Toronto Is North America's 'High-Rise Boomtown,' Survey Says

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Getty/Shutterstock

Toronto has nearly 50 per cent more high-rises under construction than New York City, according to a new analysis from construction data firm Emporis.

Canada’s largest city “remains North America's high-rise boomtown going into 2014,” Emporis said in a survey released Tuesday, while other Canadian cities, including some smaller suburban cities, took six of the top ten spots.

New York City came in second, with 91 high-rises under construction.

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But Emporis suggests Toronto’s dominance may not last.

“New York has in fact been making up ground: Since 2012, the city has recorded a growth in high-rise construction projects of 26 per cent – while Toronto's numbers have receded slightly," the survey said.

The last time Emporis carried out the survey, in the fall of 2012, Toronto had 147 high-rises going up, while New York had 74.

"On the basis of current developments, we assume that New York will catch up with Toronto as early as 2015," Emporis senior data analyst Matthew Keutenius said.

Evidence is mounting the country's condo-building frenzy is slowing down. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. recently reduced its forecast for housing starts for 2014, showing no growth in starts from 2013. They remain significantly below 2012 levels.

And yes, those high-rises are all pretty much housing, not offices. In Toronto, Burnaby, B.C., and Markham, Ont., 92 per cent of all high-rises going up are residential. A majority in most U.S. cities are housing as well (the oil town Houston being an exception).

So why is Canada building so much more high-rise housing than the U.S., proportionally? Canada’s economy and job market have been stronger than the U.S.’s since the Great Recession (though that advantage is now fading), but it might actually be something else: Traffic jams.

Canadians are so fed up with long commute times they’re moving back into inner cities and reshaping the country, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said in a report last year.

“There will be a continued demand for retail, office and residential space in our urban centres where there is easy access to mass transit," said Lori-Ann Beausoleil, a partner at PwC Canada, in a statement.

The U.S., meanwhile, has actually seen a reduction in the number of miles driven since the start of the last recession, thanks to a weak job market and high gas prices.

Meanwhile, Canada’s largest cities have rocketed to the top of rankings of cities with the longest commutes.

A recent study by TomTom found Vancouver, which has the highest real estate prices in Canada, also has the worst commute in North America. Commuting by bicycle is up 26 per cent in three years in the city.

Toronto had the 7th-worst traffic in the ranking, ahead of New York and Washington, D.C., while Montreal ranked 10th.

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