New lowrise home supply and pricing are causing some buyers to look elsewhere – specifically north and out of the GTA. One company intent on catering to this demand is Flato Developments Inc., with projects in locations such as Beeton, Dundalk and Shelbure.President Shakir Rehmatullah explains why, and what homebuyers can expect from Flato, this year and beyond.HOMES Magazine: You have said that 2020 is looking to be a strong year for Flato Developments, and you're focusing on developing communities outside the GTA. How much of a trend do you think this will be – people buying outside the GTA in order to afford a home they truly want? Shakir Rehmatullah:
I see a big trend of people living outside the GTA, basically because affordability and the new mortgage rules have made it very difficult for people to qualify for a mortgage. The average annual salary in the GTA is $36,573, household income $73,146. The maximum mortgage they can get is $350,000 to $400,000, so with a 20-per-cent down payment, the house price couldn't be higher than $500,000. How many $500,000 homes are available in the GTA? Condos can be an alternative, but not everyone wants that type of home. Therefore, moving outside of GTA will be the choice for many young families and downsizers.HM: You're developing communities in Dundalk, Beeton and Shelburne. Why these areas, other than the above point. Specifically, what is it about these towns that appeals to Flato?SR:
Beeton is close to Hwy. 400, and Dundalk and Shelburne are connected to GTA by highways as well. Our projects in Dundalk and Shelburne are located along Hwy 10, so the commute won't be a problem for homeowners. These areas are not over developed. On the contrary, with new homes being built and more people moving in, infrastructure will improve because the towns are growing the population and economy. In Dundalk, for example, because we are building big communities there, we will also build an apartment for seniors, and a commercial plaza for retailers. On one hand, people can live in a more convenient neighbourhood; on the other, more people will find jobs there. Towns grow this way. Moreover, these areas are calm, quiet and beautiful. People can enjoy their life there by living in a nice environment, with kind neighbours, and most importantly, living in a decent townhome or single-detached home. Flato is happy to help the towns grow, build decent homes for new families, downsizers and everyone who wants to live in a bigger home with an affordable price.HM: What are you able to offer buyers in these communities, that you can't in the GTA? SR:
We offer great value for the homes by offering large size lots and quality finishes. We believe in complete communities where people have good schools, good parks, walking trails, clean air to breathe, away from the hustle and bustle of a heavily populated city. We are able to offer bigger homes at lower prices, well-planned communities with schools, parks and trails close by. Our design caters to an older generation which likes the heritage style, as well as younger buyers who like modern style. Every homeowner is not just moving into a house, they are moving into a well-established community.HM: What are you learning about building in these communities that, say, might differ from projects in the GTA or parts of Toronto? Whether it's home sizing, pricing, amenities or… SR:
Home sizes are certainly larger, as our goal is to build good quality, decent sized homes at affordable prices. Our price per sq. ft. is much lower than in the GTA. Our communities are in the core of each area, with all amenities close by. For example, our projects in Beeton, Beeton Village and GreenRidge, are on and close to the main street, where all the restaurants, grocery stores, banks and other amenities are located. In Dundalk, our projects also sit right in the heart of town, with the amenities within walking distance. We plan them out when we plan the whole communities. That's why we say we are building communities, not homes.In addition, we are learning that people are okay to drive further north to get the home that they really want, in a community where they can live and grow their families.HM: What's next for Flato Developments… where might you build next, after Dundalk, Beeton and Shelburne? SR:
Planning and then building a master-planned community is a large undertaking, and we are currently very busy in delivering on the vision we have for these areas. But we also have other plans; our first senior apartment building will launch in Dundalk this year. We will also launch commercial projects in Markham, Mississauga and Dundalk this year. We have more plans down the road, but I can't discuss them just yet.HM: Flato is very active and involved in the community, through activities such as your sponsorship of the Flato Markham Theatre. Why is this so important to you? SR:
We strongly believe in working with the communities in which we build, that it's our corporate responsibility to give something back. You can't go wrong by giving back to your community, and as a community developer, Flato is proof that we keep our promises.
AND ON A PERSONAL NOTE…If I wasn't in the homebuilding industry, I would:
Otherwise work towards making life better for people.When I'm not at the office, I am:
With my family. I enjoy my time with my kids! But during weekdays, I'm on the road for different meetings with municipalities and business partners to plan our next community.My greatest inspiration for doing what I do is:
My dad. I always watched him working hard in his construction business, and I just want to be like him.
• Beeton Village, Beeton, Now open• Carriage House, Dundalk, Coming soon• GreenRidge, Beeton, Coming soon• Canvas on the Rouge, Markham, Now openflatogroup.com