Protesters gather to demand money back after Mississauga condo development delayed, unit prices increased
Published February 22, 2023 at 12:01 pm
When Gail Jones (not her real name) put an $80,000 deposit down on a pre-construction condo slated to be built in the Dixie Rd. and Burnhamthorpe Rd. E. area, she expected to move into her new unit in 2020.
Instead, the development–Highlight of Mississauga condos, located at 4070 Dixie Rd.–was delayed multiple times before the developer, Hazelton Development Corporation, filed for CCAA protection in April 2022.
Now, almost five years after putting a deposit down on a unit she’ll never live in, Jones says she’s tired and wants her money back.
“It’s stressful financially and everything,” she says, adding that she’s one of over 200 purchasers who has been in limbo for months.
“More than 220 families are being destroyed. We just want our money back, that’s all.”
According to Insolvency Insider, Hazelton obtained CCAA protection on April 20, 2022. The article says the majority of the 265 units were sold as of last spring, although construction was not yet complete. As for what stalled completion, Insolvency Insider says COVID-related shutdowns, labour and supply shortages and increased costs beset the project.
“We want our money back,” she says, adding that she’s currently living with a friend because she’s been priced out of even the rental market.
Jones isn’t the only one speaking out about the delays.
On Feb. 12, she and other buyers staged a protest in front of the Highlight condos, hoping the action would prompt people to take notice and compel the organizations involved in the complex legal process to return people’s money as soon as possible so they can move on–even if the cash won’t be enough to buy a condo in the current market.
Jones says she and other buyers are currently waiting for their deposits to be returned by a Markham-based insurance company.
While she says she’s been told that her money will be returned in March 2023, she’s concerned about further delays–especially since she and other buyers were supposed to have received their money in December 2022.
Jones says she and other buyers have attended multiple court hearings on the situation and have become discouraged by lengthy delays.
“The majority of unit holders have been priced out of the market after more than 4.5 years of waiting and have lost more than 50 per cent in purchase power due to rising inflation,” Jones told insauga.com
“Some unit holders sold their properties to be ready to move in and many are now paying expensive rent. Some unit holders have borrowed money for deposits, paying interest and facing financial hardship and burdens.”
Jones says that when she purchased her unit in 2018, the agreement of purchase and sales she received indicated that occupancy was tentatively scheduled to begin in June 2020.
In 2019, buyers were notified that their deposits had been transferred to Meridian Credit Union. After that, they received five notices concerning construction delays, with the final one being issued on March 11, 2022–shortly before Hazelton filed for CCAA protection.
Jones says that until last spring, buyers were still planning to move into their new homes or upgrade their investment properties.
“An invitation for finishing selections was initiated [in April 2021], and most of the unitholders paid thousands in upgrades.”
Jones says that in February 2022, new management took over the property, but buyers weren’t notified until April.
In July 2022, buyers were invited to vote for one of two options: re-purchase their units at a higher price reflecting the current market or choose a compensation option involving the return of their deposits and upgrade costs, as well as 12 per cent compensation.
“The first option triggered an additional average incremental price of $230,000 per unit, almost 65 per cent higher than the original purchase price,” Jones says.
“Only 41 purchasers chose to re-purchase their units, 221 unitholders opted for the compensation option, and 221 units were re-marketed for sale.”
The money was supposed to be returned by Dec. 10, 2022, but that deadline was extended until Dec. 24.
In November 2022, buyers learned that a court hearing was scheduled for Dec. 1. Jones says they were also told that the developer would likely default on the Dec. 24 refund date and that the deposits were subject to a recovery process through the insurance company.
Some buyers say the lengthy delays have hurt their finances and health.
R.A., a buyer from the Niagara region, told insauga.com that she and her husband poured their savings into a suite they hoped to use as an investment property to help fund their sons’ post-secondary education.
She says the stress of the delays and court proceedings have severely impacted her husband’s health.
“My husband had a heart problem in the middle of the night and cardiologists couldn’t explain his heart condition, and they’re still trying to figure it out,” she says.
R.A., a frontline health-care worker, now works three jobs to support her family.
“This [purchase] was an investment. It’s all our savings. We did it to secure the future of my sons and to secure my retirement later. In April, we were told that the development was going into CCAA protection, and the dilemma started.”
R.A. says she and her husband are just hoping to get their money back and that without it, they’ve had to make tremendous sacrifices.
“To make up for the loss, I had to work more. God only knows how we saved that money. I haven’t been able to see my mom, who lives overseas alone, for the last four years because of how much it’ll cost us,” she says.
“I gave away Christmas with my kids, vacations, gatherings with friends, all to work. I was working non-stop and we put the money towards [the property]. My son started university last year and thank god he was able to get a scholarship, but in his second year, we were struggling to pay for his tuition. We voted for the plan; we needed the deposit back.”
R.A. says conversations with lawyers and the monitor involved in the CCAA proceedings haven’t clarified much.
“We just want back what we paid. Is it that hard? It’s taken two months to figure out a protocol. There are lives on the line.”
Jones says that although she and other buyers were told to expect the money in March, she’s skeptical after so many delays and is concerned that other people might encounter similar issues when purchasing pre-construction properties.
“We would not be surprised if there will be more delays,” Jones told insauga.com. “Fingers crossed, but we have been getting empty promises so many times.”
R.A. says she’s not asking for anything extra, just the money she invested in a property she’ll never own.
“We are not asking for anything extra. We’re just asking them to give me my money back. It has been [almost] five years. How much longer will it take?”
She also says it’s been difficult figuring out who, exactly, to talk to about what’s going on.
“We don’t know what’s happening or who is responsible for the delays,” she says.
“For 10 months, the outcome is zero. We’re talking about thousands of dollars that people can’t get back. Who is responsible for that? It’s like talking to the wall. There are over 200 lives on the line. I worked hard for this money. If I got a good reason [for the delays], maybe I could live with it for the time being, but I can’t find a good reason.”
R.A. says she just wants the nightmare to be over.
“I don’t want extra, I just want what I paid five years ago. They didn’t go by the [Dec. 24] date before, they didn’t respect it. It’s one thing after the other, one delay after another. Who is accountable for what is happening to us?”
Like R.A., Jones says she just wants her money back so she can move on.
“Many purchasers are under severe stress [and experiencing] anxiety, sleep disorders, mental and financial problems during this difficult time, surviving in a highly inflated economic environment. We all need due diligence and justice.”
She says she’s hoping the protest worked to raise awareness.
“We want some public attention because we just hope something will happen to speed this up so we can get our money. We’re just tired.”insauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising