Weekly Buzz: Seniors' housing, Airbnb and Tri-City development

Western Canada's top commercial real estate stories, featuring coverage new seniors' housing projects and taxation on Airbnb rentals

Western Investor
February 9, 2018



The week’s top stories take a look at everything from seniors’ housing projects and new, open-minded approaches to age restrictions, to new Airbnb taxation for operators, to a development boom currently revving in the Port Moody. Senior housing developers are looking to loosen age restrictions on their residences to draw in more interest and help keep families together, while Airbnb operators realize that the path to legalization of the short-term rental business comes complete government taxation.

Here is Western Investor’s pick of the top commercial real estate stories published this week.


Mixed-age concept widens appeal of seniors’ housing – Western Investor

Welcoming younger family members into retirement complexes delivers benefits for seniors – and deepens the market for developers, according to senior housing developer Element Lifestyle Retirement.

Douglas Guest, 38, has purchased two condominiums in a Vancouver retirement residence and he said it makes perfect sense to be buying into seniors’ housing nearly 40 years out.

One is for himself and his wife, eventually. The other is for his 72-year-old widowed mother.

Anticipating his mother’s needs and seeing the long wait-lists for government residences, Guest had started to look for options.

“You could have assisted living, but if you needed extra care for something like dementia, there wasn’t any room for another caregiver; and other places were more like hospitals.”

Then he discovered the Opal retirement residence – currently the only one of its kind in Canada – by B.C.-based Element Lifestyle Retirement.

Located on Vancouver’s west side, Opal requires that only one family member in a suite be 55 or older, thus allowing family members from different generations to live together.

Opal is expected to be completed by February 2019 and will have 44 residential condominium units, 56 rental units and 30 complex- care units.

Guest decided to buy into Opal as an option for himself and his wife when they get closer to retirement. Until then, his mother will live in one of the 1,100-square-foot suites he purchased, and his in-laws will rent the other.

“We take a unique philosophy working with municipalities in terms of their age covenant and bylaws to provide the support and the care that’s not age-restricted in the traditional sense,” said Candy Ho, vice-president, marketing and corporate relations, Element Lifestyle Retirement. “Families can live together or seniors can have direct interaction on a daily basis with much younger people and not be surrounded by suffering and degeneration.”

This solution satisfies those who don’t like the stigma of moving into a “seniors’ home” and are trying to stay at home even when their health deteriorates, said Ho.

“These people stay at home and they wait too long until they need care and then scramble around trying to find the support and care because there’s just not enough of it out there.

“You can try to get care at home, but you’ll only get two hours a week through government services,” said Ho, speaking from the experience she had with her late father-in-law, who had Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

“Then the whole family becomes caregivers,” said Ho, adding that sometimes it’s the children who have special needs. “Anybody can need care at any stage of life.”

As an example, she said, there are parents with autistic children who are looking into her facility.

Mike Chiu, a commercial mortgage broker specializing in seniors’ housing, sees projects like Opal offering solutions for many seniors’ housing challenges.

“Government has not been keeping up with demand for the 75-plus population, so what we’re seeing is more private-sector involvement,” said Chiu, who is a commercial member of the BC Seniors Living Association and BC Care Providers Association. When a senior buys a unit rather than stays at home on a wait-list, they are one less person who is on the list for funded long-term care, he explained.

From a financial standpoint, lots of properties offer rentals, but being able to buy a condo means seniors don’t have to deplete their equity as they would in a high-end rental, said Chiu.

For retirement residence developers, of course, it also dramatically deepens their potential buyer pool.

[Western Investor]


Unique partnership replaces aging Vancouver seniors’ complex at no cost – Western Investor

Collingwood's Odd Fellows Manor will be replaced as part of a new six-storey, mixed-use development – at no cost, and no risk to the residence’s rental society.

Ground broke on the project at 3595 Kingsway, Jan. 26. It will see 44 units from Odd Fellows Manor replaced in a new six-storey building that also features commercial retail space at grade level and 117 market rental units.

The manor, which was built in 1971, was run by Odd Fellows Low Rental Housing Society, which works in conjunction with Three Links Care Society.

Its units were geared toward low-income residents 55 years and older. The building needed either significant repairs or replacement. Replacement was deemed the best option.

In 2012, Odd Fellows society approached Terra Housing to help find a solution. It specializes in developing real estate with social-purpose and market components.

Terra Special Projects, the development arm of Terra Housing, signed an agreement with the society to take on the risk and redevelop the property for the residual density. In return, the society would get their units replaced.

Terra Housing Projects subsequently partnered with Hungerford Properties, which had the capital and capacity to deliver the project. Terra became minority partners and over a two-year period acted as liaison between Hungerford and Odd Fellows. Now that construction has started, Hungerford works directly with Odd Fellows.

The project, which was approved in 2016, falls under the City of Vancouver’s Rental 100 program and is expected to be completed by the summer of 2019.

David Hurford, CEO for Three Links Care Society, said they spent months working with tenants, and organizations such as BC Housing and Vancouver Coastal Health, on relocation plans. The goal was to find displaced residents housing that was as good or better. In some cases, tenants were also matched with other services they needed through the process.

By this point, the building was half empty because once the project was a go, new tenants were no longer accepted at the manor. All of those remaining tenants will have first right to return to units in the new building once it’s finished. Residents in all 44 units will pay below market rents, according to an agreement with the City of Vancouver.

Hurford said these kinds of arrangements, in which a non-profit leverages land, are the wave of the future. Developers, he added, also see they’ll have a better chance of success with their project if they’re working with a non-profit, or public service organization, to create social housing units in markets such as Vancouver where there’s an affordability crunch.

“It appears to me the model people are really looking for is a non-profit working collaboratively with a municipality and a well-regarded private developer,” he said. “That seems to be a nice mix. And then, within the building, some sort of a mix of subsidized units for people who need the extra assistance and some sort of opportunity to offer market rental, which is what the market needs as well.”

Hugh Forster, a principal at Terra Special Projects, said it was a positive move for Odd Fellows manor.

“It’s unique in that a non-profit charitable society without financial resources [is] able to replace their social housing at no risk and no cost. They did that because their property had excess density. We traded them the density for the keys to a new building,” he said. “Our agreement was very complicated from a legal standpoint but it assured them that they had no risk.”

[Western Investor]


B.C. to start taxing Airbnb – Business in Vancouver

Home owners and tenants who are renting their premises on Airbnb will soon have to start charging an 8 per cent sales tax and a 3 per cent hotel tax, Business in Vancouver reports, following an announcement by the provincial government on Feb. 7.  

“Once we have this arrangement in place, we will make changes to the legislation and then Airbnb will be part of – as every other short-term rental organization will be – part of our tax system, which then includes audits and all the other rules that are in place for everybody who pays taxes in B.C.,” said Finance Minister Carole James.

James said that money the province raises from the tax will go toward initiatives in the upcoming provincial budget that aim to make housing more affordable. Money that goes to municipalities from the hotel tax (also known as the municipal and regional district tax) will go toward promoting tourism.

Had these new taxes been in place in 2017, Airbnb’s more than 18,000 hosts in B.C. would have contributed more than $18 million in taxes, said AirBnb public policy manager Alexandra Dagg. The B.C. government anticipates that the new tax will generate $16 million for the province and $5 million for municipalities.

Dagg estimated that the average Airbnb host in B.C. made $8,200 last year, or about $683 per month.

Airbnb started charging hosts taxes in Portland, Oregon and has since started levying taxes in various jurisdictions, Dagg said.

“We’ve worked with many forward-thinking authorities on similar initiatives in more than 350 jurisdictions around the world,” she said.

“We continue to collaborate with policy makers around the globe because agreements like these allow cities and provinces to rightfully benefit from the economic impact of home sharing.”

Municipal governments will continue to be able to regulate Airbnb and other short-term rental companies.

On November 14, Vancouver city council approved regulations to allow Vancouver residents to rent their principal residence on a short-term basis.

[Business in Vancouver]


Port Moody real estate development on fire – Western Investor

Major projects across the city – including the revitalization of Coronation Park and redevelopment of the former Chisholm TV factory site –are revving into motion.

A host of new mixed-use developments, some of them massive in scale, are either proposed or approved for the formerly “small-town-feel” city of Port Moody.

The latest residential project being proposed is for a 230-unit rental apartment building at 3370 Dewdney Trunk Road. Developer PC Urban Properties presented its plans to the city’s advisory design panel in January, having last year acquired the site, which is currently home to a mobile home park with 17 pads. 

If approved, it would bring the number of new rental units coming to the city to 372, after Woodbridge Properties recently received approval to build a six-storey development on St. Johns Street with 142 rental units.

Those are just two smaller developments out of the many new projects planned for the city. At one point last summer, the City was handling around 30 development applications per week, many of which are now coming to fruition. Here is a selection of major projects planned for the city.

Coronation Park revitalization

A major part of the City’s official community plan is the redevelopment of the Coronation Park neighbourhood. The land-use concept features a series of residential and mixed-use towers along Barnet Highway, Ioco Road and Guildford Way, with a mix of townhomes and apartments that would boost Coronation Park’s population from about 500 to nearly 4,500.

Westport Village

The Westport Village development on the former Andres Wines site is a 32-storey condo tower, a 21-storey condo tower and several mid-rise buildings, totalling 418 residential units, plus a hotel in central Port Moody.

St. John's Street

Port Moody residents got a chance January 31 at an open house to look at a mixed-use development proposed for the 3200 block of St. Johns Street, close to the Inlet Centre SkyTrain station. The large-scale project aims to build three residential towers of 20, 24, and 26 storeys, with a total of 601 homes, including 84 rental units. The towers would rise above low-rise podiums containing 50,104 square feet of commercial space.

Further down the road, but at the forefront of many local residents’ minds, is the proposed massive redevelopment of a 34-acre sawmill industrial site on the Port Moody waterfront. The Flavelle Oceanfront Development, by AP Group, calls for 11 residential towers from 19 storeys to 38 storeys high, with some low-rise residential, light industrial and retail – eventually totalling more than 3,300 homes and about 7,000 residents.

The City of Port Moody intends to spend several thousand dollars on an information campaign to inform residents about the range of new development in the city. However, the campaign has been cautioned against by two councillors who believe it will be politically sensitive in an election year.

[Western Investor]

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