Archive for May, 2004

Storyeum show has Gastown drooling

Saturday, May 29th, 2004

Creator Danny Guillaume was a Saskatchewan farmer

Gerry Bellett

Clifton Johnson works on ship rigging at the site of the Storyeum project next to Water Street. Johnson, a 20-year-old painter, was sent there by BladeRunners. CREDIT: Bill Keay, Vancouver Sun

David Wong of e.Atelier Architecture Inc. says Storyeum is the best thing that’s happened in Gastown in a long time. The area, he adds, is preparing for a ‘gold rush.’ CREDIT: Bill Keay, Vancouver Sun

Storyeum creator Danny Guillaume expects 800,000 people will visit his B.C. history show in the first year. CREDIT: Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun

When asked about his background, Storyeum’s creator Danny Guillaume describes himself as the proverbial farmer from Saskatchewan.

It’s a classic piece of self-depreciation from the former Moose Jaw grain grower who came west in 1987 — made two fortunes — and is about to turn Gastown on its ear with his $22.5-million, all-action, pop history show.

“I tried farming for five years and I knew I couldn’t make it. So I came here and became an entrepreneur,” says Guillaume, 42.

Swapping the tractor for a calculator didn’t do him any harm.

He opened a video rental business, developed it into a small chain and sold it. Next he turned his attention to the pet industry and founded Petcetera — a runaway success — which he sold when he realized he didn’t want to be a retailer.

His latest business venture, to be unveiled Tuesday, is his most ambitious yet and has had Gastown in a dither since he first proposed the idea two years ago.

In essence he’s aiming at attracting a million customers a year to a unique sound and light show about the history of B.C. which would put it among the top tourist attractions in the province.

It’s the biggest boost to Gastown in years and merchants there are drooling at the prospect of the numbers of visitors it will bring to the historic district’s few streets.

It has already brought 150 permanent new jobs to the area and its economic jolt is being felt in the neighbouring Downtown Eastside.

“I don’t know anyone who’s against it,” says Jon Stovell, president of the Gastown Business Improvement Society.

“We think it’s the most exciting thing happening in Gastown although there are other less splashy things happening as well. There’s an incredible amount of development taking place here.”

He estimates that new and planned development including Storyeum will add up to $100 million in retail and residential projects.

David Wong, principal of the architectural firm e-Atelier, whose office is directly opposite Storyeum, said some of that development is the result of Guillaume’s decision to spend such a large sum in the area.

“Canadians are conservative and tend to wait until someone else makes the first move. But since he came in we’ve seen lots of activity,” said Wong.

“Our company is being asked to do three major renovations of historic buildings, two in Chinatown and one on Main which I’m sure were influenced by having Storyeum arrive,” says Wong.

“It’s the best thing that’s happened down here for a long time. All the businesses are gearing up for a gold rush.”

Storyeum is contained in a 104,000-square-foot development located on Water Street on the site of the old Woodward’s parking lot that has been demolished and rebuilt by the city, which owns the property.

Guillaume’s company, Historical Xperiences Inc., has a 40-year lease on its portion of the site.

Described as an experience in “magical history” the development takes up the street front where a large public concourse and ticket sales area are located.

But most of it is underground, beneath the parking lot in cavernous theatres reached by descending floors where the history of B.C. will be re-enacted using actors, props, special effects, song and dance and the latest in multimedia wizardry.

While elements of what visitors will find in Storyeum can be seen in other attractions around the world — the use of costumed actors to create atmosphere can be found from Disneyland to the Wigan Pier exhibition in northern England — but as a complete package there’s nothing remotely like Storyeum anywhere, except perhaps in Moose Jaw.

For anyone doubting the concept, Guillaume recommends a visit to his home town and a head count of customers entering the Tunnels of Moose Jaw — an experiment he undertook four years ago to see if his vision of a multimedia history exhibition would work.

“I put in $2 million to build it up and now we have 135,000 visitors a year and it’s the biggest tourist attraction in Saskatchewan,” Guillaume says.

He is expecting to have about 800,000 customers in his first year.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

Urgent need for affordable housing the responsibility of all

Saturday, May 29th, 2004

Government, private sector have social duty to create, sustain projects: developer

Larisa Saunders And Steve Drake

The 35-year-old Canadian Housing and Renewal Association is a national champion of adequate, affordable housing for low-income and modest-income Canadians. One of its key roles is to heighten public awareness of affordable-housing issues through research, external communications and conferences.

The organization’s annual congress met in Vancouver last month, a gathering that brought together more than 300 housing professionals, policy makers, administrators and opinion leaders from around the country.

BC Housing, a key sponsor, commissioned members of the Print Futures Professional Writing Program at Douglas College in New Westminster to cover sessions. The Vancouver Sun presents work by Larisa Saunders and Steve Drake of that program.

“Eagle feathers fly best when they work together,” said David Seymour of the National Aboriginal Housing Association as he presented five speakers with sacred eagle feathers at the end of a congress forum titled “Affordable Housing: Whose Responsibility is it anyway?”

The forum featured speakers from all levels of government, plus the private and non-profit sectors.

”Safe, secure, and affordable housing is the responsibility of all,” Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell of Vancouver said in opening remarks. “If citizens do not have housing then we do not have a livable city.”

Joyce Potter, chair of the CHRA national symposium, defined the dimensions of the crisis, the urgent need for action and the issues of responsibility from all levels of government, private developers and the community.

“Housing is a fundamental human need,” she said. “The national consensus is that something needs to be done on all levels.”

John Godfrey, parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Paul Martin, stressed that a national housing policy shouldn’t be just a federal policy. “It can’t be us telling you what to do.”

Instead he affirmed that the federal, provincial and municipal governments need to work together within structures that already exist.

John Gerretson, Ontario‘s minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, said federal policies must be flexible enough to address both provincial and individual concerns.

“Housing is a basic human right. Policy should be formulated on that principle,” Gerretson said.

Panelist Karen O’Shannacery of Vancouver‘s Lookout Emergency Aid Society said provincial governments need to support the affordable-housing community, providing daycare services, for example. “Housing must be viewed as holistic. That is the only way these programs are sustainable.”

Vancouver Coun. Jim Green said cities are limited in their access to resources and restricted by legislation. As a result, he said, Vancouver has tackled the problem creatively, using all the tools available to it and even creating new ones.

The city, he said, recently purchased the Woodward’s building to help revitalize the Downtown Eastside; legalized more than 20,000 secondary suites; provided bylaw protection to single-room accommodations; and ensured that the 2010 Olympic Village will be converted into non-market housing after the Games.

“Social housing increases the value of an area, it doesn’t decrease it,” Green said.

“By building housing we’re building new people.”

He calls it the architecture of opportunity.

He said the need to overcome Vancouver‘s high land prices has required the city to work with the development community, a relationship that he says has become “quite enlightened.”

Vancouver developer Ward McAllister said all three levels of government need to involve themselves in creating and sustaining affordable housing initiatives, and the private sector needs to play an active role in addressing the gaps that exist.

“We all have a social responsibility to affordable housing. It is the fabric of what makes a community work,” said McAllister, national president of the Urban Development Institute.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

494 suites sold in one day as buying frenzy hits Yaletown

Saturday, May 29th, 2004

Yaletown Park’s first two towers are now sold out



Marketer Bob Rennie says sales are brisk for Yaletown Park Tower 3 (model on left at the preview centre at Granville and Georgia) after Towers 1 and 2 sold out.

CREDIT: Bill Keay, Vancouver Sun

A condo-buying frenzy hit an unprecedented fever pitch Feb. 28 when buyers snatched up 494 suites in Towers 1 and 2 of the Yaletown Park project in downtown Vancouver.

The first two towers are now sold out and sales at the project’s much-anticipated Tower 3 are also brisk.

Only 55 condominiums are still available after the third tower’s 272 units were offered for sale by marketer Bob Rennie on April 27.

The project, which appeals to those seeking a downtown lifestyle within close proximity to the city’s main amenities, features one bedroom, one-bedroom-and-den, two bedroom, and penthouse units.

When completed in early 2007, homeowners can look forward to living in a highrise that subtly echoes the area’s historic architecture. Brick pilasters, concrete spandrels, “punched out windows,” metal canopies and masonry on the street-level townhomes are just part of the package.

The project includes Yaletown Park, a 17,000-square-foot urban park that is a paved square defined by plantings on all four sides.

The park is expected to be a vibrant urban space set amidst lush plants and heritage granite curb pieces pointing true north.

For more information on the Yaletown Park project, call 604-694-1610 or go to

© The Vancouver Sun 2004


Telecoms compete to provide one-stop shopping for families

Friday, May 28th, 2004

Gillian Shaw

Michael Sabia said Bell’s experience in bridging the two solitudes of French and English Canada leave it well equipped to deal with regional loyalties and affinities. CREDIT: Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun

Coming in your telecommunications future is the day when you’ll call up for phone service and find yourself the recipient of an array of offerings to keep you connected, entertained and organized — in fact, you could have a total digital makeover.

That’s the future as seen by Bell Canada and Telus, the two telecoms turned digital department stores that are vying for the hearts, minds and homes of B.C. consumers.

For a long time it hasn’t been enough to simply provide a phone service, or even add a mobile phone to the consumer offerings. Today’s savvy telecommunications companies are taking a leaf from bankers’ books and looking to build relationships with their customers.

It’s a relationship in which they want consumers to turn to them for all their digital needs — whether it’s the delivery of entertainment, the creation of home networks so kids can do their homework online while Dad surfs the Web, creating a wireless solution to keep their home-based business humming, or a security system with cameras to let homeowners see what’s happening on the home front from any computer they happen to be sitting at.

Telus CEO Darren Entwistle calls it the “digital home solution.”

“We want to provide a bundle for customers that, at the end of the day, will enhance their lifestyles,” he said. “We want to take the technology we have, enable the digital home through that technology and make the future a little more friendly.

For Entwistle it means one-stop shopping: “By having one high-quality supplier to deal with all their digital needs, not talking technology but talking solutions that are meaningful for the lives they lead, which are becoming increasingly frenetic.”

In Vancouver this week to muscle into Telus’s home turf, much as Telus is intruding into its backyard, Bell Canada is talking from the same marketing textbook.

“I think the future of these businesses will be determined by our ability to service the entirety of a household. It is not going to be about the one-off sale of Internet service, or telephone or video,” Bell Canada CEO Michael Sabia told The Vancouver Sun editorial board Thursday. “The real competition will be in a sense for the totality of the broadband home.

“Those companies that can bring an integrated solution to the broadband home — that’s what the focus of competition is going to be about. It’s what we’ll see in the future.”

One part of the over-all home solution is the delivery of video, which Bell already does through its satellite service, with almost 1.5 million subscribers. The company can also deliver that video signal over fibre to multiple dwelling units, distributing it throughout the building essentially over copper telephone wire. The economies of scale work for multiple dwellings, but fail when it comes to single homes, so Sabia said his company is trial-testing a video solution, IPTV (Internet Protocol television), in which greatly compressed video signals are run over standard broadband lines. Sabia said commercial deployment is probably a year to 18 months away.

Service is a key differentiator and both Telus and Bell are trying to overcome their various customer-service problems to appear the winners in this area.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

City to target owners of unruly canines

Thursday, May 27th, 2004

Licensing, leashing bylaw enforcement among measures in five-year plan for crackdown

Ai Lin Choo

Fines ranging from $50 to $75 will be levied against dog owners who fail to license, leash or clean up after their dogs. CREDIT: Steve Bosch, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER Vancouver unleashed a new initiative Wednesday to crack down on dog owners with unruly animals.

As part of a five-year strategic plan, the city’s animal control department, parks board and police department will work together to step up the enforcement of dog-licensing and leashing bylaws, and raise dog owners’ awareness about being responsible and respectful.

Tom Teichroeb, the city’s chief licence inspector for animal health, told a police media briefing Wednesday the crackdown follows numerous reports about unruly dogs.

Vancouver sees about 20 serious dog-biting incidents a year and gets weekly complaints from senior citizens nervous about going into parks, he said. There have also been reports of dogs knocking over children at beaches.

“What we’re talking about is respect for the community. We’ve had real issues around this in the community,” he said.

The Vancouver park board also receives hundreds of complaints every month, especially about unleashed dogs in parks, said park board spokesman Bill Manning.

A study conducted by the Vancouver park board last year showed 20 per cent of the population of Vancouver has reported being bothered by an off-leash dog, and that 20 to 25 per cent of dog owners aren’t picking up after their pets.

There are 29 off-leash areas in Vancouver where dogs can play at specific times, but many people don’t follow the rules, Manning said.

“Since 1998, when the program began, there seems to be a growing sense of entitlement where people feel they can have their dog off-leash at any park at anytime.”

Fines ranging from $50 to $75 will be levied against dog owners who fail to license, leash or clean up after their dogs.

Vancouver police spokeswoman Const. Sarah Bloor, said police officers will also be available to help animal control officers should confrontations occur.

“We want to ensure that the parks are safe not only for residents, but for people who go to them,” she said.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

Saint Mary’s Hospital to make way for Bosa development

Saturday, May 22nd, 2004


NEW WESTMINSTER I The sale of Saint Mary’s Hospital is a done deal.

On Thursday, May 20 — the day the 117-year-old hospital closed its doors for good — the Sisters of Providence announced they’d sold the property to Bosa Development Corporation.

“We are working with the city to come up with a plan that fits with their vision, our vision and the community,” said Nat Bosa, company president. “We would like to proceed as soon as we can. Our plan would definitely be to be on the ground early next year.”

Bosa said the proposal may include 400 units in two highrises and lowrise buildings. No commercial or health care use is planned for the site.

“We are working on a concept,” Bosa said. “We are redefining and moving forward until we can come to some kind of decision with us and the planning department.”

Bosa said the site was purchased for $4.44 million.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

Wistful in Fairview: Skyline on Broadway takes the measure of the question, what’s a hundred feet?

Saturday, May 22nd, 2004

Michael Sasges


Jas Kaur Basra and a model of Skyline on Broadway, where she surprised herself by buying a unit after finding the project while surfing the Net.

CREDIT: Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun

To interview Jas Kaur Basra and Mark Wickson about Skyline on Broadway is to hear about the universal tussle between head and heart that precedes all our important decisions.

Basra is a 20-something single woman, a downtown resident and lawyer with Richards Buell Sutton. The Richmond native was not looking to buy — although she was looking at commercial properties– when she found the Skyline on Broadway on the Internet.

Mark and Pat Wickson were looking. They are empty nesters who have found their current one-bedroom-with-den apartment too small.

Says Basra: ”I am a very conservative buyer because I try to contemplate all risks associated with an investment.

”But for the first time, without consulting my family or other people close to me, I made the purchase. Really, it was like walking into a supermarket and buying a gallon of milk.”

Says Mark Wickson: ”We bought now because it was the right place, even if not the right time given the increase in housing prices over the last couple of years; the increasing numbers of units for sale; and the indications of increasing interest rates,” Mark Wickson reports.

Their Skyline apartment is the “right place” for the Wicksons because of the second bedroom; a kitchen open to the living/dining room and the views; in-suite storage; two parking spots; and a fitness facility.

Additionally, it offers centrality, “a few blocks from my wife’s work and close to downtown where I work; close to the south shore of False Creek; close to Granville Island.”

Finally, it is the “right place” because of its “reasonable price.”

Fairview is on the upswing and the views are the best around, a virtually unobstructed north view toward the downtown peninsula.”

A lovely suburban wistfulness infuses the Wickson and Basra telling of their decisions to buy into Skyline.

Commented Basra: ”The beauty of Skyline for me is the location. You are close enough to the action of the city, but far enough away to enjoy the ‘sub-urban’ neighbourhood.”

Said Wickson: ”In the absence of a clean, safe, convenient and comprehensive rapid transit system, living close to downtown becomes the preferred option. I expect that this will be a place we can feel at home without feeling boxed in, a place where we can relax in the middle of the city.”

The Fairview slope has been housing Vancouver since the 1890s. Its northern boundary is certain — False Creek — but its southern isn’t. Broadway seems too soon, West Sixteenth too late. Its western boundary is Granville and its eastern is Cambie.

Fairview is a landmark neighbourhood. Across the street from the Skyline is one of our town’s most famous landmarks, the Bowell McLean/Toys ‘R’ Us sign, erected in 1958.

Down the hill is Hodson Manor, at 1254 West Seventh, built in 1894 and moved in 1974 from its Eighth and Hemlock site to its current site; a 1905 cottage at 975 West Eighth; and the Takehara Tenements, at 1017 West Seventh, built in 1913 for Japanese sawmill workers.

”Fairview has undergone a series of changes — from upper middle-class residential to working class to small-scale commercial and back to residential — all of which have left their mark on this now typical mixed-use block,” Exploring Vancouver: The Essential Architectural Guide (1993) says of the block in which the 1905 cottage is located.

More recent residential work in the neighbourhood has generated at least two governor-general’s medals for architecture — Sixth Estate (1982) in the 1000 block West Sixth and Heather Court (1980) at 730 West Seventh.

The Skyline, when it opens, will be a 10-storey edifice of glass and concrete stepping down down the Fairview slope. The lobby will be off Spruce street. The Broadway side will contain street-level shops.

The man who (figuratively) introduced the Wicksons and Basra to this historic neighbourhood is George Wong, Skyline’s marketing manager. In his opinion, their commitment to his project is a manifestation of a distinctly, or near distinctly, Vancouver real-estate culture: “Vancouver is one of the very few places in North America that is accustomed to buying things before they’re built.”

Shared only with Toronto, in Wong’s opinion, this metro Vancouver comfort with pre-construction purchases is a consequence of the immigration to the Lower Mainland of Hong Kong and Taiwanese residents — people accustomed to “buying off floor plans” — in the last 20 years.

One consequence of this propensity is an exportable knowledge industry. ”A lot of marketers in Vancouver have been exporting to American and Canadian developers this marketing ‘technology’ . . . the merchandising of the sales venue, the presentation centre. We should be very proud.”

We might also be very proud to know that in the opinion of a 20-year veteran of real-estate sales we are very demanding buyers. The appointments in the display centres are not trifles; they are potential closers in this “buying culture.”

”Developers and marketers are always trying to raise the bar, on better flooring, better countertops, better faucets, so that they leave a better impression in buyers’ minds. Competition, in that sense, is good for the consumer. Vancouver is very, very informed, very informed.”

The Skyline presentation centre is paradoxically underwhelming, almost minimalist, and overwhelming, even opulent.

It is located in a small storefront that, with a parking lot next door and the old Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver building at the northwest corner of Spruce and Broadway, will come down for Skyline.

Inside the presentation centre, behind the model of the building and back of the receptionist, are two mock-ups — of a kitchen and a bathroom.

In the kitchen, counters are “natural, solid granite slab” and the cabinetry is “custom-designed white oak or ash,” their door-pulls “contemporary brushed nickel.” Backsplashes are “linear, high-gloss porcelain tile;” lighting, halogen track and “undermount cabinet puck;” appliances, stainless steel.

”You’re buying space. If you’re interested in buying 502, I can’t take you up to 502 and show you that suite,” Wong said.

What he can do, however, is work with the developer and his architect to ensure the space on offer is more likely than not the space that will appeal to buyer segments.

”We understand the demographics of the people who will be buying here, their financial profile. So if we build something that is inappropriate for the financial profile we would not be successful. That’s why the size of each product-type is very, very important.”

In the Skyline, not all skylines are equal. The north side views are enjoyed from more expansive layouts; the south side, from less expansive.

”The thinking there is that people who are willing to pay for their views also want bigger suites and they have the wherewithal to do that.

”People who want to be in this location and just want to be able to enter the market at this time . . . They don’t care if they have downtown and North Shore views. They just want to get in.”

Wong’s concern for ”functionality” at the Skyline is an insistence on purposeful apartment layouts that minimize wastage. In a project like the Skyline, 100 square feet trimmed from a suite is $35,000 to $40,000 trimmed from the asking price. ”That’s a lot of money,” especially for a first-time buyer.

[email protected]


Address: 1125 West Broadway, at Spruce

Developer: Leeda Developments Group and First Western Developments Ltd.

Architect: W.T. Leung Architect

On offer: 44 apartments

Price and size: Jas Basra bought a southeast corner “Luna,” two bedrooms w/study; 767 square feet; $308,900 to $337,900 ($403 to $441 per square foot). Mark and Pat Wickson bought a north-facing “Alpine,” two bedrooms w/den; 875 square feet; $331,900 – $443,900 ($379 – $507 per square foot).

Rentable: Yes

Construction: Concrete and glass

Warranty: 2-5-10 years, St. Paul Guarantee

Telephone: 604-730-8826


Presentation centre: Noon to 5 p.m. daily, except Friday

Ran with fact box “SKYLINE ON BROADWAY”, which has been appended to the end of the story.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

Timing’s the key in an ever changing market

Saturday, May 22nd, 2004

Ozzie Jurock

In my 1999 book Forget About Location, Location, Location, I argue that we are too enamoured with that time-old phrase.

Yet, as with practically everything else in life, timing is everything. In real-estate investing, the degree to which your timing is accurate is the degree to which you will achieve optimal or minimal results.

So you say, ”Good! I will learn what I have to learn about timing and then I will know how. Where do I start? What are the rules?”

This brings us to our first problem. There is no particular place to start and there are no rules.

There used to be rules. It used to be easy. If you could learn to recite, ”Location, Location, Location” from memory you were automatically a real estate expert.

You simply had to find out where the most desirable part of town was, or where the most desirable suburban or rural area was, depending on your interest, push a pin into the map at that spot and then go and buy something as close as possible to where the pin was.

Timing wasn’t important because the dynamics never changed. But now, Location means little and Timing is extremely important.

When you look at any market you are looking at a snapshot in time. That’s the way it is at that moment. In a month or a year, it might be very different.

One of the problems we have is our education. All of our teachers prepare us, regardless of what the subject is, for a world that is not going to exist by the time we get to it. They take a snapshot in time of the world as it is in the present and they prepare us for that. When we go to use that information we find we’re in a different world

If you are in an inflationary real estate cycle, the rules are relatively simple. You buy a piece of property utilizing leverage, you wait a certain amount of time for the property to appreciate, then you might sell for a profit and buy something larger or you can borrow on your increased equity and buy something in addition. What could be easier?

However, if you’re in a flat-line segment of an inflation cycle you have to buy below fair market value to establish your profit at the beginning. You have to give greater importance to cash flow considerations.

But what happens if you buy in an inflationary cycle and then it turns flat-line? You have to shift your focus every time the market changes. Because, like riding a rodeo bull, every time the bull does something different you have to change your position or you’re going to be thrown.

So, there are no rules because the marketplace is continually changing. Therefore what we have to do is learn to read the changes, interpret what the changes mean and adapt to them

What are the determining factors? Here we come to some good news.

The component parts, the determining factors, are not complex or difficult to deal with. You look at migration, affordability, inventory availability, inflation and environment of growth.

You can gather your facts from wherever they are available but after you’ve done that you have to form an opinion.

This isn’t like religion where you decide on a moral philosophy and then go out and carve it in stone. This is an ever-changing continuum, a soup that is boiling and bubbling and nothing is ever where it was the last time you looked.

The difference between ”too soon” and ”too late” is timing! If you watch the trends as they change you’ll be able to time your actions for optimum results.

So, you must watch for changes. How does the average person learn to read them?

How is someone supposed to know when the changes are coming?

The changes are heralded by a change in the numbers in the statistics. Trends continue until they change and you can read the beginning of those changes in the statistics. However, often by the time you see a report on the changes, those changes have already occurred.

What you have to do is go upstream from the “news” and go directly to the source of the numbers — to the real estate boards, the Canada Mortgage and Housing reports and studies — and get the news while it’s still new. If you’re Internet-literate you can go right to the web pages involved and be right in on the beginning.

Having said that, can the experts really help us? Well, remember, even the experts are only guessing. Futurists are never right except by accident. Historians are never wrong. If you had tomorrow’s newspaper you could make millions; if you have yesterday’s newspaper you can wrap fish in it.

Except, contained in yesterday’s newspaper are changes that have already started and if you get to them soon enough, interpret them correctly and then act on them, you can do yourself some serious good.

It’s not necessary for you to have the entire wisdom of the world at your fingertips. But get good quality information, know who you are — a shark, a flipper or an investor — pick your market segment, pick your professionals and don’t get emotional. You will always make the most money on the day you buy.

Ozzie Jurock is the publisher of, an independent real- estate advisory service. Telephone 604/683-1111 or e-mail:

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

Housing to remain hot through ’08

Friday, May 21st, 2004

Ashley Ford

The Greater Vancouver housing market will “sustain” its current pace through 2008 based on current inventory and upcoming projects, Bob Rennie, of Rennie Marketing Systems, said yesterday.

Speaking to the Urban Development Institute’s annual general meeting, Rennie, the city’s most successful residential realtor, said he has no fears of a “bubble” market and there “is still pent-up demand in the marketplace.”

He said despite the intense building and buying activity, demand will continue to outpace supply in the downtown, Burnaby, Vancouver East and Richmond areas.

While agreeing much of the demand is driven by low interest rates, people still want to buy their own property rather than renting, he said.

He estimates 40 per cent of the downtown market will be driven by investor buying and they will be the suppliers of rental product.

“Major landlords and pensions funds are not going to build rental. There will not be another rental tower built in Vancouver in the next 10 years,” he said.

He said that if “everything on the radar screen” downtown gets built that will add 6,445 condominium units to the downtown supply at an annual rate of 1,432 units until 2008.

With those numbers it is clear this market is sustainable, Rennie said. “Historically, without any job growth, the downtown can support 1,000 to 1,200 units per year so these numbers are clearly sustainable.”

Rennie said it is important to note that even though mortgage rates are edging up, buying power will remain strong.

“Let us not forget that all of today’s buyers, investors and homeowners are sitting on pre-approved mortgages. That’s approved money from 4.95 per cent to 5.5 per cent.”

He said buyers are able to buy today for a 24-to-30-month completion with the banks and financial institutions guaranteeing today’s best rate with a float rate down should the rates dip during the next 24 to 30 months. That is pretty positive, he added.

© The Vancouver Province 2004

Consumers, home buyers boost economy

Thursday, May 20th, 2004

Statistics Canada’s leading index extends a string of healthy gains

Eric Beauchesne

OTTAWA — The outlook for the Canadian economy continues to brighten, thanks to a rebound in home sales, increased consumer spending and a robust U.S. economy.

Statistics Canada‘s leading index, a barometer of the short-term outlook for the economy, rose by 0.6 per cent in April, extending a string of healthy monthly increases, it said Wednesday.

That and other evidence of economic strength helped boost the dollar nearly three quarters of a cent to a close of 72.64 cents US (up from 71.92 on Tuesday), while Bay Street’s benchmark S&P/TSX stock index closed up more than 30 points.

“Housing returned to the lead, after being a pillar of growth last September and October,” Statistics Canada said. “The housing index, after snapping out of a three-month slide in March, jumped 1.4 per cent in April, its largest gain in six months.”

Also boosting the leading index was the continued strength in the U.S. economy, it said.

The areas of weakness were centred in manufacturing, where demand for workers remained flat as factories cut back on the number of hours being worked and continued reducing inventories.

However, in a separate report there was good news from retailers.

“After a slight dip in February, consumers returned to shop at large retailers with a vengeance in March,” Statistics Canada said. “Consumers stocked up on staple products at large retailers in March, filling up their cupboards and renewing their wardrobes.

“Consumers may have decided to add some extra touches around the house and yard, as hardware, lawn and garden products posted a significant increase for large retailers in March. Home improvement projects may be planned as well, as hardware and home renovation product sales increased.”

The report, combined with the healthy increase in auto sales, suggests overall retail sales in March were stronger than expected, said Merrill Lynch economist Robert Spector. It also sets the stage for an acceleration in economic growth in the second quarter of the year.

Meanwhile, Canadian bond and stock markets got a healthy infusion of cash during the month from foreigners, who added $6.2 billion worth of Canadian securities to their portfolios.

Foreign investors bought $3.6 billion in Canadian stocks in March, the largest purchase since June 2002, and added $2.3 billion to their holdings of Canadian bonds, Statistics Canada also reported.

Canadians, meanwhile, added a modest $100 million to their foreign equity holdings, and $1.0 billion to their foreign bond holdings.

Statistics Canada also released evidence that Canadian travellers have recovered from the shock of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, albeit with what RBC economist Derek Holt noted was some help from a stronger currency.

“More Canadians travelled abroad in March than any other month since August 2001,” Holt noted. “As such, foreign travel by Canadians has fully recovered from the post-9/11 shock effect on foreign travel.”

Visits here by foreigners, however, fell, led by a drop in same-day trips by Americans.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004