronto and beyond to make sure we got it right,” Wynne said Wednesday.

According to RBC economist Robert Hogue, Toronto is likely to mimic Vancouver’s experience in the wake of market-cooling policy. Sales in that West Coast city increased 22.3 per cent in August from the same month last year, when the provincial government first introduced a 15 per cent foreign buyers tax.

“Our view is that the market has largely adjusted to Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan and should maintain balance between supply and demand,” Hogue wrote in a note Wednesday.

“Developments in Vancouver — which went through a similar policy-induced market correction last year — suggest that the bottom for prices may be near in the Toronto area.”

Despite August’s decline to the lowest average price reported by the Toronto Real Estate Board so far this year, it’s still up three per cent from the same month in 2016.

TREB said that the average price had been affected by fewer high-end home sales last month compared with a year earlier.

After adjusting to recognize different pricing levels for condos, fully detached houses and other types of property, its Multiple Listing Service housing price index for August was up 14.3 per cent from a year earlier.

The number of detached homes sold in the GTA was down 41.6 per cent from last year, while sales of semi-detached houses were down 37.1 per cent. Condo and townhouse sales were down 28 per cent and 25.7 per cent, respectively.

Nevertheless, fully detached houses accounted for 40.6 per cent of GTA sales in August and their price averaged $968,494 — about the same as last year overall despite a 1.2 per cent year-over-year decline in the core 416 area code.

Condo apartments, which accounted for 31.4 per cent of the volume, had an average price of $507,841 — up 21.4 per cent from August 2016.

The real estate board said the number of new listings last month was 11,523, the lowest for an August since 2010. But the number of active listings was 16,419, up 65 per cent from August 2016, and the average days on market rose to 25 from 18.

“The relationship between sales and listings in the marketplace today suggests a balanced market,” said Jason Mercer, TREB’s director of market analysis.

“If current conditions are sustained over the coming months, we would expect to see year-over-year price growth normalize slightly above the rate of inflation.”

 

 

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Ontario earmarks extra $222M to fight opioid crisis

Posted on 09 September 2017 by admin

The funding increase over three years will provide for more naloxone kits for overdoses, more supervised injection sites and more “rapid-access” clinics.

More supervised drug injection sites and “rapid access” clinics will open across Ontario as the province earmarks another $222 million over three years to fight the growing opioid crisis.

The extra money, which came as the provincial coroner revealed opioid deaths rose 19 per cent last year to 865 people, will also fund more harm-reduction workers and naloxone kits to reverse overdoses.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins made the announcement Tuesday amid concerns from opposition parties and front-line addiction workers that the government hasn’t acted quickly or thoroughly enough.

“Too many lives have already been lost,” Hoskins, a doctor, said at St. Michael’s Hospital, which houses a rapid access clinic providing immediate treatment and longer-term withdrawal support for addicts.

“This is a dramatic increase in funding,” he boasted. He said the province has now set aside more than $280 million to combat the opioid scourge.

The details were revealed a day after 700 addictions workers, including doctors, released an open letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne, urging her to supply more help and a declaration that the opioid situation is a public health emergency.

One of those activists, harm-reduction worker Zoe Dodd, who helps staff an increasingly busy pop-up safe-injection site in Moss Park with other volunteers, challenged Hoskins to provide more support for these services.

“If they had acted sooner and they listened to us on the front lines, yeah, maybe we could have stopped some of the deaths. We could have got a handle on this,” she said after the minister’s news conference.

The $9 million in funding in the plan for front-line workers won’t go far enough, Dodd added, predicting the “heartbreaking” 2017 death toll will increase from last year’s numbers.

Chief provincial coroner Dr. Dirk Huyer, who released the grim opioid death statistics from 2016, said he hopes to be able to report 2017 numbers more quickly to better track the dangers to public health.

Hoskins said the enhanced plan to tackle opioids has been “weeks in the making” and follows on $15 million pledged in June to help local health agencies hire staff and hand out naloxone kits, used to revive drug users from overdoses until they can get hospital treatment.

“This is a national crisis composed of literally thousands of individual tragedies,” he added.

“Any life lost . . . is an entirely preventable tragedy.”

Other elements of the plan include $70 million to provide long-term support to people with addictions, $7.6 million to increase addictions treatment in primary care such as doctor’s offices, and $15 million to help doctors and nurse practitioners provide “appropriate” pain management and alternatives to opioids for patients.

There is also $20 million for support intended for Indigenous communities and youth.

“The government has been pretty slow and ineffectual to this point,” said Progressive Conservative MPP and pharmacist Jeff Yurek (Elgin-Middlesex-London).

“Hopefully, this answers the call.”

Addictions and Mental Health Ontario, a group representing 220 organizations, applauded the new Hoskins plan as a “comprehensive strategy” that will plug gaps such as the lack of withdrawal-management services for youth.

“Wait lists for publicly funded treatment, services and supports are lengthy and growing,” said chief executive officer Gail Czukar.

“This investment will enable more front-line workers to not only save lives, but to help people with opioid use disorder live healthier lives and support recovery.”

Earlier in the day, Premier Kathleen Wynne explained why her government isn’t declaring the opioid crisis an emergency.

“When there’s an emergency declaration, you’re usually dealing with a situation that has a beginning and a foreseeable end, whether it’s a flood or a fire,” Wynne said at a cultural announcement.

“The challenge with this situation is this is not a situation that has a foreseeable end … We’re talking about a crisis that is going to be ongoing.”

Opioids, which include legal drugs such as oxycodone and morphine, are often prescribed for pain management, but also provide a “high” that proves addictive for some.

Increasingly, the powerful painkiller fentanyl is being mixed with other drugs and this is blamed for overdoses, and has prompted police to issue safety alerts. Harm-reduction workers have called for funds to allow users to test drugs before consuming them, so they know what substances are present.

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Year-over-year, average price for homes fell in July: CREA

Posted on 24 August 2017 by admin

The association says the average price for a home sold last month was $478,696, down 0.3 per cent from July 2016.

The plunge in Toronto-region home sales helped push down the average Canadian home price by 0.3 per cent to $478,696 in July — the first year-over-year decline since 2013.

The number of homes sold on the Multiple Listings Service (MLS) also dropped for a fourth consecutive month by 2.1 per cent between June and July, the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) reported on Tuesday.

But the Toronto region and local markets in the nearby Greater Golden Horseshoe saw the least precipitous drop since the Ontario government announced its 16-point Fair Housing Plan in April.

That could be because a July rise in interest rates pushed some pre-approved buyers into action, said the association.

 “Sales may be starting to bottom out amid stabilizing housing market sentiment. Time will tell whether that’s indeed the case once the transitory boost by buyers with pre-approved mortgages fades,” said CREA chief economist Gregory Klump in a news release.

The supply of new listings has also slowed. Listings were up 5 per cent year-over-year in the Toronto area last month, compared to a 16 per cent increase in June and a jump of 49 per cent in May.

Listings were also down in Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal and northern British Columbia, which was affected by this summer’s wildfires, said CREA.

In the Toronto region, the number of sales was down 40 per cent year-over-year, although average prices rose 5 per cent in the same period. They were, however, down about 19 per cent between April and July of this year — from a peak of $919,449 to $746,216.

Excluding Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto, the national average price was $381,297, up from $365,033 a year ago.

Sales were down in two-thirds of Canadian markets, including Calgary, Halifax and Ottawa, as well as the Toronto area.

Some Toronto-area realtors say they are cautiously optimistic that things will turn around in the fall. Showings are picking up, a positive sign that buyers could be set to jump off the fence where they have sat since the spring, said Toronto realtor John Pasalis, president of Realosophy Realty.

The big unknown, he said, is the volume of listings that will come on the fall market.

“That can skew the market significantly. If we see a significant increase in the number of listings sitting in the market relative to the increase in demand from buyers, we’re going to have a very slow market even if buyers are jumping back in.

“A lot of agents are predicting a very heavy volume of new listings both from the people who couldn’t sell in the summer, and a lot of move-up buyers (who) are probably inclined to sell first before they buy this time,” said Pasalis.

Broker Gurinder Sandhu says he is cautiously optimistic that the psychological pause homebuyers have exercised since the provincial housing announcement, which included a 15 per cent foreign buyers tax and expanded rent controls, will end in the fall and the market will return to normal.

“We haven’t had a normal market in a long time,” said the executive officer/owner of Re/MAX Realty Services.

Economic fundamentals support large-ticket purchases, including housing, he said.

“What we see is the Canadian consumer is still confident in the economy. The economy continues to grow in and around 2-plus per cent. Jobs continue to be created at a healthy rate and unemployment is probably among the healthiest rates we’ve seen in a long time,” said Sandhu.

The return to equilibrium is better for buyers and sellers, but those listing their homes need help recalibrating their expectations, he said.

“We are not in the market we had in the first four months of the year. That was a fantasyland. That was short-lived but now we’re back to a market where houses are not going to sell in a matter of hours,” said Sandhu.

It will take months or weeks in some cases.

Another small rise in interest rates won’t have much impact, he said.

But Pasalis said that a bigger question mark is the possibility that banks will expand mortgage stress testing, something Canada’s bank regulator, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, is considering.

“It would put a lot of buyers on hold as they adjust to these changes,” he said.

 

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