Paul Liberatore

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Redevelopment plans for Whalley’s Flamingo Block are moving ahead after city council approved the application Monday night.

Council gave third reading to the project described as “innovative” and “critical” to Whalley’s revitalization.

James Stewart, who has been a lawyer in Surrey for nearly 40 years, told city council that his office in the Gateway tower faces Whalley and that he’s “watched the community evolve, and in some cases deterioriate over all those years.”

Stewart said the development will be “an iconic gateway project that will help rewrite the image of Surrey in general and Whalley in particular” and create a “balanced community.”

“A new community rising out of the wounded community that exists right now,” Stewart continued, “despite the determined efforts of the city and so many other organizations and residents. I don’t believe that Whalley can heal unless physical changes are made that promote and facilitate an influx of new residents. It will be those new residents that form and reform this community.”


The Tien Sher development, at 13665 107A Ave. and 10740 and 10768 King George Blvd., would see a 35-storey highrise and six-storey building constructed during the first phase of the project. Over the next decade or so the developer plans to build three residential towers in all, along with some smaller buildings and some inviting park space on 4.3 acres.

The proposal requires an OCP (Official Community Plan) amendment to increase density, a City Centre Plan amendment as well as a portion of the properties to be rezoned. The developer must now work with the city toward completing the necessary requirement before final adoption.

During the public hearing, 61 people voiced their support for the project (14 who spoke at the hearing), and one was opposed.



“Whalley is at a tipping point,” Surrey resident and CEO of Fifth Avenue Real Estate Marketing Scott Brown told city council.

Brown said the area is the “disregarded step sister” as King George and Surrey Central SkyTrain stations see more and more development around them.

“This particular development is a critical, critical development for signalling the future of Whalley and actually drawing the positive attention that Whalley already has but needs more of,” he added.

Rourke Anderson, who owns Surrey MMA at 10708 136A St., urged council to approve the project.

“I’ve watched the area in the last year deteriorate even more so,” said Anderson, referring to “a mecca of tents” along 135A Street.

“I unfortunately have the RCMP non-emergency and emergency on speed dial because when we’re teaching people to be better people and right across he street is, in some cases, the exact opposite. It can be very disconcerting,” he told city council. “As a young business owner, I hope you can help this plan. It means the world to all the students that we brought here with us today and the children.”

Several business leaders also urged council to approve the project, including Surrey Board of Trade’s Anita Huberman and Downtown Surrey BIA’s Elizabeth Model.

Huberman said the “innovative” development is necessary for Whalley’s revitalization “into the vision of a city centre.” She urged council to fast-track it.

She also praised the walkability the development encourages as well as other “highly desireable” amenities such as plenty of greenspace that she said will “provide an attractive entrance to the City Centre” and the space for non-profits and arts groups.

“It will be a social, economic and central hub,” Huberman said, later adding, “It will be affordable, increasing our housing supply that we so desperately need. It will create a vibrancy in this area.”

Model said the project is “desperately needed” and referred to a letter the DSBIA sent to the mayor and council asking them to expedite development north of 104th Avenue.

Developer Charan Sethi, with Tien Sher Group, has been building condominium projects in Whalley since 2005, among them three Quattro developments, Balance and Venue.

“I’ve been trying to develop the Whalley area, and trying to get Whalley on the map in a good way, not a bad way,” Sethi said in a recent interview with the Now-Leader.

For nearly two years now Sethi’s been trying to rezone the Flamingo Block.

Sethi also told the Now-Leader that he wants to launch arts and culture in their program.

“What we’ve done is partner up with some of the people in the arts and culture area and say OK, you know what, we’re going to give you space in our building. You’re going to be able to have a base where you can start arts and culture. We need something like that.”


Sears plans to continue to operate stores in Canada after restructuring itself.

Sears plans to continue to operate stores in Canada after restructuring itself. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)


Sears Canada plans to close 59 stores and eliminate 2,900 jobs across the country as part of a court-supervised restructuring process.

Shares in Sears Canada were halted Thursday morning after the retailer applied for and was granted protection from its creditors under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act — the law that covers insolvency proceedings.

The move gives the retailer 30 days to restructure itself, which includes $450 million in debtor-in-possession financing to fund the company while it restructures, a process that will include closing dozens of locations and laying off thousands of workers.

The chain will axe 20 full Sears stores, 15 Sears Home Stores, all 10 outlet stores and 14 Sears Hometown stores — roughly one-third of its current retail footprint.

Affected locations are listed here:

Sears storesSears Hometown storesOutlet storesSears Home stores
Medicine Hat, Alta. Cold Lake, Alta. Abbotsford Retail, B.C. Calgary
Grande Prairie, Alta. St. Albert, Alta. Winnipeg Garden City Edmonton Skyview
Lloydminster, Alta. Okotoks, Alta. Halifax Outlet Ancaster, Ont.
Red Deer Relocation, Alta. Spruce Grove, Alta. Cornwall, Ont. Woodbridge, Ont.
Kamloops Aberdeen Mall, B.C. Ft. McMurray, Alta. Chatham, Ont. London, Ont.
Bathurst, N.B. Leduc, Alta. Cambridge, Ont. Scarborough, Ont.
Saint John, N.B. Sherwood Park, Alta. Timmins, Ont. Kingston, Ont.
Corner Brook, N.L. Creston, B.C. St. Eustache, Que. Ottawa East
Truro Mall, N.S. Sechelt, B.C. Montreal Place Vertu Sudbury, Ont.
Dartmouth, N.S. Grand Forks, B.C. Sorel, Que. Windsor, Ont.
Brockville, Ont. Orangeville, Ont.   Orillia, Ont.
Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. Rimouski, Que.   St. Bruno, Que.
Hull, Que. Rouyn-Noranda, Que.   Laval, Que.
Chicoutimi, Que. Melville, Sask.   Quebec City
St. Georges de Beauce, Que.     Ste. Foy, Que.
Alma, Que.      
Drummondville, Que.      
Moose Jaw, Sask.      
Prince Albert, Sask.      

All other Sears locations will remain open, the chain said, and the company "plans to continue to operate a large number of stores, continue to maintain significant employment, and to service its customers across Canada," Sears said in a court filing.

About 500 office positions at the company were to be eliminated immediately. The remainder of the job losses will come as Sears closes stores. As of May 30, the company employed approximately 17,000 people, with 10,500 in part-time positions and the rest working full-time.

Trading in the shares was halted before the Toronto Stock Exchange opened on Thursday, pending news. Minutes later, Sears Canada announced its plan in a press release. 

The stock has lost more than 80 per cent of its value on the TSX since the start of the year, and at 62 cents a share, is well below the $40 it traded at back in the year 2000.



As a result of the CCAA proceedings, Sears Canada's shares will eventually be delisted from the TSX.

The company has seen a huge drop in its revenues compared to several years ago, waylaid by a changing retail landscape and tougher online competition. About a year and a half ago, the company revamped its operations and the early indications are that Sears has made progress since then, with same-store sales growth for two quarters in a row.

That's an encouraging sign for the chain, but Thursday's move signals that the company thinks more drastic changes are needed.

"The continued liquidity pressures facing the company as well as legacy components of its business are preventing it from making further progress and from restructuring its legacy assets and businesses outside of a CCAA proceeding," Sears said.

The causes of Sears' problems are complex, but there is one big threat that has hit many retailers of late: "One word — e-commerce," said Mirella Pisciuneri, a partner at Richter consultancy, who isn't working on Sears' restructuring but has handled similar ones in the past.

The rise of online selling has squeezed Sears and many other retailers, as customers can now comparison shop online and online sellers have much lower costs. It is somewhat ironic that online selling is such a major threat for Sears today, considering how the chain got its start.

Parent company Sears Roebuck & Co. set up shop in Canada in 1952 and was predominantly a seller of merchandise by mail, via the company's popular catalogue. 


But the landscape has changed since the golden age of department stores, and Sears now finds itself without an obvious market niche.

"If you want upscale you go to The Bay," Pisciuneri said in an interview, "you want low cost you got to Walmart.

"Who is Sears right now?" she said. "Why go to Sears?"


Bruce Winder, founder of the Retail Adviser Network, says the biggest problem for Sears is it got complacent over the years and didn't keep up with the times.

"Momentum in retail takes years to gain and years to lose, but once you lose it, it's gone, and I think that unfortunately they've lost that momentum," he said.

"If you go back 10, 20 years, retailers need to evolve," Winder said. "They need to constantly look at their customer base and their stores, and keep investing to renew that."

Sears says it's doing exactly that, with its relaunch in late 2015 showing early indications of slumping sales turning around ever so slightly.

"The new brand positioning is starting to resonate with consumers," Sears said in a release Thursday.

Pisciuneri said Sears faces an uphill climb, but she's confident that it's not too late for the chain to save itself.

"It's not impossible, but there's a lot of work that needs to be done."


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How the Millennial Generation is changing the way agents market and sell homes

With the Millennial Generation taking up an increasingly prominent segment of the home-buying population, real estate agents are beginning to consider the buying trends and needs of this group more in their own daily operations. We had a chance to speak with Mike Rampf and Shawn Anderson, top-producing real estate advisors at luxury brokerage Engel & Völkers, and co-founders of VANCITY Living about their experience working with millennials and how this generation’s home buying characteristics and needs are vastly different from others’. 

Q: What trends are you finding in terms of millennials going into home buying? How are millennials handling home buying differently from other generations?

M: It's very different, the way millennials buy versus the older generations. The older generations are very happy with, and would prefer, face-to-face meetings, sitting across a table, going over a contract, having us pick them up and take them to a showing, or a tour, or an open house. Millennials are much more, "Text me. Email me the contract. DocuSign the contract. I don't need to see you face-to-face." Even just generally, phone calls are a push. Most of my communication with my millennial buyers is via text message and DocuSign. Their approach is much more digital and hands-off. They’ve chosen a professional they trust, so they don't feel the need to meet me as much.

S: Some of my millennial clients do like meeting in person and I do accompany them to open houses. They do like talking about the neighbourhoods in person. Some are fine just texting and emailing. Until they really narrow it down, we don't spend a lot of time together.

Q: Do you find, from an industry perspective, that brokerages are tailoring the way they operate to cater to millennial needs?

M: One hundred percent. Engel & Völkers is one of the first brokerages that we know of that incorporates virtual reality as a standard across our entire network. All of our listings have three dimensional virtual tours that allow you to wear VR goggles and do a complete walkthrough of the property on your computer screen. A lot of our millennial buyers have experienced our listings prior to even stepping foot in the property.

Q: With Vancouver’s high house prices, how are millennials affording to buy homes?

S: I'd say generally they're getting gifted down payments or parental loans. A lot of millennials’ parents are sitting on millions of dollars in real estate, and they realize how tough it is, or impossible it is for their children to get into the market, so that's primarily what we see. You just can't save up fast enough. The incomes in Vancouver aren't high enough to save faster than the rate of price appreciations in the last little while. So the parents are giving them a jumpstart into the real estate market. It might be a gift, it might be a loan, but it's very common.

M: When you look at a lot of moms and dads that we've worked with in the past, you see that they’ve bought their house for maybe $30,000 all the way up to a few hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now they're going to go sell their home for three to tens of millions of dollars, and that hand down of cash to the kids is very, very common. A lot of the clients that we work with are selling the big house on the West Side are gifting their kids a large portion of that money that they've taken from their sale and given it to their kids.

Q: How about millennials who aren’t being supported by their parents?

S: These are ones that typically got in the market, say a decade ago, and they're fortunate that they were in early enough that they rode the market up. As far as first time buyers, we have a few clients that are very successful in their businesses, and they're able to save fast enough to build these down payments. However, it’s not very common that someone from the Millennial Generation is able to save that much on their own.

Q: Are you finding you’re getting more millennial first-time home buyers because of the new BC home down payment loan?

S: Not us personally. We have seen it but have not encountered it much personally.

Q: Are you seeing more millennial home buyers struggling because of the Canadian government’s federal mortgage stress test?

S: It’s certainly affected affordability and it changed what people can and cannot afford due to the requirements. There are clients that it has affected and they just work with what they can afford.

Q: What is the biggest piece of advice you can offer millennial home buyers?

M & S: Just entering the market is the most important part. Don’t expect to be purchasing your dream home up-front – you can enter at a lower price-point and work your way up. Work hard, save hard and don’t eat the avocado toast. 


A lawsuit alleging the foreign buyers tax violated Charter rights was launched against the British Columbia government last September.

A lawsuit alleging the foreign buyers tax violated Charter rights was launched against the British Columbia government last September. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

B.C.'s provincial government says the constitutional challenge put forward by a foreign homebuyer on Metro Vancouver's 15 per cent foreign homebuyers tax is "of questionable merit" and can be resolved without undertaking a full trial.

The provincial government has responded to the potential class action lawsuit launched  last September by lead plaintiff Jing Li, a university student from the People's Republic of China now living in Burnaby.

Li says she was caught by the 15 per cent foreign buyers tax — which the province implemented last August to slow down the region's red-hot real estate market — which added $84,000 to the price of a townhouse she had attempted to buy in Langley.

In her claim, Li alleged the province had acted beyond its powers by applying the tax and alleged it had violated foreign treaties and international obligations the federal government had made to other nations.

Jing Li

Jing Li signed a contract to purchase a townhouse in Langley 12 days before the province introduced a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers acquiring property in Metro Vancouver. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

In an amended claim submitted in February, Li further alleged the province had discriminated against her on the basis of national origin, contrary to the equality guarantee of Section 15 of the Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The claim has generated considerable interest across the country, particularly in Ontario which launched its own foreign buyers' tax in April.

It has yet to be certified as a class action.

No rights infringed, province says

In early May, the province responded to Li's claims by saying the foreign buyers tax does not violate foreign buyers' rights.

In its response, the province says it acted well within its powers to apply taxes. It argues that any international treaties agreed to by the federal government would be irrelevant, unless they have been specifically implemented into domestic law via legislation.

On the Section 15 Charter challenge, the province argued the tax makes its distinction based on immigration status — not national origin — and is therefore not protected by the Charter.


Summary trial preferred

Furthermore, the province is making the unusual move of requesting a summary trial — where the judge can make a preliminary decision without a full trial — before the class action is certified.

The province says the class action certification process would add "unnecessary complexity and costs."

It adds the court would be forced to engage in a much broader range of issues than the case warrants, which, it says, would be "highly inefficient."

A timely resolution of the issue is imperative, the province says, adding time would dramatically increase potential costs for the province if the litigation were to go on.

If the claim is successful, the province would have to repay all the revenue it's collected through the tax — which could be in the hundreds of millions.

Uncommon move


David Rosenberg, a B.C. based lawyer and expert on class action litigation, says applying for a summary trial before certification is an uncommon step as the majority of class action suits proceed to certification first.

But the strategy occasionally succeeds and could do away with the entire trial, he said.

"If the court sees there's a discrete, clear legal point that could be decided and could dispose of the entire litigation, it may hear that application at an early stage," he said.

Rosenberg says this would also disadvantage the foreign buyers when it comes to costs.

If the summary trial goes ahead before the class action is certified, he said, the plaintiffs won't be protected from paying costs by B.C.'s no-cost class action regime. 

"That's a real danger to them that they may, if they lose the application, also have to pay costs and they may be significant," he explained. 

For now, none of the allegations has been proven in court.



Photo: Adam Jones/Flickr

For many first-time homebuyers, sky-high Vancouver home prices aren’t enough to stop them from entering the market, suggests a poll from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV).

In fact, 32 per cent of all homebuyers in Greater Vancouver during the year ending in April were purchasing residential real estate for the very first time, according to REBGV.


Source: REBGV

Meantime, Vancouverites looking to purchase a dwelling similar to their current one comprised almost 19 per cent of homebuyers over the past year.

REBGV, which consists of more than 13,500 realtors in the region, surveyed its members who represented homebuyers from April 2016 to April 2017 to determine purchaser demographics.

The poll suggests families with children represented 35.5 per cent of homebuyers from April 2016 to the same month this year. Young childless couples followed at 16 per cent, while single men accounted for a 13.3 per cent share of buyers over that period.


Source: REBGV

The majority of buyers are from Greater Vancouver. Some 38 per cent of recent homebuyers surveyed were purchasing a home in the same community they previously lived in, while 36 per cent were from outside of the region and 14 per cent were investors.

Buyers continued to show strong interest in viewing properties before buying. About 85 per cent attended open houses, compared to 82 per cent a year earlier.

And most homebuyers (60 per cent) in Greater Vancouver, where the benchmark price of a home is $941,100, put forward a downpayment of at least 25 per cent.

The amount of multiple offers on properties hasn’t changed significantly over the past year either, with about 85 per cent of realtors seeing more than one offer on a property this April versus 83 percent in April 2016.




A group working on behalf of Vancouver developers is urging the city to build more townhomes and other forms of multi-family housing as a way to boost the supply of affordable homes.

But critics say it’s little use building more supply if it’s going to be marketed to overseas buyers.

Construction projects seem to be a permanent fixture of life in the city, but new numbers show that despite all the cranes dotting the skyline, Vancouver is experiencing an all-time low for multi-family housing availability.

A new report by the Urban Development Institute (UDI) says to boost affordable housing supply the region needs rezoning that would allow for more townhomes, rowhomes and low-rises in traditionally single-family neighbourhoods.

READ MORE: Vancouver’s foreign-buyer tax hitting detached homes harder than condos, developers say

“In the City of Vancouver there are zero ready-built, ready-to-move-in townhomes available for sale, everything else has been sold,” said the UDI’s Anne McMullin.

“The resistance to building new homes is overwhelming, yet the criticism of house prices is overwhelming. You can’t have it both ways.”

Critics say building more housing won’t help if it’s being offered first to buyers overseas.

A recent series of ads show several Vancouver condos being marketed in Hong Kong.

“When you’re pushing supply as the solution, and then you’re ultimately selling it overseas to foreign speculators, it’s really not helping locals, it’s not helping local affordability,” realtor Steve Saretsky said.

According to the UDI, roughly seven per cent of Metro Vancouver sales are to foreign buyers.

Tom Davidoff of UBC’s Sauder School of Business suspects that when it comes to presales, the numbers are much higher.

“When these buildings are complete are we going to see the foreign buyers of the presale units flip their presale assignments to local buyers?” he said.

“Are we going to see them rent the units out or are we going to see foreign buyers hold onto empty units?”

Davidoff believes the empty homes tax may reduce the number of properties sitting vacant.

But more regulations are needed, if you ask Saretsky.

“It’s almost like the government has to intervene and incentivize developers to not only build for locals, but to sell to locals as well,” he said.

The UDI said only a minority of condos, namely at the high end of the market, are marketed overseas so new regulations may not help, but with little in the way of data it’s hard to know for certain.


Market activity picks up in May VANCOUVER, BC – June 2, 2017 – Home buyer activity returned to near record levels across the Metro Vancouver* housing market in May. Residential property sales in the region totalled 4,364 in May 2017, a decrease of 8.5 per cent from the 4,769 sales in May 2016, an all-time record, and an increase of 22.8 per cent compared to April 2017 when 3,553 homes sold. Last month’s sales were 23.7 per cent above the 10-year May sales average and is the thirdhighest selling May on record. "Demand for condominiums and townhomes is driving today’s activity," Jill Oudil, Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) president said. “First-time buyers and people looking to downsize from their single-family homes are both competing for these two types of housing.” New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Metro Vancouver totalled 6,044 in May 2017. This represents a 3.9 per cent decrease compared to the 6,289 units listed in May 2016 and a 23.2 per cent increase compared to April 2017 when 4,907 homes were listed. The month-over-month increase in new listings was led by detached homes at 27.1 per cent, followed by apartments at 22.7 per cent and townhomes at 14.1 per cent. The total number of properties currently listed for sale on the MLS® system in Metro Vancouver is 8,168, a 5.7 per cent increase compared to May 2016 (7,726) and a 4.5 per cent increase compared to April 2017 (7,813). "Home buyers are beginning to have more selection to choose from in the detached market, but the number of condominiums for sale continues to decline," Oudil said. The sales-to-active listings ratio across all residential categories is 53.4 per cent. By property type, the ratio is 31 per cent for detached homes, 76.1 per cent for townhomes, and 94.6 per cent for condominiums. Generally, analysts say that downward pressure on home prices occurs when the ratio dips below the 12 per cent mark for a sustained period, while home prices often experience upward pressure when it surpasses 20 per cent over several months. “While sales are inching closer to the record-breaking pace of 2016, the market itself looks different. Sales last year were driven by demand for single-family homes. This year, it's clear that townhomes and condominiums are leading the way,” said Oudil. “It’s important to work with your local REALTOR® to understand the different factors affecting the market today.” 

The data relating to real estate on this website comes in part from the MLS® Reciprocity program of either the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV), the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB) or the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board (CADREB). Real estate listings held by participating real estate firms are marked with the MLS® logo and detailed information about the listing includes the name of the listing agent. This representation is based in whole or part on data generated by either the REBGV, the FVREB or the CADREB which assumes no responsibility for its accuracy. The materials contained on this page may not be reproduced without the express written consent of either the REBGV, the FVREB or the CADREB.