Buyer's market? Checking in on Waterloo's burgeoning condo scene
Waterloo is growing up – literally.
New condo towers, each seemingly taller and bolder than the last, are dotting the city’s skyline.
Other high-rises are under construction, and others still are just about to get off the ground.
All that construction has some wondering if it’s too much, too soon, and could leave the city with a ring of large but vacant buildings.
Paul Ellingham, a former student housing landlord who sold his properties to developers but remains active in the university community, says student housing is very much a buyer’s market already.
“Students are telling me that they can find many empty rooms in any of the high-rises they go to,” he says.
“When they go looking for a place, they’re told basically ‘What floor do you want to be on?’”
Others who watch the market closely say there might be occasional aberrations – but overall, condos across the city are filling up.
“There’s not a glut of condos in the market. It’s a natural thing,” says Bill Keay, a realtor with ReMax Solid Gold Realty.
“We’ve had older stock in Kitchener and Waterloo Region. These new projects are really just trying to keep up with demand.”
Data compiled by the Kitchener-Waterloo Association of Realtors shows that 66 condo units were sold in January, up from 40 in January 2013.
Some of that can be chalked up to foreign investors buying local condos, Keay says, but there are plenty of local buyers too – spurred on by many high-rise condo projects’ proximity to major roads and services.
“People want to live near where they work, and close to amenities – especially the young, urban, professional types,” he says.
But not all towers are meeting with such support.
A complex known as Sage VI is proposed for the corner of Hemlock and Balsam streets, near University Avenue and Albert Street.
It would include a base of five or six storeys, with room for retail, and two 12-storey towers.
The developers behind the project were at Waterloo council Monday night, asking for zone changes and other amendments.
Coun. Mark Whaley expressed concern about how close Sage VI would come to neighbouring single-family homes.
“I worry that they’re trying to shoehorn too much of a building on the site,” he told CTV News following the meeting.
The public will still have a chance to weigh in on that project before any approval is granted.
As for fears of abundant new condos leading to a series of new-but-empty buildings, Whaley says it’s not something the city wants to see – but ultimately, not something it’s up to them to avoid.
“If they think they can make a business case to build them, all the more power to them – but the onus has to be on them to fill the vacancies, not the city,” he says.