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Aggregation of selected recently-updated blogs, news feeds and tweets:

Wednesday January 18, 2017

17:01 Transferware Tea in the Sunroom »Aiken House & Gardens
15:39 [URBAN NOTE] "Requiem for Hugh’s Room: Much-loved folkie venue a victim of cash-flow problems" »A bit more detail (Randy MacDonald)
Brad Wheeler's feature in The Globe and Mail about the fate of Hugh's Room reads like an elegy to this much-appreciated venue.

Richard Carson stands outside Hugh’s Room, having a smoke and talking about the specialness of his west-end music venue that now is in limbo because of financial problems.

“What I wanted to do here was to create a place where artists wanted to play, where staff wanted to work and where music fans wanted to be,” he says, looking off at the grey sky. “Some nights, I would stand back and watch those three things come together, and, I tell you, it was magical to see.”

With that, Mr. Carson, who opened the city’s premier folk club in 2001, shakes his head worryingly and stubs out his cigarette.

Just then, a friend who’s chipped in to fix an electrical problem in the building steps outside and pats Mr. Carson on the back as he walks by. “Hang in there, Richard,” he says. “Hang in there.”

The club owner laughs softly to himself. Hang in there? He’s been doing exactly that for nearly 16 years.
15:36 [URBAN NOTE] On Jim Karygiannis' call for a foreign buyers tax in Toronto »A bit more detail (Randy MacDonald)
CBC News' John Reiti reported on Toronto city councilor Jim Karygiannis' call for a tax to be levied on foreign buyers of Toronto real estate.

A Toronto councillor is renewing calls to implement a foreign buyers tax to cool down the city's red-hot real estate market.

Coun. Jim Karygiannis, who held a Thursday news conference alongside a McMaster University economist, has sent a letter to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne asking for permission to slap a five-per-cent tax on foreign buyers.

Ontario has balked at the idea of taxing foreign buyers over concerns that such a tax could significantly hurt the value of homes that people already own. The province is also keeping an eye on Vancouver's market, where a 15 per cent foreign buyers tax came into effect on Aug. 2, 2016.

"We're not taxing our own folks," Karygiannis told reporters at city hall.


Torontoist has pointed out that even if this tax achieves its limited goal of cooling down the market, it cannot be the only response.

Some real estate groups in the city have come out against implementing a tax here, warning that a “knee-jerk” reaction isn’t the answer. And that might be the case, but if a move like this might prevent Toronto market from reaching the absurd levels Vancouver has seen in recent years—where seven-figure prices on real estate are the norm—it could be worth looking into.

So many Torontonians are already priced out of home ownership, and it’s worth considering all options to make sure the situation doesn’t get worse. But a tax won’t fix everything: there are bigger issues to consider in the landscape of Toronto’s unaffordable housing situation. If imposing a new tax will alleviate some of the pressure, it could decrease housing demand, but it doesn’t solve the supply side of the problem. City Council needs to commit to more than just asking the provincial government to deal with it, and no one policy is going to solve an issue as nuanced as housing affordability.


http://torontoist.com/2017/01/foreign-homebuyer-tax/
15:32 [URBAN NOTE] "Why today might be the best day to buy a Toronto-area house" »A bit more detail (Randy MacDonald)
If Tess Kalinowski's reported analysis of patterns of real estate transactions in Toronto over the calendar year is correct, I may have missed my chance to buy a house yesterday.

The choice of homes may be limited in the dead of winter, but consumers waiting for the hot spring market should know that January actually provides the best chance for snagging a bargain.

Seven years of sales data on about 650,000 Toronto-area transactions, shows Tuesday is probably the day this year when buyers will pay the least for a home, according to an analysis by TheRedPin real estate brokerage.

That's because there is residual inventory — homes that didn't sell in October and November, sometimes because they were over-priced, said Tarik Gidamy, co-founder and broker of record with TheRedPin.

"(Sellers) who are desperate — who have bought a house already and need to sell what they've got — are willing to take a cheaper price simply because the supply of buyers is not 100 per cent there yet," he said.

Based on the seven-year averages, TheRedPin found that Toronto-area homes in January sold for nearly $70,000 less, compared to the spring housing market, which peaks in May.
15:30 [URBAN NOTE] "Analysis of 514 Cherry Service for December 2016" »A bit more detail (Randy MacDonald)
Steve Munro's analysis of traffic and scheduling patterns on the 514 Cherry route is not flattering for the TTC. Functionally, it is less an independent route and more a somewhat exotic variation on the King line.

The 514 Cherry car has been running since June 2016. Although originally planned as a net new service, budget for the route fell victim to the 2016 round in which headroom for the “new” service was created by reallocating vehicles from 504 King. The purpose was to concentrate service on the central part of King where there is higher demand, but in practice, the original schedule did not work out. In November 2016 the headways on 514 Cherry were widened to compensate for longer-than-planned running times.

The 514 Cherry car has been something of an afterthought for the TTC in several ways. Planning and construction for it began years ago, but implementation was delayed until after the Pan Am Games were out of the way and the Canary District began to populate with residents and students in the new buildings. Another major blow has been the failure to build the Waterfront East LRT which is intended to eventually connect with the trackage on Cherry Street as part of a larger network. In effect, the spur to Distillery Loop is treated by the TTC as little more than a place for a scheduled short turn of the King Street service, much as trackage on Dufferin Street south of King is for the route’s western terminus.

Riders bound for the Distillery District face two challenges. One is that the older streetcars do not have route signs for 514 Cherry, only a small dashboard card wrapped over the “short turn” sign. Tourists might be forgiven for wondering if a 514 Cherry will ever show up. As new streetcars gradually appear on this route, this problem will decline, but it is an indication of the half-hearted way service was introduced that good signage was not part of the scheme.
15:19 PEI Status of Women’s Executive Meets in Summerside »Women's Equality PEI
The Executive Committee and staff of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women met last week in Summerside. In addition to discussing Council business, members had a chance to meet with Melissa Smith, recent winner of the Diane Kays Memorial bursary. In the photo from left to right are Melissa Mullen, Treasurer from […]
15:00 A scary time in Quintana Roo: violence rocks Cancun »John Cairns Blog
As you surely know by now, back in November I was in sunny, plus-30 Celsius Cancun, Mexico on vacation. I did plenty of shopping, ate at a lot of good restaurants and watched countless football games on TV in the sports bars. All in all, a really good week.  Unfortunately, it looks like I will […]
Sources