T.O.’s transportation transformation

Toronto grew by more than 77,435 people between July 2017 and July 2018, according to a new study by Ryerson University’s Centre for Urban Research and Land Development.

The city now boasts North America’s fastest-growing population, and the Greater Toronto Area as a whole has the second-fastest growing population in a metropolitan area in North America. Most Torontonians will happily tout their city’s benefits, but most would agree that they’re feeling some growing pains.

Housing demand here is high, leaving the wallet light relative to the suburbs. But life in this world-class city is arguably worth the cost. Toronto is a hot spot for a number of reasons — employment, economy, lifestyle and the cache of a coveted 416 address. Commute times are conspicuously absent from the list.

Toronto was actually named worst commuter city in North America. To ease the headaches of infrastructure that no longer meets users’ needs, the province of Ontario unveiled a new transit plan last spring, with four key priorities.

The Ontario Line: Doubling down on the original proposed Downtown Relief Line, the Ontario Line will run from Ontario Place to the end of the line at Don Mills and Eglinton, with about 15 stations in between, including at Queen/Spadina and King/Bathurst, Pape, Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park, before reaching the end of the line – all on a single TTC fare. The estimated cost of the 16-kilometre line is $10.9 billion, with completion slated for 2027.

The Line 2 East Extension: The three-stop, 6.2-kilometre, $5.5-billion extension of the Scarborough subway will extend from Kennedy Station to Scarborough Centre, via Eglinton Avenue, Danforth Road and McCowan Road. Construction is expected to start in 2020 and completed in 2026/2027.

The Yonge North Subway Extension: A 7.4-kilometre extension to push the Yonge line from Finch station in Toronto to Richmond Hill Centre, with five new stops. It will be built in conjunction with the Ontario Line, and the province will foot the $5.6-billion bill.

The Eglinton Crosstown West Extension: Part of the SmartTrack Program, the $4.7-billion line would offer direct access to Pearson Airport by 2031.

The City of Toronto has some additional transit priorities, including:

The SmartTrack Stations program: A heavy rail infrastructure of six new stations on the Stouffville, Lakeshore East and Kitchener GO corridors, with rush-hour service every six to 10 minutes. The project will begin procurement and construction this year, with completion in 2025.

The Bloor-Yonge Capacity Improvement project: Includes the construction of an additional platform at Yonge Station on Line 2, modifications to Line 1’s Bloor Station platform, improving passenger circulation, ventilation systems, and the construction of a new substation.

A place to grow

It’s all good news for Toronto dwellers and visitors. It’s great news for property owners. “There is no question that access to transit is one of the biggest considerations for everyone buying real estate nowadays, whether they are end-users or investors,” says Barbara Lawlor, CEO of Baker Real Estate in Toronto. From a real estate perspective, the new transit corridors represent a great deal of convenient and potentially lucrative home-buying opportunities.

Lawlor isn’t the only one who sees housing on the horizon. Developers, too, have their eye on the transit lines, some of which are a decade away. Lifetime Developments has claimed its place along the new Ontario Line, with XO Condos coming soon close to the proposed new subway station at King and Bathurst. “We expect the announced subway extension to increase housing demand in the many neighbourhoods benefitting from this expansion,” says Lifetime Developments’ principal, Brian Brown. As demand for an area grows, so, too, do prices. Brown points to the Sheppard East line and extension into Vaughan. “Housing demands and values both rose dramatically due to the convenience and the commuting options an adjacent subway stop immediately provides.”

Transit lines have long been a magnet for developers, because it’s what buyers want. “The development industry has always had success with new communities on or near any transit system,” notes Samson Fung, vice-president of marketing at Tridel. Fung points to Tridel’s upcoming Auberge community: “Beyond the amazing park across the street being a driver for homebuyers, the new Eglinton LRT is just as alluring.”

The transit plan is great news for existing property owners or those who are ready to buy now. But those hoping to buy here later should prepare to pay substantially more. Lawlor’s best buying advice: “Get in now, while the plan is still in the works. Once it’s under construction, real estate prices are bound to rise.”

Ultimately, steady price increases signal healthy housing demand, often supported by a strong local economy. The more desirables a community has – a park, a school or the subway – the greater value it holds. And in a city like Toronto, access to transit tops the must-have list – and developers know it.

To support developers in their mission to build homes and communities people want to live in, the province has made changes to its A Place to Grow: Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe to encourage building close to transit. “The changes will also streamline planning for new development in major transit station areas,” Bob Nichols, Senior Media Liaison Officer at the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, tells New Home + Condo Guide. Nichols points out changes to the Planning Act that, if proclaimed, “would facilitate the supply of affordable housing in areas that are generally subject to growth pressures, higher housing demand, and in proximity to higher order transit.”

“You can see what that means for new development,” says Bob Finnigan, partner at Herity Heathwood Homes, the developer behind the soon-to-be launched Eleven Altamont townhome development, at Yonge and Finch in North York. “Multiple highrises are going up around these TTC access hubs, allowing residents to access the TTC and utilize the high-speed transit to get to work or play. As the city grows, access to public transit will only become more important.”

While we can only guess how the new transit plan will impact property values, the lifestyle boost is as good as guaranteed. But if it’s ROI that you seek, keep your eyes on those “register now” new-home and condominium communities – while you still can.

Related reading

Next stop, success: Why you should invest near transit



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