Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Future for Ontario Place

Attendance may be waning at Ontario Place and the repeat visitation of Toronto residents may be stale but what are the make over potentials for Ontario Place? I commented on this issue a year ago and wonder again if a high rise residential community could be in the future for a forward thinking; long term strategic planner with some vision for the Toronto Waterfront.

“I think everybody agrees that the sort of kiddie park approach that is going on right now is not sustainable and is not going anywhere,” says O’Connor, whose company owns the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre. To appeal to a broader audience, and in all seasons, he says the site could host winter sports facilities, such as snowboarding halfpipes; interactive exhibitions on Toronto’s maritime history and on the future of mass transportation; and perhaps “a little canal system with storefronts and restaurants” that could cater to, among others, the residents of nearby condos.

O’Connor also says the 16,000-seat amphitheatre could be turned into a 6,500-seat enclosed facility during the winter if funding was made available. “It’s not that difficult, actually.”


Executive director, Jane’s Walk.

“We don’t need an aquarium, we don’t need an indoor ski hill, we don’t need a casino,” Farrow says. “We need people to live there” — in both a mixed-income, mixed-use high-rise development like the one being built in Regent Park and in a “funky” year-round houseboat community.

She wants visitors to pay only for specific attractions, not merely to enter the grounds. Among her programming ideas: an “enviro-expo” and transit expo showcasing innovative ideas and technologies; free swimming lessons in the lake; outdoor movies. Her most radical pitch: destroy the amphitheatre and replace it with a small outdoor music space that will “encourage people to bring a blanket and hang out” at cheap or free concerts by local artists.


Partner, The Planning Partnership

Unlike Farrow, Madi opposes residential development on the site. Like her, he believes Ontario Place should allow for an all-seasons houseboat community and do away with its general entry fee in favour of charges only for specific attractions. “I personally don’t believe that theme parks work in the long-term. By opening the place up, you bring the volume of traffic up, and then the functions that currently exist become more successful.”

Pedestrian, bicycle and transit access should be improved to better integrate Ontario Place with the city. “Any plans or visions for Ontario Place must include Lakeshore Blvd.”; a streetcar running along the route “would be a phenomenal attraction in and of itself.” A ferry connection from central downtown would also make the site easier to reach.


Chief executive officer, Luminato.

Ontario Place should become known as a home for events that are part of popular festivals like Pride, Caribana, the Jazz Festival and Luminato, Price says. “While I know there is a capital and hardware side to it, I think the real solutions are going to come on the content side,” she says. “If they gathered a group of us and said, ‘What would it take for us to get you to commit, for example, to use the facility. . . and not change your festivals or rename them, but partner with us, for at least five years, for at least one significant event during your festival, and we would in turn commit to a major marketing campaign.’”

Ontario Place will find it difficult to succeed if it attempts to produce its own content, she says.


Founder, Toronto Public

Space Committee

Says Meslin, a community organizer involved in a variety of civic projects: “Maybe part the property could be used as a community meeting space? We have a few large convention centres, but what about smaller groups that can't afford those spaces? Ontario Place is government-owned, so we could create a space that non-profits could use to hold small conferences, retreats, public events and group activities by the waterfront. A planetarium would be cool too though. . .”


Principal, ArchiTEXT.

Elaborate plans that cannot be fully implemented for years and that will cost taxpayers millions, Ebrahim says, should be rejected in favour of the return of the site to the Toronto public as a park — a “gift with no strings attached.”

“I think we have enough big plans right now for enough big things,” she says. “Why more? There’s enough development along the waterfront. There could be tons of plans, but I don’t see the need.”


Principal, Greenberg Consultants.

“Clearly,” says Greenberg, a prominent architect and urban designer, “the key to unlocking the value of Ontario Place is doing it in combination with Exhibition Place.” In addition, the fences on Lakeshore Blvd. should be taken down in an effort to turn the street into a “real urban boulevard”; access from public transit and waterfront trails, and for small boats like kayaks, should be improved; unsightly surface parking should be made a smaller part of the landscape. And the Ontario Place entry fee should be abolished in favour of public access and single-attraction fees: “The entire site could be thought of as a great park within which you have other uses.”


Former Toronto chief planner.

Bedford, now a member of the Metrolinx board among other titles, also raises the possibility of “finally” integrating Ontario Place and Exhibition Place. “The fact that both these properties are in public ownership is a tremendous asset that should be appreciated,” he says. “To me, it would be a huge waste of energy to ignore the local context of such an important neighbour.”

He says the two sites could be turned into a unique new major public park unified by a new “blanket of green” and water features and made more accessible by better local and regional transit service.


Senior editor, Spacing.

Nobody the Star spoke with advocated the destruction of the Cinesphere; several made strong pitches for its preservation. Micallef, the author of the book Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto, was one of the most impassioned. “It’s not the pods’ and the Cinesphere’s fault that some bureaucrats got lazy over the years and kind of neglected them. Those should be part of whatever happens to Ontario Place.”

He says residential development could inject 24-hour life into the area. As for specific uses: “Hopefully it’ll be small-scale, a whole bunch of small-scale stuff, something that mixes up a whole bunches of uses, rather than one big theme, which is what Ontario Place it was when it opened.. . .I don’t think we do that anymore.”

Lets ask a politician who is going to be here for a long time... Ms. Sarah Thomson Can we have your thoughts please?

Monday, July 26, 2010


There are more than 18,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Toronto, approximately one quarter of Canada's HIV-positive population. The need is great and the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation (PWA) provides practical information and support services, such as a food bank, health promotion, and treatment programs. The Friends For Life Bike Rally supports PWA and helps to raise over half of its annual operating budget.

Over 400 people will embark on the 660 km from Toronto to Montreal over a week in July 2010. Some of our riders are skilled cyclists; however, the Bike Rally has men and women of all backgrounds participating, from the ages of 18 to 70, joint in their passion to support their friends and loved ones. In its twelfth year, the Bike Rally is one of the most well-organized, safe, and inclusive events in Canada.

Please join in to support a worthwhile cause.

Thank you

Elderly and Home Alone?

Home alone – not anymore. Your adult child is back.

Call ‘em Boomerang Kids or KIPPERS (Kids In Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings) – but by any name, the number of adult children living with their parents is on the rise. And for Boomers, that can be a double whammy because many are being sandwiched between caring for their adult children and for their aging parents.

A recent survey* of Boomers revealed that four-in-ten who care for both children and parents say they have been forced to reduce the amount they’re investing for retirement, one-quarter say they have adopted a less comfortable lifestyle, and one-quarter expressed concern that this financial assistance will jeopardize their retirement security.

There’s no doubt that having adult children at home creates financial challenges by increasing the cost of living, creating a drag on savings, and even causing a loss of freedom. Here are some practical ideas about how to reduce stress, hard feelings and avoid potential financial disaster:

  • Pay to stay Treat your child as an adult and try to replicate ‘real world’ conditions by having them contribute to household expenses, chores, and even pay rent. If they aren’t employed, encourage them to actively seek work.
  • Invest in a secure future As an alternative to paying rent, insist that your adult child establishes an investment plan to help pay a future down payment on their own home.
  • Tax relief If your stay-at-home adult kid is also a student and has no tax to pay, you can relieve some of the pinch on your finances by taking advantage of unused federal tuition and education credits (combined). Up to $750 can be transferred from the student to a parent. (Provincial tax credits may also be available.)
  • Define ‘rent’ Is your child paying you fair market value rent or just enough to cover their share of home upkeep and the cost of groceries? If it’s the latter, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) says you don’t need to report that income on your tax return but you cannot deduct expenses. If you attempt to claim a rental loss, the CRA will put you to the test of proving the rental rate is at fair market value, and there is a reasonable expectation of profit.

With children taking longer to become self-sufficient and aging parents expected to live longer, Boomers could be in for a rough ride. The first step is talk openly with your children about money and responsibility. And a good second step is to discuss your situation with your professional advisor to make sure your financial plans stay on track.

*Boomers on Call Survey, 2009 – Harris/Decima for Investors Group

John Scholl CLU (Chartered Life Underwriter),CGA (Certified General Accountant), B. Mathematics,

Consultant - Investors Group Financial Services Inc. & Investors Group Insurances Services Inc.

Toronto's building department operations are neither open nor transparent

Before closing the purchase of their home, Pierre Marcoux and Caroline Bougie discovered the City of Toronto building department had an “open file” on the house. They wanted the seller, Darlene Remlinger, to rectify the situation by having the city’s file closed.

Typically, sellers are required by the purchase agreement to provide clear title free of any liens, mortgages, and other matters including breaches of the building code or zoning bylaws.

The purchase agreement signed by Marcoux, Bougie and Remlinger was on the typical standard form published by the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA). It contained a very badly worded 149-word sentence which deals with title problems and outstanding municipal orders.

Translated into understandable English, the tortured provision says that if the buyers object to any outstanding municipal work order or deficiency notice, and the seller is unable or unwilling to rectify the issue or obtain insurance (but not fire insurance) protecting the buyer and any mortgage lender, then the agreement is ended and the deposit returned.

Unfortunately, the sentence was a major contributing factor to the litigation which arose in this case.

In response to the demand by the buyers, the seller and her lawyer offered to provide the buyers with a title insurance policy purporting to protect them against whatever the city was concerned about in its “open file.”

The buyers declined the title insurance and the seller took the dispute to court prior to closing by way of an application under the Vendors and Purchasers Act, asking a judge to rule on the interpretation of the contract.

At the hearing, the buyers argued that even with the title insurance policy, they would be exposed to litigation and uncertainty over the effect of the city file. They objected to being forced to enter into a contract with a third party (the title insurer) against their will.

In an oral ruling last August, Justice Andra Pollak ruled that the purchasers had agreed to accept title insurance in the small print of the standard form contract. They could have refused if they wanted to do so at the time the agreement was being negotiated. The judge declared that the buyers’ objection to the city’s open file was satisfactorily answered by the commitment to provide title insurance.

Not only were the buyers forced to accept title insurance in the face of the city’s open file, but they were also ordered to pay the seller $9,800 in court costs.

In my view, the OREA form does a disservice to home buyers. Title insurance should not be forced on unwilling purchasers to paper over a title defect.

The Remlinger and Marcoux case highlights one of the biggest problems with buying houses in the city of Toronto: the municipal government will not tell purchasers whether the house they are buying is legal, whether it complies with zoning and building bylaws, whether it was built with a permit, and whether it is situated the appropriate distance away from the front and sides of the lot.

For the outrageous sum of $122.89, Toronto Buildings department will send out a form letter stating only that their computer records show no active permits or permit applications, no active Committee of Adjustment applications, no active notices or orders of violation, and no active matters of investigation. The city does not confirm whether or not these matters exist, but rather whether or not they are shown in the city’s computer files — which may not be up-to-date.

If there are any outstanding matters, they are disclosed but not explained in the letter.

Other Ontario municipalities are much more open and transparent in their responses to building and zoning inquiries. They examine land surveys for bylaw compliance, provide copies of zoning bylaws, advise when the building permit was issued and whether the house complies with zoning bylaws.

The city of Toronto does none of these things. Its building department operations are neither open nor transparent, and contribute to unnecessary expense and litigation for home buyers.

Aren’t Torontonians entitled to know whether the houses they are buying are legal?


Court decision: Remlinger v Marcoux.pdf

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Larry the Landlord; Know what you can ask

Weisleder: Do your research before renting out your space

It is important to conduct proper research in advance before renting any space to a residential tenant, whether it is a basement apartment in your home or an investment property. Being careful in advance can save you unnecessary lost rent, repairs and legal costs.

You must also be very careful when interviewing any potential tenant that you do not inadvertently violate any sections of the Human Rights Code.

In one case, a woman with three teenage boys was refused an apartment. She was able to prove that she was discriminated against for “family status” reasons. The judge accepted her statement of complainant that the superintendent told her that her application would probably be rejected because of her children and was told the landlord had trouble with teenagers in the past. She was awarded $4,000. It is clear that you must be very careful what you say to a tenant at any time in the interview process.

You are permitted to ask a tenant on a rental application if they smoke, whether they have pets and how many people will be living with them in the apartment. You cannot ask about their ethnic background, religious or sexual preference or marital status.

Trying to evict a tenant who is damaging the premises or interfering with the enjoyment of the other tenants can typically take two months, and that’s when there are no significant delays. Unfortunately, professional tenants who know how to work the legal system can delay proceedings by up to six months. Such tenants can cause severe financial hardship for landlords.

How can you avoid this from happening? You can carefully qualify your tenants, doing credit checks, obtaining references from previous landlords and making sure the tenants have regular employment. When you speak to prior landlords, make sure to ask whether the rent was paid on time and if the tenant kept his unit clean and tidy or caused damages through smoking, pets or disturbing the other tenants. To verify employment, ask the perspective tenant for a copy of their most recent company pay stub.

Once you have created a basement apartment, it is not so easy to change it back. For example, in one case where a landlord tried to terminate a basement apartment tenancy in order to use the space as a home office, it was not deemed to be acceptable as a reason to evict the tenant. Similarly, converting the basement for extra storage space will also not likely be an acceptable reason to evict the tenant.

Even if your basement apartment is illegal or has not been legally retrofitted, you still cannot evict the tenant. Only the city can evict the tenant, but be careful because the city could also issue a work order, requiring you to spend thousands of dollars to properly retrofit the unit.

In another decision, a landlord was not permitted to terminate a tenancy even though they proved that their son needed the apartment because the tenant had a chemical disability and she could not find another apartment to address her specific needs. The only way the landlord could evict her was if he could assist the tenant in finding a suitable alternative accommodation.

There are also of course responsible tenants who take excellent care of their apartment units, in many cases better than even an owner would. By making sure that you find these tenants in advance, you will not only secure your investments, you will not have to worry about the difficulties or the costs that will be incurred if you later need to evict them.

Mark Weisleder is a lawyer, author, course developer and public speaker for the real estate industry. Visit him online at www.markweisleder.com.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Toronto Is the Condo Capital of North America

2010 116% ahead of 2009 in monthly new home sales
Toronto GTA is the largest highrise market in North America
High Rise pricing has remained strong through economic downturn
Canada has Top 7/25 Markets in North America

So where would you like to live?

The Toronto Waterfront? Humber Bay Shore; maybe something along the Bloor Danforth Subway line possible overlooking the Old Mill?

I attended this new conference in Toronto; Informed and confidant business people are making their moves in Toronto. The real estate market has outperformed the TSX.

Comparing Toronto condo prices to other world markets like Hong Kong, New York City, London England, make Toronto seem very affordable. So... Give me a call at 905 361 3387 or email me at david@davidpylyp.com to get started.

There is no HST payable on a resale purchase. The summer time is a sleepier time to save a few thousand dollars? Interest rates have dipped slightly; Are you ready?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Struggles with Larry the Landlord and Marijuana

Larry the Landlord and his Illegal Marijuana House

Larry the Landlord has a number of misadventures that are sometimes his own doing and sometimes absolutely at the invitation of others.

Larry [A Fictitious Person] has a rental property available for a reasonable amount of money and finds himself a suitable tenant. The Tenant pays cash for a few months ahead of time and everything seems fine.

The Neighbourhood Watch committee decides that there might be too many cars frequenting the house for short duration visits; so the property must be a) operating as a take out restaurant b) involved in the sale and distribution growth of illegal substances.

The Police take note of the lead from the neighbourhood vigils and start surveillance, obtain a search warrant, serve the warrant, discover the illegal growth of marijuana in the property and promptly arrest all those seemingly [allegedly] involved. The Landlord now has a property with a grow op in his basement and is looking for a solution.

WELL….. The hydro has been disconnected by the local utility as the grow operation may or may not have tampered with the wiring and service panel, Theft of Hydro services may have occurred, inspections need to be made but not before an Environmental Assessment has been made. Removal of the Hydro meter effectively terminates your ability to occupy the property or live in. The Hydro will not be reinstated till the Air Quality Testing has been completed. (Your power tools and lights do not work in an un-powered house; there is no heat.

Mold, Mold may be in the basement caused by the high humidity or the mold could have contaminated the entire property. Inspectors need to be called. Inquiries made. Air Mass sensor are used to measure the PPM parts per million of mold in the air and if the staff can be permitted into a hazardous (toxic) work environment with or without protective suits and masks. A normal home inspection will not suffice. A base line of air quality (outside) is taken to compare with interiors. There will be mold. Mold is in bread, Mold spores are everywhere, not all mold is harmful. Some mold is deadly.

How to identify a Grow House

Remedial action must be performed that may include chemical washing agents, removal of drywall to the joists, removal of all ductwork and wiring, (so that the nooks and crevices can be accessed) possibly sand blasted to clean off the mold. There may be required filtration with HEPPA filtering.

I neglected to mention that the Bank has issued a Power of Sale demand letter on your residential mortgage; You have changed the quality and value of their security, they have added additional insurance premiums for their risk during this period. If you have the financial wherewithal you need to refinance (lenders are available to a max of 50% advance to value, rate is not cheap).The lawyer’s fees for “Correspondence” are added to the Claim amount. You will need a different lawyer to discharge the mortgage. If you owe more the property would actually become a power of sale and revert to the Bank. They may at this point in time become responsible for the remediation.

So lets recap. You have cleaned, remediated, inspected every electrical outlet junction box, light switch and socket; have run new wiring in the basement to all the circuits and upstairs where possible and are awaiting the re inspection and re-certification of your property. You are waiting to remedy any deficiencies found on your ESA Statements. You still have the stigma of being an illegal grow house.

This must be disclosed to the Prospective Purchaser prior to an offer;

The Buyer acknowledges that the property and buildings and structures thereon have been used for a criminal use or activity and acknowledges that the Seller makes no representations and/or warranties with respect to the state of repair of the premises and the Buyer accepts the property and the buildings and structures thereon in their present state and in an "as is" condition.

This offer is conditional upon the Seller providing to the Purchaser's Lawyer to review and find satisfactory in the Buyer's Lawyer's sole and absolute discretion. This documentation shall show evidence that the Seller has had the proper government required inspections of the home completed, and that the home has passed such inspections. These inspections are specific to homes that have been found to contain or used for the growth of illegal substances, regular home inspection reports will not be accepted. The Seller shall also provide receipts and records that all fines have been paid in full and that any other fines that arise due to the manufacture and growth of illegal substances in the house before buyer's completion date shall be paid in full by the Seller. Unless the Buyer gives notice in writing to the Seller personally or in accordance with any other provisions with 10 (ten) business days of acceptance that this condition is fulfilled, this offer shall be null and void and the deposit shall be returned to the Buyer in full without deduction. This condition is included for the benefit of the Buyer and may be waived at the Buyer's sole option by notice in writing to the Seller as aforesaid within the time period stated herein.

This creates the STIGMA of Grow House, and this will need to be disclosed when you are selling again in 8 or 18 years.

But in reality, this house is cleaner, wired up to the standards that are applicable to today’s wiring, inspected for air quality, thermal efficiency (HVAC was all reinstalled remember) City Permits to start and complete the work; Various fines and penalties all paid. In theory Buyers should be lining up to make this purchase.

The Purchaser will find a challenge in obtaining new financing on this property as a high ratio mortgage. Mona Rafiq Mortgage Specialist with CIBC Mortgages was successful in funding a recent purchase with 15% down, a paid CMHC fee, and a slightly elevated interest rate. CMHC will insure previous grow op properties as they understand the remediation and re inspection process.

Do you have a landlord story to share?

If this is not the type of information you are getting from your agent... What are you paying for?