Archive for February, 2005

Vancouver market firing on all cylinders

Saturday, February 19th, 2005

Experts agree that news is good in all sectors

Wendy McLellan

It’s all good news in the Lower Mainland real-estate market, according to industry representatives and market analysts.

“Firing on all cylinders” was the well-used cliche during a talk on real-estate trends at the B.C. construction industry show in Vancouver yesterday.

Leasing and sales in the commercial, industrial and residential markets are strong and expected to remain that way for at least the next two years, said Lee Blanchard, associate vice-president of Royal LePage Commercial.

On the industrial side, Blanchard said sales are very strong and the leasing market is strengthening.

“On the land side, I haven’t seen it this brisk in many, many years,” he said, adding high land prices in Vancouver‘s suburbs are causing some developers to look farther east to build industrial parks.

Vacancy rates in the Lower Mainland’s industrial areas are low — 2.2 per cent last year — which will lead to expansion and increasing lease rates.

“There will continue to be pressure on land, and a strong interest in investment,” Blanchard said. “I think we will have to see more land brought on to facilitate demand.”

Jeff Lim, vice-president of Bentall Real Estate Services’ leasing division, said office building vacancies in downtown Vancouver dropped four per cent last year, and space is at a premium in the city’s best buildings. The vacancies have also dropped in suburban office buildings.

“Over all, there are not a lot of new buildings planned, so vacancy rates will continue to decrease,” Lim said. “The trend has shifted from a tenant’s market to a landlord’s market, especially in the triple-A buildings.

Cameron Muir, senior market analyst for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, said first-time home buyers and investors are keeping the new- condominium market hot, especially in Vancouver’s most desirable neighbourhoods. And, despite the number of construction cranes dotting the skyline, there are few new condos for sale — most were bought before the first shovel cracked the ground.

The rental market for housing is also tight in the city, as buyers have to stay in rental units while they wait for their new homes to be finished and investors wait for their new properties to join the rental pool. At the same time, fewer apartment buildings are being built for the rental market and more people are moving to the province to take advantage of the economic upturn, Muir said.

© The Vancouver Province 2005


Costly False Creek redevelopment plan fails the sustainability

Saturday, February 19th, 2005

Bob Ransford

Sustainable development in Vancouver is doomed thanks to the outlandish plans the social engineers on Vancouver City Council are cooking up for the redevelopment of southeast False Creek.

The southeast False Creek redevelopment, with the Olympic Village as its core, was supposed to create a model sustainable urban neighbourhood. It was supposed to be a place that showcased what sustainability is all about –achieving that delicate balance between economic, social and environmental objectives in building neighbourhoods.

Instead, the development of Southeast False Creek has the potential to rival fast ferries as one of the costliest failed attempts at using public dollars to build something that has never been built before.

I can hear the cry from the development industry 10 years from now when they look at this great model: “We can’t afford green building standards and sustainable development–just look at what it cost the city in southeast False Creek.”

The city originally invested more than $30 million in acquiring the 32 hectares of former industrial land south of First Avenue along the southeast shore of False Creek. The land was part of the city’s Property Endowment Fund, a portfolio of city-owned real estate used for community facilities, as a land bank for new social housing projects, or to be sold as market-driven development sites to produce profits to be re-invested in the Fund.

These profits have provided the city with a financial cushion during annual budgeting. That was the whole idea behind the Fund when it was first established 30 years ago by the farsighted politicians of the day — the city’s very own rainy-day fund.

The idea was to develop southeast False Creek using the same formula. Only this time, the development would embrace certain sustainability initiatives and a good measure of green building technology to prove to the world what really can be accomplished when “sustainability” is applied in the real world.

However, sustainability only stands up to the test when it is supported by all three pillars — economic, social and environmental.

The COPE council is about to abandon the idea of sustainability and demolish the vital economic pillar when they approve the new southeast False Creek plan on March 1.

Last summer, COPE councillors threw out the previous council’s plan for the lands, which would have produced a model sustainable neighbourhood and it would have made a profit, reinvested for taxpayers in the Property Endowment Fund. They created their own version of sustainability — a version that only exists in the unreal world of COPE-public-policy-by-dreaming where there is no understanding of the simple realities of economics.

The new plan embraces everything from five childcare centres on-site to demonstration gardens and green roofs everywhere. It limits buildings to low and medium rise only, sacrificing the lynch-pin of sustainable development — density.

Moreover, all non-government buildings on the site must achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver status in their green building specifications, even though there is no such measure yet for multi-family residential buildings in B.C. LEED-gold is the standard for all government buildings. These are just a few examples from the exhaustive list of “sustainability initiatives” directed by council.

On top of that, council changed the housing mix to increase the non-market housing component from the usual 20 per cent to 33 per cent of the total housing stock. Then they demanded that a further 33 per cent of the housing on the site be built as “middle-income housing” where half of the land cost will need to be subsidized.

The $68 million in potential profits from development of the southeast False Creek lands won’t go back into the Property Endowment Fund to sustain it in the future. Instead, council is directing these funds back into the project itself to help pay for the costly list of socially and environmentally sustainable development initiatives.

On top of writing off the profits of the project, the COPE council plans to raid the Property Endowment Fund to the tune of a further $85 million to fund their pie-in-the-sky wish list for the site.

Some of the COPE councillors tout this new development as a “learning lab” where the general principles of sustainable design can be evaluated. They believe these initiatives will “foster an understanding of ecological stewardship amongst professionals, academics, the development community and the general public.”

In his motion that reshaped the new southeast False Creek plan, Councillor Raymond Louie urged the city to showcase “especially innovative environmental measures.”

“Take risks to experiment,” he urged.

What an experiment is in the making! It is likely one the results of which will be so shocking it may be decades before we ever embrace the notion of sustainable development in this city again.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

New community planned for area near whistler

Friday, February 18th, 2005

Developer wants up to 1,000 residents

Kim Thompson

A developer has applied for preliminary rezoning of 10 lots in the Soo Valley, north of Whistler. BONNY MAKAREWICZ — FOR THE PROVINCE

PEMBERTON — A stretch of the Lower Soo Valley between Whistler and Pemberton is poised to become the Sea-to-Sky corridor’s newest family-friendly — and mortgage-friendly — community.

That’s if the company proposing to move an eventual 1,000 residents into the strip gets its way.

Delta Land Development, a Vancouver-based company that owns 200 hectares in the valley, has applied for preliminary rezoning of 10 lots. But they’re just the first 10 in a very big housing dream, says company president Bruce Langereis.

“People need something more affordable than Whistler,” Langereis told The Province.

“The area would also serve as an alternative to Pemberton or Squamish, in terms of driving distance.”

“Affordable housing is the No. 1 issue in the Sea-to-Sky corridor, and I think Whistler has become out of touch for the local area,” Langereis said.

“We want to bring people back to the community.”

Langereis describes the proposed site as land that has been logged in the past and says the eventual development would include large open areas of preserve.

The development would not be visible from Highway 99, he said.

“According to our research, the area has no issues with flooding, slumps, avalanches or fire safety, unlike other communities,” he added.

The 10-lot application has been referred to the regional district for comment.

District administrator Paul Edgington says he’s not sure the proposal fits into the existing Official Community Plan.

“The 10-lot subdivision may be consistent with current zoning bylaws, but there has been discussion of a greater-density project,” Edgington said.

With pockets of potential development all over the regional district, Edgington says that completing the regional-growth strategy now under way has become critical.

Edgington expects the work to be completed in 2006 and says it will help in assessing development proposals in places like the Lower Soo Valley.

“I would prefer to see the outcome of the regional-growth strategy before jumping into a large development,” he noted.

Some in the community are also less than thrilled.

A Whistler group is lobbying to protect 7,000 hectares of wilderness in the upper Soo Valley, arguing it is home to moose and has value as a grizzly migration corridor.

© The Vancouver Province 2005

Sotheby’s Realty opens in BC for ‘distinctive’ listings

Thursday, February 17th, 2005


Luxury real estate broker Sotheby’s International Realty has arrived in Vancouver. Former Intrawest executive Ross McCredie and two silent partners have acquired the B.C. and Alberta franchise rights from the Sotheby’s International Realty network, which is affiliated with the 260-year-old art and antiques dealer.

The new entity, called Sotheby’s Realty International Western Canada, opened its head office in Vancouver Wednesday with 10 sales and marketing agents. McCredie said the office would expand to 29 staff as the company opens branch offices in Whistler, West Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna and Calgary this year.

Sotheby’s specializes in “distinctive” properties, McCredie said, the acid test being, “Would you tell your friends about it?” Homes listed by Sotheby’s in the U.S. average $580,000 US, but vary from market to market, he said.

The local franchise, the first for Sotheby’s in Canada, will operate three units selling residential and recreational properties, specialty properties (private islands and ranches, for example) and marketing residential projects for developers.

McCredie said he and his partners have a right of first refusal to franchises covering the rest of Canada and are seeking to buy them too.

Sotheby’s International Realty is a subsidiary of Cedent Corp., a global real estate franchisor.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005



Wednesday, February 16th, 2005

Price Limit Increased to $325,000


As you may know, there have been some changes announced with respect to the Property Transfer Tax. What follows is an explanation provided by the government. If you have any questions, please feel free to call. Property Transfer Tax
British Columbia’s 2005 Provincial Budget
Property Transfer Tax Act Amendments
Changes are Effective February 16, 2005

On February 15, 2005, the Minister of Finance announced amendments to the threshold and mortgage pay down requirements of the First Time Home Buyers’ Program.

Effective for applications for registration of transfers received by the Land Title and Survey Authority on or after February 16, 2005, the fair market value threshold for properties in the Capital Regional District, Greater Vancouver Regional District, and Fraser Valley Regional District is increased to $325,000 from $275,000. The fair market threshold for properties located outside these regional districts is increased to $265,000 from $225,000.

The mortgage pay down limits are also increased for applications for registration of transfers received by the Land Title and Survey Authority on or after February 16, 2005. In the Capital Regional District, Greater Vancouver Regional District and Fraser Valley Regional District the pay down limit is increased to the greater of $13,000 and the amount that would reduce the mortgage to 70% of the fair market value of the property. For properties located outside these regional districts, the pay down limit is increased to the greater of $10,600 and the amount that would reduce the mortgage to 70% of the fair market value of the property.

Mortgage pay down limits for applications for registration of transfers received by the Land Title and Survey Authority prior to February 16, 2005 are unchanged at the greater of 70% of the fair market value of the property and $11,000 or $9,000 depending on the area of the province in which the property is located.

We have been advised by the Property Transfer Tax Office that the partial exemption remains for homes priced between $325,000.00 and $350,000.00.

Shaw Tower raises the bar

Wednesday, February 16th, 2005

City’s ‘Kings of Mondo Condo’ put architecture first and the result is stunning

Trevor Boddy

Vancouver developer Ian Gillespie of Westbank Projects

Realtor Bob Rennie sold $405 million in condos last year.

CREDIT: Mark Van Manen, Vancouver Sun Files The Shaw Tower’s unique upper twist is clear in this photo, taken partway through construction.

JAMES K.M. CHENG James Cheng’s unabashedly Modernist home for Vancouver developer Ian Gillespie.

A model of Shaw Tower: Office space at the bottom, a hotel in the middle, condos at the top.

The past 18 months will be forever known in Vancouver‘s history as the peak of the condo boom. Yes, many decades ago we led the nation in creating the strata title legislation that made condominium apartments possible, and by now, the idea of purchasing a box in space is hardly new for us.

What is new is the almost frenzied switch to condos by Vancouverites — both new arrivals as well as citizens of long standing. Much faster than our civic politicians or city planners anticipated, the complete development of all highrise residential sites on the downtown peninsula is already within sight. More than most of us realize, downtown Vancouver got architecturally “finished” over the past several years, by and large.

Decades, maybe centuries from now, historians will tour Downtown South, Coal Harbour, Concord Pacific, even our core downtown and be amazed to find cornerstone after cornerstone bearing dates reading “2003,” “2004” and “2005.” Looking around at the similar acre-after-acre of white concrete and green glass that is our current “mondo condo,” these observers may not be generous in their opinions about our stewardship of this lost last chance to make Vancouver a city worthy of its setting.

There is one development firm that has used design to set itself apart from the others, almost single-handedly raising the bar for architectural quality and public benefit in new Vancouver towers for highrise living. The $180-million Shaw Tower on Cordova at the foot of Hornby, designed by James K.M. Cheng for Ian Gillespie’s Westbank Projects, literally stands above the rest, soon to be followed by the same team’s even more audacious Shangri-la hotel-condo tower at Georgia and Thurlow, soon to be our city’s tallest residential tower.

Vancouver-raised and educated, Gillespie separates himself from the pack of downtown developers first in picking one of Vancouver’s most lauded designers in Hong Kong-born James Cheng, then sticking with him through three major projects in Vancouver (two projects for the Kwok family along Bute Street –the Pallisades and Residences on Georgia — and now the Shaw Tower), plus a trio of similar residential towers out of town (Bellevue, Dallas and Edmonton). Many local developers trade design innovation and finesse for ever more competitive professional fees and passive compliance from their architects; the dullness of too many of our new towers gives evidence to this.

Not for Gillespie and Cheng, Vancouver‘s “Kings of Mondo Condo.”

“As our market matures, Vancouver is learning what a good investment quality design makes,” says the soft-spoken Gillespie. Over and above their highrise accomplishments, the two have also walked this talk with a building one-hundredth the size of Shaw Tower, an utterly different challenge to the synergy of architect and client. Last year, James Cheng finished the last touches on an Endowment Lands residence for Gillespie, his wife Stephanie, and their two children. Dominated by a glass stair hovering over a carp pond, there is a warmth within that befits a dwelling alive with young children, while at the same time providing Gillespie grand spaces to show off his growing art collection.

Outside, the Gillespie house’s cubic glass and concrete exterior volumes are a marvelous combination of good neighbour (its key visual moves are in synch with the houses adjacent), while also demonstrating how an un-apologetic Modernism is so much better suited to this part of town than the scratchy mock-Englishness that still hangs upon this neighbourhood like damp tweed leggings.

The Gillespie residence is the finest private house to open in Vancouver in the three years since John and Patricia Patkau finished their governor-general medal-winning Shaw House (no relation to the Edmonton-innovating Shaw Media family, though it should be noted that these architects started their architectural practice in that same prairie city).0

This double collaboration of developer with architect at two vastly different scales has earned them a tie with themselves for “2004 Building of the Year,” winning for both the Gillespie residence and the Shaw Tower. Now, my reasons why these two stand out from all the rest.

To get the Shaw Tower built, architect and developer had to undertake the long and arduous task of rezoning, which necessitates an elaborate package of technical documentation and arguments, lengthy negotiations with urban planners, and an ultimate “yeah” in the risky forum of city council.

The hook that pulled this project through these obstacles was its live-work zoning. While there had been a previous limited experiment with the concept in a few condos only at Westbank’s “Dockside,” completed a few blocks west in Coal Harbour, the Shaw Tower has 131 units totalling 234,000 square metres of space perpetually flexible for any combination of living and working. This is equal to the total of all other such spaces previously approved by council.

As conceived by Gordon Campbell’s team when he was project developer here with former owner Marathon Realty, this was to be an office-only site that would rise no higher than 300 feet. Along with the change of function to two-thirds housing, the architect and developer asked for an increase in height to 450 feet. Visible from around the entire Burrard Inlet, this is a double-or-nothing bet by planners and politicians that architecture would be delivered equal to this harbour-side location. It has.

On top of its visual splendour, the Shaw Tower brings social merits into the bargain. Unusual for such buildings, it has on-site daycare. An art collector himself, Gillespie had previous public art success with Dale Chihuly’s bouquet of glass flowers, closely flanked by Gwen Boyle’s fountains bedecked with icons along the Bute Street side of his much-lauded Residences on Georgia.

For the Shaw Tower, the artistic ante was upped by concentrating on a single sculptural work that will be visible from the North Shore and both our major harbour bridges.

Conceived by a Los Angeles artist, multi-colored, constantly changing LED-displays will pulse up and down the entire elevation of the Shaw Tower, a public art work that will be inaugurated this summer.

Befitting its location near our Howe Street financial hub, the Shaw Tower is well-haberdashed in an all-glass curtain wall, tailored with crisp seams of banded sun-screens. The Shaw Tower rotates and slenderizes as it rises. Along the way, Cheng’s design finds niches for decks that are surprisingly large and private, those cornice-like solar screens blocking views from adjacent towers.

The architect wanted the Shaw’s 16 lower office storeys to be a good urban neighbour to Cordova Street and adjacent buildings such as the Guinness Tower, but then had to rotate the tower’s bulk higher up to get out of the line of fire of the city’s form-determining “view corridors” (established to protect vistas from key public spaces).

In addition to these factors — according to the third key member of their team, condo marketing wunderkind Bob Rennie — the team wanted to maximize harbour views on every residential floor. If Gillespie and Cheng are Vancouver’s Kings of Mondo Condo, the effusive Rennie –whose small firm sold $405 million worth of condos last year, a Canadian and perhaps world record — is the Sultan of Sales: “With a hotel below the residential floors of Shangri-la and the office building below those at Shaw Tower, our lowest condo views literally start where most other towers top out.”

A tour of Shaw Tower‘s cleverly planned suites serves — by contrast — as an instant education about the awkwardness we have sadly come to expect at most other new Vancouver condos. A devoted neo-modernist and protege of L.A. Getty Museum architect Richard Meier when a student at Harvard, James Cheng has eye-pleasing proportions and an elegant brace of textures that quickly come into view at even Shaw’s smallest suites.

As for the big ones, action film-star Jean Claude van Damme has taken an entire penthouse floor. The “Muscles from Brussels” joins the growing ratio of international buyers attracted to Vancouver‘s unbeatable combination of nature and urbanity, and the Shaw’s harbour-hugging location ensures it has permanent views of both. Gillespie and Cheng’s Shaw Tower clearly gives a “Van. Damn” about design, and its quality will endure while our growing oversupply of badly-conceived downtown condos shakes out over the next few years.

Because the stacked office and apartment buildings sharing the Shaw tower have separate lobbies, the meaty movie-star will not have to tussle for the elevator with a famously aggressive Vancouver businessman. Jim Pattison will soon oversee his diverse corporate universe from an entire floor at Shaw Tower. Currently based in the Guinness Tower across the street, B.C.’s most powerful business-builder first went over to Shaw’s preview sales center to complain about his views being blocked, but soon chose to move his headquarters there instead, Gillespie says.

Along with Westbank, the Shaw Tower‘s co-owners and fellow office tenants are B.C. headquarters for two Edmonton-founded business success stories: cable TV and Internet behemoth Shaw Media, and the company that built the tower, Ledcor Construction. Now, when Vancouverites call in to complain about their fuzzy reception of “Coronation Street” or their slow download times of Britney pix, they will be answered by Shaw employees overlooking Burrard Inlet.

“These have to be the best views of any call centre in the world,” boasts Rennie. The stark fact of a call centre at the best view address in town is also testament to the fact that Vancouver’s corporate class is abandoning our downtown; thank goodness for the real estate vision of Alberta’s Shaw and Lede families.

The spectacular Shaw television studios just off the lobby replace a jerry-built operation the company inherited on a North Vancouver back street. The glass-walled studio views are now so spectacular with the comings and goings of cruise ships and float planes in the harbour that these live visuals now regularly trump what interviewees are talking about on such cable 4 regular programs as The Fanny Kiefer Show. The Shaw Tower‘s medium of design finesse and views is its message.

The 300,000 square feet of office space is rounded out with headquarters for Gillespie’s Westbank Projects Corporation. These premises, furnished by Gastown’s InForm Interiors, make Donald Trump’s corporate suite on The Apprentice look like Ma Kettle’s laundry room.

Already, Gillespie is eyeing the plot immediately to the east for a sister tower.

When asked about this one blocking views from his new owners, Gillespie sums up the strength of this team in a single phrase: “Jim Cheng and Bob Rennie will make it work, and we all know that Vancouverites have started buying architecture, not just square footage.”

Trevor Boddy can be reached at [email protected]

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Shaw unleashes new phone service to rival telus – doc.

Tuesday, February 15th, 2005

‘Triple-play’ package offered in Calgary includes high-speed Internet, television

Tamara Gignac


CREDIT: Jeff Mcintosh, Canadian Press

Jim Shaw, CEO of Shaw Communications, uses one of the company’s new Shaw digital phones, an internet based residential phone service in Calgary.

Shaw Communications Inc. launched a phone service Monday, pitting it against Telus Corp. in a bid to capture part of the coveted Western Canadian phone market.

The service, which allows consumers to make calls using the Internet, will be available today in Calgary and will be rolled out gradually over the next year in other major Western Canadian cities.

The move kicks off a new era of competition with Telus in its traditional Western Canadian market, allowing Shaw to offer a “triple-play” package of services that includes high-speed Internet, local telephony and television.

“Technology is changing. We’re not just cable guys anymore — in fact we haven’t been cable guys for quite some time,” chief executive Jim Shaw said.

The product includes a local phone line, unlimited long-distance calling anywhere in North America and features such as voice mail and call forwarding. It costs $55 a month if bundled with other Shaw offerings, and customers keep their existing phone number and use a traditional handset.

Dubbed Voice-over-Internet Protocol, or VoIP, the technology digitizes voices and encodes them into packets of data over a cable network. It does not interfere with your ability to watch TV or surf the Internet, and calls can be made to any regular phone regardless of who the carrier is at the other end.

Telus — planning to launch TV service in the near future — is well-prepared for Shaw’s foray into telephony, said spokesman Nick Culo. “People have been counting on Telus to connect them to family and friends for more than 100 years or so. If asked, I think most would have a hard time remembering when they last picked up their phone and didn’t get a dial tone.”

Shaw president Peter Bissonnette said that unlike some VoIP providers, reliability of service is not an issue. “We have systems in place for any kind of potential causes for service interruption, including power concerns,” he said.

Shaw is the second major cable provider to launch a digital telephone product. Last month, Montreal-based Videotron Ltee launched a similar service in Quebec, aggressively targeting Bell Canada‘s market with basic service for as low as $15.95 a month.

While promising, Shaw’s offer is unlikely to strike a chord with price-conscious consumers, said Iain Grant of telecom consultancy SeaBoard Group, noting that new VoIP entrant Vonage Canada sells its package for half the price and includes a unified messaging feature.

“Does the product make sense? Yes it does,” said Grant. “[But] I wouldn’t be surprised to see Shaw reposition it with different options and price points by the back-to-school season in September,” he said.

The Calgary-based firm, which spent $50 million to roll out the technology, said it will not slash fees to lure clients from Telus. “It’s not a low-dollar proposition, it’s a fully featured service where if you want to call New York, you can anytime you want,” Shaw said. “We’re not expecting everyone to turn over to this.”

Smaller regions, which in the past have had little alternative to Telus for phone service, will be attractive markets, added Shaw.

Shaw’s Class B shares closed Monday on the Toronto Stock Exchange at $22.68, up 53 cents.

Telus shares closed at $37.10, up 90 cents or 2.49 per cent.


Shaw Communications new phone service takes direct aim at Burnaby-based Telus Corp. Here’s how the two companies compare:


$13.06 billion market cap

4.8 million network access lines

3.8 million wireless customers


$5.23 billion market cap

3 million customers

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

$2 billion earmarked for affordable housing

Monday, February 14th, 2005

Proposals include rental supplements for low-income tenants in Vancouver

Robert Fife

OTTAWA — The federal government is prepared to spend $2 billion to provide affordable housing to needy families, Housing Minister Joe Fontana says.

The help would include rental supplements in high-priced cities such as Toronto and Vancouver.

Fontana said Ottawa already has $500 million of untapped housing money and the Feb. 23 budget will commit another $1.5 billion over the next five years to help 1.7 million Canadians who lack affordable housing.

Details of the spending are expected to be unveiled in the budget.

Fontana said the Liberal government’s goal is to lift people out of poverty and enable them to support their families.

“There are a lot of people at risk of becoming homeless. Why? Because they are paying 40 per cent to 50 per cent of their income toward housing,” he said in an interview. “We want to be partners with the provinces and communities to build individual dignity.”

At the request of the provinces, Fontana said cabinet agreed to make the $2-billion program more flexible to meet specific housing needs in every province and territory.

Under the new terms, provinces can tap into federal funds that have been earmarked for housing construction to supplement rents in cities and towns where vacancy rates are high but the rents are too expensive.

“In Vancouver, you can’t find a place less than $1,100 or $1,200. The same can be said for Ontario,” he said. “Now for an average of $300 or $400 a month, I am going to turn that $1,200 apartment into a $700 apartment and you know that is going to allow thousands of people on the waiting list for housing to be able to be housed very, very quickly.”

In Ontario, rental supplements will largely benefit poorer families in Toronto, Hamilton, London and Windsor, as well as some cities in northern Ontario.

Although rental supplements will also be available to people in Vancouver, Fontana said the city actually needs a supply of new housing, as does Montreal. The government will now pay $75,000 per new housing unit to be matched by the provinces, up $50,000 per unit from 2001.

Calgary and Edmonton have vacancy rates of about two per cent, and Fontana said those cities want federal funds to be used for new housing but also for some rental supplements.

“Every community is different so we need to develop a flexible tool box so that . . . it is a bottom-up approach and not a top-down approach as if Ottawa knows how to solve everybody’s housing challenges,” he said.

Fontana said the Atlantic provinces want federal matching funds to encourage home ownership so Ottawa is prepared to offer zero down purchases and will also pay to convert buildings into rental apartments.

However, Fontana said he is opposed to building public housing projects for low-income Canadians because they often become ghettos and reinforce the cycle of poverty. Social housing policy should place needy families in mixed communities where there are greater opportunities to succeed, he said.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005


Master Carver awarded Order of Canada – doc.

Monday, February 14th, 2005

Six B.C. residents are recipients of country’s highest honour

Krisendra Bisetty


Walter Harris

Walter Harris thought he’d reached the top when he walked into Rideau Hall in March 2003 to accept the Governor-General’s visual and media arts award.

The native Indian carver from Hazelton had little idea then that he would be returning to Ottawa within two years, this time to receive the country’s highest honour, officer of the Order of Canada, for lifetime achievement.

Vancouver diamond prospector and philanthropist Stewart Blusson has also been made an officer of the Order of Canada while four other Lower Mainland residents were named as members of the order.

A renowned master carver, Harris, 73, has been an inspiration to artists along B.C.’s northwest coast for more than three decades, says the citation for the award, which was announced by Gov.-Gen. Adrienne Clarkson Feb. 8.

“He has perpetuated the Gitksan Nation’s rich cultural heritage through his unique and exquisitely detailed works, which include a limestone killer whale sculpture located above the entry to the House of Commons in Ottawa, a totem pole erected in San Francisco‘s Golden Gate Park and a panel in the Canadian Embassy in Paris.”

Locally, Harris is probably known best for work on display at the Vancouver International Airport and at the University of B.C.‘s museum of anthropology.

The award also recognizes his role as a hereditary chief who is widely respected for the “wisdom and leadership he has provided to his people, and for having played a vital role in their cultural resurgence.”

After suffering a stroke in 1986, and another just last month, Harris speaks with difficulty, conveying his emotions mainly in monosyllabic sentences and facial expressions.

“There was just a big smile on his face when he found out,” his son, Rodney Harris, said. “He was overwhelmed with joy. He feels very honoured to be recognized for all the work he’s done.”

Before his fame, though, Harris worked in a variety of fields, from mining to commercial fishing and once owned and operated a sawmill.

In 1969, he enrolled in the Gitanmaax School of Northwest Coast Indian Art and eventually taught there, inspiring a generation of carvers, said Rodney Harris, himself a wood artist.

“The younger artists can now appreciate more that you can go somewhere in the world if you put your heart to it.” He said his father was thrilled with the 2003 award and is looking forward to returning to Rideau Hall.

Blusson was recognized for being a leader in the fields of mineral exploration and geological research. By following trails left by glaciers in an area north of Yellowknife, he and fellow geologist Charles Fipke discovered a diamond deposit in 1991, leading to the establishment of the first diamond mine in Canada.

His generosity was also noted. Blusson donated $50 million to the University of B.C. in 1998 to promote scientific research — at the time, it was the largest individual donation made to a Canadian university — followed in 2002 by $30-million worth of shares to a charitable foundation associated with the Sea to Sky University in Squamish. The university will be the country’s first private, secular, not-for-profit liberal arts and science institution and anticipates opening its doors in September 2006.

Vancouver poet, teacher and editor Robin Blaser was also honoured with an Order of Canada award for his highly regarded work.

“Professor emeritus of English at Simon Fraser University, he has drawn on his extensive knowledge of art, mythology, religion and politics to inspire and stimulate generations of students,” his citation reads, noting that he is known for originality, lyricism and critical spirit.

Marie Bourgeois, executive director of La Maison de la francophonie de Vancouver, was honoured for her commitment to the promotion of the French language and culture.

Bourgeois, of Pitt Meadows, works on the boards of various francophone organizations in B.C. and was also cited for advancing the interests and rights of francophone women and parents in the province.

The founding executive director of both the Writers’ Union of Canada and the Writers Development Trust, Alma Lee of Vancouver, was recognized as a “passionate and effective champion” of Canadian authors.

Lee is also the driving force behind the Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival, a major literary event that attracts about 11,000 people a year.

Nancy McKinstry of Vancouver was honoured for her commitment to making a difference in the lives of women. A senior investment firm executive, she has also served as a founding member and chairwoman of the Minerva Foundation for B.C. Women, an organization dedicated to helping women realize their educational and professional goals.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Planning the Urban Future

Sunday, February 13th, 2005

WORKING ASSETS: Maintaining balance between business and residential land use is key goal

John Bermingham

For gallery owner Svetlana Fouks, Yaletown is a livable, workable community. GERRY KAHRMANM — THE PROVINCE

Over the past 30 years, the city has lost 250 acres of commercial and industrial space in the downtown peninsula to residential use. In the process the region has seen creation of 44,000 new jobs and 26,000 new residents.

Now, Vancouver city planners are embarking on a 25-year land-use plan to see how much of the remaining core industrial land-base needs to be protected.

“We’ve had tremendous success with new residential development,” said Ronda Howard, senior planner with the city. “Now the challenge is posed by where those trends are leading.”

Howard said there is persistent pressure from residential developers to free up industrial land earmarked for future business growth.

Areas like Gastown, Yaletown, Burrard Slopes and Mount Pleasant are all under pressure from residential development.

And even though the city tried to protect its downtown land-base in 1991 by retaining an office core, surrounding it with condos and shifting industrial land to the central business district’s outskirts, residental high-rise construction has surged beyond all expectations.

Hence, residential values have continued to climb, while commercial values remained static. But businesses pay $5 in property taxes to the city for every $1 by homeowners. So, maintaining a balance between business and residential land use is a key goal for the Metropolitan Core Jobs and Economy Land-Use Plan group.

It will form a 30-member advisory board, drawn from business groups, landowners, developers and transport interests.

The plan’s other goals include:

n Anticipating future growth trends in key economic sectors, such as tourism, manufacturing, recreation, high-tech and retail.

n Creating a land-use plan.

n Clarifying the role of mixed live-work spaces, heritage buildings and commercial space in providing for future jobs.

The group will also study the impacts of increasing conversions of industrial buildings to residential usage, such as in heritage Yaletown — even though last May the city placed a moratorium on those conversions in the downtown core.

The live-work mix is working particularly well in places such as Yaletown where Svetlana Fouks runs a native art gallery which is just five minutes from her home.

“This is one of the most livable and workable communities in North America. It’s one of the reasons [Yaletown] attracts so many to live and work here,” she said.

“This area will survive if it has enough of a balance. If there’s too much residential, then the commercial will suffer,” she said.

“The city knows they have to foster that commercial element.”

Adds David Podmore, president of the Urban Development Institute: “It’s really important to make sure we can achieve a balance between our ability to provide jobs, and accommodate commercial and industrial uses in the city, and balance that with the residential capacity of the city.”

Charles Gauthier, executive director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, says it’s vital to protect the city core’s job-base, set to rise from 150,000 today to 175,000 by 2021.

However, in the past the city has found it “much more politically expedient” to allow industrial land to be used for residential development, adds Coun. Sam Sullivan.

“There’s not as much of a public backlash,” he says. “We’ve had to draw a line in the sand to make sure residential didn’t totally overwhelm the commercial.”

And Dave Park, economist with the Vancouver Board of Trade, says higher residential property values shouldn’t compel conversions of commercial space.

“The principle here is much akin to the Agricultural Land Reserve,” said Park.

“Just because one land-use can bid up the price, doesn’t mean that it makes sense for the community.”

He warns that if the city loses too much industrial land, it will not only have an impact on Vancouver‘s economy, but the provincial economy as well.

[email protected]


One way of growing business in a densely packed metropolis is through clustering. The Vancouver Economic Development Commission believes sectors such as high-tech, film, tourism and clothing could concentrate in campus-style centres. The biotech sector is already locating at the University of B.C. and Vancouver General Hospital. Clothing firms are linked to Gastown, high-tech firms to Yaletown.

“As most industry sectors develop, their proximity to each other becomes more valuable,” said Ken Veldman, VEDC’s director of business development. Clustering can also work in areas with a high residential build.

© The Vancouver Province 2005