Ottawas Condos Team Blog
South Minster Condos
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Zev

Church and Developer partnerships are becoming the norm. Many religious congregations are facing dwindling memberships, high operating costs, and major deferred maintenance bills. Some congregations are questioning their short-term cash crunches and long-term viability. The silver lining for most congregations is their primary asset, their land. Built generations ago, some churches are to be located in mature neighbourhoods and congregations were able to purchase large parcels of land at a relatively low cost.

 Developers on the other hand are primarily concerned with finding land. Without a significant supply of quality land, developers are unable to build. Typically, developers buy land for 5-10 years down the road to have inventory; commonly known as land banking. Seems simple enough; buy land and build for today and have additional land to build on after. Right? Wrong! As cities continue to grow, urban land becomes more valuable and harder to find.

With separate yet interdependent problems, both parties have becoming willing partners. Windmill Developments have successfully proven their ability to partner with the Anglican Church to develop its site in the downtown core, Cathedral Hill, located on the corner of Sparks St and Bronson Ave. They struck a land-lease with the Church and built a luxury 21 story condo building with unprecedented views of Parliament, The Ottawa River, and The Gatineau Hills.

Fast forward to today, Windmill Developments are working with Southminster United Church to develop another parcel of land. Ideally located, Southminster United sits in the historic neighbourhood of Old Ottawa South. Southerminster Condos will be only the second condominium development in the neighbourhood. What makes Old Ottawa South such an interesting neighbourhood from a land perspective is that it’s partially landlocked. The Rideau Canal boarders the northern part of the neighbourhood, while the Rideau River boarders the southern part. Due to this, it’s land value is vastly increased.

Southminster Condos itself is quite small with only 4 town-homes and 14 residential condo units proposed. This would be a perfect fit for the street scape of the neighbourhood and would keep the charm and feel of Old Ottawa South intact. However, the project faces a zoning change, heritage overlays, and potential community push back.

Overall, Southminster Condos has the potential to become a landmark site in Old Ottawa South like Cathedral Hill has in Centretown. With city and community approval, continued collaboration between Churches and Developers can continue and they can create a rich piece of history in the process. Finally, something the whole community can be proud of.

Re Residences Condo Ottawa is breaking ground on Sparks St
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Zev

It's that time! Nothing bring more excitement to a condo project than ground-breaking (except moving in). The Re Residences Condo Ottawa is breaking ground on Sparks St and "the dig" has started. This project has a history of stop and go. Back in 2010, Ashcroft Homes announced this landmark project. Further, the project was set to include a boutique hotel in the condo. Due to a lack of sales, the development was put on hold. Fast Forward to 2017 and construction is underway.

After generations of success, Sparks St. lost its standing at the premiere street in Ottawa. Following this, the city saw a tremendous rise in popularity of Bank St, Wellington St, Richmond Rd, and Beechwood Ave. For years, the city has been working to bring back the allure of Sparks St and the Re Residence is a major piece of the revitalization of Sparks St. First, there was the opening of Riviera. Following the success of El Camino and Datsun, Chef Michael Carmichael had the vision to make the Old Bank Building on Sparks St one of Ottawa's most popular restaurants. With the growing popularity of Riviera, the city is starting to remember the glory days of Sparks St. Further, with the construction of Ottawa's most exclusive addresses; the Re Residences is primed to help the evolution of Sparks St.

This project is set to redefine luxury condo living in Ottawa with butler service, a high-end restaurant in the building, a spa, SkyLounge, and unobstructed views of Parliament Hill, Ottawa River, Gatineau Hills, Byward Market, and LeBreton Flats. Perfectly situated, the Re Residences is poised to help bring back the glory days of Sparks St.

Follow the below links to view more details on the Re Residences in Ottawa!

http://www.thereottawa.com/re-residences-ground-breaking/

https://ottawascondominiums.com/condo/re-residences-condo-ottawa-metcalfe-st/ 

Illumination LeBreton: LeBreton Flats in the Making
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Jeff

In April 2016 it was announced that the much anticipated bid to redevelop LeBreton Flats was won by RendezVous LeBreton Group’s Illumination LeBreton. It’s hard to believe that after decades of near-vacancy and intense competition between developers a plan has been made for the land’s future. So, what is Illumination LeBreton and what does the RendezVous LeBreton Group promise that is more favourable than the opposing developer Devcore Canderel DLS Group proposal? 

Illumination LeBreton Visionary

The development slogan boasts of “Linking, Connecting and Completing” and it promises to celebrate the past while inspiring a bright future. Illumination LeBreton’s main design principles are Heritage, Connectivity, Vibrancy, Sustainability and Place-making. RendezVous LeBreton promises to harness LeBreton Flats and the city of Ottawa’s cultural, political, economic and entrepreneurial spirit which was originally fostered by the industrialists of Chaudière Falls over a century ago.

As a central region, Illumination LeBreton will also strive to connect each adjacent neighbourhood, from downtown near Parliament Hill to the west’s Nepean Bay Inlet as well as Gatineau across the river. RendezVous LeBreton describes the area as “the final linking piece of a great puzzle”, creating an infused dynamic between the joining historic regions. Illumination LeBreton will embellish Ottawa’s personality and energy through innovative urban space, districts and street activity. Optimizing the region’s varying climates, the development will focus on maintaining sunlight, both indoors and outdoors, and introducing seasonal activities like outdoor festivals in the summertime and a skating canal in the winter.

Consequentially to the location of LeBreton Flats, Illumination LeBreton will focus on long-term sustainability for the 21 hectare region. 1.2 million cubic meters of contaminated land will be treated and revitalized while environmental stewardship and sustainable living will be avidly promoted by residential and commercial stakeholders alike. The “One Planet Action Plan” devised for Illumination LeBreton actually has ten principles with aspiring and attainable goals aiming for long-term environmental and social improvements in all aspects of an everyday lifestyle.

The fifth and final intent for Illumination LeBreton lies within Place-making. As RendezVous LeBreton Group puts it, “the greatest urban environments around the world are places – neighbourhoods that have memorable characteristics and identifiable personalities. These places are an energized blend of iconic architectures, sublime public spaces and exciting or pleasing activities. They are places where people are proud to live, where people are drawn to and where the cities’ identities are framed and formed.” This is the primary end goal of Illumination LeBreton and it plans to be executed in three phases over 10 years.

How? Illumination LeBreton’s Public and Non-Public Anchors

What exactly will Illumination LeBreton incorporate to create such innovation, connectivity and distinction in the City of Ottawa? RendezVous LeBreton’s proposal includes public anchors like the Major Event Centre, Sensplex and Abilities Centre and non-public anchors like commercial, retail and residential components, including affordable housing.

The biggest draw is the 18,000-seat Major Event Centre (MEC) which joins the adjacent LeBreton Square capable of holding a whopping 28,000 more civilians. The MEC will be an incredible facility and a new capital landmark for the city of Ottawa. With year round public access and events catered to the entire city demographic, the Major Event Centre and LeBreton Square has the potential to restore civic life in the remarkable district. Furthermore, the MEC promises new views of the city, including Parliament Hill and the Ottawa River, from its glass-walled exterior and ground breaking green roof project.

However, the most important and enticing aspect of the MEC is its proposed tenant: the Ottawa Senators. In a country like Canada, the capital’s National Hockey League is quite the rage and fuels the city’s spirit. However, their current home is a 30 kilometer drive outside the city center. During peak events like Senator games and popular music tours the trek out to the Canadian Tire Center can be slow, aggravating, and to some locals, sadly not worth it.

Illumination LeBreton will have a community-use ice rink facility a few steps from Ottawa’s downtown core. It will consist of two NHL-sized hockey rinks, being the Ottawa Senator’s home for practice and games and is a viable place to host national and international hockey tournaments. The potential for local spirit and economic growth is not only exciting but exactly what Canada’s capital needs. Attached to the Sensplex will be an Abilities Centre, the second of its kind in Canada. It will be a community centre that focuses on sports, recreation, arts, music, dance and life skills improvements. It will also incorporate a centre of excellence for people with disabilities.

Furthermore, the MEC is expected to bring 175 events per year, roughly 30 more than the current Canadian Tire Centre. Only 30% of these events are hockey related, leaving room for many more performances catering people of all ages and interests. The MEC and joining Sensplex and Abilities Centre will be located directly between the Pimisi and Bayview LRT Stations. Walkways both on and above ground will connect the three important landmarks, making every aspect of the surrounding area easily accessible to the public. 80% of the expected crowd will arrive by public transit, bike or foot however there will also be over 8,000 underground parking spots in the area. 

Another unifying aspect is the LeBreton Flats aqueduct that has been so sadly neglected over the years. It will become a historic anchor in Illumination LeBreton and will transform the water channel in an iconic new public space with a boardwalk, cafes and retail space. In the winter the aqueduct will become a public area of outdoor skating, similar to the Rideau Canal.

Other public anchors within Illumination LeBreton includes a Multimedia Nightwalk,  Canadian Science and Technology Museum, new home for the permanent installation of the Governor General’s prestigious National Honours Awards and a revamped home base for popular events like Ottawa Bluesfest and the Ottawa Race Weekend. Lastly, the proposal includes a new Ottawa Central Library which will sit on the corner of Albert and Booth Street which will become a new and beautiful destination in of itself.

Although commercial and residential plans aren’t concrete, the Illumination LeBreton proposal includes a hotel with 800 suites as well as 4,400 residential units. An impressive portion will be dedicated to affordable housing thanks to RendezVous LeBreton’s partnership with the not-for-organization Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation. After reaching full completion of the project by the planned date of 2026, Illumination LeBreton will have up to 12,000 citizens working there and around 7,000 residing in the area.

The Losing Bid: LeBreton Re-Imagined

The runner up in the LeBreton Flats redevelopment bid was LeBreton Re-Imagined by the DCDLS Group. It included a Canadian Communication Centre and Ottawa Public Library, both similar to Illumination LeBreton, as well as a Canadensis Walk acting as a uniting feature to enrich the social and cultural draws for visitors. However, the main difference was a proposed “World Automotive Experience” Museum. This was instead of the NHL Sens headquarters and a lot less exciting than a new home for the locally praised hockey team.

The main issue with the the LeBreton Re-Imagined redevelopment plan was its lack of confirmed tenants. The selection committee was worried about minimal support and information for financial viability of the public anchors. Although Illumination LeBreton also lacked concrete investors, the committee knew that a Sensplex and similar ventures were successful from previous models established in the region, such as the current Canadian Tire Centre. Not only was an automotive museum a whole new idea, but it lacked the luster that the Sens would definitely bring downtown.

Another important advantage the Illumination LeBreton had was better overall planning. The MEC’s location is perfectly placed between the Pimisi and Bayview LRT Stations near LeBreton which supports their “connectivity” design principle. The selection committee also preferred the divided districts of Illumination LeBreton and plans to cover the LRT tracks, making the area walker and biker friendly. They felt the opposing LeBreton Re-imagined lacked innovation and that the use of big city blocks would minimized the “walkability” flow of the area. The “social sustainability” of Illumination LeBreton was an easy winner in contrast.

Nevertheless, there is still uncertainty about the redevelopment as a whole. Officials speculate that Illumination LeBreton’s original proposal is expected to change as planning moves forward. There is also many questions about overall cost, somewhere around $3.5 billion, and the timeline of the entire project from start to completion. The NCC and RendezVous LeBreton Group must still get together and negotiate. With a piece of land that has taken so long to even reach this point, one can assume that negotiation will not be a short and easy process. Only time will tell so stay tuned as more details regarding Illumination LeBreton unfold!

LeBreton Flats: Are First Nations Coming Second?
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Jeff

In late January, it was announced that Illumination LeBreton was the highest ranking proposal for the LeBreton Flats redevelopment. Favoured by most, RendezVous LeBreton Group will proceed in their 3-phase expansion of the massive plot of land. However, there is still one stakeholder that needs to be consulted: The First Nations people.

LeBreton Flats has a deep connection with the Indigenous people of the region who first discovered, used and cared for the land before industrialists took over. In present day, the Flats are regarded as traditional Algonquin territory and any use of the land must be negotiated and approved by First Nation officials. There have already been two meetings in late January and early February between the First Nations, the NCC and developers. Chiefs and other ambassadors from ten different Algonquin communities gathered to discuss the future plans for their sacred land.

Of course, with consultation comes some controversy. The first meeting was scheduled to be a presentation by promoters for the development, however things took a defensive turn. Algonquin representatives told the presenters to leave. They wanted to discuss the plans alone with just the Nation Capital Commission. Chief Lance Haymond of the Kebaowek community voiced his displeasure with RendezVous LeBreton and their failure to collaborate with the Algonquin people given the sacredness of the land.

Chief Haymond states that “[the developers] have failed in the duty to consult and accommodate [us] given it is a sacred site for the Algonquin.” Still he made it clear that all blame should not be placed on RendezVous LeBreton Group. He reminded “[the NCC that] it is not the promoter’s responsibility to consult, it is the federal government’s responsibility.” Both parties, being the developers as well as the government of Canada, are at fault here and the Indigenous community must stand up for their rights.

It is not the first time they have failed to include the First Nations in major plans. Previous developments at the Chaudière Falls by Windmill Development Group lacked consultation. Furthermore, a November 19, 2015 resolution was passed by the Assembly of First Nations of Québec and Labrador that deemed all levels of government are violating Canadian law by changing the status of land without meaningful dialogue and acculturation of the Algonquin communities.

However, the road goes both ways. Even though First Nations feel overlooked, effort has been made both federally by Justin Trudeau and municipally by the country’s capital to recognize that the “land within the boundaries of the City of Ottawa lie within the history Algonquin Territory.” This was both outlined in the city’s “Official Plan” document of 2011 as well as at the December 2015 Assembly of First Nations held by Justin Trudeau.

With all this in mind, the Indigenous community is not against redevelopment. They simply want to ensure that the incentive behind LeBreton’s regrowth will also benefit the Algonquin communities. Chief of Pikawakanagan First Nation is seeking meaning and innovation in LeBreton Flats. This means “not just street signs and some plaques… We’re looking for and seeking some significant benefits” he states firmly.

Months after the controversial gathering with the NCC and First Nations, the City of Ottawa announced that the first Light Rail Transit stop west from downtown will be named Pimisi. Extremely well received by Indigenous representatives and communities alike, Pimisi means eel in the Algonquin language, with sacred significance being a source of spirituality, medicine and food. Public murals and mosaics will be created by Algonquin artists and an authentic eel statue will also be incorporated in the station.

In terms of LeBreton Flats, long-term strategy and economic development are amongst the opportunities the city can provide First Nations people. They’re hoping for relevant benefits beyond generic employment and training, however further consultation and negotiation is necessary. The NCC and RendezVous LeBreton Group have tentative meetings with First Nations scheduled on the LeBreton Flats development timeline before anything is finalized. The Algonquin community may be cautious for now but there is plenty of time to incorporate their history and needs into Illumination LeBreton.

References

Most facts and dates extracted from Leveller.ca’s article “Ten Algonquin Chiefs Meet With NCC Over LeBreton Flats and Zibi Project” http://www.leveller.ca/2016/02/algonquin-chiefs-meet-with-ncc/

LeBreton Flats Redevelopment: Soil Rich with Canadian History
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Jeff

The LeBreton Flats redevelopment has been quite the topic of conversation in Ottawa’s municipal news. Something exceptional is about to hit the 84-hectare region that sits a mere 20-minute walk from Parliament Hill, and it is about time! The majority of LeBreton Flats’ sprawl has sat virtually empty for decades. Why? Let’s take a look at the rich history buried beneath the soil of Ottawa’s most talked-about land.

The Early Years

Much before hockey stadiums and condo towers were in demand, sacred ceremonies were performed at the Chaudière Falls by the First Nation people. Indigenous groups including the Algonquin, Huron and Iroquois would conveniently set up camp around the corner on LeBreton Flats. Nevertheless, the harmless and pure nature of the First Nations could only last for so long.

Both Europeans and Americans started setting foot near the grounds in the early 1800’s and it wasn’t long until industrialists decided to capitalize on the powerful Chaudière Falls. Robert Randal of Maryland, USA, purchased the Flats, known as Lot 40 at the time, in 1809 for milling purposes. Soon after, he went bankrupt and his land, full of potential, sadly sat empty for the next few years.

During the War of 1812, plans were made to connect the Ottawa River and the lower Saint Laurence River with a military canal. Royal Engineer and British Surveyor-General Joshua Jebb gathered that a canal was achievable once improvements were made to the Ottawa River in order to direct it toward the Chaudière Falls.

Construction began in 1818 and in 1820 George Ramsey, the Earl of Dalhousie, toured the area with the idea of the canal addition in mind. He knew that the Richmond military settlement officers needed a place to safely store their cargo and equipment away from weather, wildlife, and burglars. Shortly after noticing the potential of all the empty land, he publicized his idea to purchase Lot 40 at an officer’s dinner. Captain John LeBreton was in attendance that evening.

Captain John LeBreton was England-born but raised in Newfoundland and at the time was residing in the Nepean Township of Britannia, Ottawa. Living so close to Lot 40, LeBreton decided to pursue the lucrative plot of land without Dalhousie knowing. In 1820, he discovered Lot 40 was being sold in Brockville at a sheriff’s sale. Needing more capital to invest, LeBreton teamed up with a Brockville lawyer named Livius Sherwood. They purchased the land for £499 from the newly-released but severely in-debt Robert Randall. Lot 40 was understandably renamed LeBreton Flats and Sherwood Heights.

The cheeky LeBreton then went to Dalhousie and the government and offered to sell his eponymous piece of land for £3000. Absolutely infuriated, Dalhousie rejected his offer after realizing the man had scammed him. An intense feud began and Dalhousie assured LeBreton that the government would neverpurchase the Flats; Dalhousie took this grudge to his grave.

As a result, the canal was hastily moved to Entrance Bay, the current location where the Rideau Canal joins the Ottawa River. The overall cost of construction was significantly higher as extra locks and a longer route for the canal was necessary. To further redeem himself, Dalhousie also purchased a piece of land called Fraser Parcel which soon became the village of Bytown and Barracks Hill, the future location for Parliament Hill.

LeBreton earned a notorious reputation in the region, however he is said to be one of the only people to fully recognize the land’s potential and future commercial value. Over the years, LeBreton and Sherwood began dividing their land into smaller portions and selling them to reap huge profits.

The Great Fire of 1900

By the mid 1800’s, LeBreton Flats was a fully functioning and well-established lumber mill community. While there was residential housing for workers and owners alike, a rail line including a station and yards were built to fuel industrial development. Hotels, taverns and other community-oriented stores were also open for business to the local population of LeBreton Flats, Chaudière Falls and Victoria Islands. Sawmills were established at the falls and the land encompassing Chaudière became lumber yards with plethora’s of wood piled up to dry out.

On April 26, 1900, there was a defective chimney that caught fire across the Ottawa River in the heart of Hull, Quebec. Although fires were common and manageable, an intense wind began causing incurable problems. Soon half of Hull was burning and the south-travelling fire was rapidly heading toward Ottawa. Once it reached the E.B. Eddy Pulp and Paper Plant there was no point of return. Flames spread across the Chaudière Falls to the numerous lumber yards set on both sides of the Ottawa River. Stacks of lumber transformed into one huge bonfire.

The wind died down my midnight, but 14 hours of fire had done irreversible damage. Two thirds of Hull was burnt to the ground and 440 acres sprawling from the Chaudière Falls to Carling Avenue on the Ottawa side was destroyed. Although only seven civilians were killed, 15,000 were left homeless as 3,000 buildings from Hull to Ottawa became piles of rubble, splintered wood and melted steel. The regions suffered an estimated $10 million in damage.

LeBreton Flats was once an endearing community to build a home and set up shop in. After the devastating fire of 1900, the region was rebuilt but locals were scared of repeating events. The Flats became a purely industrial area and the only residents living there were workers with nowhere else to reside.

The Tear Down and Current Redevelopment

LeBreton Flats became an industrial desert of train yards and lumber production for decades. Fast forward to 1962, the Diefenbaker government was working on gentrifying the area, which didn’t fit in to the prestige of Canada’s capital. Officials planned to spruce up the area with a new defense headquarters and offices for the Government of Canada.

On April 19, 1962 all residents of LeBreton Flats and the direct surrounding area received notice of expropriation to beautify Ottawa’s central area. Roughly 2,800 residents in the 150-200 acres were forced to vacate their homes and make way for demolition. By 1965 the last of the houses and small businesses were gone, with the tear down costing a total of $15 million.

However, there were many conflicting viewpoints on the use of the land and soil contamination from the stakeholders of the redevelopment. Intense disputes between the National Capital Commission and the municipal government lead to figuratively demolished plans. For over four decades, LeBreton Flats lay vacant. It was primarily used as a snow dump during Ottawa’s brutal winters, while runoffs from the excess snow caused further contamination to the land.

Fast forward again to the 2000’s. The Canadian War Museum opened on a northern section of LeBreton Flats in 2005, the first actual initiative of LeBreton Flats redevelopment that the city had seen in years. It is currently home to a multi-residential development, Mill Street Brew Pub and a connection of pathways for buses, bikes and cars. Ottawa’s popular 12 day Bluesfest festival grounds are also located at LeBreton Flats. Furthermore, Canada’s National Holocaust Monument and the city’s first Light Rail Transit System will be situated there as well.

So, with all this in mind, 2016 will be one for the books with the LeBreton Flats redevelopment! The NCC accepted applications for redevelopment in the area in December 2015 and the RendezVous LeBretonproposal won the hearts of officials. The three-phase development will take years, even decades, to complete but for the first time in centuries the LeBreton Flats redevelopment has concrete plans to finally live up to its original potential.

Historical facts and dates extracted from Leveller.ca’s Article ” The Ugly History of LeBreton Flats ” Article (http://www.ottawalife.com/2016/02/the-ugly-history-of-lebreton-flats/) and NCCWatch.org’s The Blunder: LeBreton Flats article (http://nccwatch.org/blunders/lebreton.htm)

B.C. Has Imposed a 15% Foreign Bbuyer's Tax on Housing in Metro Vancouver
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Jeff

On Monday, July 25 the B.C. legislature convened to discuss alterations to Vancouver’s charter that will allow them to impose a tax on empty houses. Although the parameters of the vacant home tax is still up for discussion, the province announced one significant change in policy: a 15% foreign buyer’s tax in the Metro Vancouver region.

Started on August 2, non-Canadian purchasers and foreign-controlled firms will now see an extra 15% property transfer tax applied on all residential real estate investments in Vancouver. The purpose of this tax is to lower foreign demand and increase local supply, a looming issue that Metro Vancouver has been suffering from in the past year or so.

Vancouver’s housing bubble has been pumped with oversea investors, while the local population continually struggles to find affordable housing. Premier Christy Clark expressed her concerns of the issue on Monday, stating “we are taking measures to ensure that home ownership remains in reach of the middle class, and that we continue to put British Columbians first.”

Data accumulated by the provincial government shows that there has already been over $1 billion in BC property investment by foreigners from June 10 to July 14 alone, of which 86% were in the surrounding Vancouver region. So, in a city where an average single-detached home sells for a whopping $1.56 million, a foreign buyer’s tax might actually deter offshore investment. For example, a $2 million property now has an additional tax of $300,000. Furthermore, fines for offences include the amount of unpaid tax and interest plus an additional $100,000 on individuals and $200,000 for corporations. This tax could result in a high penalty that not all investors are willing to fork out.

Although revenue is not the incentive for imposing the new foreign buyer’s tax, it definitely generates a good amount of money for the provincial government. The proceeds are said to go towards further restoring housing supply and affordability. Economists believe other provinces should lead by example and impose a similar tax to protect their housing markets. Ontario would be particularly wise to do since they are experiencing similar issues with Toronto’s real estate market. Furthermore, revenue could easily be put toward offsetting the eastern province’s budgetary deficit.

On the contrary, British Columbia is in no need of the financial incentive and locals have voiced their concern 0ver the negative impact this tax could have on the provincial economy. Foreigners who have lived in Vancouver for years now fear that they will also be taxed despite being a fully assimilated “local” in British Columbian society. Furthermore, an estimated 2,300 pre-sale properties in the Metro Vancouver region are connected to foreign buyers who scrambled to close the deals before the implementation date of the tax on August 2.

Of course, the foreign buyer’s tax is in its infant stages. There are still countless kinks to iron out since it’s announcement. For one, the government’s legislation will accommodate for flexibility in the 15% tax, increasing or decreasing it by 5% as it sees fit in the future. Still, there is certainly no way to predict how Vancouver’s housing market will react to the extra toll in the short and long run. Nevertheless, the municipal and provincial government has began to address the housing bubble, hopefully taking a step or two closer to increasing supply and deflating outrageously high prices.

Becoming A Real Estate Agent: Multiple Tips For Multiple Choice Tests!
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Jeff

So you're looking to become a real estate agent through the Ottawa Real Estate Board? Then you must be prepared for the two-phase, five-sectioned course that lies ahead of you. Regardless of if you're in the Pre-Registration or the Articling segment, you are required to take a multiple choice test in order to pass the course.

Most people like the sounds of multiple choice, thinking that the right answer will jump out to them automatically and if all else fails: just pick C! However, that is not the case whatsoever. Multiple choice tests have the notorious reputation of unexpectedly high difficulty. Therefore, it is important to prepare yourself on both the real estate materials as well as the strategic thinking to ace multiple choice format tests. Of course, we want you to maximize your time to learn the actual material so here are some quick and easy tips for you to consider going into your first phase test!

Before The Test:

1. Start Studying Early. Give yourself enough time to cover all the material thoroughly. That means more than once! Start at least two weeks before hand - that means more study blocks to spread the material out over. This gives your brain a better ability to retain the information in your long-term memory versus cramming it all in the day before. Try covering 1-3 major concepts per study session and begin each session with a review of what you did last time.

2. Don’t Just Memorize. Many people believe they can memorize all material and pass with flying colours however that is not the case with multiple choice tests. Knowing a definition word for word is usually not enough. Instead, focus on the overall concept and how it can be applied, interpreted, compared, and contrasted to other topics. This will give you a better and broader understanding covering all the bases, big and small.

3. Test Yourself In Multiple Choice Format. Being able to explain what you learnt in the courses' in an essay format is amazing but you know that long answers questions will not be on the test. Practicing with multiple choice sample questions will prepare you for the test format, something that is absolutely crucial for this type of evaluation. Search online for practice MC questions or make your own and swap with a fellow course-mate. Time yourself accordingly to see how you test with multiple choice questions and where you can improve.

During The Test:

1. Keep Track Of Your Time. It is easy to get stumped early on and lose track of time. There’s nothing more nerve-wracking than running out of time and scrambling at the end. A good idea is to figure out how many minutes you have per question by dividing the total number of questions per total test time. Keep this as a reference when completing each question. Some questions will take less time and some will take longer. That is okay as long as you are aware of how much time you've taken and how much longer you have left!

2. Don’t Skip Around. Skipping around pages and questions gets confusing and is a huge waste of time. No matter what, you're going to have to come back to each question and choose an answer. Therefore you should go through the test in the order it is displayed to you. If you're unsure about the question right off the bat, mark it down and move on. Once you've answered all the questions you know, go back to the ones you struggled with. This gets the easy ones out of the way first without stressing yourself out skipping back and forth.

3. Read All The Choices Before Answering. Many people will see an answer that stands out to them at a glance, circle it then move on. However, if you don't give yourself the opportunity to thoroughly read all the options then you wont have a fair chance of answering it correctly. Although your instincts are great to go off, think about each answer before jumping to a conclusion.

4. Don’t Panic If You Can’t Choose. If more than one answer looks correct, re-read the question. Which answer completely addresses the question as a whole? If you have to make assumptions or feel the need to explain why you chose one answer, it is usually incorrect. With that in mind, don't over think it! Trick questions aren’t as common as people think, the questions can turn out to be tricky just because the test-taker is reading too far into it. Lastly, what does your gut tell you? Think about what answer feels right to you. Although this isn't infallible, its better than just guessing.

5. Don’t Let Multiple Choice Get The Best Of You! People get psyched out about multiple choice. Some find the concrete decision-making makes it too difficult to choose. Others see patterns in their answers, like a streak of D’s, a lack of E’s or A-B-C in a row and get scared. Don't let the format itself affect your ability to apply your knowledge! Avoid listening to “conventional wisdom” like “Pick C!”, “choose the longest answer” or “avoid ‘none’ or ‘all of the above’ answers”. There are no patterns or underlying multiple choice schemes that are trying to sabotage you. Don't sweat the technical stuff, focus on applying your knowledge and you will see the best results!

Airbnb: Short-Term Rentals Have Never Been So Easy... Or Have They?
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Jeff

On April 15, 2016 Quebec became the first Canadian province to regulate home-sharing services. Now, under the provincial law, home owners who frequently rent out their property must acquire the same certification as hotel and bed-and-breakfast operators. In other words, if you're interested in vacationing in a Quebec home, the owners is obliged to charge lodging taxes up to 3.5%. Why? All because of a company called Airbnb.

Founded in San Francisco in 2008 and currently valued at over $25 billion, Airbnb is a fairly new company for its success. The online platform prides itself on being a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover and book unique accommodations around the world. The statistics easily prove this statement correct, with over 60 million guests and 1.5 million listings in 34,000 cities across 191 countries. Airbnb allows anyone to sign up and rent living room couches, small apartments, beautiful houses, penthouses and even castles for their dream vacation, all at a wide range of prices to accommodate every budget.

Why Airbnb?

Airbnb isn't just for travellers who need a place to crash in a foreign city. Without renters there would never be short-term leasers. Anyone who owns residential property can register to be an Airbnb host and rent out their space under three categories: the entire home, private rooms or shared rooms. Of course, home owners don't open their doors to the public just to flaunt what they have. Hosts pick the price of their listing depending on a few suggested factors such as size, location, amenities, and when a guest books their home Airbnb only takes a small 3% service fee. The remaining money is pocketed by the homeowner making Airbnb a respectable and effortless money incentive.

Canada is one of Airbnb’s largest markets across the globe, with Montreal ranking in its Top 10 cities and statistics showing over 650,000 guest having stayed at Airbnb rentals during their travels in the country over the past year. In May 2016, there were roughly 9,500 Airbnb listings in Toronto with just over 60% being for entire houses. Similarly, over 4,200 hosts in Vancouver provided 6,400 units for rent through Airbnb, with 70% of those listings for entire homes.

A study shows the average Canadian Airbnb host makes about $6,500 annually through occasionally renting out space. Although this sounds like a sizeable amount of disposable income, further studies show that renters aren't just pocketing their earnings. Aaron Zifkin, Airbnb’s country manager for Canada, stated that over half of people listing their properties do so to pay off their mortgage or to put towards monthly expenses. In large cities like Vancouver and Toronto where housing bubbles are inflating prices, Airbnb is a great opportunity to earn supplementary income to put towards the hosts’ basic costs of living. For example, an Ottawa townhouse owner who pays a $1,000 monthly mortgage has been earning $8,000 per year renting out a spare room on Airbnb. This helps them cover two thirds of their year’s total mortgage.

Airbnb versus The Nation

However, as Airbnb’s popularity grows so do the negative side effects. To begin, Airbnb’s country-wide growth of 125% means an increased number of hosts in each city competing for guests. Furthermore, this new type of market has caused a slew of regulatory problems with city bylaws, landlords and even the national economy’s well being.

On a macro-economic scale, Airbnb is a suggested factor affecting the Canadian housing bubble. Vancouver, and on a smaller scale Toronto, has seen extreme price increases for residential units while supply has stayed low. However, a recent analysis revealed that there are over 5,000 short-term accommodations listed in the Metro Vancouver region. So, while municipal councilors grapple to generate more rental housing for locals to live and work in downtown Vancouver, there are still thousands of places for tourists to stay on their visit to the west coast city.

The biggest threat is homeowners who frequently list their “entire home” for short-term rental over a long period of time. Doing so implies that hosts aren't residing in their property and using it as an investment to generate income. Therefore, British Columbia has teamed up with the City of Vancouver to impose a vacant home tax in hopes of freeing up empty residences and increasing housing supply for long-term rentals or purchases.

Similarly, a nation-wide coalition craftily named "Fairbnb" has called on Toronto to regulate short-term rentals in the city and across the country. Chairwomen Lis Pimentel has a very open-minded approach to their mission and has no intention on outlawing Airbnb. Rather, she is opening up a discussion about affordable residential housing and how it is shrinking due to commercial and tourism intentions. Fairbnb is kindly asking “Canadian cities [to] modernize their laws and enforcement so that there are fair, consistent and respectful market rules for short-term rentals.”

Airbnb versus The Hosts

With all this in mind, Quebec has been the first province to make a move in the “fair” direction. Now, short-term renters will be registered and certified like all lodging establishments. This will help distinguish who is using their residential unit for commercial use and tax them accordingly. There will also be a penalty for those who dodge these taxes. A Montreal man has recently been charged $60,000 by Revenue Quebec after realizing he wasn't claiming income tax from his Airbnb profits. Officials got wind of this after the man posted a video online explaining how he was able to pay off $500,000 in debt and then earn an additional $200,000 from short-term rentals.

In Quebec, tenants must obtain the landlord’s permission to rent their unit in the short-term. The neighbouring province of Ontario has a Residential Tenancies Act which states that the occupant cannot sublet their residences for a greater amount than what the landlord is charging. Furthermore, many condominiums forbid short-term rentals due to the safety of the building’s residents. Homeowners who violate any of these circumstances to cash in a few extra dollars through Airbnb risk excess taxation, legal fees, or even worse, eviction.

Perhaps most importantly, hosts should consider the overall well being of their home when listing it on Airbnb. Allowing an unknown face into the comfort of your own home, whether you're there or not, is extremely trusting and can leave your property vulnerable to disrespectful sublets. A prime example of this is the infamous Calgary incident, where renters engaged in what the police described as a “drug induced orgy”, resulting in roughly $75,000 in damage. Although Airbnb offers a $1 million insurance policy there are still loopholes in the fine print that do not cover all areas of potential damage.

Potential Hosts Be Wary

You may need a little extra help paying off expenses or perhaps be going on vacation and don't want your property to sit empty, but there is a lot to consider when becoming an Airbnb host. Therefore, if you're looking to list your home or condo do your research beforehand.

To begin, familiarize yourself with provincial and municipal laws. Is your lot zoned accordingly? Do you need a permit or license to legally allow short-term guests into your house? Are you subject to rental income taxes? Local policies vary quite a lot from city to city so make sure you are fully informed on your specific region so you can avoid penalties or hefty fines.

Once you fully understand the provincial and municipal legal aspects of being a host, acquaint yourself with your property-specific situation. If you live in a condominium, does renting with Airbnb adhere to your building’s board rules? If you're a tenant, does your landlord endorse your listing and pricing of the unit? Of course, don’t forget to look into the Airbnb insurance policy as well as your own house insurance to see what is covered and what possible scenarios and assets are subject to risk.

Lastly, consider the extraneous variable that is out of your reach - the actual guest’s behaviour. You could be unlucky and host a bad guest who may not be respectful of noise, cleanliness, damage or even criminal activity. As a host, you are liable for what goes on inside your property, so ask yourself: is the risk worth the reward?

All this being said, Airbnb is an extremely well regarded company that has connected renters with owners for good value through an extremely convenient platform. After operating for over eight years, the website has worked out a lot of its kinks to make each rental a pleasant experience on both ends of the spectrum. Listing a property is easy, but knowing your ownership rights, property-specific regulations and the locals laws are a lot less straight forward. Consider all aspects before signing up and if the risk is worth the reward then you might have a few extra dollars in your bank account!

Vacant Home Tax and Vancouver's Vulnerable Market
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Jeff

On July 25, the provincial government of British Columbia will officially give the City of Vancouver the power to implement a vacant home tax. But why would the west coast city need such a toll? Data was released in the past months revealing that more than 10,800 condo units sit empty in Vancouver, even though the local population struggles to find affordable accommodation due to a housing shortage.

The study was conducted and released by Ecotagious, a software company hired by the the city to analyze domestic electricity consumption of over 225,000 homes in Vancouver. The data was provided by BC Hydro and each home was deemed vacant for the month if the electricity usage showed little change over 25 days. If this pattern repeated for August and September as well as the following June and July it was declared empty for the entire fiscal year.

The findings were both understandable and shocking on two different fronts. The city concluded that the singe-family home vacancy rate was steady at 1%, in line with previous calculations since 2002. The more extreme statistic showed that over one in 10 condominium units in Vancouver are currently sitting empty.

Vancouver has found itself in a tough situation right now. Earlier this year, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) gave warning of strong evidence of overvaluation in the city’s real estate market. 91% of Vancouver homes are currently worth $1 million or more. In December 2015, the average price of a detached home was around $1.65 million, 175% higher than 2005’s average of $600,000.

As prices rise, first time home buyers are turning to condos. That being said, the average price per unit has increased from $400,000 in 2013 to just under $600,000 in today’s market. Moreover, it is unlikely to find a new condo in Vancouver’s downtown peninsula for under $1,000 per square foot. All in all, young Canadians are struggling to find a decently priced condo, let alone detached home, in a market that has basically doubled in value over the past 10 years.

But if the simple rule of economics were applied to this situation doesn't the supply of 10,800 vacant condos reach the demand of the Vancouver population? Furthermore, if that is the case then why do housing prices continue to increase exponentially? The answer is the growing influx of foreign investment in Vancouver real estate. Many people overseas are exchanging their currency for Canada’s weak dollar and purchasing real assets. In other words, they are snapping up Vancouver properties and letting them sit empty, waiting for their value to appreciate over time.

Another important point to consider is that although the Ecotagious’ study is concrete on most fronts, it does not accurately catch all situations of vacant homes. Houses used only during summer months as well as houses rented out on Airbnb and similar platforms are actually overlooked due to the methodology of the study. This is because both scenarios will show enough variability to disqualify them from the vacancy requirements. With this in mind, the City of Vancouver can only assume that there are even more vacant properties dispersed around the region.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has made it clear that the issue is ultimately about supply. This is where Vancouver’s vacant home tax comes in. The aim of the vacant home tax is to free up long-term rental stock. If condo owners pay a premium on an investment sitting uninhabited they will have even more incentive to put it up for lease. Furthermore, the revenue generated will be put towards financing new housing developments.

However, the BC government must give Vancouver 'statutory powers' before they can implement a tax to this magnitude. Toward the end of June, Mayor Robertson initially called on the provincial authorities to help with the municipal toll. Two weeks later on July 11, Finance Minister Mike de Jong announced that British Columbia would give Vancouver permission to move ahead with their plan. When asked about the issue de Jong responded by saying “it strikes us that if the city wants to do this, it is a reasonable request on their part.”

After the provincial government works out the legislative details on July 25, it is fully up to the City of Vancouver to determine the tax rate, as well as the parameters on who to tax. The main issue is how to decide a property’s vacancy status and if it is eligible for taxation. Due to strict privacy regulations, BC Hydro cannot release specifics on which addresses are deemed uninhabited. Therefore, Robertson and his staff must come up with a different system to identify empty units for the vacant home tax.

One proposal is to create a new class of property called 'residential vacant' and relate it to empty or under-occupied investment properties. The criteria fitting this category of housing would most likely include second home owners in Vancouver who use the property on occasion and short-term rentals such as Airbnb listings.

Due to recent contention regarding a substantial number of foreign investors in Vancouver, mainly the Chinese middle and upper class, there has been some speculation that non-Canadian residents could be taxed for owning property in the city. Mayor Robertson has assertively denied these claims, citing how targeting non-residents would be discriminatory. The city’s authority stands strong by their view that applying a tax based on nationality is not going to resolve this issue. The vacant home tax will be formulated to fix the real problem based off of how the properties are being used, not who owns them.

Vancouver’s housing bubble is delicate and there is no way of predicting when its going to burst. There is also no way of knowing how the market will react to the vacant home tax. Nevertheless, something must be done. Demand is exceeding supply and prices are at an all-time high. The citizens of Vancouver want affordable housing that is up to Canada’s standard of living. If a vacant home tax is the solution to free up unused property and allow those who want to live in it versus leave it empty, then so be it. Regardless, there will be many anticipated reports to come in the next few months regarding Vancouver’s housing market and the structure of the borderline-notorious vacant home tax.

Chinese Investors In Canada's Condo Market
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Jeff

Back in 2013, the Chinese government decided to crackdown on their very own housing bubble. This included implementing stricter regulations on the 20% capital gains tax for property sales as well as increasing down-payment requirements for mortgages on second homes. Chinese investors, both commercial tycoons and yearning homeowners, needed a new place to go and spend their money.

Meanwhile, housing sales in Canada were on the decline. The country’s largest condo markets, Toronto and Vancouver saw a 7.8% and 25.5% drop respectively in existing high-rise and apartment sales. It was around this time where the Chinese saw potential to capitalize in Canada and began investing in the Canadian real estate market. In recent months, this effect has been accentuated since China’s turbulent stock market has become virtually unprofitable for investors. Therefore, their citizens have even more incentive to buy into Canada’s real assets.

Foreign funding, from any nation, has started to fuel Canada’s housing market with the average investment from a Canadian citizen or permanent resident at $735,000 versus the staggering $1,157,000 from buyers abroad. However a more shocking statistic from a recent study in British Columbia showed that 76.6% of foreign buyers for residential properties were from China. Furthermore, Chinese buyers are the largest foreign investors in Canada, holding 65% of the market within the first six months of 2016. This works out to be $1.3 billion, compared to the $309 million at this time last year.

What Is So Appealing From A Social Perspective?

There are of course more reasons for Chinese investors to purchase real assets abroad. Many of the Asian middle and upper class have enough money to establish a decent lifestyle in Canada where the way of life is slightly more refined.  Many Chinese immigrants actually perceive Canadian tendencies to be generally more ethical and respectful than in their homeland.

Pollution plays another strong role. In China, AQI indices are checked regularly to predict the intensity of grey skies and smog. In stark contrast, Canada is known for its fresh air and plethora of outdoor activities. Living in a society where surgical style face masks are uncommon is truly enticing, not only for enjoyment but also for one’s overall health.

Statistically speaking, Chinese citizens have the second highest population out of the total number of Canadian immigrants, next to the United Kingdom. Furthermore, upwards of 1.5 million Canadians are of full or partial Chinese descent. With such a large Chinese community across the nation it has proven to be quite easy for Chinese immigrants to assimilate into society. Some actually say they hardly feel like foreigners at all thanks to the strong sense of openness and pride amongst local Asian communities.

Canadian Developers Working In China’s Favour

When developing a condominium in Canada, lenders want a sense of security, generally asking for builders to sell around 70% of the building’s units before initiating construction finances. With so many condo projects nationwide, including over 115,000 individual units scheduled for completion in Toronto, developers have been heading directly to China to pursue foreign buyers.

Canadian real estate agents, who usually have ties to China, regularly travel to Beijing and Shanghai to showcase new developments to upper class families and other potential buyers. Macdonald Realty Inc., a Vancouver based broker, actually has a sales office set up in Shanghai to sell Chinese investors a variety of condos units in Toronto, Montreal and the west coast.

Developers see this tactic as a great business strategy given the increased competition in the Canadian condo market and the never-ending announcements of new developments. Nevertheless, heading directly to Chinese investors is making it easier than ever for them to purchase properties without thinking twice. Not only does this add to the housing bubble but there is no sign of foreign buyers slowing down as long as developments continue to be built.

The Current Situation: Canada’s Market Vulnerability

What does all this Chinese investment mean for Canada’s housing market? With foreigner buyers, including Chinese investors, snapping up condos, supply decreases and prices are boosted. This leaves little leeway for Canada’s domestic population who are now struggling to afford a home for themselves. Prices for both single-family houses and condo units have risen dramatically over the past few years and local Canadians are suffering.

The best example of this is in Vancouver, where only a decade ago people of all ages could live a nice and comfortable lifestyle downtown. Now, home ownership is basically beyond the reach of the younger population. Nevertheless, over 10% of condos in the west-coast city remain vacant. This is partially because over the years foreigners have invested in properties with no intention of inhabiting them. Sadly, locals want to live in these empty units, but foreigners beat them to the punch with their higher bids.

Although a vacant home tax has been proposed for this specific issue, economists worry about how the Canadian housing market will react. It has reached a point of sensitivity that even the smallest change could send the industry over the edge. Imposing a special tax could decrease foreign investment, the main driver of the current market. Without foreigners to purchase condos, construction would surely slow and that would deprive the Canadian economy of countless jobs.

At a time where Canada’s dollar is weak and the market is delicate it is hard to predict what is best for the national economy. Foreign investment is proven to be important, but so is the Canadian population’s right to live in housing where inflation is at a fair rate. It is a vicious cycle and only time will tell how it will all play out.

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