debt

The Informer

Politics

3 Comments

The man who raised millions for George Smitherman’s campaign is helping get Rob Ford re-elected

(Image: Ryerson)

It’s no secret Rob Ford is thinking ahead to the 2014 election—and now he has landed fundraising veteran Ralph Lean to help. Lean, a Bay Street lawyer, gushed over the mayor’s budget and labour victories in the Globe and Mail this weekend and confirmed that he’ll head up Ford’s fundraising team (a job he has done for various mayoral candidates since 1980). Most recently, Lean helped rake in more than $2.17 million for George Smitherman’s failed run against Ford and was partially responsible for that strange “unity dinner” that helped several candidates, including Ford, clear their campaign debts. It’s a coup for Ford, who only raised $1.08 million in 2010. That said, Lean has his detractors, who say he exaggerates his abilities and doesn’t always deliver. [Globe and Mail]

The Dish

Closings

5 Comments

Captain John’s Restaurant succumbs to the stormy seas of unpaid back taxes

(Image: Paul Dex)

The ongoing debt and legal issues at Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant, the iconic marine eatery docked at the foot of Yonge Street since 1975, have finally shut it down. Owner “Captain” John Letnik owes $568,000 in back taxes, utilities and outstanding lease payments. Normally, the city would just seize the property and sell it after three years of nonpayment, but the fact that Captain John’s is a boat—with no engine, stuck fast in the muck—makes things a little bit tricky. The vessel will stay put for now, but Letnick has to remove the sign, gangplank and everything inside by July 27. And it looks like Chef Grant Soto (also known as Taylor Clarke) is already trolling for a new site for his gluttonous charity pop-up dinner. [Toronto Star]

The Informer

Real Estate

Comments

Will Canada’s new mortgage rules zap Toronto’s condo boom? 

We’ve been wondering what the new federal mortgage regulations will mean for Toronto’s real estate market (especially since Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s worries over the local condo boom were a key motive for the rules). This week, some chilling words from Moody’s Investors Service: though the measures will likely cool home sales across the country, it already “may be too late to avoid a housing correction.” Moody’s analysts write that a massive build-up in consumer debt and the fact that disposable income is growing more slowly will make it difficult for Canadians to pay off what they owe, especially if interest rates rise—all of which could send house prices plummeting. Of course, as is always the case with housing market predictions, there are many willing to take a dissenting view, namely, that the regulations won’t have a significant impact on Toronto’s condo mania. [Financial Post]

The Informer

Features

20 Comments

Toronto’s housing forecast according to Garth Turner, the Dr. Doom of real estate

Bubble Boy

Turner outside his Caledon home, a former inn built in 1855

If the Toronto real estate market has nine lives, so, too, does its most famous prophet of doom, Garth Turner. Over a 40-year career, Turner has worked as a journalist, a broadcasting entrepreneur, a newspaper chain proprietor, a hotel and restaurant operator, twice as a federal MP (including a stint in Kim Campbell’s short-lived cabinet), a PC leadership candidate, and a financial author and speaker (or, as his critics put it, “seminar shill”). Most Canadians still know him best as the rebellious member of Stephen Harper’s government who was kicked out of caucus in the fall of 2006 for blogging about party business, then crossed the floor to join the Liberals.

Turner, you may be surprised to learn, is also a self-professed real estate junkie who over the years has bought and sold—very profitably—about 50 commercial and residential properties; he moved four in 2011 alone. But as he has watched prices and consumer debt levels soar, especially in Toronto and Vancouver, he has come to see the housing market as a grossly distended balloon that will—any day now—explode, raining debt and misery on the Canadian populace. Each delay to the inevitable reckoning, he argues, more deeply entrenches our delusion that the real estate boom—“the biggest bubble economy in history,” as he puts it—can continue forever, and leads a few thousand more naive young couples to sign five-per-cent-down mortgages on wildly overpriced fixer-uppers in Leaside or Riverdale. “The real estate correction will hurt,” he warns, “and the longer this thing goes before it tips, the more pain there will be.”

Read the rest of this entry »

The Informer

Features

34 Comments

Home Free: the advantages of swapping your mortgage for a lease

After years of crushing mortgage payments and escalating maintenance costs, one homeowner sold her house and signed a lease on a place a few blocks away. Life has never been sweeter

Home Free

Our last house was a little gem. Few homes in Leslieville are stately or architecturally impressive—it’s a neighbourhood of unremarkable brick semis with the rare Victorian or Tudor flourish—and the one my partner and I owned for two years was no exception. But inside, stripped down to its simple bones, with Benjamin Moore cloud white walls and dark wood floors, a cute IKEA kitchen and mid-century decor from local vintage shops, the place had charm. We bought it for $450,000 in 2007, a deal, if not a steal, for a home on a coveted street less than a five-minute walk from all the amenities required by the middle-class hordes: good coffee, a busy playground, decent restaurants. Soon, however, our house began to make exhausting demands: the furnace needed to be replaced, then the roof; the basement felt damp in the summer humidity, and in the winter our barely insulated bedroom, with its ancient windows, was so cold we had to run a space heater through the night.

There was no money to fix any of it. Our line of credit and credit cards were maxed out. We had two comfortable incomes, but after mortgage payments, utilities, property taxes, car payments, insurance, daycare and groceries, there was little left over. We added up the sums, living expenses against income, on increasingly complicated spreadsheets—it would be years before we would be in the black. Meanwhile, the company I worked for faltered during the recession. First the frills were cut: fewer couriers, no fancy Christmas parties, no taxi chits. Then jobs; I lost mine in early 2009.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Informer

Real Estate

Comments

How buying a home could make you a slave (kind of) 

Globe and Mail columnist Rob Carrick wrote another not-very-reassuring column about home ownership today (though he did refrain from calling readers suckers or donkeys this time). In expensive cities like Toronto or Vancouver, Carrick says, more and more homeowners in their 30s-through-50s have little or no money to contribute to their retirement savings after making their mortgage payments. What’s more, saddled with big mortgages, home equity lines of credit and the mountain of costs that come with moving into and furnishing a home, people are actually dipping into previously untouchable retirement savings to avoid sinking deeper into debt. An investment advisor quoted in the column says people feel trapped when they buy homes they can’t really afford, and calls the worries over debt “a new form of slavery.” With investment experts getting this hysterical, we can only imagine how the homeowners feel. Read the entire story [The Globe and Mail] »