City of Mississauga Property Tax Hike in 2014 - Up 6.1%

Mississauga council passed a 6.1 per cent increase on the city’s portion of the 2014 tax bill Wednesday, as councillors fretted about the city no longer being debt-free, projects going unfunded, and a growing infrastructure deficit. “The property tax is not sustainable for municipalities across the country,” Mayor Hazel McCallion said just before the 2014 budget was given final approval. McCallion, 92, has said this will be her last term but, with the city she has led for 35 years facing dire times financially, after stepping down she’ll continue campaigning for better financial support for cities.
 The city tax increase, plus a 0.6 per cent projected increase in the Peel Region portion, results in a 2.4 per cent hike in the overall tax bill for a Mississauga property owner in 2014 — assuming the provincial education portion remains unchanged, as it has for about a decade. Mississauga’s tax hike alone represents an extra $18 on every $100,000 of assessed property value.
With numerous infrastructure projects having to go unfunded to keep the tax increase reasonable and $36.6 million of new debt on top of the $50 million in debt issued this year (the city had been debt-free for decades), MIRANET, a ratepayers umbrella group, had grim words for councillors about the city’s “economic difficulty.” McCallion acknowledged that a city once flush with development dollars has found that revenue source depleted as it has been built out.
“That is why we’ve been out of debt for so many years, because we’ve had those reserves to call on,” she explained. MIRANET criticized the budget for its failure to set aside funds for the planned $1.6 billion Hurontario LRT, which has yet to receive any senior government money. McCallion is adamant that the city should not have to cover any of the capital cost of the LRT, given that the province is paying the capital costs of Toronto’s Eglinton Crosstown project. The province has said municipalities need to pay their share of transit expansion. MIRANET called for a freeze on the salaries of non-union staff, but council voted to approve the 2 per cent pay increase included in the 2014 proposed budget.
The city’s total labour costs, including benefits, have risen from $379 million in 2010 to $445.5 million in 2014. A resident at Wednesday’s meeting questioned the labour costs, suggesting that departments such as planning and building should be scaling back. “Shouldn’t you be cutting back on these staff, now that there’s no new development?” he asked. Development-related revenue is indeed plummeting, such as building permit fees.
Only $19.9 million in development charge revenues are projected to go into city coffers in 2014, compared with the post-2000 peak figure of $52.7 million, garnered in 2007.

The First-Time Buyer is Back

Just a few weeks ago, the house on East York’s Marlow Ave. would have looked like a simple starter home — two bedrooms and two bathrooms crammed onto a 17-by-93-foot lot, listed for $469,900.

But by Monday night, after the barn-shaped detached home sold for $525,000 in a flurry of eight competing offers, it became symbolic of something much bigger.

The first-time buyer is back.

“January can be a very volatile month. I’m usually struggling for buyers. But I cannot remember having this much business coming into the new year,” says listing agent Carolyn Griffis of ReMax.

Mortgage brokers have also seen a surge since Christmas in would-be home buyers, especially first-time buyers, looking to get preapprovals or to renew approvals that lapsed last fall and winter as they headed for sidelines, waiting for the housing market to cool or crash.

“There seems to be a lot of pent-up demand in the first-time buying community,” says long-time mortgage broker Joe Sammut of Mortgage Architects.

“People seem to have let the dust settle (since the market started softening last summer) and they’re saying, ‘Maybe it’s time to buy now that we’ve had six months more to save up and see what is happening in the marketplace.’ ”

In fact, the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) is reporting a strong start to 2013. Home sales were down just 1.3 per cent in January over a year earlier, welcome news after six months of largely double-digit decreases. And prices were up 4.3 per cent last month across the GTA, according to figures released Tuesday by TREB.

The average sales price of a GTA home last month was $482,648, up from $462,655 in January, 2012.

Assuming the turnaround holds, “expect annual price growth in the three to five per cent range this year,” says TREB’s senior market analyst, Jason Mercer.

The strong January “suggests that some buyers, who put their decision to purchase on hold last year due to stricter mortgage lending guidelines, are once again becoming active in the market,” said Toronto Real Estate Board president Ann Hannah in a statement.

She noted that sales were especially strong in the suburban regions around Toronto, citing the dampening effect of the city’s land transfer tax. But affordability can’t be discounted: The average sales price of a detached house in the city was $765,049 in January compared to $563,675 in the 905 regions, TREB’s January sales figures show.

The resale condo sector remains soft, with TREB reporting a 5.1 per cent decline in sales in January over a year earlier. The biggest drop in sales (6.4 per cent) was in the 905 regions, compared to a 4.5 per cent decline in the city.

The average price of a resale condo in the 905 regions dropped 1.4 per cent to $269,073, while units in the 416 area were down 1.3 per cent to an average $340,295, says TREB.

Townhouses saw the biggest decline in sales in January year over year in Toronto, with sales slumping 11.2 per cent. Prices, however, were up almost 2 per cent, to $418,262. That compares to a 1 per cent increase in 905 sales and a 5.6 per cent increase in price to $359,271.

The sale of detached homes in the 416 region declined 7.6 per cent, but prices held steady, up 2.7 per cent year-over-year. Sales of detached homes in the 905 regions were up 3.7 per cent and prices up almost 7 per cent, TREB reports.

Some 4,375 homes changed hands in January compared to 4,432 a year earlier.