Toronto-area home prices up 24.5% in April compared to last year

TORONTO – The Toronto Real Estate Board says there is fresh evidence indicating that speculation and foreign ownership make up a small component of the city’s housing market, raising questions about the need for Ontario’s plan to tax foreign speculators.

The board released new data on foreign buyers at the same time as it reported that prices continued to soar last month, though there were signs the market may be cooling as the number of transactions slipped.

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TREB says that between 2008 and April 2017, the average share of foreign buyers of properties in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region, which stretches from the Niagara Region to Peterborough, Ont., was 2.3 per cent.

It says during the same time period, the share of homes that were bought and sold within one year of the original transaction – an indication of speculative activity – was also low.

READ MORE: Ontario government to impose 15% tax on foreign homebuyers, expand rent control

In 2016, less than five per cent of transactions fit that definition, while in the first four months of this year, it went up to seven per cent.

TREB says its analysis was based on property assessments and land registry data in the province.

The new data came as the average price for all properties in the Greater Toronto Area last month rose to $920,791, an increase of 24.5 per cent compared to a year ago. That was slightly below the 33.2 per cent year-over-year increase in prices in March.

TREB says there was a dramatic increase in the number of new listings, which rose by 33.6 per cent since April 2016. But it also found the total number of sales in the Greater Toronto Area in April was down by 3.2 per cent from a year ago.

VIDEO: How skyrocketing Toronto house prices could impact Nova Scotia

London city council approves $2.7M grant for soil cleanup at downtown high-rise

London city council approved $5.2 million in cleanup and development subsidies Tuesday, including the much-debated removal of contaminated soil at Camden Terrace.

After weeks of debate, council moved forward with the request for a $2.7-million subsidy for Rygar Properties Inc. to help clean up the site of their proposed high-rise on Talbot Street.

Rygar is planning a $300-million multi-tower development that includes a nine-storey, a 29-storey, and a 38-storey building.

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READ MORE: Controversial downtown London skyrise denied full cleanup funding

Last month, the subsidy was questioned by a city committee as to whether the full amount was necessary. Since Rygar plans to build a four-storey parking garage, councillors argued the soil would be excavated regardless.

“Prior to the application for the grant, all indications were this was full steam ahead,” said Coun. Stephen Turner during the debate Tuesday night.

“This is but a percentage of the entire project, I don’t see this as necessary in order to make the project go forward.”

Turner, who voted against the subsidy, said the grant shouldn’t be awarded just because other projects were subsidized.

Coun. Jesse Helmer put forward a motion to have the subsidy reduced by about $200,000 to encourage the disposal of the contaminated soil at the city dump.

“I think if we put a little constraint on the budget, it’s more likely that it’s going to end up in our landfill, which I think is the more environmentally responsible thing to do, it’s the cheaper thing to do, and then we get that money back,” he said.

Ultimately, council approved the full ask for Rygar.

Council also approved a $2.5-million subsidy for Sierra Construction for their cleanup and development of the old McCormick factory on Dundas Street.

One year later: This is Fort McMurray rebuilding

James O’Reilly installed a security camera in his house in case of a break-in, but he never imagined he’d watch his home burn down through that lens.

“As soon as it starts, the video, you can see the smoke hitting the side window,” O’Reilly told Global News.

The video of his “red wall” burning went viral around the world. (Scroll down to see the video.)

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    READ MORE: Homeowner watches his Fort McMurray house burn on security cam

    In the video, you hear the roar of the fire followed by one of his windows breaking because of the heat.

    Moments later, smoke fills the room, and eventually blocks the camera.

    O’Reilly and his wife had just fled Fort McMurray when they stopped to watch the video, live.

    “We had people, whenever we stopped and talk to people about the fires and they would actually mention to us about this house they had saw on fire,” O’Reilly recalled.

    “We’d have to say, ‘that’s our house.’”

    Watch below: James O’Reilly watches his Fort McMurray house burn on security cam

    Their 1974 bungalow in the community of Abasand burned to the ground, but their new home will be ready this summer.

    “The things we loved about this place, we accentuated, where we couldn’t have before.”

    Builders work on a new home in the Beacon Hills area after wildfires last year destroyed most of the neighbourhood in Fort McMurray, Alta. Friday, April 21, 2017.

    THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

    The rebuild is well underway all around Fort McMurray.

    Sounds of backhoes digging holes, foundations being poured and hammers are all the soundtrack of the hardest hit communities.

    READ MORE: Fort McMurray wildfire: 1 year later, delayed rebuild underway

    Some 650 building permits have already been approved, after over 2,500 individual homes burned down in the 2016 wildfire.

    Darrin Eckel of Vis-Star Homes says the pace of construction is only going to pick up.

    “We have on our books 30 builds (homes) that we’ve started,” Eckel said.

    “We have about six holes in the ground already (this spring).”

    However, not everyone is coming back to this community.

    Municipal officials estimate 20 per cent haven’t returned after last year’s evacuation.

    READ MORE: Feelings of hope, uncertainty one year after Fort McMurray wildfire

    Empty lots are for sale throughout Fort McMurray as some are taking their insurance money for their homes and leaving.

    But O’Reilly is the opposite. He can’t wait to return.

    He and his wife are counting the days until he gets the keys, knowing it could take years until all of his neighbours return.

    After wildfires destroyed part of the city last year a welcoming sign sits greeting people as they enter Fort McMurray, Alta. Friday, April 21, 2017.

    THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

William Sandeson says during interrogation video intruders may have shot Taylor Samson

The seven-man, seven-woman jury in the William Sandeson murder trial saw more of his police interrogation on Wednesday.

Sandeson, 24, stands accused of killing 22-year-old Taylor Samson. Both men were students at Dalhousie University when it’s alleged the crime took place. Samson was studying physics and Sandeson was about to start his first year of medical school.

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READ: Murder trial hears from police, Taylor Samson’s girlfriend

Det.-Const. Roger Sayer, a member of the Halifax Regional Police, was once again called to the witness stand by the Crown. The jury didn’t hear from Sayer on Wednesday, instead, continued watching Sandeson’s interrogation video.

In the video, a police officer repeatedly asks Sandeson what happened at his apartment, where Taylor Samson is and whether or not he’s still alive. Sandeson is often seen crying and breathing heavily in the video. He remains silent for quite some time while an officer questions him, asking if he’s telling the truth and pressing him to describe exactly what happened the evening Samson was last seen alive.

Eventually, Sandeson tells police that intruders broke into his Henry Street apartment when Samson was there. The plan, according to Sandeson’s interrogation video, was to scare Samson over his drug dealing.

READ: Jury in William Sandeson murder trial sees police interrogation video

Sandeson said the intruders asked him to turn off the surveillance video he had set up. Once it was off, Sandeson said he heard a single gunshot and believes Samson may have been shot in the back of the head.

After that, Sandeson tells the officer that the intruders removed Sandeson in a large black bag, which also contained a quantity of marijuana. The court previously heard that Samson and Sandeson had planned to meet up on the night of Aug. 15, 2015 as part of a pre-arranged drug deal to sell 20 pounds of marijuana for $40,000.

Sandeson told the officer who was questioning him that he didn’t follow the intruders or see where they went with Samson once they left his residence. Instead, he stayed behind and cleaned up the scene.

READ MORE: Murder victim last seen at William Sandeson’s apartment building, prosecutor tells jury

The interrogation video ends with a police officer reading Sandeson his rights and informing him that he is being placed under arrest for murder.

The trial is now in its third week. Testimony is scheduled to resume Thursday morning at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax.

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