Archive for July, 2016

George Gibsons Marine Resort and Residences Gower Point Road Gibsons 39 waterfront condos by Klaus Fuerniss Enterprises Inc

Saturday, July 30th, 2016


The Vancouver Sun

Project: George Gibsons Marine Resort and Residences

Project location: Gower Point Road, Gibsons

Project size and scope: 39 waterfront condominium homes ranging from one to three bedrooms, from 494 to 2,121 square feet

Prices: Starting at $399,900 for one bedroom and $699,900 for two bedrooms

Developer: Klaus Fuerniss Enterprises Inc.

Architect: Omicron

Interior designer: False Creek Design Group

Sales centre: 316 Gower Point Road, Gibsons. Open daily (except Tuesday and Wednesday) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Sales contact: Steve Taylor ([email protected])

Phone: 604-218-1856


A new residential and hotel development with a familiar name is coming to the Gibsons waterfront on the Sunshine Coast.

George Gibsons Marine Resort and Residences takes its name from George Gibson, a former British naval officer who landed on Gibsons’ shores in 1886 and never left.

The town named after him, now home to more than 4,000 of the 30,000 or so people who live on the Sunshine Coast, is no doubt best known as the setting for the iconic Canadian television show The Beachcombers. Molly’s Reach, the café featured in the series, is still the most prominent landmark in town.

Gibsons residents love the town’s sleepy charms, so it’s probably not a surprise that the project stirred up some controversy when it was first proposed almost 11 years ago. Some residents objected to the size of the development, its potential impact town’s aquifer and the possible loss of Gibsons’ village character.

It took years and several design modifications to win town council approval of the project, but now all systems are go, says developer Klaus Fuerniss. 

George is the realization of a long-standing vision by Fuerniss, who has a background in the hotel industry, served as vice-president of Expo 86 and has guided the opening of major facilities ranging from the Vancouver Convention Centre to the Whistler Conference Centre.

Fuerniss, a Sunshine Coast resident for 21 years, is convinced the area is ready for a top-tier hotel, luxury residences and a spa with a focus on health and wellness.

He believes the residential part of the project will appeal to residents of Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast, as well as people from the northwest U.S. attracted by our lower dollar.

“The main interest, no question, is coming from the Vancouver market,” he says. “It’s a downsizing opportunity with a chance to live in a smaller community that is accessible to the downtown core.”

A 39-unit condominium building is one of two buildings on the site, joined to the hotel complex by an outdoor plaza. The condos will range in size from 494 to more than 2,100 square feet.

There are more than 20 different floor plans in the George. Buyers will have a choice of units with one bedroom, one bedroom and den, two bedrooms and two bedrooms plus den, as well as one three-bedroom penthouse.

The finishes in the show suite, a short walk from the project site, attest to the high-end feel the developers are going for.

Forget any preconceptions you might have that a residential project at the entrance to the Sunshine Coast’s “cottage country” would have a West Coast rustic feel.

In the open-galley kitchen, engineered stone countertops and sleek European cabinets that incorporate an integrated refrigerator and dishwasher give the suite a contemporary look that would be right at home in a downtown Vancouver condo. A gas cooktop and a wall oven will appeal to cooks interested in taking advantage of the coast’s local food products, and ample bar seating along the island makes the kitchen perfect for entertaining.

Dark engineered wood floors contrast with the off-white engineered stone on the fireplace (buyers have a choice of three colour palettes). And floor-to-ceiling windows will take advantage of the stunning views on the waterfront, which will look over the marina to Keats Island and the Coast Mountains in the distance.

Bathrooms are luxurious, with a free-standing soaker tub under a modern hanging light fixture, a separate shower stall and a double-sink vanity with an engineered stone counter.

For boaters, there will be an opportunity to lease a slip in the adjacent marina so that you could walk from your condo to your boat and be out on the water in minutes.

Sales are expected to start in early August. Prices start at $399,900 for one-bedroom units and $699,900 for two-bedroom suites. Construction is expected to start in late October or early November, Fuerniss says, with projected completion in the spring of 2019.

The project will also incorporate a 116-room hotel that is promising five-star service, as well as a 21,000-square-foot spa focused on health and wellness. For those familiar with the spectacular KurSpa at Sparkling Hill Resort in Vernon, it will share the same European style and include more than 20 treatment rooms and five saunas.

Rounding out the public amenities at George will be a waterfront restaurant, a café, a conference centre, an expanded marina and a pedestrian walkway along the waterfront.

The George development is about a five-minute drive to Langdale, where BC Ferries makes several 40-minute crossings of Howe Sound to Horseshoe Bay every day. But, Fuerniss says, “a part of the overall development is a well-planned commuter service from downtown Vancouver directly to the hotel.”

He thinks a passenger ferry would appeal both to condo residents and hotel clients looking for easy access to downtown Vancouver, as well as others interested in a quick trip to the coast.

“My objective is that people in downtown Vancouver will say to their friends, ‘where do we go for lunch today?’ Well, the commuter ferry will take somewhere around 40 minutes — they can come for lunch and go back a few hours later.”

George, by the numbers:

20: minimum number of floor plans that will be on offer

39: number of condominium homes in the Gibsons project

116: number of rooms in the hotel component

2,121: the size of the largest homes, in square feet

21,000: the project’s health-and-wellness spa, in square feet

© 2016 Postmedia Network Inc.

The Crossing 288 171 Street South Surrey 67 townhomes by Gramercy

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

Spacious townhomes close to nature and U.S. border

The Vancouver Sun

Project name: The Crossing

Project location: 288 171 Street, South Surrey

Project size: 67 townhomes, two, three and  four bedrooms

Residence size: 1,301 — 1,948 square feet

Price: from $489,900

Developer: Gramercy

Architectural design: Barnett Dembek Architects

Interior design: The Mill


Sales centre: 288 171 Street, South Surrey

Hours: Saturday — Thursday, noon — 5 p.m.

Phone: 604-542-2883

Completion date: late spring/early summer 2017

The first hint that you’re approaching somewhat unspoiled territory is a shaded country road. The South Surrey road leads into a neighbourhood that includes a golf course, park land, single-family homes and a new townhome project called The Crossing.

A development of 67 townhomes, The Crossing comprises two-, three- and four-bedroom floor plans that include a bevy of the kind of features that many homebuyers demand today. But for some, it’s the location that is a chief selling point.

“The minute we came down here, we just fell in love with it instantly,” says Linda, who asked that her last name not be used. A 51-year-old buyer, she and her boyfriend Brian have watched the project come to fruition from their rental across the street. Originally from North Vancouver, Linda was living in Clayton Heights before moving to Pacific Douglas.

“We’re a 10-minute walk down to the Peace Portal border crossing and the beach, we have a dog and it’s a great neighbourhood for walking. You can hear wildlife, bird and owls, and all the trees remind me of North Van. It’s sort of a hidden gem, you could say.”

The developer has completed two and nearly a third of five phases, with the others expected to finish this fall and early next year. There are 23 four-beds, 15 three-bed + dens, and 29 two-bed + dens. 

Downsizers have been gravitating to the four-bedrooms, says Fifth Avenue Real Estate Marketing sales manager Mary Kotyakova.

“We thought downsizers would like smaller floor plans, but they still like the feeling of space.”

An attraction of the four-bedroom is the lower-floor bedroom, which comes with its own ensuite, she says.

The other three bedrooms, including a master with a walk-in closet and ensuite, are on the third floor. The main floor, which has nine-foot-high ceilings is taken up by a powder room, a great room and an extra-large kitchen with an island, as well as an area off the kitchen that can be used as a dining room or lounge area.

The three-bedrooms have a den on the lower floor, with living, dining and kitchen on the main and the three bedrooms on the third. The master includes a walk-in closet along with the ensuite. 

The two-bedroom floor plans include a den and powder room on the lower floor. Most homes have arched entryways between living, dining and kitchen areas. These break up what Kotyakova calls a “tunnel-y feel” of the two-bedroom’s main floor.

The kitchen includes a pantry and broom closet. An island is offered as an optional upgrade.

All homes come with decks off the main floor, with a gas hook-up for barbecuing. Transoms above the sliding doors to the decks bring in added natural light. Master bedroom are all large enough to fit a king-sized bed.

Kitchen features include a tile backsplash (beveled porcelain “subway” in some homes, depending on the colour scheme; there are two), solid quartz countertops, wall-mounted oven and five-burner gas cooktop, shaker panel soft-close cabinetry, Samsung double-door fridge, and stainless steel KitchenAid appliance packages.

Other features include pot lights and wide-plank laminate flooring throughout the main floor. Bathrooms include oversized porcelain tile flooring, oversized walk-in showers in ensuites and, in some ensuites, a deep soaker tub.

Homes include a garage (one- or two-car, depending on the home) as well as a carport.

Linda says that she is looking forward to enjoying features like the wall-oven and potlighting, as well as the extra storage afforded by the pantry and the carport.

“They (Gramercy) seem to have actually considered what the needs of people are,” she said. “Like the carport — being able to have a parking spot is something we noticed right away. The garage is filled with Brian’s tools, so there won’t be any car in there!”

The development is designed for extra visitor parking and with community walkways that encourage visitors and residents to enjoy the property. The exteriors are an East Coast-inspired combination of cedar shake and Hardi-board, complemented by wood shutters and arched entries.

When complete, there will also be a small common room for neighbourly gatherings.

Besides downsizing empty nesters, young families and first-time homebuyers are making their way to The Crossing.

“A lot of people are coming in from places like North Van, Deep Cove,” Kotyakova said. There’s even one couple from Kitsilano.

Buyers like the fact that the area is “a little more tucked away,” she says. “They can walk down to Peace Arch Provincial Park and Semiahmoo Bay.”

The location is a short distance from shopping meccas Morgan Crossing and Grandview Corners, not to mention the U.S. border.

But for some, greenery is the more enticing element. Sunnyside Acres Urban Forest, Blackie Spit Park, Crescent Beach, and Dufferin Park are all nearby, as is the Peace Portal Golf Club. “You feel like you’re away from it all here for sure,” Linda says.

And the development backs on to a city-owned green belt, which was recently declared park land. The park land, she says, was “the selling feature for us. We don’t want to feel like there are people on top of us. We back literally on to a lot that has apple trees. I don’t believe there’s any plan to develop that area. We’re hoping not.”

She’s hoping that the area in general doesn’t become overdeveloped.

“People don’t even know it exists, which is the way people down here like it,” she said. “Don’t tell too many people!”

© 2016 Postmedia Network Inc.


Saturday, July 30th, 2016

High prices for Metro property hurt case for such projects

The Vancouver Sun

Tsawwassen Mills, Metro Vancouver’s huge new outlet shopping centre set to open in October, has been slowly rising from the ground just north of the ferry terminal for the last two years.

The reality, said the mall’s director of development Jeff Brown, is that those two years were just the construction phase.

“We were looking for land for 10 years,” Brown said of the Ivanhoe Cambridge project set on the territory of the Tsawwassen First Nation, about 30 kilometres south of downtown Vancouver. “That’s because it’s not just about finding a big parcel of land, but finding the right piece of land.”

Industry observers agree: The 1.2-million-square-foot Tsawwassen Mills could be the last major shopping mall development in the Lower Mainland for the next decade, if not longer. Sky-high land prices throughout the region mean that low-density commercial developments such as malls are a difficult business case to make.

“We foresee one, maybe two, large commercial retail developments in the next 20 years,” says James Smerdon, vice-president and director of retail consulting at Colliers International’s Vancouver office. “And likely not in Burnaby, Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, and the like. If anything, they will be further inland, like Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford or Chilliwack.”

Smerdon said experiences like Ivanhoe’s search for the Tsawwassen Mills site aren’t unusual, with some retailers looking for years to find a store location in Metro Vancouver, only to defer or eventually abandon their search.

And yet Vancouver’s retail-mall market has been doing spectacularly. A recent Avison Young report on the most profitable malls in Canada placed two Vancouver destinations, Pacific Centre and Oakridge, among the top three, and Metropolis at Metrotown in Burnaby ranked ninth. Smerdon said industry numbers show Metro Vancouver stores are often the topselling outlets in the country for many chain retailers.

Rick Amantea, vice-president of communication and partnerships at Park Royal Shopping Centre in West Vancouver, said sales-persquare-foot have risen 30 per cent since 2013.

“In a word, it’s been terrific,” he said.

“We’ve had two major expansions during that time, and we are firing on all cylinders. Some of the … upscale retailers are seeing the biggest growth.”

Another new development, McArthur Glen’s Designer Outlet at Vancouver International Airport, saw revenue for fiscal 2015 surpass initial projections (also by 30 per cent) in its first year of operation, attracting four million visitors during that time, said general manager Robert Thurlow.

“We knew this would be a successful centre, but the numbers we got were really staggering,” Thurlow said, noting the 240,000-sq.ft Phase One will be completely leased by this fall, while the 150,000-sq.-ft Phase Two is already being readied.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear about Phase Three by 2022.”

Smerdon said that is the industry trend for Metro Vancouver’s malls: As new players are kept out by limited space, consumer demand continues to boom.

“While there are few new malls, the population here keeps growing,” Smerdon said. “(The region is) adding 40,000 to 50,000 people every year. And the low Canadian dollar is also a huge factor — it’s keeping billions of dollars a year in the Lower Mainland instead of driving people to go to the United States. We are even seeing more American shoppers here, although they are usually not day-trippers and are concentrated in tourist areas like downtown Vancouver or Whistler.”

The increased demand, Smerdon said, is creating what he calls “doughnuts” — where developers are building high-density residential and service centres surrounding low-density malls.

The logical next step, with land for new malls at a premium, will be the densification of the malls themselves, often with “residential components.”

Shape Properties, for example, is densifying and diversifying Brentwood Mall into a “city core,” with 1.1 million square feet of retail and 500,000 square feet of office and residential space. Construction began in 2014 and is scheduled for completion in 2018.

Right next door to Park Royal, Onni is building the Evelyn community of 350 homes. Amantea agreed that “residential components” now make up a key aspect of Park Royal’s transformation.

“Like many other shopping centres, we are looking at ways to include a stronger residential component to go with our alreadystrong, mixed-use space,” he said, noting Park Royal’s existing office tower and rental housing.

“We see — in the next five, 10, 20 years — a real opportunity … to increase the residential component here. If we see more people living on the property, they will become an important part of our shopping market, and more importantly, they will do so without ever having to get into a car.”

Which does not mean that malls without residential space, such as the Mc Arthur Glen Designer Outlet and Tsawwassen Mills, are at a disadvantage. It’s just that their strategies have to be different.

“It can definitely work,” Smerdon said. “But you have to focus on the tenant mix and draw people from a greater distance. Tsawwassen Mills has low-density around its location, so it has 15 first-to-market retailers (shops that are the first of their kind in Metro Vancouver), and that’s obviously intentional. Mc Arthur Glen is the same. You have to draw from a very wide region. It is absolutely possible, but you have to make it a destination.”

Tsawwassen Mills is sparing no expense in doing just that. It has assembled first-to-market brands (notables include Bass Pro Shops, Saks off 5th, Pro Hockey Life, Outlet by Harry Rosen), as well as a collection of 16 anchor stores for the Oct. 5 opening. The food court alone will have 1,100 seats.

General manager Mark Fenwick said Ivanhoe Cambridge’s experience with two previous “Mills” concepts ( Vaughan Mills in the Toronto area and Cross Iron Mills near Calgary) showed shoppers are willing to drive 1.5 hours to a unique, outlet-based destination mall, and consumers often stay for up to three hours (versus an hour at a typical mall).

“In today’s economy, shoppers are really looking for value as part of the equation. So the fact that we have some of these brands … is a real draw for the consumers,” Fenwick said. “We are trying to draw from the Interior, Vancouver Island, the whole Lower Mainland, and even parts of northern Washington state.”

Brown said the company’s previous experiences in Toronto and Calgary showed it may take some shoppers a while to adjust to “destination shopping,” since they have to commit more time to come to Tsawwassen versus staying local. But business will be swift once consumers make that switch. Cross-Iron Mills is already undergoing a $70-million expansion to meet rising demand, just six years after the mall opened.

“It definitely helps to have a track record in this type of product,” Brown said.

© 2016 Postmedia Network Inc

Metro Vancouver foreign buyer tax: New poll shows high support

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

An overwhelming majority of Lower Mainland residents believe the B.C. government made the right decision imposing a 15 per cent foreign buyer tax

Jeff Lee
The Vancouver Sun

An overwhelming majority of Lower Mainland residents believe the B.C. government made the right decision imposing a 15 per cent foreign buyer tax, a new public opinion poll suggests.

Ninety per cent of those polled by the Angus Reid Institute say they support B.C.’s new tax, which would apply to foreigners purchasing real estate in the Metro Vancouver area. And 87 per cent say they also support the move to give local governments the power to tax owners who leave their properties vacant.

The poll was an online survey of 737 Metro Vancouver adults who are members of the Angus Reid forum.

The poll shows 82 per cent of respondents believe the government failed to act fast enough to curb the white-hot housing market.

In June 2015, Premier Christy Clark pointedly rejected an appeal from Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson for an extraordinary tax to cool speculation.

And up until a week ago, the province maintained there was little evidence significant foreign money was flowing into Metro Vancouver’s housing market. It now says at least 10 per cent of homes are being bought by non-residents.

The poll also shows that 71 per cent of respondents are pessimistic about the long-term value of the new tax, believing that affected buyers will figure out a way to skirt it

Strikingly, four in 10 respondents also think that neither the new property purchase tax nor Vancouver’s proposed vacancy tax will improve housing affordability or access to more rental housing.

“There is a big question mark in the minds of the people of this region over whether or not these measures, while significant, will actually be effective,” said Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute. 

The high level of public support is in direct contrast to the Liberal government’s long-standing resistance to bringing in the tax, she said.

“We know that as far back as a year ago, and probably even further back, people in this region were clamouring for government action on this issue,” she said, noting that the government suggested “there was no story here” when a June 2015 poll showed “people were screaming for government action.”

Now the government has swung in the other direction.

“In bringing in these measures, it is a sign I think that the provincial government recognized it was politically vulnerable on this issue and it is releasing a pressure valve by bringing in these measures,” she said.

Whether the tax, which is due to come into effect on Aug. 2, will cool the market is unclear. But some potential homebuyers see it as a useful exercise. One of those is Jonathan Ross, a young Vancouver lawyer.

“Will this make a difference? I don’t really know,” said Ross, who lives near the long delayed Little Mountain redevelopment. “It frustrates me as somebody who is completely priced out of the single family market that we can’t afford to buy in the area.”

The Angus Reid poll revealed a divide between what homeowners and renters hope will happen in the Metro Vancouver market. More than 53 per cent of owners — who have a vested interest in the equity in their homes — hope housing prices continue to increase or at least stay where they are. Only 22 per cent said they hope prices will fall by 30 per cent or more. Conversely, nearly three-quarters of renters hope prices fall by 30 per cent or more, illustrating their desire to become new homebuyers.

The poll also showed a high percentage of those polled (65) believe foreigners investing in the local market are responsible for the region’s housing misery.

Other reasons cited:

  • Wealthy people investing in the real estate market — 41 per cent.
  • Condos and houses being left empty by investor-owners — 37 per cent.
  • Lack of government action on housing — 33 per cent. 

Yet when it comes to the effect the new property purchase tax or tax on vacant homes will have on people, most polled were either ambivalent or feel it will help them. Fifty-six per cent of homeowners and 39 per cent of renters said the new purchase tax was neither good nor bad news to them. A majority of renters (56 per cent) said the tax was good news. The government’s decision to re-regulate the real estate industry and to also use money from the property purchase tax to ease affordability issues also drew high marks. Eighty-one per cent felt it would be effective or highly effective for the province to no longer allow the B.C. real estate industry to regulate and police itself. And slightly less than three-quarters of respondents supported the idea of once again collecting sales data to track real estate purchases by foreigners.

On whether the new measures are enough, the majority of those polled weren’t satisfied. Only three per cent said the taxes were adequate, with 71 per cent saying it was a step in the right direction.

“This is short-term approval, but nobody thinks this is enough,” Kurl said.

© 2016 Postmedia Network Inc.

B.C. property law vulnerable to challenge, says prominent lawyer

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

Tax on foreign homebuyers under fire

Peter O’Neil
The Vancouver Sun

OTTAWA — A prominent lawyer on constitutional and tax law is planning to challenge B.C.’s new tax on foreign homebuyers.

“There’s a huge problem with this legislation,” Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati said Thursday. “It’s clearly offensive on its face.”

Galati, a former tax specialist in the federal Department of Justice, has developed a public profile on cases such as the successful challenge of the former Conservative government’s appointment of Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Galati expects to be supplied clients for a test case by Vancouver immigration lawyer Larry Wong, who on Thursday said B.C.’s 15-per-cent foreign buyers’ tax comes from the same mindset that has fuelled Donald Trump’s drive for the presidency.

“The new normal is the Donald Trump new normal of taking action according to one’s feelings — ‘Oh, these foreigners, their money is not clean,’ based on their feeling that, ‘How could one make so much money or pay for such overvalued real estate?’” Wong said.

“I think the tax shows disrespect. Foreign buyers who buy Vancouver properties are not criminals.”

Galati said the law is a violation of section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of, among other things, national origin.

In most instances, Canadian jurisprudence supports the requirement that foreign nationals be treated the same as Canadian citizens and permanent residents when they are in Canada, he said.

The B.C. government would have to justify the new law under section one of the charter, which says equality rights can only be subjected to “reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society,” according to the Toronto lawyer.

Galati questioned whether the B.C. government could do this, arguing that he’s never seen clear evidence proving that foreign sales are the reason for Metro Vancouver’s housing affordability crisis.

A second and more substantive concern is that the surtax, by being directed at a group of people rather than at property, is by definition, an “indirect” tax.

He said the Constitution Act of 1867 limits provinces only to direct taxation such as income taxes imposed universally.

“A province can impose a tax on beer, but it can’t say, ‘If you’re Chinese it’s 10 per cent, but if you’re white it’s zero,’” he said.

Galati also believes the bill could be challenged under the North American Free Trade Agreement, which requires signatories to treat U.S. and American investors from those countries the same way as Canadian investors.

And if the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement is ratified, investors from signatory countries, like Australia and Japan, would also have the right to challenge the law and seek compensation.

The B.C. finance ministry, asked Thursday whether the government obtained legal assurance that the law wasn’t vulnerable to a legal challenge, did not immediately respond.

Galati has earned a reputation for being a tenacious adversary when a government does something he thinks is objectionable on legal grounds.

His challenge of Stephen Harper’s appointment of Nadon to Canada’s highest court was based on the argument that Nadon, named to fill one of the three spots reserved for Quebecers, did not qualify under the Supreme Court Act because he was a Federal Court of Appeal judge.

The Conservative government referred the case directly to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled in 2014 that Nadon didn’t qualify because he wasn’t a current member of a Quebec superior court or was acting as a lawyer with current standing as a member of the Quebec bar.

Legal scholars described the decision as a “stunning” setback for the Harper government.

© 2016 Postmedia Network Inc.

Foreign buyers rush to beat B.C. implementation of new tax

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

Real estate levy set to kick in Tuesday sparks panicked closure

Jeff Lee
The Vancouver Sun

In January, Shinna Zhang and her husband moved to Metro Vancouver from London, England. They entered Canada on her husband’s work permit.

Zhang, who didn’t want her husband’s name to be used because he works in Vancouver’s growing tech sector, said they decided to buy a home in Richmond in May, in part because she became pregnant.

They found a townhouse being offered for sale for $850,000 by a woman whose family split their time between Richmond and China.

The two parties agreed the deal would conclude on Nov. 1, largely to give the former owner time to find another home elsewhere in Metro. Part of the complication was that the former owner had two children who were moving back and forth between Richmond and China.

Now, with the new foreign owners property purchase tax set to go into effect Aug. 2, Zhang and her husband face an additional $130,000 bill to the government.

“We have no way to change the contract and no money to pay that significant amount,” Zhang said. “When we decided to buy, we did it according to what our mortgage would allow us to buy. The original transfer tax was two per cent, which we planned for.”

Zhang said she and her husband now face the prospect of losing their $40,000 down payment if they have to walk away from the deal. More importantly, they were warned by their real estate agent that they could also face a lawsuit from the current owner for the difference if she has to put the property back up for sale and can’t get the original sale price.

Zhang said she and her husband are young professionals who recently graduated and don’t have a lot of money. Like many, they are trying to save for the young family they are about to have.

As an alternative, Zhang and her husband went to the extraordinary effort of trying to fly the owner, a Canadian, back from China this week in order to expedite the sales contract before the August 2 deadline.

Neil Zhu, the couple’s real estate agent, helped them arrange the unusual Hail Mary effort.

“Do you know how difficult it is to get a flight from Beijing on such short notice?” he asked. “We’re not even sure this could work, since this is a long weekend and the Land Titles office isn’t open until Tuesday.” (However, the Land Titles online system is to be available through the long weekend, the province said.)

Zhu, a Realtor with Metro Edge Realty, said later Friday that the seller had arrived in Vancouver and the last-minute deal was in the process of being put together. 

Zhu said he doesn’t have a problem with a new property tax applying to foreign owners, but it seemed patently unfair to make it apply to deals that were already done but with closing dates after Aug. 2’s deadline.

“Basically, the plan is to get the seller to agree to a new closing date.” Zhang said. “We spent two days trying to convince the seller.”

Zhang said their lawyers quit because of the complications and they had a hard time finding someone who would agree to take on revising the sale on such a short deadline.

Zhu said he approached more than 20 lawyers to help close the deal quickly before he found someone who could do the job.

Zhang said she found it particularly hard to understand why they’re being forced to pay a new tax, especially when they chose to move to Canada to work in the growing tech sector. They could have moved to the U.S., where similar jobs are available, but wanted to live in Canada.

“We moved here in January and my husband is working in IT. We contribute to Canadian society and we pay taxes here. We didn’t have to choose Vancouver. We could have chosen other places around the world or in America. We assumed Canada was a very nice place for immigrants and minorities and that is why we would like to be here and raise our family here.”

Zhu said he feels bad for his clients, and he believes there are many others with solid sales agreements who are caught because of the tight deadline.

“Personally, I feel so bad for them, a young couple trying to make a living here with a baby on the way. They are from overseas, yet they are paying their income tax and they are not some rich luxury home buyers,” he said.

“I am pretty sure there are similar buyers out there just like them. I am very disappointed with the provincial government for making a decision in the manner like this.”

© 2016 Postmedia Network Inc.

A way to provide new homes to working families

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

Bring back employee housing, architect urges

Don Cayo
The Vancouver Sun

What if Vancouver were to suddenly get a lot of nice new homes, all of them available to working families for half the rent people pay to live in comparable properties today?

This wouldn’t address all the complex and overlapping issues that underlie the city’s housing crisis. But it would certainly help.

And it’s doable, says Oberto Oberti, a Vancouver architect whose firm has been involved in everything from high-end residences, to restoration projects, to commercial properties, to golf and ski resorts.

How? By not only dramatically increasing density — a solution lots of people propose — but by also locking in the substantial benefits of new zoning to make some substantial new housing projects affordable to working families.

Oberti makes the case for an updated version of employee housing — a concept long established in places as diverse as mining towns and resorts like Whistler.

And he’s not talking dormitories or dreary row housing, but rather vibrant and bustling neighbourhoods reminiscent of those charming European cities that so many Canadians like to visit. In his words, “street-front density” as opposed to “a forest of towers.” 

Local government would, of course, have a role to play, but not simply — or even not necessarily — writing big cheques.

The important thing, he argues, is for government to assemble the land and attaching covenants to limit its use to non-market housing for people employed within the Metro Vancouver region. Then the local government could dramatically up-zone the land to allow more floors and much higher density, thus allowing many more residences to be built with no additional land cost.

The homes could be built by either the private or the public sector, as long as the covenant is in place. With land costs reduced from massive to modest, low rents could still produce a profit for the owner.

True, this wouldn’t directly address the problem of low-income citizens who don’t have jobs — single moms on social assistance, disabled people, and the like. But a big increase in housing options for working people would lessen the pressure on existing housing stock and other new developments.

Combined with three other measures — a streamlined approval process, low-cost project financing from CMHC and/or B.C. Housing, and the use of simpler, but high quality, construction techniques — it would allow these homes to be rented out for half what they’d cost today, he said.

Of course there’d be opposition to such densification — there always is. But some willing neighbourhoods could no doubt be found. And he notes there are times politicians must stand up to NIMBY lobby groups and make decisions based on the greater good.

Besides, local governments already up-zone neighbourhoods all the time in pursuit of greater tax revenues. So it seems only reasonable to expect them to do the same to address a serious housing problem that impacts not only workers and their families, but also the businesses that want to employ them.

Oberti suggests good places to start would be Vancouver’s several neighbourhoods with mostly dowdy one- and two-storey commercial buildings. The street-fronts could still house the same kinds of retailers and services, he said, while the space above them would become home to many who are, or fear they soon will be, squeezed out of today’s housing market.

It seems to me Oberti’s idea could also provide some relief for neighbourhood businesses, especially mom and pop shops, that are hit — often crippled — by soaring property taxes when their streets are up-zoned under current rules. Now property taxes soar in lockstep with soaring land values. But with covenants limiting future developments to non-market housing, both the land values and the tax bills would remain stable.

© 2016 Postmedia Network Inc.

BC government passes foreign buyer tax; ignores calls to exempt signed contracts

Friday, July 29th, 2016


The BC legislature passed legislation last night that institutes the foreign buyer tax. The legislation will take effect August 2, adding a 15 per cent surcharge to the Property Transfer Tax (PTT) for non-Canadian buyers.

The tax applies at the point of registration at the Land Title Office, regardless of when the contract was signed.

We issued this statement from REBGV President Dan Morrison to our media contacts this morning:

“”Hundreds of British Columbians head into the BC Day long weekend facing stress and uncertainty concerning the largest financial transaction of their lives because of the provincial government’s abrupt intervention into the Metro Vancouver housing market this week.

“The Premier’s decision not to exempt transactions where home sellers have an accepted contract in place, with a non-Canadian buyer, that will not close before August 2 is needlessly causing real harm to real people. Our members are scrambling to try and help people understand how their personal and financial situations have been impacted.  

“While it’s the government’s prerogative to implement taxes, people deserve to be treated fairly. They have a right to understand the cost they’re expected to pay when they enter into a legal agreement.”

Since the government’s announcement on Monday, we’ve taken action on a variety of fronts. Here’s a summary:

  • We initiated a letter-writing campaign on Tuesday urging members to send our letter template to their elected representatives in Victoria. We’ve heard from numerous members who’ve sent it. We adjusted the language in the template to reflect the passing of the legislation. Here’s the latest letter template. We encourage you to continue to write to your MLAs and the Premier this weekend.
  • We issued our own letter directly to the Premier  earlier this week to express our concerns and reached out to like-minded stakeholders to learn their positions on this issue. The Urban Development Institute and Greater Vancouver Homebuilders Association have publicly aligned with our position, and have been quoted in the media objecting to government’s decision to not grandfather pre-existing contracts.
  • We issued this statement to the media shortly after the announcement. Since then, REBGV President Dan Morrison has conducted more than 35 interviews with major national and international media outlets, including Global TV, CTV, CKNW, Fairchild Radio, CBC, Vancouver Sun, Roundhouse Radio, CNN, Canadian Press, News 1130, the Financial Post, and more.

Here are some examples of the coverage (click on the links to view):

  • Vancouver Sun – Front page article on July 27: Condo ‘presales’ could be left in chaos by new BC tax, industry warns
  • CTV News – Scott Laurie interviews Dan Morrison
  • Global TVSome concerned about BC’s new foreign buyer tax
  • CKNWGreater Vancouver Real Estate Board slams foreign buyer tax
  • Roundhouse Radio – Kirk LaPointe interviews Dan Morrison 
  • Business in VancouverIndustry critical of new BC tax on foreigners buying homes
  • CKNW – Lynda Steele & Drex interview Dan Morrison 
  • CTVHome builders, real estate board says new BC property tax hurts province

Standard forms update in progress

BCREA has worked with legal counsel to prepare a clause for you to use when drafting contracts involving foreign nationals that complete on or after August 2. They’ve asked the Real Estate Council of BC to include it in the clauses and phrases on WEBForms®.

The clause is:

Buyers are Foreign Entities

The Buyer is and will be, on the Completion Date, a “foreign entity” or a “taxable trustee” as defined in the British Columbia Property Transfer Tax Act (as amended) ( collectively, the “Foreign Entity”). The Buyer is aware that the Property Transfer Tax Act, as amended, imposes an additional Property Transfer Tax of 15% of the fair market value of any residential property being purchased by a Foreign Entity. The Buyer will thus be required to pay Property Transfer Tax equal to the total of:

  1. 1% of the Purchase Price on the first $200,000;
  2. 2% of the Purchase Price that exceeds $200,000 but does not exceed $2,000,000;
  3. 3% of the Purchase Price that exceeds $2,000,000; plus
  4. an additional Property Transfer Tax equal to 15% of the Purchase Price.

The Buyer has obtained or will obtain independent legal advice with respect to the payment of Property Transfer Tax.

We’ll continue to send you updates on our work to represent you and your clients with the government and in the media.

copyright© real estate board of greater vancouver

Foreigners buy $885M worth of Vancouver real estate in just 5 weeks – study

Friday, July 29th, 2016

Ephraim Vecina
Canadian Real Estate Wealth

According to fresh data collected by the British Columbia government and released last Tuesday (July 26), foreign buyers purchased over $885 million worth of real estate in Metro Vancouver in the period covering June 10 to July 14.

The amount is approximately 10 per cent of total real estate sales volume in the region over those 5 weeks, reported Roshini Nair for CBC News.

The same data set also revealed that foreign nationals accounted for 18 per cent of all property buyers in Burnaby and Richmond, the Metro Vancouver locales with the greatest number of overseas buyers.

The B.C. government stated that overall, roughly 11 per cent of real estate purchases in Vancouver can be attributed to foreign buyers. The released data did not indicate these buyers’ nationalities.

Foreign nationals have been pinpointed by various analysts as major culprits in the out-of-control growth in Canada’s red-hot real estate segment, which has priced more and more domestic would-be buyers out of the markets.

B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong assured locals that the government is actively working to stem demand and improve existing supply. A newly enacted 15 per cent property transfer tax on foreign buyers of real estate Metro Vancouver is slated to take effect on August 2.

“It’s going to generate a lot of money,” De Jong said of the foreign demand, adding that the increased revenue would be used for more investment in new housing.

Copyright © 2016 Key Media Pty Ltd

Vancouver?s 15% foreign buyer tax: Have your say

Friday, July 29th, 2016

Justin da Rosa
Canadian Real Estate Wealth

It may be one of the most divisive topics in recent memory and agents are, unsurprisingly, opinionated

It’s about to become more expensive for foreign buyers to purchase real estate in British Columbia, following an announcement by B.C. Finance Minister Michael de Jong that purchasers of Vancouver real estate who are neither citizens nor have a Canadian address will now have to pay an additional 15% sales tax.

How do you feel about the new tax? Take our poll today

The tax, which goes into effect August 2, has agents divided.

Many have been critical of the approach.

“How foolish and so typically ignorant of government; there are so many ways to stimulate a solution to the problem, instead they’ve implemented a ridiculous tax to drive the money away to be invested elsewhere,” one commenter wrote in REP’s forum. “Instead of creating opportunities and incentives they introduce penalties and negativity into the marketplace!”

Others, meanwhile, have called the move downright racist.

“They should have just put in a head tax on the Chinese or put it on title that they cannot buy in certain areas,” Scott Simmons, a B.C. agent, wrote. “Oh wait they did that 131 years ago and it’s called racism. This is nothing more that modern day punitive tax on the Chinese investors.”

However, not everyone views the new tax in a negative light.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Omer Quenneville, an agent with Homeward Real Estate, recently told REP.
Quenneville, however, did question what the government plans to do with the additional income the tax will generate.

Copyright © 2016 Key Media Pty Ltd