After analyzing a survey conducted this summer to investigate the impact of the pandemic on the residential real estate market, last week the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) issued a new policy report describing opportunities for small Ontario communities to make a comeback. Small town Ontario has faced years of social and economic decline due to shifts in job markets from traditional manufacturing and resource based employment to service and information jobs, forcing rural youth to move to large cities in search of employment. The report notes that in the elven years since the financial meltdown in 2008, 87% of all Ontario job creation occurred in Toronto or Ottawa. OREA CEO Tim Hudak believes that the fallout from the pandemic provides an opportunity to shift that trend and bring growth in jobs and homes to rural and Northern communities.
The OREA report offers fifteen recommendations for the provincial government to address issues that are barriers to housing, job creation and infrastructure these areas. Many of the recommendations are already on the radar, and some of them well into their implementation in the Cavan-Monaghan area and eastern Ontario.
Broadband installation is key to almost every work or learn from home opportunity. Provincial and private investments in broadband infrastructure in our area are ongoing, and our broadband speed is accelerating. Regular flyers in our mailboxes attest to the choice in local service providers. Another key to making life more affordable in rural areas is access to natural gas, which reduces the cost doing business as well as home operating costs.
Local economic development initiatives offering preferential tax or regulatory treatment to attract businesses to areas of low job growth have been demonstrated as effective tools to attract commercial, residential and industrial real estate development. Cavan-Monaghan has policies to attract job-creating business to the community.
The survey found that more than half of Ontarians who are currently active in the real estate market find living in rural areas more appealing now than they did before the pandemic. This is particularly true for residents – 55 and older. The appeal of living in a downtown setting has fallen for more than three quarters of survey respondents.
What are home buyers in today’s market they looking for in their new home?
More space- indoor and out. More amenities- hot tub, anyone? A dedicated office space to make working from home more practical and convenient.
The most surprising information in the survey was the reported increase in the level of comfort with virtual real estate showings. More than sixty eight percent of respondents from Central and Northern Ontario and forty percent from Eastern Ontario indicated they were open or somewhat open to purchasing a home they have only seen virtually. A few of our local real estate professionals have seen that trend, with some of their customers who sold purchasing in Northern Ontario or the Maritimes equipped with an agent and home inspection they trust.
OREA executives hope that the attitude shift towards a more favourable view of rural community living which is a consequence of the pandemic provides an opportunity for the province to provide leadership in infrastructure development which could expand economic growth opportunities beyond the Ottawa and the GTA.
While allowing Ontario communities to allow ORV traffic is an indication of a greater appreciation for Northern and Rural Ontario communities, further investment in key infrastructure would confirm that Northern and rural Ontario are now prime considerations in key provincial policy decisions which has felt Toronto-centred for many years.
More information about the new policy report and OREA’s recommendations can be found at https://www.orea.com/ruralhousing KG