Weekly Buzz: Property tax hike and housing innovation

Western Canada's top commercial real estate stories, featuring coverage on City of Vancouver property tax rates and development trends

Western Investor
December 15, 2017

Vancouver City Hall


\The week’s top stories focus primarily on the ever-evolving Metro Vancouver housing market. While The City of Vancouver approves a hike in property taxes (reportedly to help pay for more affordable housing), a new Coal Harbour development made headlines for becoming the most expensive new condo project in the city. Developers also continue to discuss whether opposition to the gentrification of Chinatown is affect future development ventures, while in Victoria, it’s full-steam ahead.

Here is Western Investor’s pick of the most buzz-worthy commercial real estate stories published this week.

Vancouver Hikes Property Taxes Extra to Pay for Housing – REW.ca

City council announced this week that it would be raising property taxes 0.34 per cent, bringing the 2018 property tax rate to 4.24 per cent. REW.ca broke down what that means for homeowners.

The extra tax revenues, said the council, are earmarked for:

• additional funding for implementation of the council-approved Housing Vancouver strategy, including the Empty Homes Tax;

• support for priority actions regarding Historical Discrimination Against Chinese People in Vancouver, including the Chinatown UNESCO bid;

• additional social grants; and

• added investment to help reduce development permit wait times.

The tax hike means that owners of a median single-family home in Vancouver (valued at $1.823 million) will pay an extra $94 in 2018 and owners of a median strata condo (assessed at $609,000) will pay an extra $32.

Mayor Gregor Robertson said, “This year’s budget maintains the essential services that residents and businesses rely on in their day-to-day lives, while also expanding investments to address our city’s changing needs.

“We’re taking bold action to get more urgently needed affordable housing built, including adding more temporary modular, social and rental housing throughout Vancouver and adding staff to reduce the time it takes to get permits for new housing and renovations.”

City council said that the property tax revenues in 2018 will also go towards helping the homeless, including more access to shelters and temporary modular homes, as well as increased funding to tackle the ongoing opioid crisis, recruiting more police and emergency responders, increased funding for childcare, and improving city infrastructure such as roads and snow response, and water and sewer systems.



Terrace House timber condos to start at $3 million – Western Investor 

A new Coal Harbour is making news for innovative design and record-breaking pricing. With an average per-unit price of $3 million, Terrace House certainly won’t be adding to the affordably housing stock Vancouver is looking for.

Lowly Douglas fir from the Kootenays and rockstar architect Shigeru Ban of Japan created a wood luxury condo tower at Coal Harbour, where the starting price for the 20 units is a stratospheric average of $3 million, according to a company press release.

Terrace House, at 1250 West Hastings, “is the pinnacle of modern development and will stand among some of the greatest residential buildings in the world,” said Macario Reyes, founder and CEO of developer PortLiving.

Half of the condominiums cover an entire floor of the 19-storey tower.

The average 2,200-square-feet unit could be priced at or near $5.5 million, among the most expensive condos ever built in the city.

The project is the first in Canada for Pritzker Prize-winning Ban and is the tallest hybrid timber structure in the world.

As well as the oceanview location in Coal Harbour, owner amenities will include 27-foot high ceilings, marble countertops and floors, smart home controls, including electronic-controlled glass-sliding panels to the terraces, in-floor radiant heating and cooling that extends to balconies, architect-designed door handles and landscaping and, of course, a “dedicated concierge team.” The wood is sourced from a sustainably-managed forest in southeastern B.C.

Terrace House is now under construction.

[Western Investor]

Chinatown rebuff raises uncertainty but developers not worried – Business in Vancouver

Last month, Western Investor editor Frank O’Brien reported the Keefer Street development rejection in Vancouver’s Chinatown sent a ‘negative chill’ throughout the development community. However, BIV columnist Peter Mitham reports on the contrary.

A city-sponsored community forum last Friday discussed the importance of Chinatown’s so-called legacy businesses – “stores that the community cherishes because of their connection to history, contribution to neighbourhood character and integral role in the community’s way of life.”

But developers are questioning the legacy of the city’s decision to not grant Beedie Living a permit for its planned condo development at 105 Keefer Street, which met the letter of city guidelines if not the spirit of the moment. Will the new year bring new surprises when it comes to project approvals – or rather, disapprovals?

During a development issues panel commercial association NAIOP convened last month, participants felt the city played politics with policy but deemed the move a one-off gambit.

“What separates Canada from a lot of parts of the world is that we can all wake up and think we’ve got a pretty predictable system of judgment and we have this set of rules,” said John Conicella, COO at Serracan Properties Ltd., pointing out that it seemed odd for an advisory panel to be the choke point.

“Can we trust the political structure, and what everyone’s role, responsibility and obligation is?” he said. “There must be predictability, and that’s the part that for me is the concern.”

GWL Realty Advisors Ltd. vice-president Geoff Heu, whose father sold chicken in Chinatown, believes 105 Keefer was the latest example of Vancouver using the permit process to address not only land use but also social and political issues.

“It’s a unique circumstance,” he said. “We’ll all get through it, and we just have to use the city process and land-use process for what it’s really made for.”

[Business in Vancouver]

Victoria prepares for development rush – Victoria Times Colonist

The region is roaring into 2018 with multibillion-dollar projects starting or expanding, BIV reports.

Greater Victoria will accelerate into 2018 as B.C.’s second-busiest city for real estate development with existing major retail and residential projects surging forward and new ones firing up. The booming industrial sector is clamouring for space as the vacancy rate has fallen to near-record lows.

Buildig permit values as of the end of October were up 170% from the same time a year earlier to $184.7 million, according to Statistics Canada.

It appears that 2018 will be even higher.

Bosa Development, which bought Victoria’s Empress Hotel four years ago, has added Dockside Green to its Victoria portfolio as it plans to build out the mixed-use property.

Vancity Credit Union, through Dockside Green Ltd., sold Bosa the 10 acres of the 15-acre site that are still to be completed. This equals to one million square feet buildable, 90% of which will be residential.

Construction on three more residential towers will start in 2018, said Ryan Bosa, president of Vancouver-based Bosa Living.

Another large Victoria West project, the on-going Bayview and Roundhouse development by Focus Equities, will kick into a higher gear in 2018. A third residential tower – at 17 storeys – completes and is already sold out. Future condo buildings are planned for as high as 26 storeys.

Work has started on a $75-million seniors residence on the site. Vancouver-based Element Lifestyle Retirement is behind the 153,000-square-foot seniors facility that will have five-storeys and feature 155 units to purchase or rent, and includes 35 licensed care units.

Developer Kenneth Mariash expects another six structures will be built, including a hotel and a heritage-style retail village.

At completion, the entire development is expected to be worth more than $1 billion.

Meanwhile, the $35 million Sidney Crossing retail project is expected to break ground early in 2018, according to Omicron vice-president Peter Laughlin.

[Business in Vancouver]

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