Toronto Loft Conversions

Toronto Loft Conversions

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Modern Toronto Lofts

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Unique Toronto Homes

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Condos in Toronto

Condos in Toronto

I started off selling mainly condos, helping first time buyers get a foothold in the Toronto real estate market. Now working with investors and helping empty nesters find that perfect luxury suite.

Toronto Real Estate

Toronto Real Estate

For all of your Toronto real estate needs, contact Laurin. I am dedicated to helping you find that perfect and unique new home to call your own.

 

The urban upset

Adam McDowell, National Post

Richard Florida sighs, deflated by submarine sandwiches.

A photograph of two Subway sandwiches lies on the table of Mr. Florida’s office at the Martin Prosperity Institute of the University of Toronto as he sits for an interview. He stares at the memo about cheese placement from Subway Australia’s head office to franchisees. What vexes the most celebrated urban planner of the moment is the fact that the memo replaces one black-letter directive (overlap the cheese) with another (tessellate the cheese — you can look it up).

Having spent years advocating making service jobs more challenging and rewarding, Mr. Florida would prefer to see “Sandwich Artists” encouraged to do the geometry for themselves. “This is exactly what drove General Motors into the ground,” he says, shaking his head. “Treating employees as cogs in the machine.” The problem with being a guru is no matter how persuasive or prescient your recipe may appear, the real world has a habit of fixing a whole other sandwich. For example, Mr. Florida’s adopted home of Toronto has not been behaving the way he would like in the postrecession era.

Toronto has figured prominently in Mr. Florida’s sermons since 2007, when U of T poached the urban theorist, originally from New Jersey, from Washington’s George Mason University. He says he has told Americans, “If you’re really interested in seeing a liveable, sustainable city, you’ve got to come to Toronto.”

An entire chapter of his most recent book, The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity, is dedicated to the greatness of Toronto. In particular, the number of young families living downtown impresses the transplanted American.

As the post-recession era unfolds, however, Toronto threatens to become one tough sandwich for the urban economics guru to swallow. Mr. Florida’s adopted backyard is exhibiting a few trends that would seem at first to make the “spatial fix” he predicts in The Great Reset more unlikely to happen.

As is his prerogative as an academic, Mr. Florida wears the hat of the prophet or the evangelist, depending on the circumstance.

In the book and in our interview, he likens imagining the orld a few decades from now to trying to predict the post-war suburban boom on the day of FDR’s inauguration. That being said, self-fulfilling prophecies often pan out, and The Great Reset urges business and political leaders to help realize a new, post-industrial “spatial fix.”

“One thing is certain,” he says in Chapter One. “[An] emerging way of life, which some already refer to as an impending ‘new normal,’ will be less oriented around cars, houses and suburbs.”

Back to some of those difficulties fitting Toronto into this theory:

1. People still want to own their houses

“Mobility and flexibility are key principles of the modern economy. Home ownership limits both,” Mr. Florida writes in a chapter of The Great Reset about a coming “shift toward renting.” A labour force attached to its houses is less competitive than an unfettered one, he argues.

He explains that a robust rental market has contributed to the success of cities from San Francisco to Washington and New York. “When 40% to 45% of your housing stock is rental, it enables you to adjust much better to economic changes,” Mr. Florida says.

Meanwhile, figures released by the Toronto Real Estate Board this year have shown the city’s housing market back to the usual: in other words, record-breaking frenzy. The May report, issued last week, revealed the average cost of a house in Greater Toronto has reached $446,593, or 13% higher than a year earlier.

The market is so strong, Toronto Real Estate Board president Tom Lebour says even people who expect to move from the city in a year or two often buy rather than rent, in order to build up some equity. Mr. Florida says advice about home ownership only applies to certain people and cities, and is mostly directed at the United States, which got more carried away during the boom of the 2000s than Canada.

“Folks who have a job that they know is stable, and they’re going to stay in the city for a long time, they should probably buy a house,” he says.

2. People still want to live in the suburbs

According to data released this week by Statistics Canada, 14% of residents in the child-rearing age range of 25 to 44 decamped from the core municipalities of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver between 2001 and 2006 and headed for the decidedly less Floridian suburbs.

Some 95,700 Torontonians swapped their 416 area codes to become suburban 905ers, compared with 27,500 who moved in the opposite direction.

While Mr. Florida may be associated with championing dense urban environments, his postrecession message has acknowledged that the suburbs are not going to be vacated.

“There’s no shortage of dyed-in-the-wool urbanists out there predicting the death of the suburbs and a return to denser, urban neighbourhoods,” he writes. “It’s a lovely, romantic notion, but it’s wrong.”

Homeowners and businesses with roots and investments in suburban locales are not about to make a reverse flight back to cities. Mr. Florida says one key to the Reset is “the rebuilding of older suburbs,” and he lauds “attempts that officials and planners and politicians are making to have more transit-oriented development, to rebuild our walkable communities, to retrofit our communities.”

Mr. Florida says projects like this are taking place in Mississauga, Markham and Ajax.

3. Suburban transit riders are still waiting for expanded public transit

In the remade suburbs of the future, Mr. Florida says “those who prefer to take public transportation or walk or ride their bikes to work will also be able to.”

In reality, Ontario’s governing Liberals curtailed Toronto’s plans to branch light rail transit into its inner suburbs in their March budget. The regional transit body was asked to find $4-billion in savings over five years, which forced shortening of the routes and lengthening of the construction timelines.

Last year, Mr. Florida and his colleague Roger Martin delivered a report to the Ontario government insisting it invest in the province’s workforce and infrastructure, stopping bailouts for failing industries. Mr. Florida declined to bite the hand of Premier Dalton McGuinty when asked to comment on the Transit City decision.

“I’m not an expert on transit. Look, I think we need a transit system that is seamless, that can get people from point A to B to C to point Z without having to go nuts — and certainly a transit system that connects us to our airports. We definitely need high-speed rail in this region,” he says.

The most fearsome challenge facing Toronto, according to Mr. Florida, is a familiar one to drivers. “The traffic in this city is terrifying.”

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Contact the Jeffrey Team for more information¬† –¬† 416-388-1960

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