Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ottawa Water Problem: Lead Are Coming Down the Pipe

Many homeowners Ottawa have underground lead pipes connecting their taps to municipal Ottawa water supplies.

Many, perhaps most, have no idea every time they draw a glass of water or put a pot of pasta on the stove that the water they use may be contaminated with lead.

Ottawa City officials have just begun to grapple with the extent of the problem and its potentially alarming health and financial implications.

Chief Drinking Water Inspector Jim Smith recently wrote every municipality in the province to recommend they begin testing homeowners' tap water for lead.

Few municipalities test homeowner tap water for lead. Testing is usually done at water treatment plants or from fire hydrants and municipal testing outlets.

Provincial law obliges municipalities to deliver safe water to the property line and so there's a dilemma over what to do about lead service lines on private property.

Nevertheless, there is sufficient concern over the potential that lead contamination has been underestimated.

Residents who suspect they have lead water lines, particularly if pregnant women or children under six live in the home, take precautions.

If you have lead service lines you should flush your lines, that's good practice.

The best solution is to replace lead lines.

Certainly you should work with our Ottawa municipality and have your lines replaced. It's good to get the lead out period.

There are two basic types of pipes underground - big water "mains" that carry water to neighbourhoods and small, hose-sized "service" lines connecting homes to the water supply.

During the 1930s and 1940s, lead "service" pipes were used to connect tens of thousands of new homes across Ontario, in every major cities (Ottawa, Toronto) and towns, to municipal water supplies.

Ottawa, Toronto, Kingston, Windsor, London, and most other communities that saw housing booms during the 1930s and 1940s almost certainly have lead service lines still in use.

London has had terrible problems with lead this past year and even after replacing lead service lines to homes, after repeatedly flushing water lines, tap water in those homes remains contaminated with lead at levels that exceed provincial standards.

The belief in the past was that flushing for 5 minutes effectively cleared lead from water lines.

Now that the City of London has offered free testing to a lot of its residents, that's not the case.

This gives considerable pause for concern.

Ontario, unlike the U.S., doesn't require municipalities to test tap water in homes nor is there a province-wide program to replace lead pipe.

Residents are primarily on the hook to replace lead service pipes and the cost can range from $2,000 to $10,000 or more.

Worse, municipalities aren't even required to inform residents they have lead pipes

That, at very least, should be addressed, said Gord Miller, Ontario's environmental commissioner.

Drawing people's attention to the need to be cautious about aspects of their drinking water related to lead pipes is a valid thing and it should be brought forward by the government and brought to people's attention so they can check it and they can take precautions.

There little reason for excuse. It's hypocritical for Ontario to impose the most stringent water standards in North America and ignore the problem in the pipes, a problem that's been evident for years.

Justice Dennis O'Connor, in his report on the Walkerton tainted water tragedy, specifically recommended that "lead service lines should be located and replaced over time" and took pains to detail the risks of lead to drinking water, including neurological problems in infants and children resulting from even "minute" exposure. Seven years after the tragedy, that recommendation has been largely ignored.

"The provinces and the federal government and most levels of government around the world have seen fit to ban lead in gasoline, they take the lead out of household paint and any number of materials," said Frank Zechner, executive director of the Ontario Sewer and Watermain Construction Association.

They stopped using lead in those pipes in the early '50s and they went to a lead-free solder more recently.

But the problem is those pipes are still in service. They are still leaching lead into the water.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Ottawa's Condo Market to See Price Gains In 2007-08

Strong demand is expected in 2007 and 2008 for Canada's major condominium markets because of the healthy labor market, supportive interest rates and aging population.

39 % of Canadians surveyed would consider buying a new or resale condo, a 4 % rise from a similar survey in June 2006.

Several short- and long-term indicators support the large and growing popularity of the condo lifestyle. The hottest markets, notably Calgary and Vancouver, will see some cooling off from dramatic and unsustainable highs last year, but overall conditions will remain healthy and activity will be high.

Condo starts have posted an average annual increase of more than 16 % between 2001 and 2005, with multi-family homes accounting for nearly one-third of all new construction, compared to nearly one-fifth a decade ago.

However, the strong demand for condo units in most urban centers has led to a high sales-to-new listings ratio for apartments and condominiums and created a sellers' market.

Demand for condos would experience a slight dip because of rising prices across the country, leading to a cooling-down of condo construction activity.

Over the next year and a half, the pace of condo starts is expected to decline by about 6 %, while resale prices for condos are expected to dip in the western provinces but remain high.

Strong price gains, especially in western markets, have outpaced growth in personal income and led to a deterioration in condo affordability nationwide. While this decline will eventually dampen demand and lead to slower price growth in future, it is not a major problem for the condo market since condos are, and will remain, considerably more affordable than houses.

Meanwhile,the rapid increases in the price of single-detached houses in most cities, robust urban population growth and land scarcity, as well as strong immigration trends, would sustain demand and contribute to gains in the condominium market.

Ottawa appears to be the only market which will experience a faster pace of condo price growth among the five cities, with price gains rising slightly to 4.5 % in 2007-08 from 3.6 % in the previous period. Calgary is forecasted to see the biggest drop in condo price growth percentage-wise, falling by 16.1 % to 10.5 % over the next year and a half.

real Estate Resale Market Expected to Hit Ottawa

Ottawa's home resale market is expected to reach record highs this year as residential construction declines.

Housing starts would fall by 2 % in 2007 to 5,750 units, while sales of existing properties would rise by 2 % to 14,300 units.

Meanwhile, the vacancy rate is expected to fall to 2.1 % in October 2007 as a result of quieter activity in the rental construction market.

The resale market will have another excellent year in Ottawa, setting a new record for transactions, multiple-family housing starts will make up the majority of construction activity for new dwellings. The construction of high-density residential projects will therefore continue in Ottawa.

Resale activity is also expected to be extremely strong across the province as a result of stable mortgage and labor market conditions, as well as greater choice in the resale market and the cost gap between new and resale home purchases.

However, new home starts will remain near historical averages.

Ottawa to Give $$$ to Social Housing & Rural Roads

Ottawa city council committee is recommending that $17.1 million in provincial funding be allocated towards improving social housing and rural roads, instead of putting the money in the bank, in response to pressure by advocates.

The city's economic affairs committee committed $7.1 million towards improving the stock of low-cost housing in Ottawa, and $10 million towards improving rural roads.

The funds are part of a one-time $59-million transfer payment from the Ontario government, which city bureaucrats had recommended be put into the municipality's bank account in order to stabilize property tax rates.

Social housing advocates had objected to the initial recommendation to put the money in the bank, saying that thousands of people are on the waiting list for low-cost housing space and the available stock is in poor condition.

Meanwhile, West Carleton-March Coun. Eli El-Chantiry introduced a motion that $10 million of the $59 million be earmarked for rural roads, saying that the city needs to spend about $85 million on road repair, maintenance and new construction.

Labels: , , , ,

Ottawa's Non-Residential Construction Up 1.7 %

The Ottawa's non-residential construction market rose up 1.7 % from the 4th quarter of 2006. The Ottawa region was ranked fifth out of seven metropolitan areas surveyed for the report.

Meanwhile, the index for non-residential building construction rose to 152.4, a 10% increase from the same quarter last year and a gain of 2% from the fourth quarter of 2006.

Recreational Property Prices Pushed Up By BBoomers

Large numbers of Canadians will have a "must be nice" moment this weekend as we venture out on our first summer break with dreams about owning a recreational property.

Stats: Prices are "set to soar" in the coming months.

And put the blame for the spike in high-end recreational property on affluent BBoomers, who are cashing in recent stock market gains and plowing it into waterfront.

Retirement and quality family time are the most important motivating factor, while investment is only "secondary."

Still, with starting prices topping $500,000 in 31% of the "upper end" recreational property markets, cost clearly is a serious issue.

There are some bargains out there. The report noted Elliot Lake in Ontario and Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba. But buyers at Invermere, Kelowna and Salt Spring Island in B.C. and Sylvan Lake, Alta., can expect to fork over $1 million and up.

Doug Gray, author of The Complete Guide to Buying and Owning Recreational Property in Canada, advises buyers not to make their decision on an "emotional personal benefit" but to really "drill down" and examine any purchase based on "rational time thinking."

Gray lists his top 5 pitfalls to avoid when a buying recreational property:
  • Have a realistic assessment of your needs.
  • Carry out fastidious research using the Internet and a local lawyer.
  • Be "very aware" of estate planning issues.
  • If the plan includes a revenue stream to augment the purchase, "check it out thoroughly."
  • And if you are thinking of a joint purchase and time sharing with others "think twice, then think again."

Mondrian Condominiums in Ottawa Downtown almost Sold Out!

Ottawa’s skyline is about to change – updated beautifully with the addition of the soaring Mondrian at one of the best locations in the city: the corner of Laurier Avenue and Bank Street. This is a 24-storey glass building of residential condominiums with lovely street-level amenities and public parking on levels two to five.

This is a big project – about two to three times the size of any other condominium project in the city. The Mondrian is also one of the most successful condo projects in the city right now. In just under one year, over 120 (over 50 per cent) of the residences are already sold. The sales pace is very fast... and no wonder!

The architecture and building features are outstanding. The homage to Piet Mondrian is everywhere – from the high-art contemporary architecture of the building to the sleek designer styling in every suite. A stunning boutique hotel-inspired lobby with executive concierge service will be at the Laurier Street entrance. A large rooftop terrace has a resort-style atmosphere. It includes generous lounging areas and a refreshing outdoor pool with cabanas encircling it. For extra entertainment space, residents can enjoy a beautifully appointed party room.

The prime location and edgy, evolutionary concept of this new high-rise inject Ottawa with a notably fresh cosmopolitan flavour – just what the new-home market wants. Fueling the excitement further, the builder recently introduced a very successful program called the “fully loaded loft.” This promotion has taken off like a rocket and will last for the rest of the summer!

The Mondrian offers residents everything they could possibly want in each “fully loaded loft,” including designer kitchens and bathrooms. Open-concept spaces flow beautifully throughout each suite. Nine-ft. high concrete ceilings and huge floor-to-ceiling windows add drama with breathtaking vistas. Almost every unit has a spacious “see-through” glassed balcony.

Designer touches and finishes are everywhere. Hardwood floors are featured throughout. Kitchens are high-end gourmet delights that reflect the most contemporary high-style designs with top-of-the-line cabinetry, designer hardware, sinks and faucets.

Every element is as designer oriented and contemporary as possible, with clean lines and sleek profiles. Granite counters and stainless steel appliances are included. Bathrooms feature a very chic, upgraded combo of sink-faucet-vanity-mirror.

For the utmost convenience, every residence also comes with its own washer and dryer. There’s ample parking and storage lockers available for residents, as well as visitor parking.

Loft-style living at the Mondrian offers fantastic downtown living.

You’ll be close to everything in the heart of the city. Step outside your front door and in every direction you can enjoy unlimited shopping. Head south and you’ll find every type of retail business and service along Bank Street. You can even take a comfortable walk to the boutiques and bistros of The Glebe. Everything is right at hand.

Go north and within minutes, you can stroll along Sparks Street, through the lush lawns of the Parliamentary Precinct, or along the banks of the Ottawa River. To the east, the Rideau Centre shopping mall has hundreds of stores. The ByWard Market is a great haunt for fresh produce, flowers and trendy boutiques. Elgin Street has non-stop entertainment, coffee houses and fine restaurants. You can mix-and-match your pleasure with great theatre at the NAC, numerous museums and galleries, or simply watching the boats go by on the Rideau Canal.

For those wonderful relaxing times at home or on the rooftop terrace, residents of Mondrian will enjoy fantastic views of Ottawa’s downtown, the Parliament Buildings, the Gatineau Hills and the Ottawa River.

Choose from a one-bedroom model, one-bedroom plus den, two-bedroom model and penthouses. Suites at the Mondrian range from about 550 to just under 1,600 sq. ft. The incredible design approach creates a very elegant, connoisseur feel of refinement for every suite, regardless of size. At Mondrian, a very stylish upscale 550-sq.-ft. condo has a signature status and is perfect for a single person or young couple.

Cost is not a barrier at this time. Prices start at only $153,900 for a one-bedroom residence to as much as $532,900 for the largest penthouse. If you hurry, there is a lot of choice in models and price points right now.

Labels: , , ,