We have listed a new property at 714 1310 CARIBOO ST in New Westminster.
Spacious & bright, this LOVELY 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom home. Full south view, with big balcony, and insuite laundry. Great for a first time home buyer, and located in Uptown New Westminster close to shopping & parks. Unit includes 2 PARKING stalls (side by side) & storage. Near Columbia Square Plaza w/ Save On Foods, BMO, Boston Pizza & Pharmasave. PETS (2) & RENTALS ALLOWED!
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Please visit our Open House at 714 1310 CARIBOO ST in New Westminster.
Open House on Sunday, June 24, 2018 11:30AM - 1:30PM
Spacious & bright, this LOVELY 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom home. Full south view, with big balcony, and insuite laundry. Great for a first time home buyer, and located in Uptown New Westminster close to shopping & parks. Unit includes 2 PARKING stalls (side by side) & storage. Near Columbia Square Plaza w/ Save On Foods, BMO, Boston Pizza & Pharmasave. PETS (2) & RENTALS ALLOWED!
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We have sold a property at 102 20449 66 AVE in Langley.
Welcome to Home! Nature's Landing, located in the heart of Willoughby Heights. Close to transit, Walmart, Costco, Fraser Valley Elementary School, and Langley Events Center. 9 ft ceilings, spacious living, granite counters, oversized windows, private fenced backyards. Featuring lush landscaping, kids play area and visitor parking. 3 bedrooms and 2 full bathrooms. Ultimate convenience. New electric H/W tank, alarm system, and extra cabinetry. Open House Saturday May 5, 2-4pm
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Please visit our Open House at 702 121 BREW ST in Port Moody.
Open House on Sunday, June 17, 2018 1:00PM - 3:00PM
RARE OPPORTUNITY! TOP FLOOR unit. Extremely modern home - features include over height ceilings, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, tile backsplash, sleek cabinets, island with breakfast bar and more. Side of the building with Balconies! Full access to the prestigious Aria club featuring indoor swimming, sauna & hot tub, fully equipped fitness room, billiards & games room, & event hall. Fantastic location! Live upstairs from all the shops and services of Suter Brook! 5 minute walk to Skytrain! Walk to Rocky Point park and trails, Port Moody rec centre and library. One of the most desirable area in metro Vancouver!
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Please visit our Open House at 306 6742 STATION HILL CRT in Burnaby.
Open House on Saturday, June 16, 2018 12:00PM - 2:00PM
2 bedroom + 2 full baths in a natural surrounding, tranquility + convenience at Wyndham Court. Facing onto a greenbelt where you can enjoy sunshine from your private balcony. Spacious floor plan with extensive renovations including a wall taken out to open up the entire condo!, Stainless steel appliances, renovated bathrooms, new carpets, gas fireplace, large closet, access to balcony from both bedrooms, facing quiet side. Steps to skytrain, all schools, daycare, Choices Market, parks, Metrotown etc.
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We have listed a new property at 702 121 BREW ST in Port Moody.
RARE OPPORTUNITY! TOP FLOOR unit. Extremely modern home - features include over height ceilings, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, tile backsplash, sleek cabinets, island with breakfast bar and more. Side of the building with Balconies! Full access to the prestigious Aria club featuring indoor swimming, sauna & hot tub, fully equipped fitness room, billiards & games room, & event hall. Fantastic location! Live upstairs from all the shops and services of Suter Brook! 5 minute walk to Skytrain! Walk to Rocky Point park and trails, Port Moody rec centre and library. One of the most desirable area in metro Vancouver!
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We have listed a new property at 306 6742 STATION HILL CRT in Burnaby.
2 bedroom + 2 full baths in a natural surrounding, tranquility + convenience at Wyndham Court. Facing onto a greenbelt where you can enjoy sunshine from your private balcony. Spacious floor plan with extensive renovations including a wall taken out to open up the entire condo!, Stainless steel appliances, renovated bathrooms, new carpets, gas fireplace, large closet, access to balcony from both bedrooms, facing quiet side. Steps to skytrain, all schools, daycare, Choices Market, parks, Metrotown etc.
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We have sold a property at 3848 CLEMATIS CRES in Port Coquitlam.
Welcome to this split entry 2 level home! This traditional home is 2096 square feet on a 6000 square foot lot. Featuring 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and a Den. 3 of the bedrooms are upstairs with the 4th bedroom and den downstairs along with a very large recreation room also downstairs. The home is well maintained with a brand new hot water tank, fresh landscaping front and back. The large balcony off the kitchen is ideal for your Summer BBQ's and entertaining.
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Three hundred dollars isn’t much but the mandatory cost for an electric vehicle (EV) charging station is the latest ding in government fees and regulations that now add more than $220,000 to the cost of a typical new Vancouver condominium, according to industry studies.

Last year electric vehicle represented 0.9% of total vehicle sales in British Columbia and they make up just 0.2% of vehicles on B.C. roads, according to Statistics Canada and Fleetcarma data. Yet, starting in 2019, 100% of new condo buyers in Vancouver will pay to have an electric car charging station installed in their parking garage.

Anne McMullin, president and CEO of the Urban Development Institute Pacific Region wonders why condo buyers should pay for something that benefits a utility, and electric vehicle manufacturers.

The answer is apparently blowing in the hurricane of add-on costs buffeting buyers in Canada’s most expensive housing market.

Government taxes and fees now total more than 26%, or $220,256 of the total $840,000 cost of a typical new 700-square-foot-Vancouver condo apartment, said appraisal and tax expert Paul Sullivan, a senior partner at Burgess, Cawley, Sullivan and Associates Ltd.

Sullivan presented his analysis to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade’s Housing Forum 2018, held May 25.

A separate CD Howe Report in May found that government regulations and charges add an extra $644,000 to the cost of building a single-family house in Metro Vancouver.

“When expressing their deep concerns over housing affordability, why haven’t governments taken a long hard look in the mirror?” Sullivan asked.

He noted that along the Broadway corridor, where the new SkyTrain extension will be built, the City of Vancouver recently proposed a new development charge of between $330 to $425 per square foot above existing zoning for every new condo built.

Already, Sullivan told the forum, government costs and fees account for $312 of the average $1,200 per-square-foot cost of a new Vancouver condominium.

“One of the biggest factors behind our housing affordability problem is government piling on more taxes and fees,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan’s analysis includes City of Vancouver municipal fees, charges and taxes, the new and increased provincial tax measures on home sales, Metro Vancouver’s increased regional water and sewer charges, TransLink’s new regional development cost charge for transit, delays in getting permit approvals and the federal GST.

Fees and charges can range depending on where a project is located, with downtown Vancouver projects facing even higher charges. For the purpose of the analysis, the announced provincial Speculation Tax was included, pending details of the specific legislation expected later in 2018.

The foreign-buyer tax, payroll taxes on labour and taxes on materials were not included in the breakdown.

Rod Yeoh, a principal with Dialog, which has designed many low-energy buildings, told a Buildex 2017 meeting that Vancouver’s new zero emissions bylaw, that came into effect last May and is now being rolled out, will add at least 15% to the cost of a new concrete condominium when fully implemented.

McMullin noted that while the mandatory charging stations aren’t included until January 1, 2019, she is concerned that condo buyers are again expected to foot the bill.

“If electric vehicles are expected to increase in popularity as predicted, then it would certainly make sense to have BC Hydro provide the infrastructure to residents recouped through the rate, much like a gas station company would,” she suggested.

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A security guard checks the run-down shared bathroom at the Sahota-owned Regent Hotel.

DARRYL DYCK/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Shelly Ingram says she never gets used to the sound of mice falling through the gaping hole in her bathroom ceiling and landing with a thump in her empty bathtub.

When one drops, her partner, John, will rush across their tiny bachelor suite to try to catch the creature, but most times the rodent has already bounded up over the side of the aging clawfoot tub and scurried into a hole in the wall at the base of the sink.

Thankfully, they’ve never been hit by a mouse while taking a bath, perhaps because they rarely wait the three hours it takes to draw enough tepid water to fill the tub from the aging hot water pipe.

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“We’re supposed to be able to use it,” says Ms. Ingram, who moved into the dingy suite in Vancouver’s Regent Hotel last summer after a months-long search for affordable accommodation. But water comes out of the tap “sporadically,” she says, and some days, not at all.

 

Still, she and her partner consider themselves lucky: They don’t have to use the communal washrooms down the hall, where the toilets are often jammed with paper and feces or discarded needles. Shower drains also get blocked and tubs are unavailable, taken over by residents washing dishes or people sneaking in off the street in search of a few hours of sleep in relative warmth and safety.

Bathrooms aren’t the only problem at the Regent, a single-room occupancy (SRO) hotel on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside owned by the Sahota family, three reclusive, elderly siblings who own and operate some of the city’s most derelict housing. Bedbugs and rats are constant concerns. In some rooms, walls are damp to the touch, hinting at leaks behind them.

MINI-DOC: INSIDE THE REGENT HOTEL

Watch: Residents of this Downtown Eastside hotel show The Globe and Mail the decrepit conditions they live in, amid the stench of sewage, black mold and bathrooms in disrepair.

Such decrepit, unsanitary housing might seem in stark contrast with the image of Vancouver, which routinely tops global livability rankings and is known for its verdant parks and majestic mountain views. But these deplorable conditions are routine in many SROs – particularly those owned by the Sahota family, some housing advocates say – and are well known to city officials. Last December, citing its continuing efforts to step-up enforcement in SROs, the city flagged 426 bylaw violations against the owners of the Regent.

Yet it’s unlikely the citations will change much. In a pattern dating back decades, the family, who own five Vancouver SROs, tends to respond slowly to violation notices, if at all. Many repair orders are followed by fines for bylaw violations. City officials have touted various efforts to bring the Sahota-owned buildings into line over the past 20 years, including fines and court injunctions to force necessary repairs. More recently, the city has stepped up the frequency of inspections in an attempt to identify problems early and address them. But the steady stream of bylaw violations has continued.

“It’s a travesty that they [SROs] have been allowed to continue to rot ... for at least four or five decades,” says John Shayler, who worked with the Downtown Eastside Residents’ Association, a housing advocacy group, in the 1970s and 80s.

Mr. Shayler says that owners get away with providing reprehensible living conditions because the city ultimately doesn’t want to shut down their buildings, potentially displacing hundreds of residents who would otherwise be on the street.

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With support from housing advocates, tenants of two Sahota-owned SROs, the Regent and the Balmoral, have launched proposed class-action lawsuits that name the Sahotas and the City of Vancouver as defendants and allege that municipal officials have ignored problems with properties owned by the family. (The Sahotas have challenged the suits, arguing that the proper venue to hear such disputes is B.C.’s Residential Tenancy Branch and a decision on that jurisdictional matter is pending.)

A non-profit housing organization struck a deal with the Sahotas in February to manage the Regent and, given its dilapidated condition, has been boarding up rooms and quietly moving tenants out of the building.

Ms. Ingram and her partner don’t know when – or whether – they’ll be asked to move. All they know is that, for now, living conditions at the Regent remain grim, as they do at other Sahota properties in Vancouver. And the Sahotas, who keep a low profile in Vancouver and who refused to talk to The Globe and Mail for this piece, show no sign of loosening their grip on the city’s SRO market.

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A woman sits on a window terrace at the Sahota-owned Regal Hotel.

BEN NELMS/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

“This is a Sahota building”

Parkash, Gurdyal and Pal Sahota aren’t the city’s only landlords with problem buildings. Other SRO owners, as well as non-profit agencies and the province’s own rental units, show up on the city’s database of bylaw violations for issues such as blocked fire escapes, rats and missing smoke alarms.

But the number of SRO units the Sahota family controls – nearly 500, or about 16 per cent of the roughly 3,000 privately held units in the city’s stock – and the volume of violations, make the Sahotas stand out. A large portion of Vancouver’s poorest residents live cheek-to-jowl in these rooming houses, many of which were built a century ago for single loggers and fishermen – blue-collar workers who adorn either side of the city’s official coat of arms.

The Sahota family entered the SRO business in the 1970s, at a time when single-resident units were emerging as one of the few housing options available to the city’s most vulnerable residents: pensioners, people on social assistance and individuals living with mental illness or substance-abuse issues. (A 2013 study of about 3,000 SRO tenants in the Downtown Eastside found 95 per cent had substance dependence and nearly half suffered from psychosis.)

 

Family patriarch Ranjit Sahota, who died in 1999, launched the business by buying distressed assets and renting them to tenants at the lowest rung of the market.

In addition to five SRO hotels – composed primarily of three-meter by three-meter units that typically feature a sink, a table and a bed – the Sahotas have accumulated a portfolio of single-family homes and apartment blocks over the years, all of which have skyrocketed in value as Vancouver housing has turned into a global commodity.

SAHOTA FAMILY’S RENTAL PROPERTIES IN VANCOUVER

Assessed value in millions of dollars, 2018

$5M to $10M

$10M to $15M

$15M and over

$5M or less

Regal Hotel:

$8.9M

Balmoral Hotel:

$2.7M

Regent Hotel:

$12.2M

Cobalt Hotel:

$10.4M

Astoria Hotel:

$7M

GRANVILLE ST

Balmoral Hotel

Astoria Hotel

E HASTINGS ST

ROBSON ST

Regent Hotel

PRIOR ST

Regal Hotel

Cobalt Hotel

TERMINAL AVE

MAIN ST

0

550

m

5

Top five properties by assessed value

2

3

$33.1M

525 5th Ave. E.

1

E 1ST AVE

2131 Pandora St.

$16M

2

W 12TH AVE

4

1

MAIN ST

$14.3M

450 Nanaimo St.

3

$13.4M

447 6th Ave. E.

4

$12.2M

160 E Hastings St.

5

Vancouver

W 49TH AVE

MAP: MURAT YÜKSELIR, RESEARCH: STEPHANIE CHAMBERS / THE GLOBE AND MAIL,

SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; HIU; GOOGLE STREET VIEW

The family’s holdings – about 40 properties in and around the city, worth an estimated $218-million – are controlled by a network of companies that all trace back to the address of the home shared by siblings Parkash, 88, Gurdyal, 80 and Pal, 79.

As their portfolio has grown, the Sahotas have embraced the buy-and-hold philosophy. To cite two examples, The Regent, which the family bought in 1989 for $1.5-million, today has an assessed value of $12.2-million; another property, Rosemary Mansion in tony Shaughnessy, was acquired for $2.1-million in 1999 and sold five years later for $11-million. Yet, despite the value of their holdings, they appear to spend little on their properties.

At City Hall, where records document hundreds of complaints against Sahota properties, the family’s name has become entwined with problems.

“As you are well aware, we have been dealing with the 140-unit Balmoral for quite some time,” city manager Sadhu Johnston wrote in a May 26, 2017, e-mail to Mayor and Council. “This is a Sahota building.”

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Yet despite their poor conditions, demand for the Sahotas’ SROs has grown, largely owing to dwindling supply. Development in downtown Vancouver and rising real estate prices have been pushing SROs out of the market for decades, dating back to the lead-up to Expo 1986, when some owners evicted long-term tenants in the hope of landing higher-paying guests.

In 2003, with the 2010 Olympics on the horizon, the city passed a bylaw designed to prevent the loss of low-income housing by fining landlords $5,000 for each room taken out of existing SRO stock. In 2007, the city raised the fee to $15,000, then hiked it again in 2015 to $125,000.

But the fines haven’t prevented some landlords from quietly doing so-called “stealth” conversions and offering lightly improved units to students and young working people in Vancouver’s overheated rental market.

And rents in remaining SROs have edged up, reflecting tight vacancy rates in the city and the shortage of lower-cost affordable housing.

Wendy Pedersen, a long-time community activist who has fought to keep SROs affordable for people on social assistance – the monthly shelter allowance for a single person is currently set at $375 – feels the city has failed to use the tools at its disposal to hold landlords of problem buildings accountable and allowed them to profit at tenants’ expense.

“Decades and decades of … not taking people’s complaints seriously, not answering their police calls, their cries for help in every which way,” is how she described the city’s response to the continuing deterioration of housing in the low-income neighbourhood, home to about 15,000 people.

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June 1, 2017: A resident of the Balmoral Hotel tears up as she describes the hardships she faces after water damage in her room, which she says smelled like urine.

RAFAL GERSZAK/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

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June 2, 2017: Vancouver police guard the entrance to the Balmoral after the city issued residents an order to vacate the building, which had been deemed unsafe to life in.

RAFAL GERSZAK/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

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June 11, 2017: People gather on East Hastings Street to set up a barbecue in support of Balmoral Hotel residents facing eviction.

RAFAL GERSZAK/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Maintenance on the cheap

Most days, the three elderly Sahota siblings can be found visiting their various rental buildings or working in the garden of the ramshackle home they share in Vancouver’s upscale Kerrisdale neighbourhood. Dressed in thrift-store clothes, they could easily be mistaken for their tenants.

Since they began amassing properties, the Sahotas have appeared to skimp on long-term maintenance. When they’ve done repairs to buildings, they’ve often relied on tenants or unqualified contractors to do the work.

A front-page story in the Vancouver Sun in 1987 reported that Pal Sahota had exploited refugees by hiring them to do repair and maintenance jobs at the Balmoral Hotel, another of the family’s SROs, for wages of 32 cents an hour. He pleaded guilty to five counts of violating the Immigration Act and was fined $2,500.

In 1999, a lawyer for the city recommended near-constant vigilance over repair and maintenance issues with three low-rent apartment buildings in East Vancouver that the Sahotas had owned since 1976. But she advised against revoking the Sahotas’ business licence because doing so could put “a large number of people out on the street.” In an inter-office memo, she referred to potential political fallout if enforcement were to result in buildings being closed and people losing their homes.

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In 2007, long-time residents of the 50-unit Sahota-owned Pandora SRO were forced to grab everything they could and flee their homes after the roof collapsed and flooded hallways and several rooms. The tenants were awarded $170,000 in total damages, which was upheld by a B.C. Supreme Court judge who found the Sahotas’ actions “transcended simple negligence and amounted to a reckless disregard for the welfare of the tenants.”

Ten years later, in June, 2017, city officials grew so alarmed by fire and structural problems at the Balmoral, they deemed it unsafe to occupy, giving tenants 12 days to vacate. That move triggered a scramble by city, non-profit housing groups and the province to find new homes for about 150 people who had been living in the crumbling building.

The Sahotas’ lack of responsiveness to maintenance concerns places city officials in a bind. Under Vancouver bylaws, the city could do the necessary repairs to their SROs and bill the family, but it has avoided doing so out of concern that the bills wouldn’t be paid. That would leave the city with a portfolio of aging, neglected buildings – and city taxpayers on the hook for repair bills.

City managers recognize Sahota-owned buildings are in poor shape and say they are trying to work with the owners to tackle the problems.

“We are on the ground, in the buildings, on a regular basis,” Kaye Krishna, Vancouver’s general manager of development, said in an April interview.

“Some buildings are worse than others and the two Sahota buildings are consistently at the top of the worst,” she said, adding that the Regent and Balmoral are “by far and away” the worst buildings in the city.

The city is conducting more inspections, filing more charges and ordered them to use qualified contractors, Ms. Krishna said.

“We are actively managing and trying to hold them accountable to actually deliver the work,” she added.

Ben Afful says the Sahotas hired him in November to make city-mandated repairs at the Regent. Mr. Afful’s company, Linea Construction, gave the family a quote of $1.6-million to repair the basement, main-floor bar and dozens of rooms at the shuttered Balmoral – vacated under city orders two months prior – but he never heard back.

Then, a month later, Gudy Sahota asked if he could do some work at the Regent two weeks before an inspector was scheduled to return to the premises. With his eyes on eventually winning the larger Balmoral contract, Mr. Afful agreed to do the work for $56,000 with a $12,000 deposit.

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Contractor Ben Afful got a closer look at the Sahotas’ maintenance practices when he was hired to make repairs at the Regent Hotel in November.

RAFAL GERSZAK/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

The odour of urine mixed with garbage on his first walk through the eight-storey hotel shocked Mr. Afful, who has renovated single-family homes and luxury condos in and around Vancouver for the past 19 years.

With only $4,000 of the promised $12,000 deposit in hand, Mr. Afful and an associate began replacing sinks and doors. Over two weeks, they fixed seven rooms.

One woman on the seventh floor told him she had felt sick for months from making tea in her room. “I said, ‘First of all, you [should] never drink hot water because it comes from a rusty boiler downstairs, but the other thing is the faucets are corroded so you get all this bacteria that loves to feed off the mould and you’re drinking this,’” he said. “So we replaced it with a new vanity and sink and faucet – she couldn’t stop talking about it any time we saw her in the hallways.

“They’re not asking for gold toilets - they’re just asking for fresh water.”

The night before the December city inspection, Pal Sahota asked Mr. Afful to accompany the official on their tour of the Regent – an odd request that is not an industry norm for contractors, Mr. Afful said.

As he walked through the building the next morning, he says he was surprised to see the inspector checking a list of deficiencies twice as large as the one the Sahotas had given him. Gudy was pointedly glaring at him, meanwhile, he says, as if he hadn’t bothered to do all the necessary work. When he left the property, Mr. Afful says he told the Sahotas he was going to double the cost of the job to cover the vastly expanded scope of work needed to be done.

He says never heard back from either Pal or Gudy and now feels as if he was used to create the impression of a “flurry of activity.”

That approach, he says, enables a landlord to suggest to city inspectors, “We are doing what we can. We’re trying to get the guys to do the work.”

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The Sahota-owned Astoria Hotel. The Astoria was one of the SROs targeted by Vancouver police’s Project Haven, in which undercover officers posing as drug users rented rooms with welfare cheques.

BEN NELMS/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Problem buildings, troubled tenants

Poorly maintained buildings such as the Balmoral and Regent are just part of the story. Advocates say some private SRO owners, including the Sahotas, fuel a cycle of violence, poverty and addiction in the neighbourhood.

Back in 2005, the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) tried to disrupt that cycle with an undercover program they called Project Haven. The VPD said its project – in which undercover officers posed as drug users and used welfare cheques to rent rooms in three SROs, including one, the Astoria, owned by the Sahotas – determined that owners, managers or desk clerks at all of the sites were complicit in drug trafficking, the movement of stolen property and welfare fraud.

“The criminal networking in each premise was elaborate,” the VPD said at the time.

More than a decade later, similar concerns have emerged in the Regent class action suit and in a second suit launched on behalf of tenants of the Balmoral.

Ajantha “Sam” Dharmapala worked for the Sahotas as a desk clerk and bookkeeper from 2008 until 2016. Since then, he has been a vocal critic of his former employers and become a driving force behind the Vancouver Tenants’ Union. Mr. Dharmapala describes conditions in Sahota SROs as “third-world.”

In an affidavit filed as part of the proposed class-action suit by Regent tenants, Mr. Dharmapala alleged Gurdyal Sahota has been involved in “numerous” criminal activities in and around the Regent Hotel, including systemically receiving goods known to be stolen from Home Depot and local hospitals.

“Gurdyal Sahota would not directly tell people to steal these items … but he would ask the ‘right’ people whether they had any pillows or sheets to sell right now, and then those people would come back a few hours later with pillows or sheets,” Mr. Dharmapala alleged in the affidavit.

Records reviewed by The Globe include a receipt from Jan. 5, 2014, stamped with the Regent Hotel’s information and signed...

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In Richmond, the vacancy rate for rental units is less than one per cent, according to the City of Richmond. Meanwhile, one-in-five B.C. renters spend more than 50 per cent of their income on housing and utilities, according to Statistics Canada.

 

Seeking to address this tight housing market, BCNPHA's event includes education sessions, a tour of local housing initiatives and social enterprises, networking and a tradeshow.

At lunch, a panel will discuss whether rental-only zoning could bring housing affordability to municipalities and what that legislation could look like. Panelists include community planners, financial advisors and a BC Housing representative.

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Davidson’s firm plans to submit a project for consideration for the pilot. We talked to him about what it’s been like to build in Vancouver and what he thinks of the new program. Davidson outlines some challenges but he also noted that the City of Vancouver has made positive steps in improving the process over the last year.

 

What is it like to build in Vancouver? How difficult is it?

The first projects I did were in Alaska so coming from there, where it’s a bit of a wild west, it was a shock to come to Vancouver and try and figure out how to navigate all the layers of process. It’s definitely a challenge. At the same time, we’re working on a project in San Francisco, which is actually worse in a number of different ways, but they’re both quite a challenge. There are just so many different hoops and so many different agendas that you’re trying to work with.

How long would it take to go through all the hoops?

It really depends on the kind of project. There’s the simple path that they call outright, which would be your typical single-family house or something like a laneway house. For the last couple of years, we’ve generally budgeted about six months to get through that permitting process. The more complicated development permit process, we would allow at least a year, if not more, for the development permit and the building permit.

What kind of project would that be for?

That would be if you’re doing a duplex or one of these new character homes projects. You have to go through a development permit process where you notify the neighbours, you put the board up, and you do all that. The city has actually made some decent progress since 2014, when it first started getting really bad, on the straight-forward types of applications. But there’s a real systemic problem around their continued demand for development permits on small projects. We did a garage on the back of a house in a duplex zone and we had to go through a development permit process just to add this garage. The longstanding quip about it is there’s too many rules and not enough people. They’ve actually gone through the process of hiring more people and they’ve been working towards quotas, which has been improving the turnaround times. In the last three or four months, we’ve actually had more permits ready to go than we’ve had carpenters available to build them, which is a very new situation. Before that, it was always the permits that were the single thing holding up production of housing.

Do you think your experience is typical — your problems and the improvements that you’ve seen?

Yeah, I imagine so. I think so.

What do you think about the City of Vancouver's pilot project?

We certainly welcome the idea. We’re going to see how it actually plays out. Projects like laneway houses should be simpler. There’s also a laneway house policy updatehappening right now as well. They’re working to make that process simpler. They’re attacking it on a few different fronts. If we could turn around a permit in six weeks or eight weeks, or something like that, that would bring us back to where [we were] back before 2014.

Why did it become bad in 2014?

2014 was the perfect storm of a whole bunch of things. Mostly, it was the introduction of the new building code that required people, all of a sudden, to shift from standard two-by-six construction to something more energy efficient. They put a deadline on that. Everybody tried to get all their permits in all at the same time, before the deadline. It created this huge backlog and they’ve been dealing with that ever since.

So they were trying to get in so they wouldn’t be required to meet those [new regulations]?

They basically said permits after Jan. 1, 2014 will have to meet this new code. So everybody in the industry freaked out and tried to cram everything in all at once. At the same time, there were also new requirements for accessibility, new, stricter tree bylaws. It was a perfect storm of new rules coming together and not really planning for that transition.

At this point, in 2018, you’re encouraged by some of the improvements. Is that fair to say?

Yeah. Definitely. In 2014, they nearly put us out of business because of permit delays. We were within inches of being out of business. We had to lay off a bunch of people. At Christmas, we had all these projects in for permit and no work. Now, we’re in the opposite situation. We’ve got three times as much stuff under construction as we’ve had in the past. So it’s definitely a big change from four years ago.

How would the pilot project speed up permits?

We’ve been involved in these permitting workshops for the last year and a half. They’ve been talking about what they call a kind of a Nexus lane. I think the goal is to work with experienced teams to have a quick path. I don’t know exactly what that looks like yet. I’m not sure they do either. I know that when we go in to drop off a set of drawings, we go through a preliminary review at the table with a planner just so they make sure there’s enough in there to go into the queue. A lot of us have argued if we just spent another hour at that table, we’d basically be done. So can we just get in and do that? Part of it, also, is changing the process of how we deal with trees. Because the landscape has been a big bottleneck for just about everybody.

Why is that?

The first thing is they’re trying to do way too much with landscape on single-family houses. They’re trying to micro-manage the design, which is really a pretty low priority. On the tree front, they had big ambitions to save a lot of trees, which is a good goal at a high level but the way they were managing that is they were asking for substantial changes to your building during the permit review. It’s just a completely absurd way to do it because the building is fully designed, fully engineered, and they’re coming back and saying, ‘Oh, you need to take a 10-foot-by-10-foot chunk out of the corner of your laneway house. Basically, the big process has been to move that discussion from the end to the beginning, so we can sit down with the landscape designer and we can sit down with a planner at the beginning of the project and figure out where the building can go. That makes a big difference. I think they’re just trying to figure out how to formalize that into their process.

Your firm plans to get involved in the pilot?

Yes, we’ve been involved in this discussion pretty heavily. I think they’re starting up with two projects, so we’ll put one in. If we can be one of the two, that’s great.

A laneway or regular-sized house?

For us, it would be a laneway house.

Why should the public be concerned about the issue?

It’s important because the amount of time it takes to issue a permit obviously impacts people directly when they’re trying to build something. It can add months to the process. It also means that if you’re a neighbour to a building project, it can make the whole process take a long time — from when the tree barriers go up to when people are actually moved in and [the site] cleaned up. And, it adds to the cost of projects. Ideally, in my mind, I feel small lot residential projects should not have to go through the same level of scrutiny as an apartment building. Frankly, you could build a pink duck — whatever, who cares what it looks like — if you’re doing it on a small lot basis, it’s not going to fundamentally alter the city. The city has been just far too precious in their approach to single-family neighbourhoods. I think a big part of our housing crisis unfolds from that.

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  • <p>The City of Vancouver is taking action to calm speculation in Chinatown.</p>
 

Vancouver city staff are recommending in a report that tall buildings should no longer be allowed in Chinatown.

Staff have proposed a height limit of 90 feet on new developments in order to preserve the character of the historic neighbourhood.

This could mean that council has to revoke its 2011 decision that permitted developers to seek approval of rezoning applications for towers in areas south of Pender Street.

 

The completed 17-storey condo project by Westbank Projects Corp. at 188 Keefer Street and BlueSky Properties’ finished 16-storey building at 633 Main Street are two examples of these big developments.

Staff have also suggested limiting the width of storefronts and development sites as a way to protect the unique quality of Chinatown.

Council was originally scheduled to decide on May 15 whether or not to refer the zoning changes to a public hearing.

However, council delayed action by three weeks following a motion by Coun. Raymond Louie that was seconded by Coun. Melissa De Genova.

The matter returns to council on Tuesday (June 5).

Meanwhile, a petition has been launched urging council to “refer the new Chinatown zoning policies to public hearing as soon as possible”.

“Chinatown is a special historic cultural neighbourhood in Vancouver that needs to be protected from intense development pressures and real-estate speculation,” the petition, initiated by the #SaveChinatownYVR campaign, states.

The report containing zoning changes was prepared by Karen Hoese, acting assistant director for downtown with the city’s planning, urban design, and sustainability department.

In her report, Hoese wrote that the changes are meant to “immediately manage development and calm speculation”.

“Land value has almost doubled between 2012 and 2016,” Hoese noted. “Property taxes have also increased, which in many cases are passed directly onto commercial tenants, making it difficult for them to continue to operate.”

It recommended that the proposed changes exempt the rezoning application for a 15-storey condo tower at 728–796 Main Street that is currently in process.

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'It’s a beautiful city. You just don’t want to move away,' says one recent homebuyer

 
Zhihang Zhou (front) and his partner Ziyan Xiong (back) fell in love with Halifax after coming here for their post-secondary educations. (David Burke/CBC)

Dreams of a simple life by the sea are what drove Zhihang Zhou and his partner Ziyan Xiong to buy their first home in Halifax.

They fell in love with the city while attending Saint Mary's University and then the Nova Scotia Community College.


"For people like us, this is really the perfect place," said Xiong, "We're definitely planning to be in the city probably forever."

"We both grew up in a city that's not close by the ocean, so it really was quite amazing to come here in the first year to get to see all of these beautiful views ... we are the kind of people that enjoy a slower pace kind of life, so we don't like the big city as much," she said.

 
Zhou and Xiong say they love their new home's many windows because it makes it feel less enclosed than a traditional Canadian house. (David Burke/CBC)

The young couple bought their five-bedroom, $600,000 home for the long haul. They wanted to make sure it was big enough to accommodate family visits from China, and hopefully, the pitter-patter of little feet in the next few years.

The pair bought their home in the subdivision of West Bedford in November. Three of their neighbours live in similar homes and are also from China.

They're not alone. In the last five years, there's been slow but steady growth in the number of foreign buyers purchasing homes in Halifax, said Matthew Honsberger, the president-elect of the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors.

 
Matthew Honsberger says Chinese buyers generally want new, luxury homes that are move-in ready. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

He said on average there are about 5,000 real estate transactions in Halifax every year. Of those, about 150 to 200 homes a year are sold to foreign buyers, most of whom are originally from China. Honsberger said that's a big jump from five years ago when only about 50 homes a year were sold to people not from Canada.

He said Chinese buyers generally want new, luxury homes that are move-in ready. He believes new regulations in Toronto and Vancouver created to limit property purchases by foreign buyersmay have driven some recent immigrants to Nova Scotia.

 
Zhou and Xiong say one of the things that sold them on their home was its open concept design. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC)

"Vancouver increased their foreign buyers' tax and so that's driven foreign buyers to start to look across the country for other places to settle, and Nova Scotia offers an incredible quality of life and is still quite affordable," said Honsberger. 

Housing prices were also part of the reason Zhou and Xiong decided to stay in Halifax. They estimate their home would cost $4 million to $5 million in Vancouver or Toronto.

"The house prices here are pretty reasonable. You know, for the same money, we can afford a better and bigger house, " said Zhou.

 
At least three other homes near Zhou and Xiong's home are also owned by people who immigrated to Halifax from China. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC)

Honsberger said an increase in immigrants buying high-end homes may eventually push up housing costs, but the economic benefit of their spending in the local economy will far outweigh that.

Alexandra Baird Allen is the manager of the economic intelligence unit at Turner Drake & Partners Ltd., a commercial real estate consulting firm in Halifax. She said immigrants are needed to help drive economic growth as the population ages.

 

She said it's too early to make any generalizations about how an increase in Chinese immigration to Nova Scotia might have an effect on the local real estate market, but she doesn't believe there's any need to worry about high-end housing sales causing a spike in real estate prices.


"There's never one single thing that's driving the real estate prices," she said. "It seems unlikely that we are going to have the wild spikes in prices that have been seen in Toronto and Vancouver.

"We have a very steady, stable real estate market in the Atlantic provinces. I think that's very much a good thing and I don't see that changing."

'You just don't want to move away'

No matter what the future holds, Zhou and Xiong said they're happy with their decision to buy a home and stay in Halifax.

"We got the ocean. Once you get used to the ocean, really, it's a beautiful city. You just don't want to move away," he said.

 
 
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(Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Pixabay)

Vancouver’s housing market is so off-the-charts, some homeowners are asking to be taxed.

“I would like to see a correction to sober up this whole place,” one resident, Rob Welsh, told the New York Times. “If I got to lose 200 or 300 grand to keep the kids and the future of this place, so be it.”

The provincial government has introduced a 20 percent foreign-buyer tax, and new taxes on second homes, families whose income is made abroad and any home worth more than $3 million. That’s all in addition to municipal taxes like an empty house tax. But these measures still haven’t cooled the market; condo prices are up 16 percent compared to last year, and 60 percent over the past three years.

Some say, Vancouver is the victim of its own success: “Unbeknownst to many people in the local population, Vancouver has been sold as a subsidized resort town and retirement community to the world,” professor Josh Gordon told the Times. “We are now seeing the culmination of that dynamic.”

Others point to the city’s zoning, which favors low-density single-family development, and traditionally high income taxes.

“The message we have sent the world is, ‘Come and buy our real estate, but do not try to make a living here,’” said economist Tom Davidoff to the Times. “Mission accomplished.” [NYT] — Erin Hudson

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“I live 15 minutes from the downtown core in a house,” said Keith Roy, a real estate agent. “That’s crazy. I should be in a townhouse at this distance, maybe even a low-rise condo building.”

The figures show, however, that unlike other expensive West Coast cities like San Francisco, where the housing supply has long lagged behind population growth, Vancouver has consistently produced new housing. Over the past decade, the housing stock has grown by about 12 percent, while the population has grown by about 9 percent, according to the city.

This disparity has persuaded the city to broaden its measures beyond just a push for new buildings to efforts like the empty homes tax.

“It’s getting out of the mind-set that just more is better,” said Gil Kelley, the city’s general manager of planning, urban design and sustainability.

Tom Davidoff, an economist at the University of British Columbia, said it was all of the above. Vancouver is popular with foreign buyers, yes. But it also has strict zoning laws that reserve most of the city’s land for single-family homes, as well as high income taxes but low property taxes of about a quarter of a percent of the property value.

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In addition to 45-day suspension, Sandra Li to pay $20,000 to cover fines and cost of investigation

 
New Coast Realty licensee Jing (Sandra) Li has been suspended for 45 days. She has also been ordered to pay a $10,000 fine as well as $10,000 in enforcement fees. (New Coast Reatly)

B.C.'s real estate council has handed a 45-day suspension to an agent with a firm at the centre of a debate that transformed regulation of the province's real estate industry.

New Coast Realty licensee Jing (Sandra) Li has also been ordered to pay $10,000 in fines as well as an additional $10,000 to pay the cost of the council's enforcement expenses.

According to a consent order posted on the real estate council's website, Li was reprimanded in relation to misconduct revealed through a series of transactions in 2014 and 2015.

Contract assignment

Li admitted failing to supervise an unlicensed assistant who was providing real estate services on her behalf.

An investigation revealed that the assistant was paid more than $21,000 in commission on one of the sales.

 
The Real Estate Council of British Columbia has suspended New Coast Realty licensee Sandra Li for 45 days. She has also been fined $10,000 and ordered to pay $10,000 in enforcement fees. (Realtor.ca)

Li claimed the payment wasn't in exchange for real estate services, but because she wanted to assist her helper "with the financing of her purchase" of a property.

The council's documents also claim that three of the files concerned purchases involving a director of New Coast Realty — identified in the consent order as Z.W. 

In one of them, Li failed to prepare documents disclosing to the seller of a $3.8 million house in Richmond that the buyer who she represented had actually assigned the contract to purchase the home over to Z.W.

In another, Li acted as the buyer's agent for Z.W. for the purchase of a $1.6 million home in Richmond.

But she failed to draft an addendum revealing that her boss had assigned the contract to purchase the house over to her.

The consent order says that Li was also reprimanded for failing to disclose a $3,750 referral fee paid in relation to the sale of $2 million home in which agents for New Coast realty represented both the sellers and buyers.

According to the documents, Li also failed to disclose to the seller "in a timely manner" that she and another agent would be splitting a $27,750 commission until more than six months after the sale had gone through.

'One of the leading realtors'

In a statement, Rosario Setticasi, the chief compliance officer for New Coast, noted that none of the files came as the result of a consumer complaint and that five were opened following an internal audit by the real estate council.

The company says that where non-compliance with records and documentation were identified, "they were quickly remedied."

"Sandra Li is one of the leading realtors in the Lower Mainland," the statement said.

"Year after year, Sandra represents hundreds of buyers and sellers who trust and are pleased with the professional services provided by Sandra and her team."

In 2016, the Real Estate Council of B.C. commenced an investigation into New Coast's operations after reports in the media about the practice of "shadow flipping" — in which agents allegedly pocketed multiple commissions on the same property through the assignment of a contract for a higher price before the finalization of a sale.

At the time, the company issued a rebuttal of the allegations and claimed that it followed all necessary rules and regulations.

The controversy ultimately sparked a public discussion that led to the provincial government's decision to end self-regulation of the real estate industry.

According to the real estate council, Li was disciplined under the old regime because the misconduct occurred prior to the new rules. The old maximum fine was $10,000; it has since been raised to $50,000.

Li did not respond to a call for comment.

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Home sales across Greater Vancouver may be soft so far this year compared with the past couple of years, but that won’t be enough to bring average prices down, according to a forecast by the British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA).

In its quarterly outlook, the BCREA predicted that Greater Vancouver home sales on the MLS for the whole of 2018 will total 37,200 units, which is down 10.7 per cent compared with 2017 – but that transactions will recover somewhat in 2019 to rise 3.7 per cent.

 

The report said the average Greater Vancouver home sale price this year will be $1.08 million, which is 4.7 per cent higher than 2017’s average price of $1.03 million. BCREA added that it expected a continued slight rise of 2.3 per cent next year, to just over $1.1 million. This average encompasses all property types and all areas of the region, and doesn’t take into account larger variables between different property types and neighbourhood sub-markets.

 

“The housing market continues to be supported by a strong economy,” said Cameron Muir, BCREA chief economist. “However, slower economic growth is expected over the next two years as the economy is nearing full employment and consumers have stepped back from their 2017 spending spree.”

Across the province, residential resales are forecast to fall nine per cent to 94,200 units this year, following 103,700 unit sales in 2017, and stay flat in 2019. However, the BCREA said that B.C. sales are “expected to remain above the 10-year average of 84,800 units into 2020.”

BCREA BC home sales forecast into 2019Source: BCREA

“Demographics will play a key role in the housing market over the next few years,” added Muir, “as growth in the adult-aged population is bolstered by immigration and the massive millennial generation enters its household forming years.”

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Please visit our Open House at 214 1588 HASTINGS ST in Vancouver.
Open House on Sunday, June 3, 2018 1:00PM - 3:00PM
Welcome home! This gorgeous north facing (street side, not alley) 1 bedroom and LARGE den (can be used as a bedroom) has been meticulously maintained and the pride of ownership shines thru. North Shore Mountain views, gas range, quartz countertops, stainless steel appliances, and built-in microwave, and more. Located just blocks from some of the best cafes and breweries in town, with a Yolks & Starbucks right downstairs! The building also features a gym, rec room, rooftop deck, and more. 1 Parking / 1 storage, pet friendly and rentals . A pleasure to show. Open House Sunday 1-3pm
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