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A Brief Report on the Real Estate Sector in Chatham-Kent, Ontario

Introduction

Known as the Classic Car Capital of Canada, Chatham-Kent is a municipality with a population of over 100,000 in Southwestern Ontario. The population has decreased a little since 2006, but the economical activity has not been affected. Chatham-Kent is known for many things but of them, the most prominent are its automotive industry, agriculture and rich culture.

The Local Economy

The local economy is primarily driven by the automotive and agricultural industry but in recent years different industries have taken an active interest, leading to much diversification for the city.  Due to the ease of access of the dockyard, in combination with the abundance of fertile land, the municipality has great economic potential.

The major employers in Chattam-Kent are Pioneer Hi-Bred Limited, RM Auctions, RM Restoration, Gray-Dort Motors, Thompsons Limited, Mahle, AutoLiv Canada and Commercial Alcohols. Although the majority of the population works for one of these names, a few Internet service providers, energy companies, superstores and some small businesses also contribute to the local economy.

The government and local authorities have taken a keen interest in improving the real estate sector recently. One of the most highly talked about developments recently has been Remmcor Developments. This organization collaborated with CMHC and the municipal, provincial, and federal governments to create an apartment building in down town Chatham that would provide affordable housing to lower income households and people with disabilities. The project was hugely successful and since, many similar developments are being considered to reinvigorate different areas of the region.

These projects, combined with an increased demand of accommodation, have placed construction activity on the rise, along with both buying and rental activity in the real estate sector.

Demographics

The majority of the local population is of English or French descent, with 92% of the population being Anglophone and 7% of people being French-speaking. During the warmer seasons, many international labourers come to Chatham to work in the agriculture sector, and the local authorities are trying to promote multiculturalism in order to promote in-migration from other provinces within Canada as well.

Real Estate

The real estate activity in the second quarter of 2012 is much higher than what it was in 2011. Currently there have been 39 single detached starts, as compared to the 16 seen in 2011. Semi-detached starts have also seen an increase, with 6 as compared to 2 the year before. There has been increased activity in townhouses, with 10 starts reported in the second quarter as compared to zero last year.

Another important aspect of Chatham’s real estate sector is rental accommodation. Rental rates for private apartment varied from last year based on bedroom types. The average rent for bachelor apartments decreased from $550 last year, to $506 dollars this year. Apartments with 1, 2, 3 or more bedrooms enjoyed, on average, a $21 dollar increase in rent.

Non-Profit, Co-operative and Federal Providers are a very important part of the real estate sector and are actively involved in providing affordable housing to the disabled and low income households.

According to the data released by municipality of Chatham-Kent, Housing Services Division, approximately 170 buildings (constructed or renovated with the help of nonprofit cooperative and federal providers), were present in 2011 for accommodation. The number of such buildings is on the rise as indicated by the increased construction and renovation activity in the municipality.

 

As indicated in the table, the local authorities also actively maintain an affordable housing program with a funding of around 4.6 million dollars.

The real estate prices have also seen a12% increase in 2012, with about 297 listings as compared to 265 listing in 2011.

Discussion and Conclusion

The first and foremost concern for the Chatham-Kent municipality is the population. These trends are indicative of a minor decrease in the total population every year, which is detrimental to the real estate market. The real estate market is driven by demand for accommodation, and currently demand is rising for 1, 2 and 3 bedroom units, which can be seen from the resulting increased rents and property values. However, if the population trends do not change, and Chattam-Kent continues to lose people on a yearly basis, the demand will decrease in the long run. This, along with the mortgage rules currently put into place by federal officials, suggests that real estate values will go down. The fact that current population changes haven’t had a significant impact on the local economy is a positive sign that should these changes continue, they’ll also continue to have little effect on the housing market.

The increased activity in the affordable housing sector this past year has been a positive sign for the real estate sector. Many buildings that were once rendered uninhabitable over time, such as the one Remmcor oversaw, are being renovated and reinvigorated. This has resulted in affordable housing for low household income families and disabled individuals which in turn, has created the resulting increased activity in this area. The AHP (affordable housing program) should play a major role in the real estate sector in Chatham-Kent but because of its non-profit nature, should not become the backbone of sector. Should non-profit ventures ever overshadow the profit-based ventures in the real estate sector, it could result in decreased rent and real estate value.

The automotive and agriculture sector have to be further developed in order to promote job creation and to further promote in-migration. The low demand and decreased rental and real estate value of bachelor dwellings is indicative of the fact that the local youth population are more interested in migrating out to other areas. In addition, not many young people are migrating to Chatham-Kent.

The number of senior citizens in the municipality is on the rise and the AHP also has a special amount of buildings dedicated for senior dwelling. The labour force, which comes to the municipality from farming, is not retained and therefore there are seasonal rises and falls in the demand for rental accommodation. The local authorities are actively promoting the municipality in order to attract skilled labor and youth to migrate to the area.

The population forecasts indicate that over one-third of the population will be over the age of 55 by 2031. The Municipality of Chatham-Kent Housing Study indicates that demand for housing will increase over the next few years. However, the housing needs to be affordable and flexible in order to meet the demand. The population trends are susceptible to changes in economic conditions and the consequent changes in average household income.

In light of current data and projections it can stated that investment in the real estate sector in Chatham-Kent can be quite profitable, especially for those looking to enter the renovation and reconstruction industry. However, investment in bachelor accommodations is not recommended at the moment. High density accommodation (apartments) in Chatham-Kent is a growing industry, and well worth the little associated risk for investors looking for a healthy ROI. Purchasing real estate and then putting it up for rent is the most recommended option for investors who are in it for the long run.

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