A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘condos

[LINK] “The Real Estate Crisis in North Dakota’s Man Camps”

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Jennifer Oldham’s Bloomberg article, looking at a real estate bust in a North Dakota that had been enjoying a boom in net migration, evokes Alberta for me.

Chain saws and staple guns echo across a $40 million residential complex under construction in Williston, North Dakota, a few miles from almost-empty camps once filled with oil workers.

After struggling to house thousands of migrant roughnecks during the boom, the state faces a new real-estate crisis: The frenzied drilling that made it No. 1 in personal-income growth and job creation for five consecutive years hasn’t lasted long enough to support the oil-fueled building explosion.

Civic leaders and developers say many new units were already in the pipeline, and they anticipate another influx of workers when oil prices rise again. But for now, hundreds of dwellings approved during the heady days are rising, skeletons of wood and cement surrounded by rolling grasslands, with too few residents who can afford them.

“We are overbuilt,” said Dan Kalil, a commissioner in Williams County in the heart of the Bakken, a 360-million-year-old shale bed, during a break from cutting flax on his farm. “I am concerned about having hundreds of $200-a-month apartments in the future.”

Written by Randy McDonald

September 29, 2015 at 10:11 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “What neighbourhood and gentrification mean for Berlin immigrants”

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Defne Kadıoğlu Polat writes for Open Democracy about how immigrants in Berlin are being priced out by gentrification.

Berlin has some of the fastest rising rents in Europe and a rapidly changing consumption infrastructure. Despite continuing regulations, such as a new rent cap law enforced in June this year and prohibition of luxury restorations in the relevant quarters, gentrification is taking its toll on the local population. Particularly low-income immigrants are adversely affected.

Generally speaking, in countries with strong welfare traditions such as Germany, the negative effects of gentrification are not easily detected. Often immediate displacement can be avoided through strict rent control. This year, in fact, Berlin was the first city in Germany to issue a rent cap law that forbids landlords from charging more than ten percent over the average local rent for new tenants. However, Berlin-based reporter Michael Scaturro in The Guardian has already noted that the law remains ambiguous, giving landlords the opportunity to make use of legal loopholes.

From my own field work in Berlin’s up-and-coming Reuterkiez neighborhood, located in the historical working-class and immigrant-heavy Neukölln borough, I can tell that landlords are eager to push low-income residents out of apartments and rent out to middle class newcomers and students who pay more due to flat sharing. Particularly immigrants are disadvantaged when it comes to defending themselves since they frequently lack language skills and know-how of the German legal system.

Moreover landlords and housing administrations often intentionally fall short of fulfilling their responsibilities in order to get old-established immigrant tenants to leave voluntarily. Given Neukölln’s historic roots as a working-class location, apartments are relatively basic. One major problem is moist, which can only be avoided through proper renovation. In one instance, Fatima[i], a woman with Arabic roots and broken German, told me her housing administration blamed her for the moist and refused to take care of it. In this and similar cases it seems that low-income and often welfare-dependent immigrants are more easily intimidated because they are not aware of their legal privileges. Murat Yıldırım, a lawyer active in the neighborhood, notes that many of his immigrant clients get themselves into legal difficulties by signing contracts they do not fully understand. After they have signed, it is often too late.

Meanwhile, many immigrant residents in Reuterkiez are willing to do whatever it takes to stay put in their neighbourhood. Spatial proximity is crucial for low-income inhabitants with limited social capital, but it is even more crucial for residents with a migratory background, female migrants in particular, who have often arrived after their husbands, do not work outside their homes and are less mobile. Accordingly, having everything nearby – such as doctors who speak their mother tongue, ethnic food shops or homework-assistance for their children – becomes a vital issue.

In my experience, immigrants in Neukölln’s Reuterkiez neighborhood are therefore willing to reduce their quality of life in order to stay in or close to their familiar environment. So, a female immigrant from Turkey, Emine, told me she had moved into a one-and-a-half room apartment with her husband and three children offered to her by her landlord after the pipes burst in her old apartment. Since she did not know when the damage would be fixed she signed up for a new – way too small – apartment in the same building, fearing she would have to leave the neighborhood if she did not take what she was offered. Emine’s landlord then proceeded to sell the building, and the new owner fixed the damage and rented the space out to students.

But it does not always have to be a landlord on the make who leaves tenants in distress. A typical scenario for Reuterkiez is that a family with new offspring wants to move into a bigger place but is simply unable to find a new apartment in the same area for a rent they can afford. So they stay in the same apartment despite its becoming too small for their growing family.

The German welfare agencies are not helping to alleviate the situation either: several long-term immigrant residents told me that the local unemployment agency advises them to move to Marzahn-Hellersdorf in East Berlin where rents are still low. Marzahn-Hellersdorf, however, is infamous for neo-Nazi activity. Understandably, most families would rather live in a badly-maintained and overcrowded apartment than move to that area. And even without the threat of racism, many immigrants are unhappy about changing their neighbourhood. Emine sums up the problem for her and other immigrants in her quarter:

Written by Randy McDonald

September 29, 2015 at 2:44 am

[PHOTO] Looking up at the CN Tower from Harbourfront

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Looking up at the CN Tower #toronto #harbourfront #cntower

Looking northwest from the grounds of the Harbourfront Centre yesterday, where Toronto’s Word on the Street literary festival was being hosted, this is what I saw.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 28, 2015 at 3:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] On suing suburbs of San Francisco for rental housing

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The Toronto Star‘s Robin Levinson King wrote earlier this month about an initiative by a San Francisco group to force suburbs to allow rental housing.

An advocacy group has a novel solution to the affordable housing crisis that’s gripped many cities across North America: sue the suburbs.

The SF Bay Area Renters’ Federation is using a little-known law to force the tony garden suburb of Lafayette, Calif., located about an hour east of San Francisco, to build rental housing. On Monday night, the city council downsized a 315-unit apartment complex proposal to just 44 single-family homes.

Sonja Trauss, the champion of the Sue the Suburbs campaign, called the decision “mean spirited” and said it limits access to affordable housing.

“One of the reasons we have such high prices is we don’t have enough housing,” she told the Star.

The suit, which has yet to be filed, argues that the city council decision violates the California’s Housing Accountability Act, which says cities are not allowed to reject housing development proposals that meet existing zoning requirements.

The law, enacted in 1982, was specifically designed to keep cities and suburbs from using zoning powers to stop housing projects.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 25, 2015 at 7:48 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Parkdale Community Groups Confront Gentrification”

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Torontoist’s Samira Mohyeddin notes how the inevitable, post-Queen Street West, gentrification of Parkdale is driving out the poor who have long made this neighbourhood their home.

Almost 100 Parkdale residents, community members and activists crammed into the Parkdale Activity and Recreation Centre last night at 1499 Queen Street West in order to discuss the proliferation of evictions and rent increases caused by gentrification-driven displacement.

The forum allowed residents of the community to exchange their personal stories of housing insecurity and to offer ideas as to how the community can put an end to further rent increases and illegal evictions.

The Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust (PNLT), a community-controlled non-profit organization of residents and local agencies, was one of the organizing committees of the forum. The PNLT is trying to acquire and manage land in the community to ensure the availability of secure and affordable housing.

According to Joshua Barndt, Project Co-ordinator for PNLT, development increased by 126 per cent between 1996 and 2006. During that time, rent values increased by 93 per cent, and more than 45 affordable homes and rooming houses were lost in North Parkdale. Barndt also noted that 90 per cent of Parkdale residents are renters, with 40 per cent either low-income residents or living on social assistance.

Some of the stories are heartrending.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 23, 2015 at 5:03 pm

[PHOTO] Crane over Yonge, Yonge and Eglinton

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Crane over Yonge #toronto #yongeandeglinton #condos #cranes #yongestreet

This crane was fully extended, stretching northwest from the great pit on the northeast corner of Yonge and Eglinton, over Yonge Street and above the sidewalk. I have questions about how safe this was, but it was eyecatching.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 23, 2015 at 12:48 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Galleria Mall on Dupont sold to condo developer”

blogTO’s Amy Grief reports on what may be the end of the Galleria Mall.

[T]here are reports that Freed Developments has purchased the Galleria Mall, a lagging mall in desperate need of refurbishment.

A representative from Galleria confirmed that as of August 14, the building’s new owner is 2470347 Ontario Inc. with Avison Young Property Advisors and Managers Inc. as the property manager. As of present, Freed Developments has yet to comment.

Instead of getting a makeover, the mall could get a complete overhaul, and a new life, as some sort of mixed use condo tower likely thanks to one of the most fashionable developers in the city.

This wouldn’t be Freed’s first foray onto Dupont. The company has already acquired land west of Spadina and has submitted a rezoning proposal with plans to construct two high-rise condo towers at 328 Dupont with a total 560 residential units.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 17, 2015 at 9:52 pm


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