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Wildfire Thomas fifth largest in history of California

California’s wildfire, named Thomas, is still raging, becoming the worst of the five fires currently destroying the countryside. After spreading to more than 50,000 acres on Sunday, Thomas has set the record as the fifth largest wildfire in the history of the state. The fire is much more severe than those seen in Boston and New York in recent years.

To date, more than 230,000 acres have been destroyed by the fire and almost 5000 homes were issued evacuation orders after being placed in the latest danger zones. Due to unpredictable and shifting winds, combined with low humidity, this has caused the fire to burn uncontrollably for more than a week.

After a week not much has changed. The Governor of California, Rick Brown, issued a sombre statement, telling residents of Southern California this is the new normal. Close to 800 structures have been destroyed by the fire.

“With climate change, some scientists are saying that Southern California is literally burning up,” Brown said in a statement. ” So we have to have the resources to combat the fires and we also have to invest in managing the vegetation and forests, in a place thats getting hotter.” Brown also told reporters that he sees extreme fire activity happening on a regular basis for decades to come.

More than 5700 firefighters, from 100 different crews, have been putting in their efforts to help contain and control the wildfires, But heavy winds are making the task extremely difficult. In the past week, firefighters were only able to contain 15 per cent of the vast fire and this number is expected to drop over the next week.

The fire started in Ventura County last Monday. Only one person has died so far — Virginia Pesola, 70, passed away at the scene of a car crash along the evacuation route. There is still a red flag warning in effect for most of Los Angeles.

So far, the state has spent more than $34 million in relief efforts in order to try and contain Thomas. Thousands of residential areas are without electricity and over 200,000  people have had to evacuate their home since last Monday.

The White House has approved additional funding  to combat Thomas and California will receive direct federal assistance. New evacuation orders have also been issued, as the fire threatens another 25,000 homes in the Santa Barbara county. The evacuation orders are for the area spanning Buena Vista Drive to Toro Canyon Road.

Back in October, fires destroyed parts of Northern Calofirnina, killing almost 40 people and destroying close to 9000 homes.

UPDATE 3 p.m: Hurricane Maria, category 5 storm, 1 dead

Overnight, Hurricane Maria was elevated to a category five storm, devastating the Dominica Caribbean Islands. It is being described by the National Hurricane Centre as “potentially catastrophic” and has led to at least one death as of 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Media reports claim one person has been killed in Guadaloupe after a tree branch fell on top of them.

Winds have increased to 260km/hr and water levels are raising seven to 11 feet above normal tide levels.

 

Officials in Dominica described the results of the storm as “widespread devastation”. As of 8 a.m. on Tuesday, there were no reported deaths, but officials said the weather conditions make it difficult for a proper assessment to be made. Mostly, the damage is physical, with mass flooding and wind damage. The Dominica Prime Minister’s house was completely destroyed, the roof taken clean off. He needed to be rescued after his home started to flood. The Prime Minister updated his residences via Facebook.

The eye of the storm is expected to travel over Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Isles tonight. The governor of Puerto Rico has already declared a state of emergency in preparation for the storm.

More to come.

Baby boomers and millenials need to prepare for senior crisis

Baby boomers and millennials are often at odds with one another due to differing values and desires. Baby Boomers are often blamed for the state of the economy and environmental degradation today, and millennials are seen as flippant and spoiled. Both parties enjoy pointing fingers, but the reality is these are the grandparents, parents, and children of society, and everyone must learn to work together.

In coming years, retiring baby boomers will be the largest age group in the twenty-first century to reach old-age and millennials, as a much smaller generation, will be in charge of providing for these seniors. To avoid being crushed economically on a global level, millennials and baby boomers need to put their differences aside and figure out how to support this fundamental change in society. The world is rapidly aging, with the number of people aged 60 or up growing from 11 per cent in 2006 to 22 per cent by 2050, according to the guide on building age-friendly cities by the World Health Organization (WHO). This is a massive population shift and society needs to prepare essential senior’s services in cities all over the world.

In celebration of senior’s month in Ontario, throughout the month of June there will be a lot of focus on providing services for seniors. The City of Toronto is dedicating programming to the safety of older adults with Toronto Fire Services, which includes door-to-door visits to Toronto Community Housing senior’s buildings and fire prevention services will conduct visits to provide safety tips to avoid home fires. Ontario is also supporting 460 new projects through the Senior’s Community Grant program to help seniors stay involved and active in their communities. This includes providing seniors with projects and initiatives in the non-profit sector to stay involved and engaged. Though these projects are positive for seniors, housing and transportation should be the central focus for senior’s month in Toronto.

In order to create an age-friendly city, builders must create stronger transportation. There is a global shortage of affordable housing that focuses on seniors and building infrastructure with old-age-motivated features will help avoid a housing crisis in the next 10 years. Public transportation benefits everyone and is a necessity for seniors because many can’t drive after a certain point. Buses and subways give unlimited access to essential city services such as medical and recreational services and should be a priority to build an age-friendly urban center.

When planning for seniors, providing accessibility in every part of the cityscape is also considerably important. According to the Age-friendly Checklist by Alberta Health, every aspect of a senior’s daily transportation must be easily accessible. Sidewalks need to be even for seniors with mobility issues and provided on all roadways. Public transportation must have elevators and easy access to buses and subways. Public buildings must be accommodated with handicap washrooms and ramps if there are stairs. In colder climates such as Canada, preparing for icy conditions and cold weather is also relevant for seniors.

With the better part of the baby boomer generation retiring in the next 10 years, it is imperative to start orienting infrastructure towards ensuring this large population of seniors will be taken care of. The frivolous arguments between millennials and baby boomers are ridiculous and must be abandoned. Instead, everyone must work together to ensure that seniors will have homes and transportation, and millennials won’t be crushed by the debt of an impending housing or public transit crisis.

For senior’s month, opening a discussion as to how to deal with the larger problems of creating an age-friendly city is ultimately the way to creating a stronger and more resilient city for generations to come.

Are simple economics to blame for rising housing costs?

Toronto is undergoing a serious housing crisis — everyone is saying so! Experts, real estate agents, the media, and even politicians admit openly the cost of housing is getting out of control. And yet, even after months of knowing this fact, no one is doing anything about it.

Sure, the government is enacting rent control and a non-resident speculation tax. But this same government, whether municipal, provincial, or federal, hasn’t done what experts are claiming is the easiest and most effective thing they can do for the housing market: build!

“The only reason why prices rise is because there are more buyers than sellers,” explained Jon Love, CEO of KingSett Capital. “Prices rise for no other reason.”

Thursday, new statistics became available through the census that said Toronto has 5,000 fewer detached homes homes in 2016 compared to 2011. It’s what Love calls simple economics. When there are three people interested in purchasing one home, the problem isn’t foreigners or lack of regulation; it’s demand and supply. It means there aren’t enough homes for everyone.

Sure, we have lots of high-rise buildings popping up throughout the downtown core, but a family with three children most likely won’t want to live in an apartment building. Without diversity in housing, there will always be people left without.

It seems so simple; why is this so hard to understand? What is preventing people from building more family-friendly homes in Toronto and throughout the Golden Horseshoe?

Most people blame the NIMBYs — the people who claim they don’t want condos built in their back yard — or the bureaucratic red tape of development agencies. But Love says everyone is to blame. At the end of the day, he asks, “do we want to be Chicago, or Detroit?” A world-class city needs housing, daycare, parks, and transit — so, how do we get it?

First of all, the government needs to intensely invest in transit and open up surrounding geographies for development. If people who work in Toronto have the option of living in places like Hamilton, Barrie and Oshawa — with the possibility of commuting on an express train — many people will do so! An hour commute is not unreasonable if it means saving money on a home. This would also free up homes within the city for those who want or need it.

Why not take it even further and build on top of the rail, Love asks. The purpose of expanding the Golden Horseshoe through transit is to connect people and create communities and neighbourhoods along these hubs. This can’t be done if people have to walk for 30 minutes just to get to the bus.

Second of all, the city needs to encourage development zoning and encourage the building of low and mid-rise condominiums. “People are terrified of 60-story buildings,” Love said. “But mid-rise is fine! I would pre-zone areas to allow for that density.”

This type of variety in housing is necessary not only in order to accommodate the many types of people looking for homes in the GTHA., but also to allow for the immediate development of land in neighbourhoods that are against the building of tall condominiums. Pre-zoning would also reduce the number of complaints and bureaucratic tape that surrounds development. Instead of a developer purchasing land and then deciding what to do with it, the community would actually have a say in what kind of buildings or homes will be put in their neighbourhoods.

Finally, allowing a second kitchen within a home to be used as a secondary apartment, within designated areas, would be a short-term solution that would allow homeowners to rent our basements and provide housing for short-term occupancy.

These short and long term solutions were all suggested with the clear understanding that prices go up because there are more buyers than sellers, a concept Love says won’t be accepted until there is a significant change in public opinion.

The biggest problem is that NIMBY-ism and the fear of immigrants taking our land, jobs, and homes, are much more attractive for both the media and government agencies. Rather than stand with the experts, public servants are focusing on issues that will bring them votes, things like free prescription and lower electricity bills. Things only ever get done when the government is scared of losing power. If the public told governments to build, to increase the supply so that more people could purchase homes, it would have to do so. Until then, they will continue to blame tax foreigners and claim to help cool the market while families are left homeless.

It’s time the government consulted experts and remembered their university or college introduction to economics course — prices rise when the demand is higher than the supply. And here in the Golden Horseshoe, we have about as much demand as you can get.

Will Ontario’s new housing regulations do anything of value?

Ontario is cracking down on the red hot housing market by introducing a series of incentives that will, hopefully, control inflating real estate in the Golden Horseshoe region.

The province plans to bring in a series of 10 different initiatives to help placate the housing and rental markets — but the proposed regulations are a mixed bag. The non-resident speculation tax (NRST) is the primary regulation the Ontario Liberals hope to pass and the plan has immediately fallen under criticism. NRST would tax individuals that are not citizens or permanent residents of Canada 15 per cent when they purchase a home. The tax would apply to transfers of land, including “single family residences, detached homes and condos”. It would not apply to residential apartment buildings. This tax is similar to the foreign buyer’s tax in Vancouver, but differs because it would allow people to refund the tax if they obtained permanent residency within four years of living in the home.

NRST is one of the less impactful initiatives announced Thursday morning because it only applies to foreign buyers and doesn’t adequately represent most of the buying market in Toronto. Blaming foreign buyers for the problems of a mostly localized Canadian real estate market echoes the xenophobic tendencies seen lately in the United States, and won’t help the housing sector in a large or meaningful way. Why not instead implement a vacancy tax so that local homeowners, including foreign buyers, wouldn’t be allowed to keep their homes empty? This would directly respond to the desperate need for housing in the city.

Luckily, one of the other initiatives does leave room for municipalities throughout the province to enact a vacancy tax if they so wish. This puts the onus on each individual city to make the decision, which is either an avoidance tactic or a way to appease a heightening tension between Canada’s largest city and the province. The province will also crackdown on assignment clauses, which allows a buyer to pass on the right to another person to buy a property, and is a ‘scalping’ strategy to avoid taxes.

In the renting sector, the province will allow rent control again, which was banned in 1991. This will prohibit landlords from raising rent by more then 2.5 per cent, which has recently become a massive problem in the Golden Horseshoe. This is a positive change for renters who are currently at the whims of greedy landlords without rental control in place. The province also plans to strengthen the Residencies Tenancy Act to further protect renters from corrupt landlords.

The province of Ontario is finally taking action on the over-inflated housing market in the Golden Horseshoe, but it still stands to ask whether the initiatives introduced are too weak? By introducing a non-resident tax, the province avoids tackling the larger issue. With an election around the corner, the province may be hesitant to bring the hammer down on wealthy homeowners. Hopefully, the City of Toronto takes the initiative instead and enacts a vacancy tax on behalf of the province.

That being said, the incentive to crack down on speculation driving the market up and re-introducing rent control are fantastic incentives for the province. It remains to be seen what the new regulations will actually do for Ontario — but it will be clear what works and what doesn’t have an incredible impact on the red-hot housing sector.

How choosing the right contractor makes a world of difference

Whether you are contemplating an addition or embarking on a large-scale renovation, deciding on the right contractor to handle your home renovation can be an extremely daunting task. There are so many aspects to consider, from reasonable pricing to the speed of construction. How do you even begin to make such a fundamentally important decision?

Well, let me introduce you to the new generation of home renovators — contractors whose main objective is to guide you through the entire process from inception to completion. This new breed of contractors is taking customer service to a whole new level, ensuring the client is happy and receives a phenomenally positive home renovation experience.

The secret to picking the perfect redesign firm lies in just how well they plan on taking care of you and your needs. Customer service must be a top priority, and you need someone who will not only understand your vision, but will also make it their mission to see that your dreams become reality!

Fraser Homes Inc. is a custom design rebuild firm that specializes in residential home renovations. Located in Toronto, the business is run by two brothers — Rod and Mark Fraser — who form a dream team with backgrounds in design, construction, marketing, and business. They balance each other out completely. Mark is the designer and “lofty dreamer” while Rod has the construction and marketing experience.

The brothers opened their doors in 2009 and then officially incorporated in 2012. Their first official job was a single bathroom, which quickly escalated into an incredibly successful enterprise. The clients were so enthralled with their stylish new bathroom that they hired Fraser Homes to redesign their entire home from top to bottom.

What makes Fraser Homes unique is their emphasis on customer service, something the Fraser brothers say is lacking in the construction industry.

Their website has a special client login that allows customers to follow the progress of their renovations. Using this login, which can also be accessed using the company’s app, clients can request changes, communicate directly with their project manager, and choose products, among other things. According to the Fraser brothers, the purpose of this customer-centric focus is to ensure there are no surprises at the end of the construction period and that the client is, ultimately, happy with their work.

“We go a long way to keep client informed and updated on our production schedule and what’s happening,” Mark said. “Communication is the heart and soul of construction – letting clients know where you are and planning the job well and making sure clients are involved.”

“We don’t believe in a $70,000 charge for upgrades they don’t remember. At the end of whatever project, they were able to say we were kept informed and there were no surprises,” he said.

Photo provided by Fraser Homes.
Photo provided by Fraser Homes.

Client reviews, both on the Fraser Homes’ website and independent review outlets, showered the company with praise, saying the brothers were professional, communicative, and friendly. Nearly everyone described their experience as a success, and after speaking with them myself, I understand why. The brothers are deeply passionate about their work and when discussing design and renovation trends — a “mixture between the minimalist-modern … as well as semi-industrial” — their enthusiasm is contagious.

The brothers also like to push the limits of design and help their clients to think, not just outside the box, but way beyond it.

“You have to be the one taking your clients to the next level,” said Mark. “I tell people you have two types of rooms: you can have the one pictured in a magazine or you can have the one people take pictures of FOR the magazine.”

Fraser Homes has also been experimenting with green and sustainable building. They try to use eco-friendly products in their current construction process, but they are also putting together a few proposals for property developments that will be completely sustainable.

If you are planning a home renovation and are looking for personalized and professional experience, look no further than Fraser Homes. Please click here to visit the Fraser Homes website or contact them directly at 416-477-1186 or info@fhinc.ca