Light Rail Transit in Waterloo Region – What is the Debate About?
For the better part of forty years now, the Region of Waterloo has been actively exploring methods and means of easing congestion on our communities roadways, and making public transport a more accessible and attractive alternative to personal automobiles. This initiative has been driven not only by environmental concerns, but also by hard demographic statistics. The area has been and remains one of the most quickly expanding population centres in all of Ontario, and the existing network of roadways and expressways simply isn’t up to the task of handing the increasing number of cars which unavoidably come along with an accelerated rate of population expansion. Just how quickly is our population projected to grow? As of 2012, the Region of Waterloo’s population stood at 543,000. By the year 2031 – 17 years from now – that population is projected to exceed 726,000 individuals. This represents an overall increase of 184,600, or roughly 34%.
It has often been wondered, in my opinion too simply, why doesn’t the Region just construct new and better roadways to handle the increasing volume of traffic? As anyone who is familiar with the traffic patterns of large cities can attest to, this is not a sustainable solution in the long term. I would imagine that a good number of readers are all too aware of what things can look like in Toronto, North York or Mississauga during many periods of the day – let alone rush hour. These communities likewise expanded, constructing new roads as they went. This expansion of the road system served to… attract more cars. The simple fact of the matter is that a city has a finite amount of room in which to grow. Roads can expand up to a point, but eventually the heightened volume of traffic will have nowhere else to go once this limit is reached, and the result is the sort of traffic nightmare often seen these days in communities such as those I’ve already mentioned.
What then, can we look to as an alternative for an expanded network of roads and the correlated increase in traffic volume? One solution which has attracted the attention of municipal legislators over the past 40 years is the Light Rail Transit system, commonly referred to as ‘LRT’. This proposed rapid transit network (the construction of which is currently proceeding, having been approved by the regional government) will take existing express bus routes, expand them, and integrate this with an initial LRT system operating mostly along the main Kitchener-Waterloo corridor of King Street. The proposal was the subject of heated debate for many years, and remains so to this day even following its approval by council and the beginning of its construction.
The primary arguments in opposition to the system, which is scheduled to begin operating in 2017, typically follow two lines of reasoning. Firstly, the expense of the project is enormous – 790 million dollars – which makes it the largest public infrastructure project in the history of the Region of Waterloo. While the Ontario Provincial government had initially stated its intent to cover the majority of the expense, this was later reduced to 300 million dollars. With the Canadian Federal government committing to carrying a share of 265 million, this leaves the Region itself with a projected 225 million dollars of the project to fund itself. This expense would, clearly, mean an increase in local taxes, which has a considerable proportion of the region’s populace up in arms. The reason for this opposition is not simply a desire to avoid increased property taxes, and takes us into the second major reason for opposition – the fact that the initial phase of the LRT system will not serve all those who will be paying for it.
One of the most vocal persons of influence to stand against the LRT project is Cambridge mayor Doug Craig. As you’ll notice after a quick review of the phase one system map (please click here for a link to the full map), primary service by the LRT system itself will be limited to a route running from Conestoga Mall in Waterloo to Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener. Cambridge will be initially connected to the system by express busses, to be linked up with the LRT system itself at a future point in time. Craig serves as a voice for many Cambridge residents, who are understandably upset that their tax dollars will be used to fund a system to which they will not have immediate access. Additional arguments tend to state that the expense is simply too high, or that the Region does not need an LRT system operating along a central corridor – that the region would be better served by an expansion of existing bus and express bus routes. While there is merit to these opinions, I personally find them to be short-sighted, and instead regard the LRT system as a smart investment in the future of our region. I will proceed to outline why I believe this to be the case.
The following quote, taken from the Region’s website (again, links provided below), neatly outlines the reasons I support the LRT system:
“Rapid transit will move people, increase transit ridership, reduce emissions, improve mobility, and contribute to a prosperous community. Rapid transit offers a means of managing urban growth to protect our countryside by preventing urban sprawl and promoting intensification in existing urban areas, while preserving the region’s precious agricultural lands, natural beauty, heritage and cultural characteristics that make this community unique. Light Rail Transit (LRT) will shape development along the corridor. Developers are more willing to invest private money near a permanent public asset such as LRT.”
Quite simply, I believe that building an LRT system to service the core of our community will be a boon to residents, business owners, and investors alike. The LRT system is a key component of the plan to revitalize Downtown Kitchener – the historical commercial and cultural heart of our Region. I’ve already touched on how and why the revitalization of Kitchener is so important to the future prosperity of the entire region in an earlier article, so I won’t dwell on it too long here. Suffice it to say that in the creation of a “permanent public asset” such as LRT, as the region puts it, Downtown Kitchener will once again be exposed to the kind of traffic which made it for so long a desirable location for business owners, and will once again make it easily accessible from residential areas located further afield. It is a little known fact that Kitchener has already had a light rail system, one which operated in the city’s heyday between the late 1800’s and the mid-1940’s. Following a tremendous ice storm in 1946, such damage was discovered to have been done to the train’s electrical infrastructure, that it was decided to spare the expense of repair and retire the streetcars. This was done on January 1st, 1947 – a move which some older residents still regard as the beginning of Downtown Kitchener’s slow period of decline.
Opening a permanent LRT corridor along the central artery of King Street once more will not only serve to attract more people to shop in the Region’s core – it will also make living there a more desirable option. The phenomenon of suburbanization has long been the bane of many city centres in Ontario, and across North America, for that matter. By connecting the core of the city to amenities located beyond the traditional reach of residents who have lived downtown, the LRT will operate in both directions; carrying commercial and residential traffic from suburb to city centre, and vice versa. To those who oppose the LRT system based on being excluded from the initial phase of construction, I would urge you to take a long-term perspective. Every major public transport network had to begin somehow and somewhere. London England’s famous 270 stations and 402 kilometres of track didn’t simply spring up overnight – the system had to grow over time to accommodate more and more areas of the city. While it may be a bit of a rhetorical stretch to compare Waterloo Region with a city of truly global significance such as London, our region is nevertheless growing at an astonishing rate. Phase one of LRT construction, I guarantee, will not be the beginning and the end of the system.
Finally, there is the question of the environmental impact of increased personal automobile volume on our roads. By building more roads and expressways and attracting more cars to our streets, we will only perpetuate the unfortunate phenomenon of urban sprawl. The region would be bound to become less centralized, and urbanization will encroach on ever increasing amounts of the beautiful countryside and fertile farmland which made our area so attractive to its first settlers, and which continues to demonstrate a hold over the imagination of the region’s inhabitants. By supporting the population and cultural vibrancy of our existing urban areas, the LRT can truly help to make living in the heart of our cities a more attractive and viable option for many residents.
For all of the reasons outlined above, I sincerely believe that to support the LRT system is to make an investment in the future not only of Kitchener and Waterloo, but of Waterloo Region as a whole. Our commitment to the project now will stand as a legacy to future residents of the region, and will serve to strengthen the growth of business and investment opportunities, region-wide. Thanks for taking the time to read along, and have a great day!
For a link to the regional government’s project website, please click here.
Good morning everyone! Just a reminder to check out my new blog if you haven’t had a chance yet – for more tips, advice and strategies related to property investments. It can be found right here – just getting it off the ground now, but look out for more unique content in the days to come!
The ‘Unpleasantries’ – Eviction Regulation and Procedure in Ontario
As much as a conscientious property owner may seek to avoid an eviction under all but the very worst of circumstances, it can sometimes be the case that an eviction is the cumulative result of a series of unpleasant relations or experiences with a troublesome tenant. By its very nature, eviction entails the sort of conflict that every rational individual wants to steer away from, but the reality is that sometimes this ultimate endgame is the only way left. This article will, therefore, serve as a guide to the basics of what is entailed in the eviction process. I’ll try to give you a sense of what your legitimate grounds are – as a property owner – for evicting a tenant, an idea of what the process would involve, as well as providing a few notes on where to find more in-depth information elsewhere online. This is far from the most pleasant of topics to consider, but reality sometimes has a way of refusing to conform to our ideals. I hope you’ll at the very least find this article to be useful (if not particularly enjoyable) reading.
In this section, what follows is a list of legitimate grounds for the eviction of a tenant from your property. It is by no means exhaustive, and should you have any questions concerning the legality of a scenario particular to your own experience, I would encourage you to seek independent legal advice:
• Non-payment of rent – notice can be given to terminate on the very date a payment is missed, but this cannot be executed until 14 days following the presentation of the notice. Notice of termination must also include an advisory that eviction can be avoided if full payment is made by the time the 14 day period has elapsed.
• Personally committing or allowing someone else to commit illegal act/s on the grounds of the property. Note: the offense in question does not need to have had a conviction in criminal court. The offense must simply be proven to the satisfaction of an adjudicator on the Ontario Landlord Tenant Board.
• Wilful or negligent damage to the property – the notice of termination must also include a remedy by which an eviction could be avoided.
• “Substantial interference” of other tenants’ ability to enjoy the property.
• Impairment of the safety of other residents.
• If the number of people in the rental unit on a ‘continuing basis’ results in breach of health and safety regulations (this would constitute overcrowding).
• Pets can be a reason for eviction if the Landlord and Tenant Board is convinced that the tenant is keeping an animal and that the animal(s) is substantially interfering with the reasonable enjoyment of the premises, causes allergic reactions, or is inherently dangerous to safety.
• There are other grounds for eviction, such as if the landlord personally needs the apartment to live in, if they are demolishing the building, converting the building (such as to a condominium), or doing such major repairs or renovations that they would need a unit vacated.
I’d like to proceed to outline some of what is involved in the eviction process itself. Once more, bear in mind that the process is inherently something which is tailored to unique situations. Any questions regarding specific time periods on notices or opportunities for remedy should be referred to legal counsel. In most situations, before a landlord can apply to the Board to evict the tenant, they must first give the tenant a Notice of Termination that tells the tenant what the problem is. For some termination notices, the landlord must wait a specific number of days to see if the tenant corrects the problem before they can file the application with the Board. The number of days the tenant has to correct the problem is set out in the notice. If the tenant does not correct the problem and/or does not move out, the landlord can file an application with the Board and in most situations a hearing will be scheduled. At the hearing, the parties can appear in front of a Member of the Board. The Member will listen to what each person has to say and then make a decision. If an eviction order is issued, it tells the tenant when they must be out of the unit. If they do not move out, then the landlord can file this order with the Court Enforcement Office. Only the Sheriff can evict a tenant who does not leave a unit as directed by an eviction order issued by the Board.
A tenant under notice of eviction is, of course, well within their rights to take certain steps in seeking to remedy the situation before the notice comes into effect. The tenant should first read the notice to see why and when the landlord is asking them to leave. They may wish to talk to their landlord about the notice and see if the problem can be worked out. If the problem isn’t worked out, the tenant can:
• Talk to their landlord about the notice and correct the problem as outlined in the notice (if the notice was given because the landlord believes the tenant did something wrong)
• Leave the unit as requested by the landlord
• Stay in the unit and see if the landlord files an application against them with the Board
If an application is filed, the tenant can go to the hearing and tell the Member about the situation. A tenant may also wish to phone the Board’s call centre to learn more about the eviction process and/or get some legal advice from a lawyer or legal clinic. A tenant has the right to stay in their unit until the Board issues an eviction order based on an application filed by the landlord. A tenant cannot be legally evicted without an eviction order from the Board.
For anyone seeking more in-depth knowledge of the eviction process in Ontario, the Provincial Government’s website is a great place to start. What you’ve just read in this article is in fact a condensed version of much of what is to be found there. Although it’s certainly not a process you want to have to become too familiar with, knowledge is everything in the business of property investing. Hopefully you’ve been able to take a thing or two away from this article today. Thanks for reading, and have a great day!
For Beginners – An Introduction to Property Management
Somewhat out of step with some of the earlier content in my blog, this article is geared towards newcomers to real estate investment. I’ll aim here to give a more general outline of what property management companies do, and how they can benefit your business once you arrive at the point where it makes sense to hire the services which they provide. I would also like to give an idea to the new investor of how much you can or should take on yourself – once you begin getting into the realm of ownership of multiple properties, or into the business of owning multiple student housing properties in particular, investing in a property management service with lots of experience can be a good move. Others may choose to take care of maintenance and tenant interactions all on their own – which can be rewarding if the time is available, but is more than capable of generating its fair share of headaches too.
It strikes me as best to open with a very broad definition of Property Management – typically a company which acts to serve as a liaison between the property owner and his or her tenants. A property manager provides a buffer in these dealings, when an owner is unable to attend to matters or concerns raised by tenants directly. This inability could be due to one or more of any number of factors, the most typical of which include physical distance from the property/properties, the sheer amount of property owned, or the total number of tenants involved. Property management companies can be involved in dealings across the full spectrum of property ownership – from attracting and auditing prospective tenants, to arranging contracts and payments, to dealing with any day-to-day issues which may arise over the course of a tenants lease. Day-to-day issues may include maintenance issues, dispute resolution, or difficulties with the neighbours. Some larger property management companies may even retain their own in-house legal counsel to handle any prospect of litigation, but in a smaller more student-oriented market such as KW, this is less common. Many local property management companies are more small-scale enterprises, consisting of a small group (or even an individual), who serves as an intermediary between property owners and tenants, acting to contract maintenance work, arrange legal dealings, and handle municipal issues on behalf of the owner. In some cases, while a property manager may be contracted on the basis of a set salary or monthly fee, there may also be a bonus paid out to keep all of a property owner’s available units rented. A good property manager can really come into their own when set to the task of attracting tenants – particularly if your own skill set doesn’t lend itself easily to marketing strategies!
In the search for a property manager/property management company, strong interpersonal skills, attention to detail, and solid bookkeeping abilities are key. Ideally, your manager will have a strong network of connections to local building maintenance companies and contractors, in order to efficiently handle the projects which are bound to come up with properties of all shapes and sizes. A good understanding of landlord-tenant law is also clearly vital for any prospective property manager. An effective manager will be a good ally to have in the day-to-day running of your investment, but they can quickly turn into your best friend in more unpleasant situations, particularly in understanding how to proceed with an eviction if the situation should warrant such drastic action.
As mentioned briefly above, more student-oriented markets such as Kitchener-Waterloo present an interesting case when it comes to sizing up whether or not hiring a property management company is a good move. Many of the dwellings owned by local real estate investors which cater to the student lifestyle are smaller-scale, and a good number of landlords (particularly those just starting out) opt to undertake the management and maintenance of their building personally. This can make sense when the cost of hiring a property manager is prohibitive for the small-scale investor, and given a limited number of tenants, can indeed be manageable – particularly if the owner is residing in the same town as their investment property, and is available to tend personally to issues in short order. However, once an investor begins to consider expanding their rental income, and taking on the burden of an increased number of properties and tenants or the ownership of a larger building, hiring a property management company starts to make much more sense.
I hope you’ve found this short introduction to property management helpful, and if you’re a newcomer to the investment market and would like some advice on this or any other subject, feel free to get in touch! Have a great day.
For a more concentrated source of real estate related tips and advice, don’t forget to check out my new blog, located at: LeeQuaileBlog.Wordpress.com
Thanks for reading, and have a great day!
Analyzing Downtown Kitchener; Recovery and Future Prospects
For more than thirty years now, Downtown Kitchener has been hung with the unenviable reputation as being Waterloo’s poorer relation. This was especially pronounced in the 1990’s when, while Uptown Waterloo was in the process of revitalization, Kitchener continued to suffer from the loss of buying power in the city’s downtown economic core, as businesses closed and rents fell. Now, however, following a sustained period of investment in the Downtown area by Kitchener’s municipal government, there are distinct signs of things turning around. The aim of this article, therefore, will be to paint a brief picture of where things stand in Kitchener’s quest to bring back the heyday of its downtown core, and to analyse the prospects for downtown’s real estate market.
The misfortune which befell Downtown Kitchener going into the end of the 1970’s was by no means unique to the city. Kitchener had traditionally always been a locus of manufacturing in Southern Ontario, and as these jobs began to dry up or to move away, the local economy suffered accordingly. Enormous, once thriving factories in Kitchener now stood empty. As people moved away to follow the jobs, rent and housing prices began to fall, leaving formerly prestigious neighbourhoods surrounding the city core to fall into a state of disrepair. This unfortunate set of circumstances was coupled with ever-increasing suburban growth. People were living scattered amid separate clusters of newer developments into the 1980’s, and businesses which were not positioned to cater to these areas suffered correspondingly. The advent of malls and strip malls in the suburbs were another blow to the downtown core. Downtown Kitchener had transformed over the course of a decade or two from a bustling hive of commerce, residence and industry, into a low-income area, struggling with vacant storefronts and growing drug and homeless issues.
Waterloo was not immune to the problems described above, which affected most cities and towns in Southern Ontario in the 1970’s and 80’s to a greater or lesser degree. However, it has been seen for some time now as the more desirable of the twin cities. Higher average incomes for residents and a nicer uptown area following a program of revitalization are both factors which have led to this perception. Nevertheless, Kitchener has never been without its share of high-income neighbourhoods or prosperous businesses. Being a larger city, though, these have been for the past thirty years spread out around the area, leaving the downtown core to suffer its poor reputation.
Kitchener is now undertaking a concerted and sustained effort to turn things around with its downtown core. In order to change the perception of the core, and to attract people and businesses back to the area, the city is following a multi-pronged approach. Elements of this strategy center on the redevelopment of empty factory space into chic lifestyle condos, the construction of a new light rail line to serve the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo along the King Street corridor, and a program of incentives to lure small businesses and corporations alike back to Downtown Kitchener.
Among these aspects of revitalization, condo development is perhaps the furthest along. A strong existing example of this is the Kaufman Lofts – a large former rubber footwear manufacturing plant which has been transformed into desirable and fashionable apartment-style residences. Located at the intersection of King and Victoria streets, the Kaufman Lofts are one of the first examples of what the city hopes will bring young professionals back to within walking distance of the downtown core’s amenities. Stores to cater to these new residents will follow, providing a big boost to the downtown economy. In order to further increase the attraction of the area to business owners, Kitchener is also offering a range of financial incentives, describing the program on the municipal website as follows:
“The Ontario Planning Act allows municipalities to offer various forms of financial incentives in specific areas of the city in order to stimulate private sector investment in areas in need of repair, rehabilitation and redevelopment. Incentives can take many forms, but the most common are:
• City issued grants and loans;
• Property tax rebates; and,
• Waiving of development fees and permit fees.
For example, the city offers grants to downtown building owners and store owners for specific improvements to the exterior facades and storefronts. If a store owner undertakes $20,000 worth of renovations, they are eligible for a grant of up to $10,000.”
In addition to attempts to draw more residents into the downtown area, and an incentive-based program to reignite business growth and development, a third major aspect to the city’s revitalization program is the construction of the new light rail (or LRT) system. Centring on a brand new transport hub to be built at King and Victoria (across the street from the Kaufman Lofts), the new transport system will aim to link the urban cores of Kitchener and Waterloo with outlying areas. Having a new and convenient method of transportation running down the traditional artery of Waterloo Region (King Street) is also projected to attract further residents to settle in the downtown area, where access is handy to the new transport hub, and new businesses to be established along the line where the volume of traffic and potential exposure will be greatest.
This plan, much of which is already under implementation, combines with existing growth in Downtown Kitchener’s tech and education sectors to cause me to be very optimistic about the prospects for growth in the downtown core’s real estate market. Given the recent downsizing at BlackBerry, many of the smaller tech start-ups in Kitchener, centred in the Tannery District (another example of former industrial space being successfully redeveloped, a short walk from downtown) have benefited from the recruitment of developers and software engineers. University level students are being drawn to the University of Waterloo’s Downtown Kitchener School of Pharmacy campus on Victoria Street, and to Wilfrid Laurier’s School of Social Work on Duke Street. This presents an opportunity for the real estate investor – prices in Kitchener remain, on average, well below those of Waterloo. As these new services and programs come online, prices are expected to rise, as young professionals and students seek out accommodations.
Kitchener is once again finally on the make! Prospects have not looked brighter for the city’s downtown in nearly half a century, and with Kitchener remaining the area’s major population and economic centre, this can only bode well for the future of Waterloo Region as a whole.
Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions – as always – please feel free to get in touch with me!
My New Blog – Advice, Strategy & Guidance for the Savvy Property Investor
Beginning today, I’m setting up an advise-oriented blog for existing investors, and for people who are seriously considering becoming involved in Waterloo Region’s investment market. As always, you’ll still be able to find the same, more detailed, information on my own listings and activities right here on this existing site. However, rather than constantly update my ‘News’ page with advice, stats, and strategies, I thought “why not blog about it”?
Check it out!
Multi-Storey Development in Waterloo – What Does it Mean for the Smaller Scale Investor?
Today, I’d like to quickly address another concern which I find to be raised frequently by folks who are considering making the jump into Waterloo’s student housing market. As anyone who spends time around the universities and Uptown will have noticed, the city’s skyline has been changing dramatically over the past five or so years. It really does seem as though every time you turn around, another high-rise building is being constructed to cater to Waterloo’s booming student population. The majority of these newly constructed multi-storey buildings fall into a rough rectangle between University Avenue to the south and Columbia Street to the north, and Regina Street to the east and Philip Street to the west – an area of, roughly, twenty square blocks.
These new structures, though not explicitly marketed towards the student rental market alone, are obviously positioned deliberately to cater to the student’s lifestyle. This rapid increase in the total number of units available for student housing, when combined with the recent implementation of the Waterloo Rental bylaw (with its more rigorous licensing criteria and protocols), has a number of smaller landlords concerned about their share of the student housing market. I hear about this all of the time – questions which can be summed up effectively in one query – “is investing in smaller-scale student housing in Waterloo still a good move?” My response, in a word, remains yes. Like any market, property investment will always carry its share of risk to the buyer. However, just as in any other form of investing, a prospective landlord will always have the power to educate themself to make smart and profitable decisions – there will always be good deals to be found in Waterloo, for those willing to make the commitment to a diligent search. What follows are a few points to keep in mind when considering the impact of purpose-built multi-storey student housing on the student housing market in Waterloo, and a couple bits of advice. As always, if you’re looking for a more detailed understanding of the dynamics of the local market, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. I’d be pleased to walk you through any questions you may have!
The past number of years have seen attendance at both the University of Waterloo and Wilfid Laurier University increase dramatically, far exceeding the projections of both the city and of the schools themselves. Of course, as each new batch of undergraduates arrives in Waterloo, a large percentage of these students look for off-campus housing. The surge in the total student population, combined with the finite amount of land available nearby the university district for residential development has led to the need to build upwards rather than outwards. The sudden spike in the number of multi-storey buildings being constructed in Uptown Waterloo is a direct consequence of attempts by developers to maximize the number of students that can be housed on a given parcel of land, while still remaining within a reasonable walking distance to school – this is simply in line with the classic paradigm of urbanization. The schools themselves have been in the vanguard of this new development. As the number of new students began to exceed their projections, the universities had been forced to supplement their own student housing by renting from the private sector – a losing proposition, financially speaking. They therefore began to buy up property surrounding the core of the university district, with an eye to developing it into university-zoned multi-storey student residences. One of the biggest examples of such a purchase was Wilfrid Laurier University’s purchase of $59M worth of land in 2012, the development of which is clearly progressing quickly along Bricker Avenue and Ezra Street.
As I mentioned above, there will always be deals out there to be had – as long as you know what you’re looking for, and have a strong sense of the factors which govern the market. The great thing about investing in student housing is that there will always be a strong market in Waterloo. Students cycle in and out of residence all of the time, and a consistent supply of renters is much less dependent upon the ups and downs of the economy as a whole. Especially these days, with the pending development of the LRT line along King Street, the importance of a prospective property being along a major transit route is paramount, particularly if the property in question is located a little further away from the core university district. This could mean being nearby an iXpress route, as is still the case with many smaller-scale investment properties in Waterloo. And it’s also important to keep in mind that even though we are witnessing a boom in multi-storey residences, there are still many renters out there who prefer single family style accommodations for their housing – particularly when it comes to having the benefits of a back yard and increased living space. A beer on the front porch, or a barbeque in the backyard are unlikely to lose their popularity with students anytime soon! If there’s one thing a prospective landlord can depend on, it will be the unchanging highlights of a student’s time in university such as these – a lifestyle that puts the owner of a smaller-scale investment property at a unique advantage to cater to.
2014 Economic Outlook Seminar – You’re Invited!
Just see below for details – space is limited, so if you’re interested in being my guest at this interesting and informative event, RSVP today!
City of Waterloo’s Rental License Renewal Deadline Approaches – April 1st, 2014
As we stand now at the end of January, Spring is (thankfully) beginning to seem a bit more tangible of a prospect. And of course, for many real estate investors, this also means the approach of the City of Waterloo’s April 1st rental license renewal deadline. And whether you’ve been in the market for years as a seasoned owner, or are just in the first stages of beginning to explore the concept of investing in real estate, there are a number of FAQ’s that are always a good idea to review before going into the procedure of renewing your rental license. What follows is a list of such FAQ’s – I hope you’ll find them helpful!
Q: “How frequently must I renew my rental license?”
A: The City of Waterloo’s rental license must be renewed every year – the deadline is always April 1st.
Q: “How do I go about renewing my rental license?”
A: Residential rental licence renewal applications are available online or in person at Waterloo City Hall – 100 Regina Street South. Only completed renewal applications, including all the supporting documentation, will be processed.
Q: “Which documents specifically are included in the supporting documentation?”
A: 1) An up-to-date certificate of building insurance every year. 2) HVAC renewal documentation every year. 3) Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) renewal every five years. 4) Re-certification that your property meets all the regulations in the residential rental housing licensing by-law. Also, please note that Changes and renovations to your unit need to be submitted at the time of change or prior to the renovation.
Q: “How do I get an ESA certificate?”
A: Electrical safety certificates of inspection are only available through the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA). For more information or an application, contact the ESA by phone at 1-877-372-7233 or fax at 1-800-667-4278, or visit the ESA’s website.
Q: “Where can I find out about HVAC inspections?”
A: Visit the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) website for information on HVAC inspections and licensed TSSA contractors. The inspection must be performed by a class one or two gas-fitter inspector registered with the TSSA.
Q: “What happens if a unit is rented out without an approved residential rental licence?”
A: Operating a rental business without a licence in the City of Waterloo is a violation of Waterloo’s residential rental housing licensing by-law (no. 2011-047) and amendment (no. 2012-004). A person convicted of this violation could be fined up to $100,000. Waterloo also may revoke a licence if there is a contravention – or violation – of this by-law.
Q: “How is the rental housing licensing by-law enforced?”
A: Waterloo enforce this by-law two ways: reactively when they receive complaints and proactively based on risk-based audits performed by enforcement officers. The audits include complaints, observations, published information, information received from other agencies and any other factors that may identify possible risks.
Vacancy Rates in Kitchener-Waterloo – Statistics & Explanations
In the course of my professional dealings with friends and clients alike, some of the questions most frequently asked of me relate to vacancy rates in the local rental market. Answers to questions such as how the local vacancy rate compares to that of other communities of comparable size, the province as a whole, or to the national average, are all important for the savvy investor to know. Likewise, grasping the concept of which factors lead to the fluctuation of vacancy rates is also key to making the right moves in the investment market, and to ensuring that your business moves are smart and profitable.
To this end, I’ve recently taken some time to go over the most current rental market reports put out by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), and have taken a few of the more important points contained therein to pass along to you in this brief article. I hope you find it to be informative and helpful! If you’re seeking more in depth information or statistics, I’ll also include links to the relevant reports at the bottom of this article. CMHC is a wonderful source for such information, and these (and many other reports) are also available for free on their website. And, of course, if I can be of any help to you in getting a feel for the local rental market, please don’t hesitate to give me a call, or to send me an email. Keep on reading for those stats!
As things stood in the Fall of 2013, the overall rental vacancy rate in the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge (KWC) area stood at 2.9% – marginally higher than the overall national average of 2.7%. This number remained essentially unchanged from 2012. A significant factor which has contributed to the difference between the local rate and the national average has been the recent completion of a number of larger purpose-built student residences in Waterloo. This is coupled with the fact that low mortgage rates over the past year have proven enticing to a number of former renters, who have made the transition to home ownership. Nonetheless, even as the local vacancy rate is projected to rise marginally to the end of 2014, the rate of climb will remain slight due to a projected increase in mortgage rates in the second half of 2014. Simultaneously, employment growth in Waterloo Region is expected to compensate for existing renters exiting the market in favour of home ownership. This will come about as young people, university and college graduates alike, join the local skilled workforce and move away from home for the first time – typically transitioning into rental properties.
Yet another positive point for prospective real estate investors lies in the projected net increase in the population of Waterloo Region, brought about in large part by migrants – new Canadians who are choosing to settle in the KWC area in significant numbers. These folks are statistically far more likely to rent their housing initially, further adding to the local pool of renters. Projected lower than average rent increases in 2014 will also “provide incentive to enter or remain in the rental market”, says CMHC in its Fall 2013 Housing Market Outlook (full report linked below). Finally, as mentioned briefly above, the local unemployment rate looks set to decrease in 2014. This comes in spite of recent high-profile layoffs at major companies such as BlackBerry and Maple Leaf Foods. These setbacks are expected to be more than offset by expansion in the local manufacturing sector (Toyota and ATS, to name two examples, are set to expand operations this year), as well as by diversification in the local tech industry. The shrinking of BlackBerry has led to a corresponding rise in the number of smaller tech-oriented start-ups, and talent is being drawn from all over Canada and the world to participate in this exciting era of growth and innovation in ‘Canada’s Tech Triangle’. All of this, it seems, is good news for prospective investors.
I’ll close by relating a few more statistics garnered from CMHC’s Fall 2013 reports. Bearing in mind that even as the local vacancy rate stands marginally above the national average (2.9% as opposed to 2.7%, respectively), it remains below, and well below in some cases, that of other Ontario communities of comparable size. Here are just a few examples of Ontario cities with higher vacancy rates than KWC’s 2.9%: Barrie 3.0%, London 3.3%, Peterborough 4.8%, St. Catharines-Niagara 4.1%, Windsor 5.9%, and Hamilton at 3.4%. The overall provincial vacancy rate stands at a slightly lower 2.6%, as of October of 2013, but this number must be taken with a grain of salt, affected as it is by the downward pull of the city of Toronto’s exceptionally low rate of 1.6%.
As I hope to have made clear, the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge area, with its growing employment market and high-profile academic institutions, remains an attractive market for the real estate investor. Please see directly below for links to a few of the reports I’ve consulted, and keep me in mind for any further questions or concerns. I’m always willing to help. Thanks for reading!
Two new listings have just hit the market in Uptown Waterloo! These investment properties, located at 134 and 138 Erb Street West, Waterloo, are both in a prime position to capitalize on the local student housing market. Taken together, they also present a possible development opportunity. Feel completely free to get in touch for more information! For links to the feature sheets which contain some financial details, and more, see below.
New Listing! 80 Hickory Street West, Waterloo
Fresh to Waterloo’s student housing market today comes this single detached property, licensed for five students. Ideally situated between the campuses of Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo, this is a prime location well suited to the student lifestyle. Easy access to GRT bus routes, including iExpress service, and a short walk away from many of King Street’s amenities: bars, restaurants, and services.
For further details, including in-depth financial information, please follow this link to find the property’s feature sheet.
Your Winter 2014 Real Estate Update
With a heavier winter this year than many folks can recall in recent history, things may seem to be quiet on the local real estate front. Nevertheless, stats recently released by the Kitchener-Waterloo Association of Realtors (KWAR) reveal some welcome news for those who are hoping to buy or sell on the local market. 2013 was a record year in terms of dollar volume of sales (over two billion!), and the total number of properties moved exceeded what was seen in either 2011 or 2012. 2014 Looks set to continue this upward trend, as interest rates remain low enough to provide a strong incentive to buyers.
For more on this story, and a range of other useful home ownership tips and strategies, please follow the link below to find my Winter 2014 Real Estate Update:
I’ll close by wishing you and your family the very best in 2014 and, as always, absolutely feel free to get in touch with me for answers to any questions!
New to the Market this Week – 5 Cardill Crescent, Waterloo
This clean, modern, and purpose-built five unit building is ideally situated to cater to the Waterloo student’s lifestyle. Constructed in 2012 to exacting specifications, 5 Cardill Crescent features 25 beds, plenty of parking, and a location convenient to both universities, public transit, and a host of other Waterloo amenities. This is a great turnkey investment opportunity!
For additional information, including financial details, please follow the link below.
Two Brand New Listings, Just Steps from WLU!
Fresh on the market this week – 47 & 59 Bricker Avenue Waterloo. These properties are a student housing investor’s dream come true. There is no better location in all of Waterloo! Just follow the links included below for further details.
Your Fall 2013 Real Estate Update!
Hello again! Hopefully everyone’s making the most of this chilly December weather. With Christmas time just around the corner, it’s likely that the last thing on your mind is real estate. However, it’s never too soon to begin laying out some ideas for the much busier Spring 2014 market; whether you’re looking to buy, sell, or to invest in the near future. I’m ready to act as your source for insider knowledge and sound advice – just get in touch, and we’ll get started.
Please follow the link above to find my Fall 2013 newsletter. It’s full of useful and current facts and statistics to consider if you’re hoping to make a move in the next few months.
Finally, many thanks for continuing to bear with me as the new website gets off the ground. It’s on the way to completion, but in the meantime, hopefully you’ll have a look around and find some useful information!