On Wednesday, November 30 I spoke as part of a panel at the 2011 Real Estate Forum, an annual event which this year focused on all aspects of the office, industrial, retail and multi-unit residential market.
The crowd at the Real Estate Forum
At the invitation of real estate consultant Barry Lyon, the panel was brought together to discuss “Major Trends in Toronto: The New Form of City Building and the Emerging Opportunities for Real Estate Investment & Development” in front of an audience of industry leaders.
The panel, which included Remo Agostino, Director of Development for Daniels Corporation, Stefan Savelli, Vice President of Development, Trinity Developments and Lorne Braithewaite, CEO of Build Toronto, discussed the various transitions taking shape in Toronto with regard to economic, demographic and social forces.
The Madison, Toronto
We touched on a few interesting topics. Naturally, the audience wanted crystal ball insights into the future of the market. In my opinion, we’re not in a bubble but rather it’s an anomaly. Canada has a lot going for it–a stable government, the only secure banking system, and immigration is not only increasing but these new Canadians are joining the workforce. Sixty to seventy percent of condo buyers are long-term investors. The thing is, real estate performs better than the stock market. Right now we have low interest rates. When rates go up the market will slow, but it will not disappear.
Are there still development opportunities in both the 905 and 416? Absolutely. We can recycle old buildings in the centre of town – we are actually underdeveloped. The urban design and mixture of use in Toronto is good. The thing is it takes seven to ten years to do a project. And mixed use as an idea is relatively new. So you’ll see great change in the city over the next five years.
What about accommodating more families downtown? It’s possible to do, and in Councilor Adam Vaughan’s ward it’s required, but it is expensive. Larger units cost more and you can’t impose these high costs on the market. There are options – one idea would be perhaps to subsidize them, and there’s also the possibility of condo-plexing, which is creating convertible units that can be made smaller if necessary.
Are city planners out of touch with mixed-use development? Yes, for the most part they are. They’re still, in some cases, locked in 1970s and 80s thinking, where you lived in one place and worked in another. But the good news is the politicians are getting it. They understand that the use of land is the key. Smart growth with mixed-use development around transit nodes is our focus. The important thing when making a successful mixed-use building is to successfully separate circulation — the residential from the commercial and the servicing. It’s hard to do – it takes talent, and that’s where we come in.
The 2011 Real Estate Forum took place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, November 29 – December 1, 2011. The Real Estate Forum is also held in numerous other cities across the country. Click for more information.