Archive for March, 2017

Three transit-oriented communities in Metro rival Coal Harbour for empty or underused housing

Friday, March 31st, 2017

Many units in transit-linked areas are empty or underused

Joanne Lee-Young
The Vancouver Sun

Transit-oriented communities are often called the future for Metro Vancouver, with condo towers and townhouses clustered around stores and amenities like theatres along major public transit lines.

The seeming success of these properties, especially along SkyTrain lines, has been evident as development after development is declared “sold out” by developers.

But figures from the latest census are raising questions about that appearance of success, according to some researchers.

The percentage of units that are empty or could be considered underused is over 20 per cent in areas around Joyce-Collingwood, Marine Drive and Metrotown stations, according to Andy Yan, director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program. The Joyce and Marine Gateway areas both posted 24 per cent; Metrotown was at 22 per cent.

This makes them much higher than the nine per cent in the same census numbers for the Olympic Village area or the 8.2 per cent average for the City of Vancouver.

“Why is this happening? If eight per cent is the average, over 20 per cent is a freak show,” said Yan.

It also puts those areas in the same category as Coal Harbour, which clocked in at 22 per cent and where darkened windows have come to epitomize the effect of global capital investing in real estate as a commodity.

The census uses the term “units occupied by usual residents.” Anything outside of that is considered empty or occupied by temporary residents, such as students or seasonal workers, and foreign residents, though how many of each hasn’t been broken down.

Usually, temporary residents are found in areas popular with tourists, such as downtown, or close to a big school, such as the UBC Endowment Lands.

“The transit-oriented developments are really about vibrancy, being close and creating economic vitality as you have declining populations in other (more single-family home) areas,” said Anne McMullin, president of the Urban Development Institute, which represents developers. She was surprised by the findings because in most transit-oriented developments, sales are to people planning to occupy the units, adding it would be hard to comment “without delving into the details of each mini-market.”

Jennifer Gray-Grant, executive director at Collingwood Neighbourhood House, finds the census figures perplexing. From her community centre vantage point, programs are packed and the parks are well-used.

“You go to Coal Harbour, you feel it,” she said of the sense of emptiness. “But you don’t feel (that) here.”

Craig E. Jones, a graduate student at the University of B.C., wonders if the census numbers are a red flag. He has been researching areas where aging purpose-built rentals are torn down to make way for high-density transit-oriented development. Often, the rental buildings are run down and only a few storeys high, but are affordable to lower income families.

“It does raise the question of speculation in transit-oriented developments. A major justification for density in these areas around transit is that the population is growing.” People are coming to Metro Vancouver, and they need to be housed, said Jones.

“But if in the 2016 census, the percentage of units that don’t fit into the category of being lived in by usual residents is over 20 per cent, meaning one in five is not occupied by usual residents, does that justify what we are doing?” 

Between 2011 and 2016, 648 additional housing units were added in the Joyce area, 969 in Marine Gateway and 1,690 in Metrotown. The number of empty or underused units jumped to 791 from 103 in Joyce, a 688 per cent increase. In Marine Gateway, it went up by 575 units and in Metrotown by 891 units.

Yan, who has been looking at what empty or underused homes mean for affordability, said the focus in Coal Harbour was the impact of global capital. But since then, and in these other areas, the picture is a combination of global capital and local investors tapping “fast capital and cheap capital.”

He and Jones both caution there may be a lag time in these areas: Perhaps they are still in the process of being transformed into full-scale transit-oriented communities.

“Developers consider it a commercial success when properties are sold out,” Yan said.

“Once you build (and sell) units, they may not immediately be occupied. It doesn’t mean they are housing people. It could take time, but we need to understand building around (transit) and the tenure (conditions under which land or buildings are held or occupied), and consider patterns of speculation. It’s not just about putting in units near transit nodes.”

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.

Big Vancouver developer caught hosting short-term rentals

Friday, March 31st, 2017

Liberal donor rented out short-term units without licence

The Vancouver Sun

Surely it could be neither ignorance nor stupidity that would lead a major Vancouver developer to illegally rent short-term apartments in this city. A successful developer like Onni is clearly neither of those things.

But how else to explain why CKNW reporter Charmaine de Silva learned this week that the company has been doing just that?

Onni has listed furnished apartments at its 1022 Seymour St. rental building on international travel sites since at least 2013. The developer has dubbed its “hotel-style service” Level Furnished Living, and its building is a popular place, with an 8.9/10 rating, and a ranking of “fabulous” on

“Staying in this venue made it feel like you were at a home instead of a hotel!” raved one visitor from the U.S. on that site. Sounds nice.

The trouble is, the apartment that guest would have stayed in is a home — or it was intended to be, anyway. Onni doesn’t have a licence to operate 1022 Seymour St. as a hotel, or as a bed-and-breakfast, said Kaye Krishna, the city’s general manager of development services, business and licensing.

That means all stays in the building must be 30 days or longer. But that’s not what has been happening.

Onni responded late Thursday to a request for comment. The developer said in a brief statement it had been running Level Furnished Living since 2009 and “where there has been intermittent vacancy between long-term stays, Level has accepted a small amount of short-term business.”

Mayor Gregor Robertson, who a staffer said was in a full-day meeting, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

RPMG Holdings, the Arizona-based parent company of Onni, was the 11th-largest donor to Robertson’s political party, Vision Vancouver, in the lead-up to the last municipal election. It gave a $50,000 donation to Vision, according to documents released by the party.

Vision didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Onni has also donated more than $460,000 to the B.C. Liberals, according to Dermod Travis, executive director of Integrity B.C.

The B.C. Liberal party didn’t respond to a request for comment. 

The deep silence is understandable, in a way, because both political parties have, in effect, accepted donations from a company that has been raking in dough from illegal rentals that cut into Vancouver’s long-term housing supply.

Incidentally, Onni is also a firm with four active development permit applications with the city.

When asked whether this discovery would damage the relationship between the developer and the city, Krishna said staff were now keeping a close eye on them and watching how they’re managing their rental properties.

“They understand, and I think they knew, that this is not legal. And so it’s a little bit of a breach of trust,” she said. 

When city staff spoke to Onni about the illegal rentals, the company took down the ability to book its apartments online, Krishna said. She said the city doesn’t intend to punish the developer, adding that it “would have to really build a case” to do so.

It’s not known how much cash Onni made on the illegal rentals, but an email acquired by CKNW appeared to show rooms ran from $170 to $395 per night. The company said it paid all its taxes, so at least there’s that.

The firm’s building at 1022 Seymour St. has 21 floors and 189 rental units, according to There are no residents listed at that address on

Vancouver has grappled with the negative impact that short-term rentals have had on the supply of long-term housing. The city proposed last year to sell business licences to residents who want to rent out their homes, but it would remain illegal for anyone to rent out units that aren’t principal residences. The city has yet to move on its plan.

Meanwhile, staff have done little to crack down on illegal rentals, according to documents obtained by Postmedia earlier this year.

When major developers with reputations and relationships to manage start cashing in on the lucrative, illegal industry, you know it’s time for the city to finally get serious about policing the problem.

It’s either that or unshackle the industry. But then there’s that whole problem with the political-donations thing. Not great optics there.

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.

Fancy living in the newest Trump Tower in Vancouver – Luxury two-bedroom flat goes on the market for $2.2million

Friday, March 31st, 2017

Myra Butterworth

All 290 apartments in the Vancouver tower sold before the building was finished last year

Would you buy an apartment for sale in Vancouver’s Trump Tower, which also includes a hotel (pictured is the hotel entrance)

Pictured: Residents enter the tower via their own private entrance (on the right) which is separate to the main entrance to the hotel (on the left)

The luxury apartment is on the 29th floor of Vancouver’s Trump Tower and is for sale for $2.2m

The designer Archlinea kitchen includes a dining area and high-tech Gaggenau appliances

There are two spacious bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms and lighting that is controlled by the touch of a button

The ensuite bathroom features polished marble floors and a mat volcanic limestone sink

The beautifully designed Chinese restaurant Mott 32 is based at Vancouver’s Trump Tower

A two-bedroom apartment in Trump Tower, Vancouver, has gone on the market for $2,198,000 (US$1.65million or £1.3million).

The luxury pad in Vancouver – on the west side of Canada – is part of the latest development to be built under the Trump International Hotel & Tower brand. All 290 apartments in the Vancouver tower sold before the building was finished in November last year.

The two-bedroom apartment has doubled in price since it was bought ‘off-plan’ by an investor in 2014 and has never been lived in. We visited the property to take a closer look, and found that it was presented to a showroom standard.

Anyone visiting the $2.2million flat must not be afraid of heights as it is on the 29th floor of the 69-floor ‘twisting’ tower that stands 616 ft high.

The apartment boasts a balcony that comes with views of the ocean and snow-capped mountains, as well as a gas connection for a BBQ.

The designer interior spans across 1,180 square feet and has an open plan living area with a stylish Archlinea kitchen that includes high-tech Gaggenau appliances.

There are other sized flats for sale in the tower for various prices. However, it is understood that this apartment is the most expensive flat for sale per square foot. 

There are two bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, which have polished marble floors and mat volcanic limestone sinks.

All of the blinds, temperature, lighting and home security are operated at the touch of a button view a Creston home automation system.  

The apartment is decorated throughout in a soft colour scheme that includes light grey, brown, pink and white.

 Vancouver is one of the world’s most expensive property markets and investors who snapped up the apartments in the city’s Trump Tower before they were built can expect to enjoy healthy profits if they sell at the current asking prices.

Local estate agent Les Twarog suggested that at least half of the tower’s apartments would have been bought by overseas buyers, such as from China and Korea.

He claimed that many of the properties have remained empty, with investors preferring to avoid the hassle of tenants and any additional income they generate, focusing instead on capital gains.

However, this could soon change amid the city’s introduction of a 1 per cent vacancy tax in July on all homes left empty for at least six months.

Describing the apartment we visited, local estate agent Les Twarog, said: ‘This is a very desirable part of town to invest in as values have gone up by 40 per cent in the past three years. However, many investors are concerned about the vacancy tax introduced being introduced in July.’ 

The President doesn’t own the building, but does allow the tower to use his name. (The owner and developer of Trump International Hotel & Tower Vancouver is TA Global Bhd.)

Residents who own a property in the tower have access to the hotels services and facilities, which are based on the levels below the apartments. These include its fitness centre and swimming pool, along with 10 per cent discounts at the fine dining Chinese restaurant Mott 32 and The Spa by Ivanka Trump. 

The sale of the apartment is being handled by estate agent Angell Hasman and Associates.

Housing affordability got better in Vancouver, worse in Toronto

Friday, March 31st, 2017

Steve Randall


Housing affordability across Canada held steady in the fourth quarter of 2016 compared to the previous quarter and the longer-term trend.

However, a new report from RBC Economics shows the divergence of affordability in the two hottest markets; Vancouver improved while Toronto worsened.

Nationally, the affordability measure including all the typical costs of a home as a percentage of pre-tax household income, was 44.2 per cent. Single-family houses took 49.2 per cent, a slight reduction; condos were slightly up at 35.9 per cent.

In Toronto and other parts of Southern Ontario, the measure increased to 64.6 per cent (up from 63.8 per cent in the third quarter) and RBC chief economist Craig Wright says it’s going to get worse.

“Further policy intervention would be wise to cool surging home prices in Toronto, as the market has become disconnected with economic fundamentals,” said Wright. “The last time affordability in Canada’s largest city was this poor, in 1990, the housing market subsequently fell into a deep and prolonged slump.”

In Vancouver, there was improvement towards the end of 2016, but even so it remained the least affordable in Canada at 84.8 per cent (down from 90.0 per cent in the third quarter.)

Copyright © 2017 Key Media Pty Ltd

Colliers International Apartment Source – Year End Edition 2016

Thursday, March 30th, 2017


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Property demands make for increased pressure for strata corporations to sell

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

Soaring demand for property puts greater pressure on strata to sell

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony:

Our strata corporation is considering calling for an 80 per cent vote to sell our property. The council brought a proposal from a developer to the owners four months ago with a recommendation that we consider selling. The reasons were that the offer would give us each 40 per cent above our current assessed values and we would avoid a special levy of $15,000 a unit for repairs coming up in 2019. 

We have two issues that owners require more information before we consider the options.  Since the offer, our assessments have been published in January that have increased our values by 20 per cent, so suddenly the 40 per cent offer above value has been cut in half. 

Is the strata allowed to renegotiate the deal with the developer? Is there a good reason why our strata is only negotiating with one buyer?

Dan L

Dear Dan

Since the change in the Strata Property Act in 2016, the vote to wind up a strata corporation was reduced from a unanimous vote (100 per cent of the owners) to an 80-per-cent vote (80 per cent of the votes on the schedule of voting rights). 

The reduction in the voting threshold has made it marginally easier for strata corporations to consider an offer and the increase in demand for property to develop new projects has significantly increased the pressure on strata corporations to consider selling their strata.

What consumers want is the best price for the least complicated terms in the shortest period possible. To ensure your strata attracts the highest price, it is in your best interest to retain an experienced commercial broker who can establish the best profile for your property and then go to the world market and bring offers to your strata. Once your strata has the authority to market the property — normally a vote of the owners at a general meeting instructing council to retain a commercial broker and  proceed with marketing — it takes up to 90 days before for the offers to be considered by council.

Once your council has short listed a number of offers, like any conventional transaction, it has the ability to counter back and negotiate the price and the terms and conditions of the offer. At this point, the council will call a meeting of the owners to provide the information and get instruction from the owners on what to do next.

The owners may reject all the offers, in which case the sale option may end, or they may instruct the council to direct their lawyer to set up the special general meeting for the owners to pass an 80-per-cent vote to wind up the strata, and the resolutions for the sale, the Supreme Court application to approve the sale, the appointment of a liquidator to receive the funds, wind up the strata corporation and distribute the funds to the owners. 

The time period for the process is significant. As a result, there may be inflationary pressure on property values and what seemed like a good deal may be suddenly marginal.  If the proposed deal fails, nothing prevents the strata from renegotiating a new deal for the owners to consider. 

There are many variables that affect value. Location, current zoning, future zoning, community plans, demand, market conditions, and negotiations will impact every potential deal.

Until the strata goes to market for an open-bidding process, you have no way of knowing what your development potential may be. There is no way to verify maximum value in negotiating with only one investor. To get the best price and terms, consider using a commercial broker to conduct a broad marketing process and experienced legal services to act as your negotiator for the terms and conditions. 

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.

NAVIO at the Creek 177 two and three bedroom homes at 95 East 1st Avenue and 1551 Ontario by Concert

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

The look is both stylish and functional at Concert?s NAVIO at the Creek

Mary Frances Hill
The Province

NAVÍO at The Creek

What: A total of 177 two and three-bedroom homes  (condos and townhomes) in two concrete buildings of 12 and 14 storeys overlooking a 2.7-acre public park, steps to False Creek and the seawall, Olympic Village and BC Place Stadium.

Where: 1678/1688 Pullman Porter St., Vancouver

Residence sizes and prices: Remaining homes from 1,358 — 2.,035 sq. ft.; from $1,929,900

Developer and builder: Concert

Sales centre address:  1551 Quebec St., Vancouver

Sales centre hours: Noon — 6 p.m., Sat — Thurs

For Sharon Bortolotto and Jennifer Brown, function comes first, and form and beauty follow. This principle applies to every decision they made in the design of the display space at Concert’s NAVÍO at the Creek — from the layout of the furnishings to the smallest details in décor.

“When we design a space, we are always thinking of how the space will be used, and styling a space is directly reflective of the function,” says Bortolotto, who worked with Brown, her BBA Design Consultants co-principal, on the planned condo community display in False Creek.
Visitors to the display space will no doubt be charmed by the reflective qualities in the collection of pendant fixtures over a dining table from Studio Italia, and the unique coffee table with the bowl-shaped base, a find from Molteni from Ital Interiors, to name just two.

These pieces — the dining pendants that shimmer with bronze iridescent glass, in particular — fit into the designers’ original goal to craft a display home that shines and reflects moodily at night against the warm lights of the city with the slow fade of daylight.

“We wanted warm, metal accents to complement the sunset,” adds Bortolotto, speaking on behalf of the design team.

Visitors are greeted by artwork by David Burdeny and custom items, like the entertainment unit, which houses the TV and art objects, acts as vibrant backdrops in the living space.

Both the kitchen and bathroom are constructed in marble, grey dark wood and white, though the same palette manages to accomplish different moods in each room. The kitchen island granite was chosen for its durability, but its attractive veining added its own visual appeal to its long-lasting function, Bartolotto says. “It became the art for the kitchen.”
The back wall’s wood veneer upper cabinets are set in the centre and flanked by glossy white cabinets.
“It is the balance and symmetry of this back wall that makes it work with the unique island,” she says.

As it is in the kitchen, the vision behind the bathroom is all about effortless elegance and a sensual mood. BBA’s designers give credit to the large-format porcelain floor and wall tiles that emulate Italian marble, while “the dark wood veneer vanity paired with the silk wallpaper create a handsomely elegant ambience,” says Bortolotto.
Buyers looking for space for growing families or downsizing from very large homes are propelling the demand in the False Creek area for larger properties, so the BBA designers made larger kitchens, dining and living spaces and well-planned bathrooms a priority. “Extra pantry storage and a large kitchen island for entertainment is key,” Bortolotto adds.

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.

Robert Dunsmuir, the ?Coal King? of British Columbia

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

To mark Canada?s 150th birthday, we are counting down to Canada Day with profiles of 150 noteworthy British Columbians.

John Mackie
The Province

Robert Dunsmuir was the richest man in British Columbia in the 19th century.

How rich? He once owned two million acres between Esquimalt and Nanaimo — about one-fifth of Vancouver Island.

The giant land grant was his fee from the federal government for completing the national railway by building the Esquimalt to Nanaimo rail line in 1883. (He also got $750,000.)

But building the E&N Railway wasn’t the source of his wealth — coal mining was. When he died in 1889, the Vancouver News-Advertiser’s front page headline was “The Coal King is Dead.”

Born in Scotland, Dunsmuir moved to colonial Vancouver Island in 1851 to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company, which had several mines on the west coast.

In 1853, Dunsmuir discovered two seams of coal near Nanaimo. He went on to work for the Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company, which bought the HBC claims, then was hired to run the Harewood Coal Company.

In 1869, he discovered coal while fishing at Diver Lake in Wellington, which is now part of Nanaimo. A few months later he found more coal, secured financing and started his own company.

According to historian Daniel T. Gallacher, within a decade Dunsmuir’s collieries “surpassed in size and output the combined value of all other British Columbia coal mines.”

Dunsmuir was a hard-nosed businessman and often fought with labour. Gallacher notes that when miners threatened to strike in 1877, Dunsmuir locked them out. The miners capitulated after four months, and he hired them back at a third of their previous wages.

Dunsmuir was elected to the provincial legislature as a member for Nanaimo in 1882, and built a big mansion, Fairview, in the capital. He was building an even bigger house, Craigdarroch Castle, when he died.

The News-Advertiser estimated Dunsmuir’s income “at $1,000 per day and upwards” when he died, in an era when there was no income tax. Dunsmuir’s empire was worth an estimated $15 million, which is about $400 million today.

His family fought over his fortune for years after his death. In 1908, his widow Joan sued their son James, who at various times was premier and lieutenant-governor of British Columbia.

Her statement of claim in 1908 said that Robert Dunsmuir had left her his entire estate in 1889, but a few years later her sons James and Alexander had bought her out for only $400,000.

Joan claimed her sons had “misrepresented” the value of the business, which amounted to fraud. But she didn’t win the suit.

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.

Real estate brokerages continue to innovate

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

Justin da Rosa

With competition ramping up in Canada’s hottest market, brokerages continue to find ways to make the home buying process easier. The newest innovation: online condo shopping.

“We’re the first brokerage and real estate marketplace in Canada to empower buyers to purchase a home online,” Ray Taaeb, CEO and co-founder of Casalova, said. “Buying a condo, or even looking for a rental unit, is incredibly stressful and time-consuming. We want to remove the legwork and make it as easy as possible to make the purchase. This feature will give homebuyers the opportunity to research and compare all units without any pressure before making an informed decision.”

Casalova, a Toronto-based brokerage, announced this week a partnership with Dream Maker Developments that allows condo shoppers to purchase units online, which allows buyers to avoid visiting sales centres.

Potential buyers are able to review the units’ details; including floor plans and features.

Purchasing a unit requires the submission of paperwork and a depost, paid by credit card, all done online.

The program also allows a standard 10-day cooling off period for all buyers.

Online sales for pre-build condos opens April 3. The first development to participate in the program is the King Urban Towns in Richmond Hill.

“Our team is thrilled to be working with Casalova on this new project. This digital approach appeals to a huge market of potential buyers and also saves resources that would otherwise be invested in model suites and sales centers,” said Isaac Olowolafe, CEO of Dream Maker Developments. “Developers are always looking for new ways to reach more homebuyers and this offering modernizes how people purchase a pre-construction condo.” 

Copyright © 2017 Key Media Pty Ltd

Vancouver Needs “Housing Strategy Reset”

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

City’s record housing supply is not creating the kind of housing needed by the ‘missing middle,’ according to report debated at City Hall this week

Joannah Connolly

Vancouver is seeing record home-building numbers but that is not solving the housing affordability problems because it is not the kind of housing that people need, according to Vancouver Housing & Homelessness Strategy Reset – Emerging Directions, a report discussed by council this week.

The report said that the “business as usual development pattern will not supply the housing needed” and that “Vancouver’s economic prosperity, neighbourhood diversity, and livability are all at risk… Employers cannot attract and retain new employees.

It added that, “More supply is needed, [and] municipalities need to improve approval times for affordable housing.”

But the report emphasized that such supply needed to specifically cater for the “missing middle” – middle-class, average-income-earning residents and families who are unable to get into home ownership, or even afford adequate rental housing for their needs. It added that affordability was not just about housing, with utilities, food, clothing and transit also expensive.

The report recommends that not only should supply be increased further, but also that half of the current supply of one-bedroom units should be larger units to better serve families.

The city has created a video about how it is planning to address housing needs.

© 2017