Ballantry Homes’ Mark Lawrence has full confidence that the GTA housing market will remain strong in 2015 and beyond, as Ontario reasserts its economic dominance and migration brings tens of thousands of people to live in the Greater Golden Horseshoe each year. All of them will need to live somewhere.
But while Lawrence’s forecast calls for sunny skies, Ballantry’s sales and marketing manager acknowledges the dark clouds looming over the homebuilding industry: “Prices continuing to rise and demand for new (detached) homes outpacing supply,” he says.
Markham-based Ballantry, started in 1989 by David Hill, has been doing what it can to infuse new supply into the market, with a host of projects on the slate around the GTA for 2015.
This spring the company is launching Upper Glen Abbey Village West, an urban townhome development at Bronte Road and Dundas Street West in Oakville. The project comes in the wake of the successful debut of Ballantry’s other Oakville development, The Neighbourhoods of Oak Park, at Oak Park Blvd. and Taunton Rd.
This 300-unit master-planned community features a four-storey midrise residence, The Renaissance, and a collection of townhouse buildings with units that range in size from 743 square feet to 1,112 square feet. The townhouse buildings, with units designed to offer one-floor, bungalow-style living, have brick and stucco exteriors, giving them more of a house-like appearance. (The first phase of the project sold out last year, and a second phase is slated to go on sale this year.)
It’s not only townhouses for Ballantry nowadays, mind you.
This fall the company is planning to release 225 homes in the final phase of Cornell, an eight-phase master-plan community in Markham that it launched back in 1999. The last phase at Cornell will include semi-detached and fully detached homes and townhouses “whose designs blend Markham’s old world charm with a modern new spirit and style,” according to the project’s website.
Ballantry is also heading farther afield, moving forward with new low-rise developments in Hamilton and Caledonia that the company says will be fast tracked for openings in 2016.
“Fully detached homes within the GTA are scarce and will continue to be scarcer in the coming years,” Lawrence says. “Ballantry has moved outside the GTA to areas where fully detached homes can be built at prices that consumers can afford.”
Within the confines of the GTA, though, Ballantry has shifted to building townhomes as part of a housing industry-wide effort to meet provincially mandated density targets, while at the same time providing homeowners with a more cost-effective alternative to single family homes.
“Everyone is concerned with the erosion of affordability within the market,” Lawrence says. “Exorbitant development charges levied by the municipalities and the province, combined with ever-increasing land prices, continue to create higher prices, smaller lots, and challenges in creating home designs that meet homebuyers’ needs.”
Typical stacked townhomes, for example, “present serious livability issues,” he says. Ballantry has addressed the problems by designing its townhouses with large, light-filled interiors, giving them the look of detached homes, but with modern features and contemporary finishes. “These aren’t your grandparents’ town home — narrow, dark or old-fashioned,” reads the Neighbourhoods of Oak Park brochure.
Ballantry townhomes offer low-rise-style curb appeal via exteriors that resemble actual homes, with peaked roofs and brick and stucco facades. These homes “feel more ground-related,” Lawrence says.
The houses are also the most energy efficient Ballantry has done to date, Lawrence points out, noting that the company has been working to meet the new Ontario Building Code standards that are due to be introduced in 2016.
“Although construction costs will increase in building these homes,” he says, “the long-term benefits to the homeowner are significant.”
Ryan Starr is a freelance journalist based in Toronto.