Archive for August, 2010

Bubbles looming in hottest housing markets, report warns

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Norma Greenaway
Sun

Steep housing price increases in six of Canada’s hottest real estate markets since 2002 have all the hallmarks of an “accident waiting to happen” if mortgage rates rise too sharply, warns a new report.

The report by the Centre for Policy Alternatives says smart mortgage rate setting is needed to prevent the bubbles hanging over the housing markets in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal from bursting.

“The hottest six real-estate markets could be in for a correction at best or, at worst, a bubble burst,” writes David Macdonald. “Rate setters at the big banks are in the driver’s seat now as mortgage rates inch up. They need to hit the breaks lightly.”

The chief concern is the price increases in those markets are outside the “historic comfort level,” which makes them much more susceptible to mortgage rate changes, the report said.

The average, inflation-adjusted house price in the cities has historically held stable at between $150,000 and $220,00 in today’s dollars. But the current average price in all six major markets now is over $300,000.

Macdonald says a housing bubble burst has been a rare phenomenon in Canada. Since 1980, it has only happened three times — in Vancouver in 1981 and 1994, and in Toronto in 1989.

“But the steep rise in house prices in so many cities displays all the hallmarks of an accident waiting to happen,” Macdonald writes, adding the price increases have exceeded the growth in inflation, household incomes and economic growth.

“Canada is experiencing for the first time in the last 30 years, a synchronized housing bubble across the six largest residential real-estate markets in Canada.”

The report traces the trend in large part to low mortgage rates and access to easy credit, which can encourage buyers to purchase homes they might not otherwise be able to afford.

“While housing may be ‘affordable’ based on record low rates, the affordability situation in Canada could change rapidly if mortgage rates return even part way to their historic norms,” the report says.

Macdonald, a research associate with the centre, said in an interview he doesn’t expect mortgage rates to increase much in the near term. His concern is three to five years down the road.

Macdonald called on the big banks and other mortgage lenders to stick to slow, gentle increases to avert the bottom falling out of housing prices.

He also recommended returning to pre-2006 mortgage rules, which required a down payment of 10 per cent and a 25-year mortgage. Current rules call for five per cent down and a 35-year mortgage.

Macdonald says the best scenario would be to have housing prices stagnate over the next five to 10 years while inflation slowly eats away at their value.

The goal should be to get prices back to the “comfort zone” where house prices are in line with inflation and owners neither gain nor lose a lot of money when they sell.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Researcher has a wake-up call about wireless

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

B.C. author promotes consumer guide to reducing electromagnetic radiation

Pamela Fayerman
Sun

Kerry Crofton owns a cellphone, but uses it primarily for emergencies. Photograph by: Steve Bosch, Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Sun

Kerry Crofton travels with a land line phone, purposely stays in hotels that don’t offer wireless Internet in rooms and when she gives her talk tonight on the topic of wireless radiation, it will be in a downtown Vancouver venue selected because it purportedly has no such radiation.

The Victoria-based health researcher is speaking at the wireless network-free St. Andrew’s-Wesley Church, where she’s promoting her new book, Wireless Radiation Rescue, said to be the first consumer guide to reducing levels of electromagnetic radiation in homes, offices and schools.

Crofton does practise what she preaches. Hence, arranging a phone interview to take place while she was en route to Vancouver was a bit of a challenge since she owns a cellphone but prefers not to use it except in emergencies. The interview took place during her sailing; she called from a pay phone on the ship.

Some would argue Crofton’s beliefs are extreme. A B.C. study a few years ago concluded there may be one extra case of childhood leukemia every two years because of power lines.

Health Canada, meanwhile, has issued statements denying the health threat from wireless technology and cellphones.

“Based on scientific evidence, Health Canada has determined that exposure to low-level radio-frequency energy, such as that from Wi-Fi systems, is not dangerous to the public,” said a statement from the federal agency.

On another occasion, Health Canada said it “currently sees no scientific reason to consider the use of cellphones as unsafe … and there is no convincing evidence of increased risk of disease from exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields from cellphones.”

But Crofton, who has a doctoral degree in health psychology, has spent the last five years collecting research on radiation from power lines, cellphones, cordless phones, wireless Internet, computers, baby monitors and microwaves.

And she’s convinced that government standards meant to be protective are too lenient and while cellphone industry-sponsored research may show no impacts, other studies do show biological effects causing symptoms such as headaches, heart effects, decreased fertility and neurological disorders.

Crofton has three decades of experience devising wellness and heart health programs for air traffic controllers, pilots, nurses, teachers and others. Until she started doing her research, Crofton was like most people: she wanted the latest, fastest technology.

“It’s not that I am against technology now. The Internet is extraordinary. Computers are essential. I just make sure that I have mine set up as a fully wired system, without the wireless mouse, without the wireless monitor and without the wireless router.”

She acknowledges that not all people will experience symptoms of such radiation.

“Absolutely, there are some people who are more electro-sensitive than others.,” she said.

Recently, a British scientist waded into the issue of wireless networks in Canadian schools, warning generations could face genetic disorders because of prolonged exposure to low-level microwaves.

“Children are not small adults, they are underdeveloped adults, so there are different symptoms,” said Barrie Trower, who specialized in microwave “stealth” warfare during the Cold War.

Crofton will be joined tonight by American cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Vancouver real estate ‘bubble’ at 30-year peak, report cautions

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Norma Greenaway
Sun

The unchecked rise in housing prices in major Canadian cities since 2002 could lead to a collapse in the market, a new report suggests. Photograph by: Steve Bosch, Vancouver Sun

OTTAWA — Steep housing price increases in six of Canada’s hottest real estate markets since 2002 have all the hallmarks of an “accident waiting to happen” if mortgage rates rise too sharply, warns a new report.

The report by the Centre for Policy Alternatives says smart mortgage rate setting is needed to prevent the bubbles hanging over the housing markets in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal from bursting.

“The hottest six real-estate markets could be in for a correction at best or, at worst, a bubble burst,” writes David Macdonald, author of the report. “Rate setters at the big banks are in the driver’s seat now as mortgage rates inch up. They need to hit the breaks lightly.”

The chief concern is the price increases in those markets are outside the “historic comfort level,” which makes them much more susceptible to mortgage rate changes, the report said.

The average, inflation-adjusted house price in the cities has historically held stable at between $150,000 and $220,00 in today’s dollars. But the current average price in all six major markets now is over $300,000, it said.

Macdonald says a housing bubble burst has been a rare phenomenon in Canada. Since 1980, it has only happened three times — in Vancouver in 1981 and 1994 and in Toronto in 1989.

“But the steep rise in house prices in so many cities displays all the hallmarks of an accident waiting to happen,” Macdonald writes, adding the price increases have exceeded the growth in inflation, household incomes and economic growth.

“Canada is experiencing for the first time in the last 30 years, a synchronized housing bubble across the six largest residential real-estate markets in Canada.”

The report traces the trend in large part to low mortgage rates and access to easy credit, which can encourage buyers to purchase homes they might not otherwise be able to afford.

“While housing may be ‘affordable’ based on record low rates, the affordability situation in Canada could change rapidly if mortgage rates return even part way to their historic norms,” the report says.

Macdonald, a research associate with the centre, said in an interview he doesn’t expect mortgage rates to increase much in the near term. His concern is three to five years down the road.

Macdonald called on the big banks and other mortgage lenders to stick to slow, gentle increases to avert the bottom falling out of housing prices.

He also recommended returning to pre-2006 mortgage rules, which required a down payment of 10 per cent and a 25-year mortgage. The current rules call for five per cent down and a 35-year mortgage.

Macdonald says the best scenario would be to have housing prices stagnate over the next five to 10 years while inflation slowly eats away at their value.

The goal should be to get prices back to the “comfort zone” where house prices are in line with inflation, he said, and where owners will neither gain nor lose a lot of money when they sell.

© Copyright (c) Postmedia News

Housing bubble to burst?

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

High prices in top six cities showing signs of crumbling

Norma Greenaway
Province

A housing-bubble burst is a rare economic phenomena in Canada. It’s hit Vancouver twice, in 1981 and 1994. Photograph by: Wayne Leidenfrost, PNG, Postmedia News

Steep housing-price increases in six of Canada’s hottest real-estate markets since 2002 have all the hallmarks of an “accident waiting to happen” if mortgage rates rise too sharply, warns a new report.

The report by the Centre for Policy Alternatives says smart mortgagerate setting is needed to prevent the bubbles hanging over the housing markets in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal from bursting.

“The hottest six real-estate markets could be in for a correction at best or, at worst, a bubble burst,” writes David Macdonald, author of the report. “Rate setters at the big banks are in the driver’s seat now as mortgage rates inch up. They need to hit the breaks lightly.”

Chief concern is the price increases in those markets are outside the “historic comfort level,” which makes them more susceptible to mortgagerate changes, the report said.

The average, inflation-adjusted house price in the cities has historically held stable at between $150,000 and $220,00 in today’s dollars. But the current average price in all six major markets now is over $300,000, it said.

Macdonald says a housing-bubble burst has been a rare phenomenon in Canada. Since 1980, it has only happened three times — in Vancouver in 1981 and 1994 and in Toronto in 1989.

“But the steep rise in house prices in so many cities displays all the hallmarks of an accident waiting to happen,” Macdonald writes, adding the price increases have exceeded the growth in inflation, household incomes and economic growth.

The report traces the trend in large part to low mortgage rates and access to easy credit, which can encourage buyers to purchase homes they might not otherwise be able to afford.

Macdonald called on the big banks and other mortgage lenders to stick to slow, gentle increases to mortgage rates to avert the bottom falling out of housing prices.

He also recommended returning to pre-2006 mortgage rules, which required a downpayment of 10 per cent and a 25-year mortgage. The current rules call for five per cent down and a 35-year mortgage.

© Copyright (c) The Province

CRTC delivers blow to Bell

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Major Internet providers must now lease network space to independents

Jamie Sturgeon
Province

The country’s major Internet providers, such as BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada and Telus Corp., will be forced to lease network space to smaller competitors at matching speeds to ensure competition for broadband services, the telecommunications regulator said in a key ruling Monday.

The decision, delivered after hearings last spring, is a critical, if only partial, victory for independent resellers like TekSavvy Solutions Inc. and Telnet Communications, which will now be able to keep pace with incumbent offerings.

Yet for Telus and Bell, it is a big blow in their fight to gain television share and slow phone line losses against rival cable companies Shaw Communications Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc.

Limited bandwidth capacity the pair would rather use for new Internet TV products must now instead go toward wholesale services under regulated prices and fixed returns.

Konrad von Fickenstein, the chairman of the Canadian Radiotelevision and Telecommunications Commission, acknowledged that big providers are investing in network infrastructure, but regulated access was still required to foster “more competition and (to better serve consumers.)”

Third-party resellers’ business model depends on set prices for wholesale network access, which is then resold to customers.

The group, which consists of several dozen companies across the country led by the bigger firms like TekSavvy, has been selling slower broadband services over the past several years as incumbents have steadily increased their own speeds, threatening to drive out independent wholesalers.

Short of a ruling mandating matching, “we [would have to] close our doors,” said Tom Copeland, head of the Canadian Association of Internet Providers, which represents about 50 small ISPs. “If we can’t deliver services to our clients on a competitive basis, what else is there to do? We can buy retail services from these companies and repackage them, but at that point, we’re already under margin pressure.”

Resale data speeds will now be dialed up to comparable incumbent rates of about 15 to 16 megabits per second, from between four to five Mbps in many cases, said Andrew Day, chief operating from Primus Canada.

To compensate for the increase, the commission said it will allow for incumbent network owners to raise tariff prices by 10 per cent.

It is a policy tweak that few are happy with — it cuts into already thin reseller margins, Day said, but fails to make up for capital losses phone firms like Bell and Telus are sure to see, according to Telus’s chief of regulatory affairs, Michael Hennessy.

Telus, like Bell, is locked into a growing “facilities-based” battle for household Internet, television and home-phone accounts. The speed matching required from the regulator means the phone firms will have to give greater bandwidth to resale services, even drop services like TV where capacity is constrained, he said.

“When we give our loop to a reseller, we’re foregoing the opportunity to sell TV,” Hennessy said. “So at the margins, particularly in rural markets, this decision has the potential to slow the rollout of investment.”

© Copyright (c) The Province

Olympic Village apartments to remain empty until November

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Cops, teachers, doctors get first dibs on units

Mike Howell
Van. Courier

Prospective tenants on waiting lists to rent the 252 affordable housing units at the Olympic Village will likely have to wait until November before moving in, according to a city official.

David McLellan, the city’s general manager of community services, said the city and B.C. Housing have to first choose one or more operators to manage the three buildings.

The deadline for interested operators to apply is Sept. 10. The city and B.C. Housing will then spend several weeks reviewing the applications. Once an operator is chosen, tenants will be notified. “We’ll probably be able to move people in by November,” McLellan told the Courier.

Half of the units will be rented at market rates and given priority to workers deemed essential to the city, including police officers, firefighters, public school administrators, teachers, nurses and doctors.

So far, 180 people have applied for the 126 units. The other 126 units will be available for people who require subsidized housing, including low-income families and people with mental or physical disabilities.

Prospective tenants for those units are on a separate waiting list managed by B.C. Housing. The number of people on that list wasn’t available before the Courier’s deadline.

B.C. Housing and the operator, or operators, will decide which tenants get to move in to the buildings. It’s not clear how they will be selected and the city is leaving the selection process up to the operator.

The city is also relying on the operator to determine when a tenant is no longer eligible to live in a unit. Tenants of the market rent units will be limited to households with a monthly income less than or equal to five times the market rent.

But if a rookie cop moves into a unit, and then after five years, gets a pay raise, would he still be eligible to continuing renting the unit?

That’s a question the city is leaving to the successful operator to answer. “We’re waiting to see what sort of responses we get back from the non-profit sector on how they deal with those kinds of issues,” McLellan said. “And depending on how well they manage them, along with the other factors, then we’ll look at awarding the operator’s agreement on that basis.”

A city report that went before city council in April estimated the market rents could range from $1,601 a month for a 640-square-foot one bedroom to $2,368 for a 1,480-square-foot, four-bedroom place.

The rate for a one-bedroom apartment is based on a formula that 30 per cent of the rent comes from an annual household income no greater than $64,040.

The PHS Community Services Society and the Affordable Housing Societies were among the organizations expected to visit the buildings Thursday before deciding whether they would apply for the work.

© Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier

Four things for you to consider before you remodel

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

Christine Dugas
USA Today

To get more space without moving, Carol and Mark Durgin built a basement with a family room, a bathroom and a laundry area. By Josh T. Reynolds for USA TODAY

Home remodeling is on the rise.

And no wonder. Owners having trouble selling their homes in this sluggish real estate market want to give them as much buyer appeal as they can afford.

Others are deciding that if they can’t move, they might as well make the most of the house they may be calling home for a long time.

After a year of decline in home remodeling, the number of homeowners saying they plan to remodel in the next 12 months increased from last year, according to RemodelOrMove.com, a website that provides homeowners remodeling options and has conducted semiannual surveys of owners since 2005.

Carol and Mark Durgin have owned a Cape Cod home in Marshfield, Mass., for about 15 years. Even though their son is grown and no longer lives with them, they thought the home was too small. Rather than try to sell it and buy a larger home, they decided to add a full basement.

They didn’t do much research before they launched into the project in June 2009.

“My husband just said he wanted to do it, and I said that I was on board,” says Carol, who owns a beauty salon in Quincy.

The new basement, which is nearly finished, has a second bathroom, a laundry room and a family room with a pool table. Mark, who works for the local laborers‘ union, did much of the interior work.

It took longer and cost more than they expected. They had to fix up their yard after the construction turned it into a mud pit. But they are happy with the results. “It’s wonderful,” Carol says.

In tough economic times, it’s important to make smart decisions. Here’s what to consider before you pick up a hammer:

1. The biggest bang for your buck

Before you even come up with a plan, consider how long you will live in the home. If you only plan to stay for several years, you may not be able to earn back the cost of a major renovation. Short-term owners should consider simple cosmetics, such as refinishing floors, painting and updating fixtures and lighting. “They are little things that don’t cost much but can really update a room,” says David Lupberger, home-improvement expert with ServiceMagic.com, a website that connects homeowners to prescreened contractors.

If you plan to stay in the home for five years or longer, then a kitchen or bathroom renovation provides the best return on your investment.

“Owners can enjoy a nice modern kitchen and bathroom,” says Elizabeth Blakeslee, associate broker at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Washington, D.C. “Down the road if they want to sell the home, they’re in good shape, because it’s kitchens and bathrooms that sell homes.”

One of the biggest mistakes that people make is to install a new pool in parts of the country where the weather is colder, she says. In general, renovating should bring a property up to the value of the comparable houses nearby.

“But you don’t want to over-improve it and have the most expensive home on the block,” says Ben Woolsey, director of marketing and consumer research at CreditCards.com. “A good rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t try to improve the value of your home more than 25% of its current value.”

2. Financing the project

Before you start renovating, estimate the cost and decide how you will pay for it.

The Durgins are happy with their lender’s advice. When they applied for a home-equity line of credit he suggested a higher limit than they asked for. They wouldn’t have to use all of it, but they’d have a cushion if they’d underestimated their cost.

They originally thought they would need about $40,000. But they decided to ask for a $75,000 line of credit and they ended up using $62,000.

Borrowing is not the only way to finance a remodeling job.

If your project is inexpensive and you have adequate savings, tapping them is the easiest way to go.

Many use their credit cards for projects under a few thousand dollars.

Owners can finance a kitchen or bath renovation or add a deck that way. If you hire a contractor for a bigger project, the costs can balloon. Then you may be better off with a personal loan, a home-equity loan or line of credit.

Sharp declines in home values mean many owners have no equity to tap. For those who do, financing home improvements with a home-equity loan makes sense because the interest is tax-deductible, Woolsey says.

3. Are you covered?

Before you start a project, make sure the contractor and subcontractors have adequate insurance coverage. Ask if the contractor has workers’ compensation, which covers lost wages and pays for medical and rehabilitation expenses if workers are injured. If not, an injured worker can sue you, says the Insurance Information Institute.

If you are adding an extra room, you will need to increase your home insurance coverage. Don’t wait until the renovation is completed to contact your insurance agent. If the addition is damaged or destroyed before insurance coverage has been increased, you may be responsible for the cost of repairing or rebuilding it, says Loretta Worters, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute.

Homeowners also should visit DisasterSafety.org, where the Institute for Business & Home Safety provides info about each state’s building codes and standards. It’s where homeowners can find out how to be sure contractors make their homes hurricane- or wildfire-resistant.

And during the renovation keep all of the receipts for items purchased, such as furniture and electronics, because you will want to make sure you have the right amount of coverage for personal possessions.

4. Ways to save money

Kitchens and bathrooms are the most popular renovation projects. But don’t overlook less-visible improvements that may cut the costs of owning a house.

Updating old plumbing and electrical wiring and disaster proofing your roof may lower your insurance premiums.

Owners of older homes can reduce their energy bills by adding insulation and installing new windows. Federal and state tax credits for certain improvements — such as energy-efficient central air conditioning, heating or water heaters — can lower your costs even more.

In the end, a renovation project’s payoff may be measured best by how much satisfaction it gives the homeowners.

Newlyweds Keith and Julianne Knapp encountered many difficulties buying their house, a fixer-upper in the Cincinnati area that they eventually landed when it was sold in foreclosure for $168,000.

Keith moved in before the wedding in July and started replacing ceilings and painting rooms. They have since added new fixtures and appliances, new carpeting and landscaping.

“Our neighbors tell us that they can’t believe that it’s the same house,” Keith says.

Their cost: about $10,000, paid out of savings, wedding-gift cash and a personal line of credit.

Now it’s the home where they plan to start a family. Says Keith, “We had a house-hunting nightmare with a storybook ending.”

Copyright 2010 USA TODAY

Mortgage brokers are becoming a vanishing breed

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

Jeff Swiatek, The Indianapolis Star
USA Today

Realtor Joe Bell poses outside one of his properties in St. Petersburg, Fla. Mortgage rates have sunk to levels not seen in more than a half-century but brokers and lenders report not a flood but a trickle of customers. By Chris O’Meara, AP

INDIANAPOLIS — Most of the mortgage brokers that seemed to populate every office building and commercial street in cities nationwide just five years ago have vanished.

Ken Blaudow, owner of Indy Mortgage had 85 employees originating home loans in 2003. Now he has three and is about to give up his leased office in Castleton, Ind., and move his company into two bedrooms of his house.

“It’s drastically down,” he said of his industry. “And there are a lot of funky new rules.”

Much of the decline has come from the implosion of the housing sector since 2007. Prices and sales plunged during the recession. Foreclosures hit record highs almost everywhere.

As government rushed in to respond to the crisis, caused in part by overselling of risky mortgages by brokers who got rich on exorbitant fees, regulations on the industry multiplied.

States in the past two years began requiring brokers to pass licensing exams and undergo background checks. A criminal record, even a past bankruptcy, can now prevent someone from writing a mortgage. If states don’t already do it, a federal law coming in January will require licensing exams and criminal background checks nationally.

Brokers and loan originators find lenders for people seeking a mortgage on a new home purchase and charge a fee for that service.

Many of the sometimes-exotic products that independent brokers used to push — jumbo loans, subprime mortgages — also have been restricted or banned.

The new industry that’s emerging is much more conservative, regulated and, some would say, less consumer-friendly.

“I don’t think (the changes) will be better for the industry. It costs more to do business. And the consumer has fewer choices. But those are the cards we have been dealt,” said Al Thorup, executive director of the Indiana Mortgage Bankers Association.

A study by Bankrate, a financial information supplier, found that mortgage fees are on the rise, jumping 23% in the past year alone. Nationally, the average fees that a homeowner paid for a $200,000 loan are $3,741, compared with $2,739 last year. This does not include fees for real estate agents typically paid by the seller.

Bankrate says the jump in mortgage fees is due in large part to the increased scrutiny lenders must give every loan, under tougher guidelines from federal regulators and two quasi-government companies that guarantee loans, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

“It takes five to six times the work to get a loan to close than it did two years ago,” Blaudow said.

Credit histories must be dutifully compiled for all borrowers. And any number of new criteria can lead to a refusal to lend. One new practice closes the door on loans to anyone who’s done a short sale — a way of selling a house when the sale proceeds fall below the balance on the mortgage — in the past three years.

Banks have actually fared well in the restructuring of the mortgage industry.

That’s because many banks didn’t engage in the riskier lending practices, such as granting adjustable loans at subprime rates to people with less-than-stellar credit, that some independent brokers and their companies did.

Banks also will be better able to bear a coming federal regulation that will require any company handling federal FHA or VA loans to have $2.5 million in assets.

Ron McGuire, president of F.C. Tucker Mortgage in Indianapolis, said the changes in the mortgage industry mean “we’re back to the way underwriting was 20 years ago when you had to have a down payment, you had to have a job. And that’s a good thing.”

But McGuire said he worries that the decline of independent brokers now gives a handful of large national banks more of a chance to dominate the mortgage industry.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Figuring out fair access to parking

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

Tony Gioventu
Province

Dear Condo Smarts: We bought into a 10-unit condo building in May. There are 10 parking spaces, and we assumed that each unit was granted the use of one parking space. Now we have found out that the top floor unit has three parking spaces. We have good street parking, but it is not underground, and not secure. The owner of the top-floor unit has lived there for 22 years, and has threatened to sue us if we take away any of her spaces. She claims that because she was the first purchaser, she negotiated the three parking spaces in her sale. She also claims that if she decides to sell, those spaces go with her unit. The remaining owners have met to discuss this problem and have decided not to create a costly dispute, but there must be some way of resolving and giving fair access to all owners.

– MJ, Nanaimo

Dear MJ: Exclusive allocations of parking, storage lockers, and deck and patio spaces can be found in strata corporations throughout the province. Many of them are legitimate and enforceable agreements, and many are often just “claimed” space by a dominant owner or the resident bully of the strata.

The first step council has to take is to review a copy of the registered strata plan, and any limited common property amendments that may have been made over the years.

If the property has been designated as limited common property by the owner developer, then it could only be changed by a unanimous vote of the strata corporation. If it was designated as limited common property by a vote of the strata corporation, then the strata could amend it by 3/4 vote.

Either way, if the area was properly registered as limited common property, that person has the right of exclusive use of the property. If the area is common property, the use may be regulated through the bylaws and rules of your strata, so you would then need to review all your bylaws and rules that are in force and effect. If there is an agreement for the use of the parking in the purchase agreement then a copy of the agreement should be provided to the strata council, so it can determine validity. At this time, it would be prudent for the council to seek a legal opinion on your options.

Ideally, it is in everyone’s best interest to avoid arbitration or the courts, but in the end, if there is no documentation, or willing cooperation of the parties, or a legal opinion to support the claim, the strata corporation or the owners have no choice but to commence an arbitration or proceed to the courts to obtain a decision.

If the person claiming to have the right of use of these spaces is on council, then it also has to be noted that with respects to an allegation of a bylaw violation, that person cannot be a party to the decision of strata council.

Tony Gioventu is the executive director of the Condominium Home Owners’ Association. E-mail [email protected]. bc. ca.

© Copyright (c) The Province

STEVESTON VIEWS, Steveston, Richmond

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

A colourful addition to a colourful community

Province

Rooftop patios at Steveston Views have gas hookups, and cedars will define each home’s space. Corner-unit patios are a spacious 500 square feet, reports the project’s Tussy Berg.

Reclaimed timbers and glass/metal railings were used for the Steveston Views’ staircases. The homes have open floorplans and windows that rise to between seven and eight feet.

STEVESTON VIEWS

WHAT: 10 townhouses, 4 commercial spaces

WHERE: Steveston, Richmond

DEVELOPER: Steveston Views Development Corporation, H.A. (Tussy) Berg

SIZE: 980 sq. ft. -1,528 sq. ft.

PRICE: From $558,900

OPEN: Sales centre, 3993 Chatham;

Hours: 1 p.m. -4 p.m., Sat -Sun

Tussy Berg has made his home in Steveston for more than 25 years. Now he’s making homes for others in the historic Richmond fishing village.

“People love Steveston,” says Berg, the man behind the Steveston Views townhome project.

“I knew the family who owned this property and when I heard they were thinking of selling it, I just had to jump on it,” says Berg, a realtor with more than 35 years experience. “It is one of the last parcels of land available in Steveston right now.”

That parcel is at No. 1 Road and Chatham Street, across the street from Steveston Community Centre and park. That means the 10 homes will be close to a pool, playground and water park, picnic grounds, lacrosse box, fitness track, tennis courts, ball diamonds, and basketball courts.

Given his attachment to the neighbourhood, Berg commissioned a design for Steveston Views that is both neighbourhood and family-friendly.

The exterior has also been designed to reference to Steveston’s rich and colourful past.

“The exterior was inspired by Steveston’s commercial centre and its fishing industry,” Berg says. “We used Steveston’s rich heritage colour scheme and its traditional architecture for the exterior of the building.”

At the corner of the building by the front entrance stands a tall, steel ornamental tide clock, which will display information on the tides.

The townhouses are distinguished by open-plan interiors behind tall windows, between seven and eight feet in height.

Unique features include staircases constructed from reclaimed Steveston and Sunshine Coast timbers with glass/metal railings; ceilings that rise from nine to 18 feet; environmentally certified white oak; radiant heat flooring; gas fireplaces and fibre-cement siding.

“From the start, we wanted a very open, European design with lots of natural light to accentuate the bright and airy homes,” says Berg.

An Italian system, called Baxi, heats and cools the homes. “It’s the next best thing to geothermal heating … Baxi is from Italy and is 98-per-cent efficient, so efficient you can enjoy a weeklong shower if you wanted to.”

Beyond the fourth staircase in each home is the landscaped rooftop patio with gas hookups and large planters. Cedars divide each home’s rooftop space.

© Copyright (c) The Province