Transit now make or break for suburban investment spots

by Jennifer Paterson07 Apr 2015
House prices in Toronto are reaching ever loftier and unaffordable levels, but one expert points to newly developed corridors in the city’s suburban areas as the next frontiers for investors and homebuyers.

“[People] can’t afford to live in the downtown, but they want the same choices as downtown,” said Harold Madi, director of urban design at the City of Toronto.

“Where are they going to go? The avenues/corridors of the suburban areas are the next wave of transformation. Investing in those areas makes sense.”

In his latest Focus Report, published last week, BMO’s senior economist Robert Kavcic said much the same thing. Referring to the inner ring of the Greater Golden Horseshoe (Greater Toronto/Hamilton/Niagara region), he wrote: “There’s a perception by some that there’s no room left to build, which is not entirely accurate.

“According to some estimates, there’s still about 56,000 hectares of land designated for development, or roughly 20 per cent of the total stock available in the inner ring – that’s ample to support growth for the next 15 years.”

However, transit out to the perimeter of the region is still an issue, especially for those commuting to the Toronto core. “Most municipalities have seen intensification rates run well above the 40 per cent mark in recent years,” wrote Kavcic.

“This means building row and high-rise housing, while 50-75 foot-wide lots become a relic of the past.”

Combining this with the transit issues suggests that the relative supply of good-sized detached lots in areas with reliable and timely transit is drying up fast.

“I don’t think the single-detached house is going to be within reach of most people anymore,” added Madi. “If they are going to get ground-related housing, it’s going to be townhouses. Or apartment buildings that will have townhouses built into the building.”

But the areas where these types of buildings are becoming the norm are underutilized and have been mostly supported by bus, including Shepherd and Yonge, Square One and Markham Centre.

“Now it’s all going to be supported by a higher order of transit, and that is where people are going to want to live,” added Madi.

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