How to deal with a rapidly growing city with Stan Cho Ontario PC Candidate
Who is better for real estate investors – Doug Ford or Kathleen Wynne? On today’s episode we hear from Ontario PC Candidate for Willowdale Stan Cho. We talk about affordable housing, rent control, inclusionary zoning, how to deal with a rapidly growing city, real estate licensing and much more.
STAN CHO INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS
2:07 Tell us a little bit about who you are and where you came from?
4:07 Was there a trigger moment for you that said, “You know what, I’ve got to do this”?
9:45 What are some of the key issues around housing specifically?
11:30 What do we need to know about Inclusionary zoning?
15:59 What do you think the biggest impacts of the Fair Housing Plan?
21:00 How rent control affects the market.
21:53 How do we address the problem of affordable housing?
26:51 What are the key issues facing Willowdale?
32:45 What are your thoughts on the leader of your party, Doug Ford?
34:45 Is it too easy to become a real estate agent?
Andrew le Fleur: Doug Ford, Kathleen Wynne, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump. On today’s episode of the True Condos Podcast, we’re talking politics with Stan Cho, Ontario PC candidate for Willowdale. Stay tuned.
Announcer: Welcome to the True Condos Podcast with Andrew le Fleur. He claims to give the truth on the Toronto condo market and condo investing in Toronto.
Andrew le Fleur: Hi. It’s Andrew here. Just before we jump into the interview with Stan Cho, who’s the PC candidate for Willowdale and also a very well-known guy in the preconstruction condo world in Toronto, just wanted to quickly say that we’re publishing this episode after the tragic events that happened recently in Willowdale with the many people who lost their lives, unfortunately, on the stretch of Yonge Street, between Yonge and Sheppard and Yonge and Finch.
Now this recording of this podcast, this interview, happened before these events took place, so it was not something that we discussed in this interview. But if you’re listening to this after, you might know there’s a connection, obviously, between Stan Cho being the candidate for Willowdale and the very tragic events that happened. Of course, our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims of this terrible event. I just wanted to put that out there in case anybody’s listening and wondering about that. At the time that we recorded this conversation, that tragic event, those events had not taken place. There you have it. With that in mind, here is my interview with Stan Cho.
All right. We are live. We are here with Stan Cho. Stan is the Ontario PC candidate for Willowdale. Stan, welcome
Stan Cho: Thank you very much.
Andrew le Fleur: Welcome to the podcast. Thanks for coming. Stan, if you just want to bring your microphone as close as possible to yourself there.
Stan Cho: Right.
Andrew le Fleur: That’s great. Awesome.
Stan Cho: [inaudible 00:01:54].
Andrew le Fleur: Stan, you’re running for election here, upcoming election, provincial election very soon. Biggest question I have for you is why? Why are you doing this? Tell us a little bit about what you’re coming from, because, obviously, why we’re in this, why I’m talking to you and how we know each other. Then, the big question is, why? Why are you doing it?
Stan Cho: Absolutely. Well, Andrew, my background is real estate. I’ve been in this business now, this is my 16th year. I do run … Well, I used to run the family business of Royal LePage New Concept. What we’ve seen over the last 15 years is that this government that we have in Ontario, which affects so much of policy in our day-to-day lives, has really very little idea of what’s happening in our real estate market. It’s this lack of government foresight that’s actually led to some of the problems and the challenges we face with affordability, overcrowding, lack of inventory that we see today.
We’re seeing the tip of the iceberg. We see massive problems with housing on the horizon, and the government, as we see it now, they’re really looking at this sort of housing issue four years at a time, and that’s a mistake. We have a booming population here, and it’s only going to get worse in the coming years. Housing, whether you are a billionaire or homeless, it affects you. We have some massive challenges on the horizon, and we need a government … We need people who see the long-term sort of picture on what’s happening in the housing market. That’s one of the main reasons that I decided to put the business on hold, hire a manager, and try and make a difference here before it’s too late.
Andrew le Fleur: Yeah. Your family business, as you said, you have this brokerage, Royal LePage New Concept. You’ve been doing this business for a long, long time.
Stan Cho: Yeah.
Andrew le Fleur: I know, you know, you’re making a … It’s a great living. It’s a great business. You’ve been very successful at what you’re doing. You’re well-known in the industry. You could just keep doing what you’re doing, keep your head down. You really don’t have to do this. You’re certainly not doing this for the money.
Stan Cho: Right.
Andrew le Fleur: We can put that out there-
Stan Cho: Absolutely.
Andrew le Fleur: … and say that. Yeah, I’m just curious. Was there a trigger moment for you that said, “You know what, I’ve got to do this”? Was there a single moment in time? Was it a series of events? I’m just curious. I want to just get inside your head a little bit as somebody similar to me, who’s in this industry. You’re very successful. Like I said, you can just keep doing what you’re doing and nobody would ever think twice about it if you made that decision. But you said, “You know what? No. I’m going to actually go and …” You want to serve in public office in this way. Was there a moment in time that you can point to?
Stan Cho: There’s been several moments, and I’ll give you sort of a longer explanation on this. It’s a family business, like you mentioned, Royal LePage is. My father, when he came to this country, wasn’t in real estate. In fact, he came here alone, not knowing the language, the culture. He worked for less than minimum wage for cash in a convenience store when he first got here because there were no other opportunities for him. He eventually worked really hard and saved enough money to move us from Guelph, where he settled originally. I ended up being born in Etobicoke, and him and my mother, who he brought a few years after he came, after I was born, started working in a convenience store together.
The point in this is I watched them growing up, work extremely hard, long hours, getting robbed at knife point, every racist name in the book thrown at them, and they struggled. Through that struggle, they kept working hard. What I learned from that is, hey, hard work can pay off, because they eventually succeeded. I remember my dad riding his real estate license while he was at the store, and I remember going when he got his real estate license with him as a kid to open houses and seeing him write the offers on the hood of his car. And tireless, seven-day work weeks. The hours that they worked, I don’t know how they did it, not even knowing how sort of the culture of this country was.
Eventually, the happy ending to that story is that they became very successful. I learned that hard work can lead to those opportunities.
Andrew le Fleur: He went to Guelph, came to Toronto. He had the convenience store and then at some point, he got his real estate license.
Stan Cho: Yes. I’d say-
Andrew le Fleur: Then at some point, he opened the brokerage?
Stan Cho: Yes. What I-
Andrew le Fleur: … and the brokerage started to grow. What’s that story?
Stan Cho: Seven years old or eight, seven or eight years old, he got his license and he became a really great salesperson and moved us from Etobicoke closer to his office in Willowdale, actually. I’ve grown up in North York ever since. My dad, after two years of being a top sales person, decided to open a brokerage. He did that, and he became a very successful broker-owner. That was when I was in high school. Shortly after university, I decided to join the family business.
Back to the point of why politics in a very successful and rewarding career. It’s not just the misunderstandings that this government has with our real estate industry. That’s, of course, a reason, but more importantly than that is that the last 15 years I see people in our office, I talk to people at the doors, and the same work ethic that my parents had is there, the long hours, the seven-day workweeks, that drive and determination for a better life.
Andrew le Fleur: Yes.
Stan Cho: But what’s not are the opportunities. The last decade and a half you’ve seen Ontario lose hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs. You see policies introduced that make no sense. You see scandal after scandal, the gas plant, the eHealth, the Green Energy Act, which is really just a bad contract, billions being just hemorrhaged out of these problems, and that’s taxpayer dollars. If you continue to do that … Don’t know if your listeners know this, but right now, there’s a billion dollars a month being spent on interest payments to service our debt. We are the most indebted state or province on the planet.
Andrew le Fleur: Billion dollars a month.
Stan Cho: A month. That’s $5,000-
Andrew le Fleur: What is that a day?
Stan Cho: 5,000 a second, if you want to break it down-
Andrew le Fleur: $5,000 a second, 24 hours a day.
Stan Cho: 24 hours a day.
Andrew le Fleur: $5,000 a second just to pay interest payment.
Stan Cho: Interest payments alone. You think about where that money can be reinvested into our province to improve infrastructure, transit, help the less fortunate, to create opportunities and jobs. There’s a reason we’ve lost 350,000 manufacturing jobs in the last … under the Ontario Liberal term. There’s a reason that students are graduating without the hope of employment with the skills gap. There’s a reason that small businesses are struggling. Back to my point is that opportunities are disappearing before our eyes, and we need to make sure that we have those opportunities for future generations.
Andrew le Fleur: What your point is, I guess, I’m gathering, is looking at your parents and what they went through in their generation, working very hard, coming to this country, working very hard seven days a week, they had better opportunities than the same … Putting the same effort today versus what they were, you’re saying the opportunities are just not out there.
Stan Cho: Hard work [crosstalk 00:09:23]
Andrew le Fleur: Hard work doesn’t pay the same result.
Stan Cho: Correct. And we’re also leaving that legacy for our kids and their kids.
Andrew le Fleur: Right.
Stan Cho: Unacceptable.
Andrew le Fleur: Right. Speaking again, most of the people listening to this are going to be in the real estate industry or real estate investors, so I want to, obviously, talk about issues related to them. What are some of the key issues around housing specifically that I know you’re very passionate about, coming from your background in real estate as well? What are sort of the key issues that you want to bring to the table and bring your expertise and your knowledge and bring change to if you are elected?
Stan Cho: There’s so many specific issues that I can get into. The big picture, Andrew, we’re looking at … Our country of Canada is 36 million population strong, but what people don’t realize is that over a quarter of that population, 26%, live in the greater Golden Horseshoe. That’s right here at home, and that is a tiny percentage of Canada’s land mass. In other words, 26% of the country’s population lives within the 0.3% of our land mass, and that’s here in the greater Golden Horseshoe. That has a profound effect on our housing market, and the government has shown that they do not understand the impact that this is having on our future as well.
People get it. We live in the best place in the world. We have clean air, we have so much going on for us. We have wonderful nature and clean water and so many opportunities, safety, all those great things that come with living in Ontario, but the housing market is being choked. We have a supply crisis on our hands. Every policy that we’ve seen introduced by the Ontario Liberal government is going to make that supply/demand imbalance worse. That’s a big picture.
To take, for example, specifically, you heard recently that the housing minister came out and said that he’s going to give municipalities more power to govern over inclusionary zoning.
Andrew le Fleur: Right. Inclusionary zoning, that’s a buzzword right now. What do we need to know about that?
Stan Cho: Well, the simple definition of inclusionary zoning is that government is asking developers … Well, you are going to have to introduce a certain percentage of the condos that you build that are affordable housing type for the people who can’t afford the market rates.
Andrew le Fleur: Okay.
Stan Cho: Now, the housing minister of Ontario said, “Well, we’re going to actually give the municipality, city councilors, more power to decide how much of the developers are going to have a percentage of affordable housing. In other words, if somebody, a councilor downtown, said, “No. I want 40% inclusionary zoning in this project at …” Let’s just pick Bay and Bloor because we’re sitting, that’s where we are here. Well, then, 40% of that Bay and Bloor condo project is now going to have to be affordable housing.
Andrew le Fleur: The province, the minister is proposing to give the local councilors the power, the authority to make such a …
Stan Cho: Action.
Andrew le Fleur: … restriction-
Stan Cho: Yes.
Andrew le Fleur: … on developers.
Stan Cho: Yes. This is another example of something that we are not thinking ahead.
Andrew le Fleur: If that happens, how does that affect the market? What’s the repercussions of that?
Stan Cho: Very simple. You know a lot of developers, and I think they’re not evil human beings. In fact, many of them want to contribute back to the communities and see that their buildings are helping people. But what developer in their right mind, being a business, is going to even bid on a land site in a climate where your local councilor is going to say, “I need 50% inclusionary zoning”? Your pro forma doesn’t make sense. Your numbers don’t make sense. There’s no developer, despite having a heart of gold, is going to come into a project to lose millions of dollars.
Andrew le Fleur: Right.
Stan Cho: That’s what we set up and that’s what we’re going to set up moving forward is you’re going to see prime areas of Toronto overlooked by developers who think, “Well, you know what? It’s just not worth our time to even consider this.” Then, that leads to a lack of development, which is going to only compound it all.
Andrew le Fleur: It’s another layer of the government’s looking at, adding to the process, which is going to choke development.
Stan Cho: Absolutely.
Andrew le Fleur: There’s just so many policies that they’re just adding, adding, adding, and it’s just slowing down the process, the normal economic process of supply and demand. They’re just adding layers to it-
Stan Cho: Absolutely.
Andrew le Fleur: … and restrictions that will … Yeah, exactly like you said. They’re going to start saying, “I’m barely making a profit as it is. I’m taking on massive amounts of risk as it is. If I build 10 projects, I’m not hitting 10 home runs. A couple of them might lose money, couple of them might make money, and the rest of them are probably just breaking even to keep the machine going. There’s this weird perception out there that developers are just-
Stan Cho: Rolling in the money.
Andrew le Fleur: Rolling in the money, and every project they make is just obscenely profitable and the margins are out of this world or something like that. Yeah, they can just add in 18 floors of affordable housing for free kind of thing.
Stan Cho: And, of course, that’s not true.
Andrew le Fleur: [crosstalk 00:14:45].
Stan Cho: It’s not true, and you have to also add to that that there’s so much red tape. The developers we speak to are saying it almost takes a decade now from acquiring land to even getting it to that state where it’s finished because of all the bureaucracy you have to go through and the hoops you have to jump through to get this product out. This is in a climate where we desperately need that supply to catch up anyway.
Andrew le Fleur: Right. And we’re growing like crazy and prices are growing like crazy, and the Liberals just seem to think the solution is to just add more red tape and to add more, yeah, more steps to the process, more costs to the builder and somehow they think that’s going to result in cheaper housing for all.
Stan Cho: Right, and that’s actually going to result in the opposite, which is way more expensive housing for all. It’s not just the sales aspect we’re talking about here, Andrew. This government has made a commitment to making it worse for renters also.
Andrew le Fleur: Yeah.
Stan Cho: You heard the Fair Housing Plan last year introduced …
Andrew le Fleur: Almost one year to the day, actually.
Stan Cho: That’s right. Yeah.
Andrew le Fleur: Interesting. We’re almost one year to the day as we’re having this conversation that the Fair Housing Plan has come in. We’ve had a year now to think about it and sit on it and to see how it affects the market. What do you think the biggest impacts of the Fair Housing Plan have been and where do you think it has gone wrong the most? To be fair, let’s put this out there as well. Do you think it got anything right?
Stan Cho: Well, it’s an interesting question. I think the anything right part I’ll get to at the end. Overall, I really did not like this piece of legislation. The thing that I really dislike the most is the rent control aspect of it. Rent control really, in my opinion, is the [crosstalk 00:16:28]-
Andrew le Fleur: But rent control is good. Right? It’s good for the people.
Stan Cho: Sounds good.
Andrew le Fleur: It’s going to keep rents low because you’re going to stop rents from going up. Right? It’s good. Right?
Stan Cho: It certainly sounds good in theory, but it’s actually not. You know what? Let’s just look at the evidence. As you said, it’s one year later. Double digit record gains across the board for all rental types, from studios right up to three bedrooms. It’s clearly not working, and you’re seeing multiple offers on so many rental types. In this area that we’re sitting in right now at Bay and Bloor, you can’t list something without getting four or five offers within the first 24 hours of having it on MLS.
This is the climate we exist in, and that’s what rent control got wrong. It just gave out a sound bite saying, “Hey, we’re here to protect you, tenants,” but really what it’s done, Andrew, it’s absolutely ruined their chances at affordability in this city. To sort of explain why for some of the listeners who may not understand how rent control works backwards, you have to understand that in our city we have a rent shortage for all supply types to begin with. Corporations and developers have not been building purpose-built rental buildings. Very few projects were built in the ’90s and into the 2000s. The domestic investor, the landlord, the everyday person like, for example, you and I, who don’t have a pension invest it in real estate and we do a valuable service, which is to rent that condo product back to the people who need it.
Andrew le Fleur: Sure.
Stan Cho: I think you’ll agree with me when I say that we’re not getting rich off of these condos that we’re renting back out to the market. We just want to cover our debt obligations and our maintenance fees.
Andrew le Fleur: Yeah, sure.
Stan Cho: That’s what market rates, sort of market rents are dictated by. Now, of course, there’s a few bad apples out there in terms of landlords who have tried to escalate the rent too quickly, but you can’t take the exceptional case, then make sweeping policy that affects everybody else who is doing it responsibly. Most landlords are doing this to cover their costs. That was actually a great system. We had people who were just covering their costs and you had reasonable rents. The problem was that there wasn’t enough product, so that was escalating the rent value.
Now, what’s happening with rent control, as soon as a tenant leaves, and you, I think, will agree with this, well, I’m going to anticipate any potential changes into the future. What if my maintenance fees goes up? What if there’s falling glass and I have a special assessment that gets assessed on my maintenance fees? Or my property taxes go up a lot?
Andrew le Fleur: Mortgage rates go up.
Stan Cho: Mortgage rates, interest rates are up right now. Well, I can’t offset that by a reasonable increase in rent, so I’m going to act preemptively and when I get my new tenant, I’m going to actually increase my rent 25% before to anticipate in the event of any emergency. You have seen that throughout the entire city.
Andrew le Fleur: Instead of before, I’m just going to rent it out as quickly as possible, and so I’m just going to price it at the lowest possible amount that I’m willing to accept-
Stan Cho: Exactly.
Andrew le Fleur: … because I know if the costs increase in the future, I can just increase it to help me cover those costs. Now, I can’t increase my rent in the future, so instead of setting it at the lowest possible amount I will accept, I’m going to really think twice about it. I’m probably going to set my rent at the highest amount that the market could possibly bear. It might take a little bit longer for me to rent it out. Might take two weeks instead of one.
Stan Cho: Exactly.
Andrew le Fleur: Again, because of the shortage. Yeah, so landlords are increasing those rents. The other thing with rent control that we talk about on this podcast all the time is if you’re a tenant in rent control, you’re mot moving.
Stan Cho: That’s right.
Andrew le Fleur: If you’re not moving, that unit is not going on the market, and if that is spread across the entire marketplace and people aren’t moving and units aren’t turning over, supply goes way down. When supply goes way down, the cost of entry into that market if you’re a new tenant is just getting higher and higher and higher. The funny thing about rent control is this is not a new idea. It’s not a new idea in Ontario. We had it before in the ’60s, ’70s, in the past. Other jurisdictions, other cities around the world, been there, done that. That’s the part that gets me the most about rent control. Just look at any study on rent control that’s been done, virtually any study on rent control that’s been done around the world and see how rent control affects the market and does it keep rents down or not, and it does the opposite of what you think it’s going to do.
Stan Cho: It’s total insanity, and, in fact, that is the definition of insanity, to do the same things again and again and expect to get a different result.
Andrew le Fleur: The evidence is clear. The evidence is out there. The studies have been done. We tried this before. We got rid of it for a reason. Right? We got rid of it for a reason. It’s like how soon we forget.
Stan Cho: Yes. That goes back to the problem of this Ontario Liberal government that thinks they can pit somebody against each other, landlords versus tenants, make issues divisive before an election. That’s the scary part, is they’re really only doing this to get reelected, to cling onto power, not in the best interests of renters and not in the best interests of Ontario.
Andrew le Fleur: Let’s talk about solutions from your perspective and from the PC perspective. How do we address the problem of affordable housing specifically in Willowdale, but in Toronto and in Ontario? How do we make housing more affordable for people to rent and also for people to buy? What are the specific things that you want to do?
Stan Cho: I have three ideas that I would love to be in a position to put forward. Number one, we need to address the fact that there’s too much red tape. There is way too much bureaucracy going on. It’s taken myself two years to get permits to do even the construction on my house. This is an example that’s happening across the board.
Andrew le Fleur: Just to build a single house? Just to build [crosstalk 00:22:33].
Stan Cho: Just to build my house.
Andrew le Fleur: … 300, 500 house.
Stan Cho: Exactly. This is just for me and my better half to live in, and it’s taken me two years to just get the permits. Now, I start construction. Imagine the bureaucracy and red tape that these developers go through for 500, 600 units at a time. We need to work on that, and there’s ways to do that. Less government is better in this case.
The second thing we need to do is free up the government land. Ontario is sitting on, I think, 560,000-plus hectares of developable land. It’s just not being developed, and that would give us a massive supply injection.
Andrew le Fleur: Are you talking about the Greenbelt specifically?
Stan Cho: No, absolutely not. This is outside of the Greenbelt.
Andrew le Fleur: Outside. Not including the Greenbelt?
Stan Cho: No. My personal opinion is we can’t touch the Greenbelt. I love the idea of preserving nature, and I think that’s great.
Andrew le Fleur: Right.
Stan Cho: We have land outside the Greenbelt that we can develop on. We’re just not using it, and we keep talking about the supply/demand imbalance. I hate that phrase, economics 101, but there’s nothing better I can think of in this case, because more housing means … Let’s say five projects out today instead of one project out today at Bay and Bloor naturally brings the prices down. That helps purchasers. That helps renters. It’s actually very, very simple, and we have land to get this done, so release it. Let’s work on a way to get this land out to end users and to renters.
The third thing that we absolutely need to do is think about creative ways to free up additional inventory. For example, and again, this is my idea. This is not something that the central party stands behind, but if we were to take the subway system and upload it to Ontario, if we were to say, well, Ontario is going to control the subways, that does a couple of things. Number one, we get around sort of the infighting between municipalities. Take, for example, Finch Station. Willowdale is a great example for this because it has two subway lines that end there, Sheppard Station and Finch Station.
Without getting into too much of how much that doesn’t make any sense, the natural thing to do would be to connect Finch Station up to Highway 7 because a lot of York Region commuters are coming down to Willowdale anyway, parking there and heading downtown for their jobs. The congestion and we have all sorts of other problems.
Andrew le Fleur: Sure.
Stan Cho: But one of the reasons we can’t connect Finch to Highway 7 is it’s a Toronto versus York Region issue. If the province were to take that over, you avoid some of those challenges and some of that red tape, but more importantly, you now have the ability to sell the air space above the subway stations. This is in the growth plan from 2006. You want to be able to develop where there’s high density, where there’s transit lines.
Andrew le Fleur: I always found it ridiculous. I used to live in the Danforth, and it just drove me nuts. It still drives me nuts. You have the Danforth subway line and there’s no … The density around the Danforth subway line is ridiculous.
Stan Cho: Nothing. Two-story commercial all the way down.
Andrew le Fleur: Yeah. It makes no sense. Like you said, just something as simple as you have the air rights above the station. Anybody would want to live on top of a station. You don’t even have to do them all. Let’s just try with three, four, five of them. We got lots of stations. Let’s get things going here. It’s ludicrous that in 2018, whatever, 50, 60 years since these subways were built, and you look around these stations and the housing is the exact same as it was when it was built. It makes no sense.
Stan Cho: It doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. It’s a unique challenge to Toronto.
Andrew le Fleur: Yeah.
Stan Cho: You can look at cities-
Andrew le Fleur: Like I said, I lived in the Danforth, lived in a single detached house that’s like two feet away from the subway station and surrounded by single detached houses on the subway line. It’s weird.
Stan Cho: It is weird, and it’s really unique to Toronto. Like you said, and I’m with you on that. It’s something that it’s time to take a real, strong opinion or stance on and change it. This is a long-term fix and we’ve got to start it now.
Andrew le Fleur: Yeah. Yeah. Let’s talk about Willowdale specifically. What are the key issues facing Willowdale when you’re riding, that you’re running and sort of what do you bring to the table that’s different from the people that you’re up against and specifically the incumbent.
Stan Cho: Sure. The incumbent there is David Zimmer. He’s the Minister of Indigenous Affairs. He’s been there for 15 years. I know him quite well. He’s a nice guy. Just it’s time for a change. It’s a lot of inactivity. It’s-
Andrew le Fleur: What are you hearing? I know you’re doing a ton of door-knocking, which I love to see. I love to see your hard work in your households. You’re out there talking to people in the streets, and I think it’s a crossover from your real estate training as well and understanding just how to sell and how to talk to people and how to get things done.
Stan Cho: Yeah.
Andrew le Fleur: What are you hearing from people that you’re knocking on doors? You’re talking to thousands of people now after been doing this for 11 months?
Stan Cho: 11,000, to be exact, Andrew.
Andrew le Fleur: You’ve talked to 11,000 people.
Stan Cho: 11,000.
Andrew le Fleur: What are the 11,000 people of Willowdale that you’ve personally talked to, what are they saying? What are they telling you? What are you hearing?
Stan Cho: I’m hearing a lot of things. I’m hearing that life has become unaffordable. I’m hearing that hydro rates are out of control. I’m hearing that their senior aging parents are waiting in hallways for healthcare, in hospitals. I’m hearing that their kids can see Earl Haig Secondary School from their balcony, but they can’t go there because of school overcrowding, so they’re busing these kids out to Vanier. There’s no band practice. There’s no sports teams, no childhood essentially.
I’m hearing that traffic is terrible. Willowdale is a perfect microcosm of the rest of our country. It’s diverse, it’s bursting at the seams. It’s got so much great happening for them, but there are three major challenges that I’ve heard at the door. These three challenges are what I’m going to target going into this election if I’m able to win, and those are number one, the Yonge-401 ramp. Anybody who knows this area, Yonge Street is the largest street in the world, I believe, and the 401 is the busiest highway in North America. Now you have those two sort of streets or highways meeting, and if anybody knows the street, you head south on Yonge Street, you want to get on the 401 East, you have a one-lane left turn traffic signal for this to happen.
Andrew le Fleur: Yeah. I cannot picture [crosstalk 00:29:17].
Stan Cho: You cannot even imagine the chaos. I’ve waited months of my life trying to turn off that [crosstalk 00:29:24].
Andrew le Fleur: You add it all up.
Stan Cho: Right. But this is an issue that really since 2003, the current government has said they’re going to do something about it. The current MPP has said they’re going to talk about it. This has been studied to death. There are no more studies necessary. Here’s the crazy part, Andrew. This is going to blow your mind. The city agreed to put up half the money to get this thing done. It was that important to the municipality. They put up $25 million.
Andrew le Fleur: Yes.
Stan Cho: The Ontario Liberal government did not put up the 25 on their end. It sat there, and the city funds expired on December 31 of 2017. The lack of political will is not on Toronto. It’s not on North York and the local councilor. It is on the Ontario Liberal government. It’s got so many negative spinoff effect. There’s a community called West Lansing that’s just beside the Yonge-401 ramp. Traffic is like water. It’s going to go to the lowest, least point of resistance and it’s cutting through these neighborhood streets. I talked to somebody who lives in West Lansing two weeks ago at the door who told me her daughter got hit by somebody trying to speed through the neighborhood streets to get to that Yonge-401 ramp we’re talking about right now. These are the challenges that we’re facing with a government that’s not doing anything for the people that live there.
The second thing in Willowdale that we’re having a very big challenge with is the overcrowding school that I touched on. It’s a very weird, simple funding-
Andrew le Fleur: Deregulation.
Stan Cho: Well, it’s a regulation.
Andrew le Fleur: How do you fix that?
Stan Cho: Simple, political will. You need to want to change the regulation. For people who might not understand how the funding works in the TDSB, well, the Toronto District School Board is allocated a set amount of money, but it has to go sort of … To keep it simple, you get a pie. That pie gets up into equal pieces, and you’re giving Willowdale the same slice as you are giving to, let’s say, Rexdale, where the overcrowding of schools is not the same issue, so you’re not able to use that funding to expand your schools. Earl Haig right now has a student population of 2600, but there are hundreds of these students because of that funding disparity.
Andrew le Fleur: This is the high school?
Stan Cho: It’s a high school.
Andrew le Fleur: 2600, that’s a big school.
Stan Cho: It is a very big school, and you’re sending kids who should be going there to Vanier. If anybody knows where Vanier is, it’s quite a distance away. It’s nothing at all like [crosstalk 00:31:50].
Andrew le Fleur: You’re not going to school with your neighbors.
Stan Cho: No. And you’re not doing extracurriculars because you need to get that school bus.
Andrew le Fleur: Busing. Yeah.
Stan Cho: The third issue in Willowdale is the transit. You’ve got two subway lines that end here. It’s the only place in Canada where that happens. The natural solution to this is extend the Sheppard line, which ends at Yonge Street, to the other side of Line 1, which will take you up to York Region on the new extension. The other thing is to connect Finch to Highway 7, as we touched on earlier.
Those are the three things I’m going to concentrate on.
Andrew le Fleur: Wow. That’s great. Kathleen Wynne made some interesting comments this week-
Stan Cho: Yeah. She sure did.
Andrew le Fleur: … talking about Doug Ford, comparing him to Donald Trump and talking about herself, comparing herself or contrasting herself with Hillary Clinton. What are your thoughts on the leader of your party, Doug Ford, and what he brings to the table and how he’s different from Kathleen Wynne?
Stan Cho: Well, Kathleen Wynne would, I’m sure, love to be running against a president of a foreign country, because that would take away from her record. I believe that actions speak louder than words. All you have to do is look here in Ontario and it’s no mystery why Kathleen Wynne wants a distraction. She can talk about other foreign countries’ leaders all they want. They have absolutely no bearing on Ontario and where we’re headed. It has nothing to do with eHealth or the gas plant scandals that cost the Ontario taxpayers 1.1 billion; the fact that her former chief of staff, David Livingston, is going to serve jail time because of his involvement; the fact that we have these bad energy contracts that would tie us in for tens of billions of dollars for decades for energy that we don’t need; the fact that we’re shipping out energy to the United States at a loss-
Andrew le Fleur: At a loss, yeah.
Stan Cho: … because of the over-production of energy; the fact that her insiders, like the CEO of Hydro One, is making $6.2 million and gave himself a $1.8 million raise this year. This is while Ontarians are choosing between paying for their heat or putting dinner on their families’ tables. It would be great for Kathleen Wynne to be running against someone other than the person who is committed to saying they’re going to address these inefficiencies, these scandals, and make sure that we restore a transparent government back to Queen’s Park.
I think those comments are, frankly, ridiculous and totally off base.
Andrew le Fleur: Yeah. Interesting. The other thing I know that you’re passionate about and interested on, especially coming from the real estate industry, is the process of real estate licensing and how real estate agents become a real estate agent.
Stan Cho: Yes.
Andrew le Fleur: What are your thoughts on that? Is it too easy to become a real estate agent? Do we have too many combinations-
Stan Cho: Yes, it does. I could not-
Andrew le Fleur: … in Ontario?
Stan Cho: I might be wrong on this stat, but I think we have over 50,000 people running around with a license from the Toronto Real Estate Board and that almost two-thirds of them did one deal or less last year. It’s become an industry of part-timers. Yes, to answer your question, I think it’s way too easy for people to get their real estate license, and I think that the program needs a little bit of updating. We’re teaching people paperwork. We’re teaching them nothing to do with ethics, nothing to do with salability, salesmanship and things like that.
In the end, this is a business where you are dealing with people’s biggest investment, whether it be for end use or for investment. They are trusting you and we need a higher standard of accountability and training. It’s unacceptable that we have become an industry where you are just doing this on the side as something else.
Now I’m not taking away from the many thousands of amazing, talented, responsible ethical realtors that are out there, such as yourself, but we do have a lot of bad apples and we need to address that situation. I would love to see the Ontario government … If we’re able to form a government, I’ll certainly lobby for this. I would like some higher standards and some higher accountability to make sure that the consumer is protected at the end. Even today, we have unlicensed sales people selling preconstruction units, preconstruction condos.
Andrew le Fleur: Right.
Stan Cho: There’s no accountability, there’s no code of ethics. There’s no sort of even accountability if something were to go wrong. It’s been a great market, but it doesn’t always last that way. At the end of it, we need people who are responsible and accountable for their actions and the way they sell. Yes, these are some changes.
Andrew le Fleur: Do you propose anything specific in terms of … Because right now, to get your real estate license, if you take … It’s basically been the same for a long time. Take about three courses, takes about six months or so, I think, and then, boom, you get your real estate license.
Stan Cho: Yeah.
Andrew le Fleur: Specifically, what are you proposing?
Stan Cho: I have to give credit where it’s due. I’ve been talking to Tim Hudak, who is the new CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association. He’s been very active in making some changes for the better. But I would like to see sort of attention that there should be a course on ethics, for example. I think we should spend more time on that accountability aspect of the industry as well. I also think that we need to work on more of the interpersonal side of this business. It’s not enough to teach paperwork and how to fill out an offer. Anybody with enough time can learn that. You also have to teach the ability to understand what somebody’s needs are. You have classes on open-ended questions, for example, so you can get to the bottom of somebody’s underlying needs for why they’re purchasing a house or why they’re purchasing an investment, salesmanship. Any other industry where you’re in sales, you are trained on that, and in real estate, you are not currently, and it’s up to the independent brokerages to provide that type of training. Well, that’s kind of a big responsibility on them.
Andrew le Fleur: Essentially, yes, it’s not just the technical skill of being able to write a deal. It’s how you actually get good at what you’re doing as long as you’re providing quality service and not just, like you said, just filling out a piece of paperwork. Interesting.
Stan, thank you so much for your time today. Is there anything else I didn’t ask you about today that we missed or that you wish I would have asked you about, that you want to cover?
Stan Cho: Yeah, but I think you asked me a lot there, and I really appreciate the opportunity to be here. It’s one of those things where we have 49 days to go as of today until the next provincial election.
Andrew le Fleur: Not that you’re counting.
Stan Cho: No.
Andrew le Fleur: Counting down.
Stan Cho: Yeah. It’s the only thing I think I’d like to say is that this is a huge election. It’s just been a decade and a half of the same government that is desperately saying or doing anything to cling on power.
Andrew le Fleur: How do you feel about your chances? I’m curious. How do you feel about your chances personally going into the next 49 days?
Stan Cho: All I know is that I can outwork my opponent, and that’s what I’m doing. We’re out there seven days a week. The last two weeks, I’ve walked 250 kilometers. I’ve got blisters on my feet.
Andrew le Fleur: And your iPhone, your Fitbit?
Stan Cho: Yeah, my Fitbit.
Andrew le Fleur: You must be off the charts.
Stan Cho: Yeah. It’s quite high.
Andrew le Fleur: And you’re getting your 10,000 steps in?
Stan Cho: Oh, yeah. I think we’re at 25,000 a day on average, but the point of it, all that hard work is I don’t know. All I do know is that I’m connecting with the people of the streets, and I believe firmly that the job of government is to represent the voices of the people it governs. The Ontario Liberal government has not been doing that. They lost touch with the community and our voices are not at Queen’s Park. Your voices are not at Queen’s Park. That is unacceptable. That needs to change. We’re going to do that on June 7, which will help. I’m just going to encourage everybody to make sure you vote. You don’t have to agree with what I say, but please, we need everybody to get out there and cast a ballot.
Andrew le Fleur: Awesome. Thank you so much, Stan, and good luck on June 7.
Stan Cho: Thank you so much for having me, Andrew.
Andrew le Fleur: Wish you well.
Stan Cho: Thank you.
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