Archive for February, 2019

CLI Points to Flattening Commercial Activity in 2019

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

BCREA Commercial Leading Indicator down


Vancouver, BC – February 28, 2019. The BCREA Commercial Leading Indicator (CLI) declined by 1.8 points to 134.5 from the third to the fourth quarter of 2018. Compared to this time one year ago, the index is about 1 per cent lower.  

“Following several years of robust growth, the BC economy slowed in 2018 and the CLI is  reflecting that slowdown,” says BCREA Deputy Chief Economist Brendon Ogmundson. “That means the economic environment for commercial real estate activity will be less favourable in 2019.” 

Slowing provincial economic activity continued in the fourth quarter, led by weak retail sales and a fourth quarter drop in manufacturing shipments in the forestry sector. Adding to those declines were falling manufacturing employment and a jump in short-term credit risk spreads. As a result, each component of the CLI posted a decline in the fourth quarter. Recent volatility in the CLI has left the underlying trend in the CLI flat over the past two quarters, signaling a slower growth environment for commercial real estate activity.

Davie & Nicola 128 homes in a 22 storey tower at 1485 Davie Street by Vivagrand Developments

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

Davie & Nicola presents rare opportunity for old-world glamour, high-end features in West End highrise

The Province

Those fortunate enough to live in one of Vancouver’s oldest and most beloved neighbourhoods, the West End, never take their surroundings for granted, and for good reason. Bounded by English Bay, Coal Harbour, Stanley Park and the downtown core, this is one of the most festive and downright exciting places to live, where natural beauty and urban bustle happily co-exist, and one is never at a loss for things to do or see.

But it’s also a neighbourhood with a scarcity of new residential options, which makes the new Davie & Nicola boutique residential highrise all the more noteworthy. Marketed as a rare opportunity to live in the West End in homes that combine old-world glamour with high-end features, Davie & Nicola by Vivagrand Developments is the first residential project to be planned in the vicinity in over 11 months. Its 128 homes (which start from $789,900) are ideal for local downsizers who want to remain downtown or anybody longing for the vibrancy of this unique urban setting.

While Davie & Nicola’s location is enviable, its specific address is also noteworthy. Situated across the street from the heritage-designated Gabriola House, the tower’s west-facing residents are guaranteed unobstructed and permanent views of the sunset over English Bay, in addition to being just blocks away from the beach and the shops of Davie and Denman streets.


Matt Stone, sales manager for Rennie, says, “Vivagrand appreciates the history and character of the West End and has created a 21-storey building that pays homage to the neighbourhood, with an exterior that is consistent with the architecture of its immediate surroundings with extensive use of stone, marble and wood. It really is an exclusive and highly-anticipated project.”

The floor plans of Davie & Nicola consist of one bed, one bed and den, two beds and three bed condos, penthouses, and three townhomes. Vivagrand has outfitted the building with amenity spaces including a gym with cardio machines and weights, a meeting room, concierge service and a lobby with library lounge. The lobby was inspired by those of international hotels, bringing a warm welcome to residents with natural marble, dark wood tones, luxury metallic accents and dramatic light fixtures. A cozy landscaped courtyard will provide residents with peace amid the hustle of downtown.


The homes themselves, from Cristina Oberti Interior Design, reflect Vivagrand’s commitment to bring traditional luxury to the project. The over-height solid core interior doors are elegant and act as added soundproofing, while engineered hardwood flooring is evident throughout. The living areas feature one-of-a-kind cove lighting that provides warm and diffused illumination. The kitchens have Italian-imported Binova cabinetry with soft-close hardware; solid quartz countertops that complement statement-making marble slab backsplashes; and large islands with solid quartz countertops and waterfall edges.

Binova cabinetry with soft-close hardware also adorns the bathrooms, which are encased in marble with oversized tiles blanketing the floor and walls. In addition, the bathrooms have oversized showers in frameless glass enclosures with marble mosaic-tiled bases and linear drains.

Attention to detail is evident in all the homes. Master closets feature built-in organizers; smart locks on suite entry doors provide optimal security; the bathrooms have in-floor heating by Nuheat controllable via smart phone; and Kohler is the fixture brand for all bathrooms and kitchens (the top of the line appliance package is by Sub Zero and Wolf). As for the balconies, they are articulated to maximize outdoor living opportunities.

Davie & Nicola homes are built for comfort thanks to high efficiency heating with heat recovery ventilation, air conditioning systems, smart NEST thermostats for efficiency and wireless control, plus durable triple-glazed windows that act as an enhanced acoustic buffer, creating a tranquil living space in addition to welcoming an abundance of natural light.

But as impressive as Davie & Nicola’s features are, at the end of the day its biggest selling draw is its location. This is a neighbourhood of predominantly young professionals, although families also thrive thanks to the schools and parks in the vicinity. Plus, it’s a famously walkable neighbourhood, close to transit – and a cyclist’s paradise.

Stone says, “We’re getting ready for private appointment previews in March, and given that Davie & Nicola is such a special project, we’re expecting enthusiastic response from a wide range of prospective buyers.”

© 2019 Postmedia Network Inc.

Strata must maintain and repair dryer ducts and vents

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

Pipes, wires, ducts and cables within a strata complex are common property

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony:

Our highrise is having an ongoing problem with dryer vents and ducting that was inserted into the concrete floors. They are either too long, too small or have somehow been damaged during construction. The result is the ducting plugs; the exhaust saturates the lint trapped in the duct, the ducts leak and the ceilings in our units are all being damaged.

To solve this problem, council has decided that from now on, the ducting and exterior vents will be each owner’s responsibility to maintain and repair.

With so many elderly people in our building, the result will either be avoidance because they can’t or won’t manage the work, or injuries resulting from the maintenance.

How can we convince our council this needs to be controlled by the strata corporation to ensure ducting is cleaned regularly? Many owners are concerned about fires as well as the council has threatened owners with the liability of a fire if they don’t clear their ducts.

Marta P.,  Vancouver

Dear Marta:

Pipes, wires, ducts and cables that are used in connection with other strata lots or pass through a ceiling or wall that forms a boundary between two strata lots or a strata lot and common property, are deemed by the Strata Property Act to be common property.

The act and regulations do not permit a strata corporation to make an owner responsible for common property and the strata council or owners either as a rule, policy or bylaw cannot change the definitions of common property.

On your strata plan, your dryer ducts leave your dryers and enter the floor ducts between two units and exhaust through a small exterior vent on the face of the balcony. The floor forms a boundary between two strata lots, which deems the vents and ducting as common property. Whether they are for exclusive use or not is irrelevant. The ducting could be in the floor or ceiling between two strata lots, or run through an attic space that is common property.

In any case, the dryer ducting in your building within the floors and the exterior vent is common property. As a result, the strata corporation must maintain and repair the dryer ducts and exhaust vents.

From a practical view, it is always better for the strata corporation to maintain and repair any items that can be grouped in quantities. It is much more economical to have one contractor clean 142 ducts and vents compared to each owner contracting separately. Your strata corporation can also confirm the work has been completed. 

In extreme cases, clogged ducts between the dryer and the floor duct, and dryers that are not routinely cleaned will result in a fire. There were several dryer vent fires across Canada in 2018, all caused by occupants not cleaning the dryer lint catch, or the pipe that goes to the vents.

In the event a floor duct cannot be cleaned as a result of a collapse during construction, it may be necessary for the owner to use a condenser drying unit or install venting within the strata lot space. In this case, the owner would require the approval of the strata corporation before making any alterations to the structure of the building or the building envelope for the exhaust. Secondary lint traps installed between the dryer and the area where the duct enters a wall or floor will greatly reduce the buildup. 

Every strata corporation and strata plan have variations. Always consult the registered strata plan to determine the designation of property and the bylaws of the strata to determine the division of responsibilities between the owners and the corporation.

© 2019 Postmedia Network Inc.

“Sleeper” towns now wide awake to investors in Manitoba

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

Brandon, Portage la Prairie and Steinbach among the hot spots for investment in Canada’s central province

Geoff Kirbyson
Western Investor

Manitoba economic development officials give notice that economic and real estate opportunities are thriving outside of Winnipeg’s Perimeter Highway.

Certainly the bulk of the province’s population of 1.3 million is concentrated in the capital city, but communities such as Brandon, Portage la Prairie and Steinbach are hitting above their weight when it comes to growth and new development. Some may call them “sleeper” communities, but they have awakened the interest of big players.

There’s no better example than Portage la Prairie, located about 45 minutes west of Winnipeg. Over the last 24 months, the city of 13,300 has locked down $1.2 billion worth of new investment. That’s billion with a “b.”

The momentum started building two years ago when Roquette, a France-based company, announced plans to build a $400 million pea protein processing facility in town. A year later, Simplot Canada unveiled plans for a $460 million expansion to more than double production at its potato processing facility and the tonnage of spuds it would need from local growers. 

Then McCain Foods announced a $45 million reinvestment in its own potato processing plant and Green Sky Labs, a producer of medicinal cannabis, finalized plans for a $25 million plant in nearby Newton.

“I don’t think we’ve ever been more optimistic,” said Vern May, executive director of Portage Regional Economic Development.

All of the development will result in more than 500 new jobs in town, with hiring starting near the end of this year and continuing into 2020. All those people are going to need places to live, and more than 400 new apartments, townhouses and condominiums are currently under construction to meet the demand.

A number of well-known restaurant and food services banners are coming to town, too, including Mr. Mikes Steakhouse, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Booster Juice.

May said his pitch to potential investors in the region includes having the best hydro rates in North America, an attractive attribute to growing industries including cannabis, data centres and Bitcoin mining.

“The Roquette announcement was a big eye-opener for people for what’s possible in Manitoba outside of Winnipeg,” May said.


Eyes are wide open in Steinbach, too. In fact, things are so good in the community of about 17,000, which is located 45 minutes southeast of Winnipeg, that they’re running out of land. The city recently completed a land annexation of about 2,700 acres from the neighbouring rural municipality of Hanover because business demand has outgrown the existing space.

“We’re always looking forward to ensure the long-term viability of Steinbach,” said Troy Warkentin, Steinbach city manager.

A new commercial development started coming up out of the ground last fall. The first phase of Steinbach North Business Park, which will have commercial, office, retail and services on nearly 80 acres of land, is scheduled to open this summer.

The first three phases of Schinkel Properties’ Steinbach North will cover 48 acres. Another 50 acres on the west side of the property that will be developed as demand warrants.

Warkentin points to the city’s taxable assessment of all industrial, institutional, commercial and residential property to gauge the city’s growth. It was $526 million in 2010, and eight years later it had nearly doubled to about $939 million.

Last year also saw about $57 million in building permits taken out, the same as the year before, and while that’s less than the record permit value of $122 million in 2012, it’s clear that real estate development, particularly in commercial and institutional with schools, remains strong.

Of course, you need people to support all of the activity, and Steinbach has been growing its population by 3.7 per cent annually for the last 15 years. According to the most recent census figures, the city had a population of 15,829 in 2016.

Much of the growth is directly attributable to Steinbach’s active immigration policy over the past decade, which has seen people from the Philippines and other parts of Asia and Europe come to town to put down roots. The average number of new arrivals per year from 2011 to 2016 was 740.

Agriculture has always played a significant role in the health of the region, but now,  with manufacturing, transportation, pharmaceuticals, retail and financial services playing bigger roles, Steinbach’s economic base is better able to weather any economic cycles, Warkentin said.

With Winnipeg less than an hour away, the city has always had some tough competition close at hand, but Warkentin said local business owners have always found a way to make it work in their trading area, which he estimates is about 80,000 people and draws shoppers from as far away as northwestern Ontario.


Private-sector investment is fuelling the optimism in Manitoba’s second-biggest city. 

Elisabeth Saftiuk, executive director of the Brandon Downtown Development Corp., said a number of projects in the central business district are breathing new life into formerly abandoned buildings.

For example, the former Central Fire Station, which was built in 1911 and served as the city’s fire- hall for many decades, has found a new use after sitting empty for a few years. Local entrepreneur Anna Dumas opened the Prairie Firehouse restaurant three years ago, a destination location for sampling delicious local cuisine.

“We are simply lucky that she chose this building and our downtown. This redevelopment has been nothing short of transformational for this stretch of Princess Avenue,” Saftiuk said.

The redevelopment of the Fraser Block, a 129-year-old building on Rosser Avenue, is another example. A local dermatologist and his wife bought the long-vacant three-storey property, opened a coffee shop on the main floor and are transforming the second and third floors into a day spa.

“It will be a tourist draw, which will be critically important for the city,” according to Saftiuk.

These projects have been facilitated with Brandon’s redevelopment grant, an incentive program that will fund a maximum of 25 per cent of the total project costs up to $175,000. The rent abatement program has also been integral in Brandon’s ability to attract new businesses to its downtown.

“We are experiencing great momentum downtown but there remains great opportunity. We have available properties – I prefer that term over ‘vacant’– and many available storefronts. I will be working hard to fill these high-traffic spaces with unique businesses that attract residents and tourists alike into the neighbourhood and improve the downtown experience for everyone,” she said.

The final word goes to Portage la Prairie’s May. Before coming to Portage la Prairie, he used to work in a similar capacity in both Minnedosa and Souris, where he was constantly dealing with the chicken-and-egg scenario.

“It was always, ‘How many new storefronts did you open?’ But first you need to create the jobs. Then the storefronts come,” May said. 


Churchill, which has the only Arctic port in Canada, is again open for business. And, due to climate change, the port could play an expanding role in shipments of everything from grain to oil.

The northern Manitoba community and deepwater port on Hudson Bay lost its only land link to the rest of Canada in May 2017 when flooding and washouts severed the line.

U.S.-based Omnitrax had owned the Hudson Bay Railway and the Port of Churchill since 1997. 

Onmitrax sold the line and port last August to Arctic Gateway Group LP. Once the sale was finalized, work began  on repairing the line, which was completed in November of last year.

The federal government contributed $117 million for the acquisition and repair of the rail line.

“Today’s announcement marks the beginning of a new chapter for Churchill,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said as the line opened.

The Hudson Bay Route Association, which advocates for moving grain through the northern port, is pleased with the reopening of the rail line.

“It’s great news. It’s a long time coming,” said the association’s president Elden Boon.

He expects regular rail service to Churchill to begin in the near future and said the Arctic Gateway Group is now focusing on the port. In its heyday, grain exports through Churchill averaged about 500,000 tonnes per year.

 Actic Gateway foresees moving pulses, wheat and canola through Churchill in the future, Boon added.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister noted the Port of Churchill is Canada’s only inland deep-sea port and a part of the mid-continental trade corridor. “The port has intrinsic advantages. With climate change, the port will have a broader season, potentially, than it’s had,” he said.

The warming climate has already added a month to the shipping season in Hudson Bay compared with 30 years ago, accordimg to a University of Manitoba study.

Between 2030 and 2050, some models predict sea ice around Churchill’s port could  begin to look like that in the Baltic Sea, where shipping is open year-round.

© Copyright 2019 Western Investor

BC proposes new plans to help vulnerable borrowers

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

The Business Practices and Consumer Portection Act upgrade

Steve Randall
Canadian Real Estate Wealth

The BC government wants to introduce a new range of protections for financially vulnerable borrowers.

The proposals aim to help those who are living paycheque to paycheque and may seek credit from alternative lenders at high interest rates which compound their financial fragility.

As well as interest rates, the proposed legislation would ensure that terms and conditions are fair and do not trap borrowers in a never-endingf debt cycle.

The proposed amendments to the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act include rules to:

  • create borrowers’ rights and remedies;
  • set limits on the total cost of borrowing;
  • prohibit certain fees and charges;
  • restrict the use of borrowers’ personal information;
  • protect people from wage assignment, terms and conditions that are unfair, potentially harmful and expensive “hard sell” options, as well as enticements to enter into high-cost credit product agreements;
  • require businesses that provide high-cost credit products to be licensed by Consumer Protection BC; and
  • enable Consumer Protection BC to enforce the act’s amendments and future regulations.

The BC government says that these proposals would build on changes to payday lending rules introduced in 2018 that included a ban on selling insurance on payday loans.

Copyright © 2019 Key Media Pty Ltd

CBRE is forecasting a “once in a generation” moment for CRE

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

The commercial real estate is in demand

Steve Randall
Canadian Real Estate Wealth

Market conditions for Canada’s commercial real estate sector are lining up a “once in a generation” moment according to a new outlook.

CBRE makes its forecast based on record low vacancy rates, rising rents, waves of new construction, and an unprecedented bargaining position for landlords.

Canadian property market fundamentals remain incredibly strong, and technological change, tech business growth, and tech talent are the dominant factors driving demand across all commercial real estate sectors,” commented Paul Morassutti, Vice Chairman for CBRE Canada. “Growth is often synonymous with discomfort. In many Canadian cities, real estate will remain at the forefront in both regards.”

All sectors in demand

The office market – especially in Toronto – is one of the CRE highlights with the downtown vacancy rate remaining the lowest in North America since Q2 2016, currently at 2.7%. That means 10-year lease terms with top pricing are becoming standard.

Businesses are being forced to plan ahead and think about how they can make smarter use of existing workspaces.

Warehouse and distribution space is also in high demand, enabling landlords to increase prices and push for 15-year leases. Vancouver’s availability rate for this sector fell to 2.3% in 2018 and the region leads the world for rental growth rate.

For multi-family rentals, inventory remains tight in many markets including Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax which have overall apartment vacancy rates below 2.0%.

Construction rises, challenged by costs and red tape

Fears of overbuilding are being eased by high demand, leading to a surge in construction nationwide with 14.6 million sq. ft. of office and 18.5 million sq. ft. of industrial product under construction in 2019, most of it in Toronto and Vancouver.

However, CBRE says that developers are being constrained by record land prices, increasing development charges, rising material and labour costs, plus a prolonged and more involved planning and approval process.

“Approval delays are the most problematic factor limiting much needed new construction,” commented Morassutti. “There is already a shortage of almost all types of quality commercial property, and rising costs and red tape threaten to create an even greater imbalance. Commercial developers are now facing similar bottlenecks to those experienced by the residential market, where the effects of demand outstripping supply over a prolonged period have been detrimental. Government and business interests need to align to ensure that the Canadian economy has the physical space required to grow and our cities can continue to prosper.”

Copyright © 2019 Key Media Pty Ltd

Less sales, lower prices are becoming the new normal

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

The weak housing market affects mortgage lending

Ephraim Vecina
Canadian Real Estate Wealth

With housing deceleration nationwide becoming especially apparent in January, observers warned that the strict lending rules introduced last year might have had a more drastic impact than anticipated.

“The decline in last month above and beyond what was observed a year ago is indicative of the fact that the markets are not merely reacting to new regulations, but the markets have embraced a more systematic response that is characterized by fewer transactions and lower prices,” Ryerson University associate professor Murtaza Haider and real estate industry veteran Stephen Moranis wrote in a recent analysis for the Financial Post.

January sales activity shrank by 4% annually, following an already noticeable 2.4% decline during the same month last year.

“The January 2019 statistics offer the first opportunity to compare the annual change in housing market dynamics after the stress test came into effect,” Haider and Moranis stated, adding that “the housing market slowdown is deeper rooted than a direct and immediate reaction to policy interventions.”

More importantly, a possible domino effect stemming from the largest banks’ mortgage operations should not be ignored.

“The weakness in housing markets also affects mortgage lending, a business The Big Five banks continue to dominate in Canada. The continued slowdown in housing sales may have influenced banks’ mortgage portfolios — the first signs of such an effect could soon be visible…”

Taken together, these developments should make the federal government step up and finally “rethink the policy interventions made in the recent past and see if there is any new evidence that warrants a change in policy.”

Copyright © 2019 Key Media Pty Ltd

BC’s housing market is starting to turn a corner

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

BCREA expects a 2% gain in 2019

Steve Randall
Canadian Real Estate Wealth

The declining trend of home sales in British Columbia is expected to end in 2019 with a modest climb in forecasted sales, although conditions will remain subdued.

The British Columbia Real Estate Association expects MLS residential sales in the province to gain 2% in 2019 to 80,000 units, up from 78,345 in 2018.

By 2020, the forecast is 85,500 units, a 6.9% increase to take sales just above the 10-year average of 85,800 units.

“The negative shock to affordability and purchasing power created by the B20 stress test on mortgage borrowers is expected to continue constraining housing demand in the province this year,” said Cameron Muir, BCREA Chief Economist. “Favourable demographics along with continuing strong performance of the BC economy is expected to underpin housing demand over the next two years.”

Prices to remain flat

With inventory levels higher than average as a result of weakened sales, BCREA is not expecting increased prices.

Instead the forecast is for a slight increase of 0.5% to an average price of $716,100.

Copyright © 2019 Key Media Pty Ltd

BC becomes first in Canada with housing ‘integrity’ register

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

B.C. launches condo pre-sale registry

Steve Randall
Canadian Real Estate Wealth

The identity and citizenship of all parties in a condo or strata transaction in British Columbia will be listed in a new register.

The BC finance minister confirmed Monday that the provincial government has launched the Condo and Strata Assignment Integrity Register (CSAIR) with the aim of fighting tax evasion and adding more transparency to BC real estate transactions.

“For too long, speculators and tax evaders have been taking advantage of loopholes in our real estate market, driving up prices and shutting British Columbians out of the market,” said Carole James, Minister of Finance. “B.C.’s housing market needs to work for British Columbians. With this new register, we are leading the country in real estate transparency and taking real action to moderate the condo market. We’re already starting to see results in Metro Vancouver.”

The gap in information caused by pre-sale condo flipping will be closed with this new register as developers will collect and report information including identity and citizenship of all parties.

First quarter reporting

The register is a secure online portal via myLTSA Enterprise and developers are required to provide information from the first quarter of 2019 by April 30 and pay a $195 fee per assignment.

“The condo and strata assignment register is a step in the right direction by creating another tool for transparency and closing tax evasion loopholes in the real estate market,” said James Cohen with Transparency International Canada and Canadians for Tax Fairness. “We hope to see the B.C. government continue this very important path of shining a light on real estate, particularly bringing transparency to anonymous beneficial owners of corporations and trusts, so they are not a soft target for tax evaders and money launderers.”

Copyright © 2019 Key Media Pty Ltd

B.C. finally brings down the axe on speculators

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

BC launches the Condo and Strata Assignment integrity Register

Ephraim Vecina
Canadian Real Estate Wealth

B.C.’s Ministry of Finance has announced the launch of the Condo and Strata Assignment Integrity Register, the latest thrust in its efforts to crack down on the speculation that has inflamed the province’s housing prices to unprecedented heights.

Finance Minister Carol James said that the platform, which is the first of its kind in Canada, will ensure fairness and transparency in the industry.

“For too long, speculators and tax evaders have been taking advantage of loopholes in our real estate market, driving up prices and shutting British Columbians out of the market,” James said, as quoted by The Canadian Press.

One of the registry’s goals is a mandate upon condo developers to collect and report the identity and citizenship of any buyer assigning their purchase contract of a condo to another party (frequently at a higher price point) before the project that the unit is associated with reaches completion.

The reports will be filed by developers every quarter, with the first (covering January 1 – March 31) due April 30.

“The B.C. government will use this information to ensure that people who assign condos are paying the appropriate income tax, capital gains and property transfer tax,” the news release of the registry’s launch noted.

B.C. has set a filing fee of $195 per assignment, which it assured is a very small price compared to the cost of flipping a condo.

Copyright © 2019 Key Media Pty Ltd