Publisher’s Column: Patience Is Needed. (Don’t You Hate When That Happens?)

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By John Francis

If you wanted to go to the final game of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ season — traditionally that’s Game 7 of the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs — would you go to the box office five minutes before game time and expect to buy a ticket?

No, you would not. More to the point, nobody would. Anybody who follows hockey at all would know that everything is pre-reserved.

The same will eventually be true for the most popular experiences on the peninsula. The Grotto on the Saturday of a long weekend is like Game 7. People will learn. Instagram posts will brag about snagging a reservation back when they were available…

In the interim — there is no quick fix. Patience would be a good idea.

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So there’s a huge, nasty party at the cottage next to you. A couple of their dogs ran through your garden and trashed half your tomatoes. They’ve got a bonfire going that threatens to melt the fascia on your garage and as darkness falls, you watch them unloading fireworks from the trunk of one of the many vehicles parked haphazardly around the property and the street.

You check the map on the municipal website and ascertain that the property is not registered as an STA.

So: Is this the new owner’s son and his friends? Or is this an unlicensed STA? How would you find out?

You have no right to *TRESPASS* on their property to bawl them out. Or even to ask them to behave in a civilized fashion. You can’t demand ID and find out who’s in charge.

If it’s the owner’s son causing the problem, you might be inclined to just let it go and talk to Mom or Dad about it when they come up. But if it’s an unlicensed STA, that’s a whole different ball game.

Ultimately, all you can do is call Bylaw Enforcement. The irony here is that Bylaw Enforcement will have the same problem you do: How do they figure out whether this is the owner of the property behaving irresponsibly or the tenant of an unlicensed STA? At least they have the right to walk on to the property and ask who’s in charge.

The issue gets almost more awkward when the tenants of an unlicensed STA are quiet and respectful. You really have nothing to complain about except that you think the people aren’t the owner and the property is not registered as an STA.

You’d like to see this fixed in a hurry, but that’s not going to happen. Any kind of rapid compliance/enforcement initiative is going to be personnel-intensive. And where would we get that personnel? Who would screen them? Who would decide on the criteria to use for screening them? Who would organize the criteria for hiring? Who would conduct the interviews? Who would train the new hires? How long would it be before they are competent enough to be sent out on their own?

Right now, all of MNBP’s existing employees are working flat out. You’d have to hire a consultant to conduct those hiring tasks and who would you task with the responsibility of hiring that consultant? The process would take months and would need to follow strict rules.

And with the unemployment rate on the peninsula hovering around zero for the summer, how much would you have to pay your new hires to entice them away from the jobs they’ve got now?

Moral of the story: We’ll probably have to muddle through on the staff we’ve got now. Staff will eventually catch up with all the unlicenced STAs, and the $1,000 fines will eventually persuade them to register.

There is no quick fix. Patience would be a good idea.

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Bruce County’s Affordable Housing 101 page (https://www.brucecounty.on.ca/affordable-housing-101) offers some interesting numbers. Between 2016 and 2020, average house prices in MNBP rose by more than 100%. 

That was before the pandemic kicked in and prices jumped even higher — they’re probably up over 200% by now. The average price in 2016 was $225,000 and these days there’s not much out there under $700,000. This is an impossible market for the peninsula’s workforce — prices have risen beyond their ability to pay. They can’t compete with investors.

But consensus in the financial community is that real estate prices are going to come down significantly as interest rates rise. But they won’t come down evenly.

Properties that are bought by wealthy people — mansions — will hold their value because potential purchasers don’t care about interest rates. They’ll be paying with cash.

But the properties that are within the range of ordinary people will be heavily affected. Price drops in the 20% range are already happening and this thing is just getting warmed up.

So the question is: Was the speculative run-up in peninsula property values driven by people looking for a place to invest the family nest-egg or by people borrowing all the money they could in order to invest? Will the peninsula see a mild pull-back in prices or a northern re-run of The Big Short?

Stay tuned. I think we’ll find the answer to that question over the next year or two.

And if you’re looking to buy a house, there’s no quick fix. Patience would be a good idea.