What if… Toronto was chosen for Amazon HQ2?

Amazon, you had us at… hello! – 50,000 jobs and a potential $5- billion investment! What city in its right mind wouldn’t welcome a company and its second headquarters, with all those jobs and dollars at stake?

Toronto may be a long shot among the 20 final candidates chosen from the 238 proposals from across the U.S., Canada and Mexico to host HQ2. But, wow, wouldn’t it be great?

“All jobs at HQ2 will be corporate positions, with an average annual compensation of $100,000,” Amazon spokesperson Adam Sedo told NextHome. “We expect to create 50,000 high-paying jobs in 15 to 17 years.”

Jobs are crucial to the economy, so adding 50,000 of them of this stature in one city alone? It would be the Powerball of employment jackpots.

“We’re excited to have this opportunity and to be able to tell Toronto’s unique story,” Mayor John Tory said at a press conference after hearing his city was shortlisted. “There is no other place in North America that can boast the same talent, the same quality of life, the same vibrancy, the same economic strength.”

“I’m not just being sugary sweet when I say we have already won with respect to Amazon HQ2,” tweeted former City of Toronto Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat. “I really mean it. We’ve already won this process. We sold our quality of life proposition on our own merits. (And in light of that, I could kind of care less where they locate.) #Integrity.”

“Amazon’s decision to keep Toronto in the running is good news for the city,” says Christopher Alexander, executive vice-president, ReMax Integra, Ontario Atlantic Region. “It further solidifies Toronto’s position as a world-class destination. This will attract even more Canadians and immigrants to the area and overall, and it will have a positive impact on real estate prices.”

Quite likely, sources say, you can count on rising rents and property values.

However, for a city already struggling with a housing affordability issue, would Amazon coming here actually be a good thing?

“Awarding it to Toronto would be a big economic and political win for Toronto. However, at the same time it would make the region even less affordable whether for renters or homebuyers,” says Don Campbell, real estate expert and senior analyst of the Real Estate Investment Network (REIN).

Currently in Canada, there are more than 300,000 job openings, Campbell adds, and employers in cities such as Vancouver and Toronto are having difficulty filling some positions. “One reason is the unaffordability of some cities, where workers can no longer afford the rents and purchase prices in these centres. So, even as the economies grow, there is a cap on the number of workers who can afford to fill the jobs. Hence the reason we are witnessing a resurgence in other regions, such as Hamilton, the Niagara Region, Barrie and Kingston, with employers going to where they can begin to attract the workers.

“Would it be a fantastic win (optically) for the region? For sure. Would it help the current federal and provincial Liberal governments in their upcoming election bids? Absolutely. Would it become a fantastic economic driver for the area, first for construction jobs, then for these many thousands of operations jobs? No question.

“However, if it does get awarded to Toronto, it would actually go against some of the current federal and provincial legislation and concerns about an overheated housing market,” Campbell says. “It would bring a lot of additional upward pressure on rents, especially given the already low vacancy rate of the region. And, over the following years, it would put upward pressure on the demand (and therefore price) of homes, as these higher-paying job holders would wish to enter the purchase market sooner than most.”

For the housing industry, Amazon in Toronto would put pressure on home builders and government policy makers to make sure they have the right framework to accommodate such growth, according to David Wilkes, president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association.

“The growth anticipated for the Greater Toronto region is going to be significant,” he told NextHome. “There’s going to be many new people moving into the region, many new jobs created, the requirement for new homes and offices, and renovating existing stock, is going to become even greater.

“Whether it’s Amazon or anybody else, we need to make sure that we get it right.”


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