New Toronto Streetcars to Benefit Income Properties

I recently saw one of the Toronto Transit Commission’s new streetcars during my commute, and I have to say, I was not disappointed. I purposely missed the vehicle I meant to catch in order to get my first look at Toronto’s new ride.

I’ve been cursing the older streetcars that have plied Toronto’s streets ever since I first drove around the city, as they kept getting in the way. But when I moved downtown, my views of them changed, which I find is one of the great ironies of streetcar haters. These individuals never actually live in the communities served by streetcars, but when they ride them, they soon fall in love with them. The new model will give Torontonians many new reasons to love streetcars.

It is widely known that Toronto has the largest streetcar network in Canada. Click here to see a map of the TTC’s current streetcar network. Contrary to the opinions of Mayor Ford, this network is something Toronto can be proud of. Toronto avoided the mistake of ripping up its lines and pushing riders into cars. Many American cities that eliminated streetcars are now reintroducing them. This proved to be successful in Portland, Oregon, a city our Mayor should consider visiting sometime. Maybe he can visit Calgary and see their LRT network while he is at it.

Needless to say, our city would do well to keep the network operating smoothly as part of a comprehensive strategy that includes subways. Sadly, our Mayor might see greater purpose in them if he actually rode one or spoke to those who use them regularly. He would find those taxpayers prefer the short walk to the nearest streetcar stop and a slightly longer but still comfortable ride to work rather than a veritable commute to just to the nearest subway station.

Looking at the matter from the perspective of landlords, owners of converted houses with multiple self-contained units and apartment buildings along current streetcar routes will be impacted instantly. This is because their current and future tenants will see a greater value in living on existing streetcar lines. Their commutes will be faster, more reliable, more comfortable, and certainly more attractive.

Some have noted that the new streetcars will decrease the number of vehicles on the rails, which will have a negative impact on service levels. However, I am inclined to disagree. Here is why.

  • The new fleet will consist of 205 large-sized vehicles, which can hold 251 passengers. The present fleet of streetcars consists of 195 small-sized 132-person vehicles and 52 medium-sized 205-person vehicles. The TTC stated it will continue to operate many of the smaller vehicles into the future. Expect them to service the typically less-crowded lines.
  • They will spend more time on the road than in the shop compared to their older, rust-laden cousins who require frequent and onerous maintenance.
  • They will be less prone to breakdowns, keeping up with the flow of traffic and not stopping all streetcar traffic behind them so say nothing of the cars also impeded when this happens.
  • They have additional doors to permit faster passenger movement and use the Presto electronic fare payment system for quicker payment. Gone will be the days of the driver asking in vain for passengers to move to the back.
  • They are low-floored, permitting quicker passenger movement, especially among mobility-challenged riders. In particular, those with strollers will have an easier time boarding.
  • They will have less of an impact on car traffic because there will be fewer streetcars on the road, combined with the fact the vehicles will be able to cross the town much faster.
  • In cases where the commute is delayed– and it does happen – riders will be in better-quality vehicles with far better heating and cooling systems than the previous vehicles. Speaking of cooling, the new vehicles actually have proper air conditioning.

There comes a point in the development of a city that a majority of its population takes more pride in the public vehicle they ride over the private vehicle they drive. I can’t say how close Toronto is to that goal, but I believe it is heading in the right direction. Between the ongoing upgrades to Union Station, our much cleaner subway stations and transit vehicles, newer buses and Toronto Rocket subway cars, and now a new streetcar fleet, Toronto commuters can hold their heads a little higher. That bodes well for the tenants who use the system and the landlords that rent to them.



Pets Should be Considered a Safe Bet

“Written by the Toronto Star’s Jennifer Brown back in 2010, we like to re-post this article from time to time as our way delicately stating our experience managing properties with pets in them. We don’t expect anyone to know just how rare issues with pets are unless they manage thousands of tenancies as we do, but hope those that those who still insist “No pets!” will hear the evidence.”

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A Royal Pain in the Drain: Air conditioning/Heat pump units in Condos

One of the most overlooked maintenance pieces in condominium apartments involves a small drain leading from the air conditioning/heat pump unit.  It’s not big, but can present real problems. This drain can become easily blocked, and once blocked, the drain’s overflow tray fills with water and can overflow and cause damage to both the hardwood floors walls in your unit, and in adjacent units. This can be a silent and symptomless problem, especially if it drains into another unit, and not yours!

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Lawn & Garden Maintenance – Your job or theirs?

One of the most contentious issues for people renting out their homes is crab grass.  It’s true! Many people who have rented out their houses are careful to include a requirement for tenants to mow the lawn right in the lease.   However there is a difference between mowing the lawn and gardening.  Mowing the lawn does not include weeding flower beds, fertilizing, aerating, watering and general lawn and garden maintenance.  And mowing the lawn has nothing to do with controlling or removing crab grass.

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A Lighter Shade of Overhead

The importance of paint choice is a rare instance where something is both hard to quantify and yet invaluable.  As property managers, we recognized its importance many years ago and now recommend to our clients that they choose from a range of colours that have proven themselves both popular with tenants, and good investments for landlords.

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What Property to Acquire in Toronto after the ‘Places to Grow Act’

Until 2005, the Greater Toronto Area was developing in a manner not unlike that of Los Angeles: vast urban sprawl. Recognizing the hazards of this approach to development, the government of Ontario passed the ‘Places to Grow Act’ in 2005.

In short, it has fundamentally shifted the nature of home construction from single-family detached and semi-detached homes in the outlying regions of the GTA to condominium units in in building scattered across the city.

It did this by creating a ‘Green Belt’ around the city that contains development within its borders, forcing developers that want to build in the city to get into the high-rise game.

Every major city encounters a point where its growth hits a wall and it has to build up instead of out. Some cities become limited by geographic constraints but in the case of the GTA, the wall is policy-based. Either way, it triggered a fundamental shift in the marketplace.

Even though the state of the economy is not particularly strong and the condo market is cooling off, we are still seeing robust numbers in the single-family dwelling market segment throughout the region which is undoubtedly resulting in part from the legislation and expected to continue well into the future.

As the adage says, “Put your money in land because they are not making any more of it.” This applies even more so to anyone buying property in the GTA.

As a consequence of surging construction of high-rise residential units and a decline in the same for single-family dwellings, we will see in in the medium- to long-term the prices of the single-family dwelling housing stock perform better as their prevalence becomes increasingly rare.

The dream of families to live in such properties will continue, but it will become more expensive as more lower-income families must opt instead to occupy two- and three-bedroom suites in more intensified areas.

For the investor, however, this presents an opportunity to get into the market and benefit from the value appreciation that will occur – a benefit intrinsically tied to the fact such properties sit on their own of land. The investor with the longer-term horizon will benefit the most.

Condo suites will still present an investment opportunity especially for foreign buyers unable mortgage more than 60 per cent of the purchase value and in it for the long haul.

But in a city where condo construction continues to run strong with no end in sight, the future performance won’t be as strong compared to single-family homes, for example. It runs the risk of taking hits to its value in those times where demand fails to absorb supply as we are presently seeing.

The fact is that the 20,000-plus units coming on-line in recent years is hard for most cities in the world to absorb, and Toronto is no exception.