Toronto is looking to build more affordable housing, with a 50 unit townhouse development approved last week in East Toronto.
Habitat for Humanity GTA, along with Mayor John Tory and the Toronto Foundation, have approved the affordable housing development at 140 Pinery Trail. This is the first project to use a dense build form of back-to-back-stacked townhouses, featuring three, four, and five bedroom units. The housing project is set to house 50 families by 2019.
Habitat for Humanity has an affordable housing model that allows families to become homeowners while paying a no-interest mortgage. The mortgage is capped at 30 per cent of their annual housing income, and instead of contributing a down payment, the family must volunteer 500 hours towards the construction of their home and other habitat properties.
The Toronto Foundation is providing funding for 15 homes through a social impact investment. This type of investment looks to help push forward positive social supports such as affordable housing, but it is a loan. This loan will be paid back using mortgage payments once the first 15 families move in. Private donors will also contribute to the loans. The Toronto Foundation was created in 1981 and helps provide resources for individuals and families.
Other donors for the project include the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), Right at Home Realty, Great-West Life Realty Advisors, Enbridge Gas Distribution and the Clark Family Foundation.
Habitat for Humanity GTA is a non-profit housing organization that works with families to help them obtain affordable housing. The organization has built over 300 homes in Brampton, Caledon, Toronto and the York Region since 1998, and is affiliated with Habitat for Humanity worldwide.
This affordable housing project is the first recipient of the Toronto Foundation social impact investment. The Open Door affordable housing initiative is pushing for non-profits to work together to create housing, and this project is a big win for the city. It is important to note though that it is somewhat disappointing that Toronto must lean on non-profits such as Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit that is already stretched from providing resources to dilapidated regions around the world. Toronto is clearly in dire need for affordable housing and is looking for help. On the other hand, it is a progressive step forward to see large private donors contribute to the funding. Hopefully this is a trend that continues and ultimately solves the housing crisis in the largest Canadian city.
What does it mean to live in the most sustainable city in the world?
Imagine living in a place that has an urban planning agenda that focuses on the environment while maintaining prosperous development and has a booming economy. This type of city places health as a top priority, and offers recreation activities and high-level education.
To be sustainable means to only use as much as can be naturally replaced in order to sustain and maintain this place all people call home. Existing within our means in large cities can have an incredible impact on the planet, and every city needs to make sustainability a priority. Frankfurt is leading the way as the most sustainable city in the world, according to the Sustainable Cities Index. This internationally-recognized index analyzes three key factors when looking at each city: people, planet, and profit. The first measurement tool, people, includes the quality of life for citizens of that particular region, which includes factors like education, green spaces, and health. Focusing on environmental initiatives, planet measures energy emissions, pollution, renewable energy, air pollution and solid waste management. The profit of a city is measured by how well the business economy is doing as well as its economic performance, which is calculated by using GDP and the cost of doing business.
Here are the top five most sustainable cities in the world:
Frankfurt was listed as the most sustainable city in the world because of its dedication to sustainability and helping the environment. “Green City Frankfurt”, as it is popularly dubbed, has its own energy agency and is the founding member of the Climate Alliance of European Cities created in 1990. The city has committed to lowering CO2 emissions by 10 per cent every five years with a 50 per cent cut by 2050. Currently, the city has lowered CO2 emissions by 15 per cent since 1990, while still growing its economic power 50 per cent. Frankfurt is also home to Germany’s largest city forest and is surrounded by a Greenbelt.
London falls into second place with high scores on the people and profit measures because of a strong healthcare system and highly-ranked education facilities. The British city is also an international economic center and is the best connected global city alongside New York. The current mayor of London has launched a 2020 vision to make London “the Greatest City on Earth” to become the best city for work, living, investing and doing business. The mayor also set a target to lower carbon emissions by 65 per cent by 2025 from 1990 levels. London isn’t a leader in environmental initiatives, but is still a sustainable city when it comes to its strong economy and high quality of life.
Copenhagen city council has created a climate change plan, similar to Frankfurt and is going a step further by preparing for the future effects of climate change now. The city is developing a plan to catch all of the rainwater in the city because of the lowering precipitation that is expected from climate change. Copenhagen also has green roofs, living walls, and pavements that allow water to percolate through. The quality of living is reportedly high in Copenhagen and the city is booming.
In Amsterdam, the city takes a leading global role in creating green business. Many enterprises in Amsterdam are creating green products that are being sold worldwide and is also invested in creating highly sustainable buildings in their downtown core. Amsterdam boasts an electric transportation system and is dedicated to using sustainable electricity. It has a goal that by 2020, 92,000 households will be using renewable energy. Amsterdam scored high in all three categories, making it the most balanced city in the world.
Rotterdam has the highest quality of life for its people out of any city in the world because of its high literacy rate and good work-life balance. The city has also launched green programs, but scores lower in these categories than other cities. The Rotterdam Sustainability Programme is a plan that wants to make a clean and green city, and reduce carbon emissions in half. Rotterdam also claims the world’s largest carbon capture program known as the Rotterdam Capture and Storage Demonstration Project (ROAD) that will be stored in an empty gas reservoir in the North Sea. The government committed to spending $31 million towards the green program.
Sustainability is the way of the future if we want to save our planet. Many cities are taking initiative and Europe is definitely leading the way. In October, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) will bring together cities across the world to discuss how to reach a sustainable standard similar to Frankfurt or London. Toronto is ranked at number 12, and if the city attends Habitat III and adopts new strategies of more sustainable cities, the “six” could climb into the top ten.
In the midst of global distrust due to isolated acts of terrorism in Europe and other parts of the world, Habitat III will be an opportunity for cities to unite and work together towards creating a sustainable and healthy world. I look forward to seeing which concepts and ideas are adopted in Canadian cities and to see positive impacts of global communication for a change.
Buying an affordable house in Vancouver is often compared to living in the land of unicorns and leprechauns, but B.C’s new legislation may help make this far-away dream a reality once again.
British Columbia Premier Christy Clark announced a one-time 15 per cent tax on Monday, July 25 in Vancouver that would apply to foreign investors who are neither Canadian citizens, nor permanent residents, in an effort to cool the housing market. The new legislation applies to residential real estate in Metro Vancouver, from Bowen Island to Maple Ridge and Langley, and begins on Aug. 2.
With the new foreign tax, a $2 million home in Vancouver would accumulate an additional $300,000 if purchased by a foreign buyer. If a foreign buyer purchased a home for $10 million, this tax would raise to $1.5 million. On the other hand, if a foreign buyer tried to avoid the tax, “anti-avoidance” measures would be put in place that include $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for corporations that don’t comply to the legislation.
The funds raised by the new tax will be put towards a new housing priority initiatives fund for provincial housing and rental programs that is set to be launched in the near future. This fund will receive an initial investment of $75 million from the government and then begin to accumulate revenues from the tax on foreign buyers.
In order to obtain the necessary information on buyers in Vancouver, Clark also announced the Real Estate Services Act, which officially ends the real estate board’s self-regulation or ability to govern itself. The government’s involvement in the industry will allow them to access information on buyers to see what homes will be charged the foreign tax. Finally, the province will also introduce a vacancy tax that targets empty rental homes of foreign investors to increase the number of available rentals.
There are possible issues with the foreign tax, though the response from B.C home buyers has been overwhelmingly positive. Investors could potentially avoid the tax by getting family members to purchase properties, highlighting a loophole in the legislation that relies on buyers reporting their nationality honestly. The tax may also hurt international recruitment because new immigrants won’t be able to purchase property tax-free until they are permanent residents or Canadian citizens.
Toronto’s housing market has skyrocketed and a foreign tax in Canada’s largest city would cool the hottest housing market in the east as well. Ontario Financial Minister Charles Souza reported he is looking at implementing a similar law in Toronto. Hopefully Toronto will follow Vancouver’s lead and take necessary steps to implement a foreign tax and cool the housing market for local buyers. The outcome of the foreign tax remains to be seen, but any effort to lower housing prices and give people access to homes is a step is a good move.