Liberals and NDP Failing Renters in Burnaby

Who is speaking out for renters in Burnaby? Certainly, it is not City Hall, which continues to allow the rezoning of older, affordable three-storey walk ups in favour of exclusive high rises that are unaffordable to 99 percent of the renters being demovicted. Councillors and the Mayor sweep aside their complicity in the housing crisis by pointing their fingers at the other levels of government for their failures. Certainly, the Province and federal government share the blame, and I will get to that soon enough. But first, it is important to critique the  narrative the City chooses to tell.

Let’s start with the argument that the City is powerless to prevent a property owner from demolishing a building on their property. Technically, this might be the case, but economically, they can certainly influence the decision to demolish. By communicating to owners that the City will not rezone designated areas for  high rises, developers will face the reality that it is economically more feasible to maintain an existing building, collecting rents than it is to tear it down and leave the lot vacant or replace it with a building of similar square footage. Furthermore, the City’s refusal to adopt standards of maintenance bylaws for buildings, its deliberate failure to maintain the road and pedestrian infrastructure or effectively enforce its existing bylaws in the area have helped to mislead the larger community that the area is a “slum”. This neglect, particularly under the leadership of Mayor Corrigan, has contributed to the shortening of the natural lifecycle of some of the buildings.

 

While other communities in Canada have proactively tried to protect and enhance affordable housing , Burnaby has won the race to the bottom. According to the Canadian Rental Housing Index, Burnaby ranks dead last of 523 municipalities studied across the nation. Despite this objective measure, the City has resisted accepting any responsibility for creating the situation. Supplementary density bonus bylaws have exacerbated the problem by making high rises more profitable as higher towers provide better views for wealthy investors. Affordable housing is not replaced in the affected town center where the extra density was purchased.

 

Now the City wants to “build on its successes” with the goal of making Metrotown a “true downtown”. To accomplish this, they say, it is necessary to further densify the entire regional city center. They want to approve a new land use framework by the end of this year. This will further incentivize developers to tear down existing apartments as areas where the  remaining three-storey buildings currently exist are blanket rezoned for high rises. Without any rate of change policies, we can expect an acceleration in demovictions as long as global investor demand for our real estate continues. Make no mistake about it, this updated Metrotown plan is not about creating a more sustainable and inclusive community. It is about unadulterated greed fueled by a deceitful real estate and development lobby.

New plan

 

While  Integrity BC reports, the BC Liberals have, since 2005,raised more than$70.2 million from businesses and corporations, fundraisers and donors such as “Condo King” Bob Rennie and Ledingham McAllister Developments contribute thousands of dollars to Burnaby’s local NDP. Money flows freely to the seats of power as their developments and proposals receive the blessings of government. To illustrate how these contributions lead to bad decisions for taxpayers, we need to look no further than Edmonds. Here, BC Housing is poised to hand over several acres of prime real estate to Ledingham McAllister developments in exchange for the construction of two midrise apartment buildings with 180 units of affordable housing.  One building will provide 90 units of seniors’ housing, which undoubtedly is a good thing. However, the other 90 units are only going to replace the townhome style units that families will be forced to give up. The City’s role in this giveaway of land to a developer is the promise to rezone for high rise market condos and the infrastructure upgrades that will be required. They will spend $8.5 million of the affordable housing money derived in Metrotown in another part of the city.

 

McAllister Developments donated $10,000 to the Mayor’s political party in 2014. An amendment to the BCA’s financial disclosure documents indicates McAllister Developments contributed an additional $5,000 to the BCA in 2013 .McAllister donated $69,900 to the BC Liberals in 2013/2014

Cedar Place Redevlopment Map2

Supporters of both the Liberals and NDP need to ask themselves if this is this the best deal for taxpayers?

 

Now the provincial government hopes to get in on the lucrative density-selling business. “The Liberals are also linking provincial support for transit expansion to the need to increase “densification” — the concentration of housing units — along transit lines,” according to Vaughn Palmer in the Vancouver Sun. It will be interesting to watch fight over which level of government is entitled to these densification payments.

 

Evicted renters are struggling to find housing they can afford in their neighbourhoods, and our MLA, Kathy Corrigan, spouse of the Mayor is deafeningly silent. Similarly, Our federal MP, Kennedy Stewart is missing-in-action when it comes to demovictions in Burnaby. Both quick to shield the local government from any criticism. One glimmer of hope in the otherwise impotent BC NDP is David Eby, housing critic, who stated to CKNW that Burnaby’s policies are “out of step” with the region on housing.

Downtown Metrotown?

Downtown Metrotown

I first read in the Georgia Straight, 24 Hours , BC Business and Vancouver Sun about the City of Burnaby’s plan to make Metrotown a “true  downtown”.It seems the Burnaby Now got “scooped” this time. 

Councillor Volkow is not certain Burnaby needs a downtown, and neither am I. Moreover, I’m not convinced that Metrotown is the ideal candidate for that distinction. The success of planned downtowns is debateable; they tend to develop naturally and often thrive on their unplanned quirks and historic buildings alleyways and streetscapes. Also, the process is disppointingly reminiscent of the flawed public hearing process, where developers and the City work in advance on their plans, then present the “proposal” without fanfare and on a short timeline for adoption (8 months). Those  residents with concerns or opposed to the proposal have a brief window to speapk up. Their concerns are dismissed in writing and the proposal moves quickly to unanimous adoption by an uncritical group of councillors. 

Phase One (Preliminary Vision, Principles and Land Use Framework and Community Input: May – August 2016). Phase Two (draft Plan: September/October 2016) and Phase Three  Adoption: November/December 2016). The former plan, which went off the rails with the development of Metrotown Mall, is 40 years old. a planned review of Maywood in 2000 has never materialized. And, a public process , promised as a “first priority” at the time “supplementary” or “s-zoning” was introduced in 2010 remains nothing more than an unfulfilled promise

 

 

New plan

I have to admit, there is a sort of sexiness associated with the downtown core of major North American cities. When I first moved here as a student, my friends and I would go to the clubs in Vancouver’s downtown core, or go for coffee and stroll along Robson Street. There was always a mix of young and old. There were the office people in their suits, the buskers with their acts, the street venders selling their wares, There were students, shoppers and the panhandlers on the busy streets. At night there were the couples going out for dinner and drinks or attending an event, and there were the sports fans and and the partiers out for a good time. “Downtown has had the capability of providing something for everybody,” said urbanist Jane Jacobs, “only because it has been created by everybody.”

.New plan2

 

The suitability of Metrotown as a true downtown is questionable. Downtown is a term usually  used to refer to a city’s central business district (CBD). Metrotown sits at the edge of the municipality and is not the historical or geographical core of Burnaby, nor has it been the traditional economic core, save the fact that it boasts the second largest shopping mall in Western Canada. While Downtown Vancouver has a large mall, Pacific Center, this shopping area does not define the downtown. Vancouver also has an iconic art gallery and interesting street art installations that give the downtown a stronger cultural feel. In contrast, Burnaby’s public art is more reminiscent of the Stalinist Soviet Union. I note that the City has given approval for the installation of a statue of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, the father of modern China,  at the culmination of its “Art Walk”  at the entrance of Central Park. Art galleries are also not high on the Mayor’s cultural agenda.

 

Another component of most downtowns is the presence of high rise office buildings. There are a few, most notably Metrotowers 1,2 and 3 adjacent to the Metrotown Skytrain and the 32 year old Metro Vancouver building on Kingsway, which is slated to be sold by Metro Vancouver and possibly demolished. Finally, there is the boot-shaped Telus Building at Kingsway and Boundary. The Mayor has lamented how difficult it has been to draw office tower development to Burnaby.  According to a Vancouver Sun article from February 2015, about 45 per cent of the large office towers with 10,000 sq.ft. or more of space in Metro Vancouver are either in Vancouver’s Broadway corridor or its downtown core. The problem prompted Mayor Corrigan to even ask “Vancouver to reject new office developments.”

 

Despite renewed strength in the economy, office vacancy rates are over 13 percent in Burnaby and the inventory continues to grow.  Avison Young states, rates may soften in Burnaby as heightened vacancy persists and new supply is delivered. Vacancy will likely continue to rise in 2016. Additional office space is also included as part of the Brentwood Town Centre redevelopment and Onni Group’s Gilmore Station project. With leasing activity likely to remain subdued for the remainder of 2015 and only a handful of large users currently in the market with lease expirations in the next 12 to 36 months, landlords in Burnaby’s office market will need to be very competitive and creative by offering large inducements and extended deal terms to attract and retain tenants.

Aside from the fact that Metrotown does not seem to have the business base characteristic of downtowns, the “vision” proposed by City staff and put forth to be endorsed by City Council without any public input calls for additional residential density in Metrotown.  Somehow, they hope the office towers will miraculously follow. Metrotown is already incredibly dense. The City and region continue to include the area of Central Park in their calculations of density. Removing the park from the calculation puts Metrotown at densities well beyond those of downtown Vancouver.

2013 Downtown Density Report_8.22

When compared to other North American cities of varying size, residential densities in Metrotown and  downtown Vancouver are significantly higher than other downtowns. Conversely, Job density is lower than in other central business districts in North America.  So we have more residents and fewer good paying jobs than other true downtowns. We also have a growing surplus of empty office space.

The Mayor’s “vision” to make Metrotown a true downtown is nothing more than a ploy to help his developer friends build more tiny, expensive condos with better views and protect single family neighbourhoods from densification. This plan only expedites the demovictions of low income renters who will ultimately be forced out of Burnaby. The vague plan purports to be inclusive but has no provisions for affordable housing (Burnaby ranked worst among 523 municipalities in Canada for rental affordability and accessibility according to the Canadian Rental Housing Index)

The most disappointing aspect of the plan is that the initial visioning process excluded the residents directly affected by the proposed changes. This is a repeated pattern demonstrated by Burnaby’s leadership.  In the fall of 2014, the Metrotown Residents’ Association organized a debate in Metrotown for the civic election. All candidates were invited. Independents and the coalition opposition party attended, yet not a single incumbent councilor or trustee could find the time to attend and answer questions from residents of Metrotown. Jane Jacobs, one of North America’s foremost urbanists has stated, “The remarkable intricacy and liveliness of downtown can never be created by the abstract logic of a few men.” If Burnaby hopes to achieve a vibrant place that draws people not just to shop but to enjoy a truly “downtown” experience, the few men who control this city should let the citizens decide what end results they want, so the residents can adapt the rebuilding machinery to suit them.

Neighbourhood Small  Grants

 

You may have seen signs posted about the Vancouver Foundation’s Neighbourhood Small Grants program . This is a chance to pitch your idea for an event in Metrotown.

 

The Neighbourhood Small Grants program offers grants of up to $500 for residents to develop projects that meet the needs of the community.

  • Our project must be free, accessible and welcoming to all. You may not charge entrance fees, request donations, or fundraise for other projects and/or organizations.
  • With the exception of community gardens, projects involving infrastructure building, upgrading or maintenance are not eligible.
  • Projects involving therapy and counseling support are not eligible.
  • We may not profit financially from the project. Registered organizations and businesses are not eligible to apply.
  • We must begin your project after the grant decision is made. Projects are not supported retroactively.

Last year, my neighbour and I submitted a grant application for a community garden in Metrotown, but it was not successful. This year we hope to make applications, and we need your input.

 

The Metrotown Residents’ Association is asking you for your suggestions. The MRA will work with you to submit an application for a grant to the Vancouver Foundation.

 

Scanning the Vancouver Foundation’s website , I discovered 7 events that took place in Burnaby since the program began in 201 . Other communities such as New Westminster, Richmond and Surrey have taken full advantage of this worthwhile program and hosted many events from block parties to community gardens, potluck dinners to car-free days and many more. This is a good way to meet people and get involved in your neighbourhood.

 

Burnaby Stories

HALLOWEEN EXTRAVAGANZA AT FOREST MEADOWS COMPLEX

INTERCULTURAL SPORTS

MCGREGOR COMMUNITY POND ENHANCEMENT

ADULT GREETING CARD MAKING GROUP

INCLUSION FESTIVAL

DROP-IN SPAGHETTI NIGHT

CANADA DAY BLOCK PARTY

Old Orchard IGA to become Save-on

I got an email the other day informing me that the Old Orchard IGA had been sold to the Overwaitea Food Group.  According to a report in Business in Vancouver, this means that the store will be briefly closed and rebranded as a Save-on Foods. Additionally, OFG has entered an agreement to supply all the remaining IGA stores with dry goods, which comprise about 40% of grocery store sales.

The former supplier, H.Y. Louie, based in Burnaby, will be largely replaced by Overwaitea’s supplier which just opened a new warehouse in Edmonton both for fresh and for dry goods. Trucking goods from Edmonton to Burnaby is somehow more efficient.

Business in Vancouver article states, “H.Y. Louie used to operate three shifts per day … in Burnaby until July 22. That dipped to two shifts per day and then recently had fallen to only be one shift per day.”

As a customer, I liked shopping at the IGA.

First of all, it was the nearest supermarket to my home. When I ran out of milk or needed a frozen pizza or ice cream, I could walk or ride my bike quickly and safely. While I was there, I’d add a few extras to the list as I could relax and browse the aisles. Secondly, the staff from the trainee cashiers to the managers were always friendly and helpful.

This is not to say that Save-on staff were not friendly; shopping there is just different.

Maybe it is the fact that I don’t carry my “customer loyalty” card, and when I get to the till I realize that I will have to pay a premium for the foodstuffs I purchase. Fortunately, there was usually someone in line ahead or behind me that would allow me to use their card to get the discounts that caused me to choose that product. As an added bonus, they got points that would mean even greater discounts on their next shopping adventure.

I know Superstore down the street collects my shopping information everytime i go in there, but for some reason it doesn’t feel as intrusive or cumbersome. The savings are immediate as long as I use my PC Financial Mastercard. The biggest drawbacks at Superstore are the crowds in the store and the unavailability of parking at certain times.

Another aspect I will miss, is the community-mindedness I sensed from IGA. The Metrotown Residents’ Association organized a community cleanup and when asked to help, they provided a giftcard for the purchase of supplies. There was no need to go to corporate headquarters to get the “okay” to donate to the cause. Going cap-in-hand to these major chains tend to be a bit more complicated and are sometimes not worth the extra effort. We will have to wait and see.

The loss of the IGA will change the atmosphere of the neighbourhood. What replaces it remains to be seen.

The Province and City could save $10.5 million on New Affordable Housing Partnership

 

The City of Burnaby recently announced a project to replace 90 aging but spacious affordable housing rentals with a five-storey apartment building for the low income families currently housed at Cedar Place (Rez 14-27)– ten 800sf two-bedroom suites, sixty-four 1050sf three-bedrooms, and sixteen 1200sf four-bedroom units. Additionally, There is a proposal for 90 additional units of affordable seniors’ housing (Rez 15-25).

The new building for low income families  on 15th Street will be a 4-5 storey non-market rental on a 54,774 sq.ft.space.

In 2014, 1,171 Burnaby households were on the BC Housing waitlist for a unit, an increase of 282 households since 2009. That is a 31% increase in 6 years! The proposed 90 units is replacement housing, not additional housing

The new seniors’ building to be located at the comer of 18th Street and 14th Avenue is expected to be a six-storey frame apartment form.It is uncertain what the size of the space will be, but given the additional floors and smaller suite sizes required by seniors, it can be expected to be smaller than the family site.

In exchange for constructing these two buildings, BC Housing will give up about two-thirds of its land to  Ledingham McAllister and the City will rezone the property to allow for an undisclosed number of high-density market housing. BC Housing’s current property is rectangular in shape has  a total area of 2.76 hectares (6.82 acres or 296,643.3 sf.) and is nearly half a kilometer long. The current assessed value of the site is $26,609,300.

While residents I  talked to have been led to believe that the property has already been sold, there is no sales history for the last three years according to the website evaluebc. What better way to silence potential opposition by saying, “It is a done deal.”

The City website states, “If a property owner wants to use or develop his or her land in a manner that is not permitted under the present zoning, a change in the zoning classification of the property is required. This process is called rezoning. A property owner begins by submitting a rezoning application to the Planning Department.” The staff report for Rez 15-25 states, “Cedar Place is currently owned and operated by BC Housing, yet the applicant for rezononing is Ledingham McAllister Communities Ltd. If the deal is subject to a successful rezoning, what is the agreed sale price? Will it be based on the current zoning ($26,609,300), which makes the property a relative bargain, or will the price reflect the upzoning value which the City estimates is an additional $28.5 million created by the proposed rezoning of the Cedar Place site. Residents have a right to know what Ledmac has agreed to pay.

 

I wonder if taxpayers could do better.

Cedar2

Constructing an apartment building isn’t cheap, but much of the value is not in the building but in the land itself. Since BC Housing already owns the land, I wondered how much it would cost for that agency to build market and non-market housing itself. Through a bit of research, I am of the opinion that BC Housing could develop the property at the same cost as Ledmac, add more affordable housing than is proposed and profit from the judicious sale of some market housing to prospective, local homeowners.

 

Municipal Costs

According to a Fraser Institute report, Burnaby has among the lowest development charges and fastest approval times in the Lower Mainland. They estimate that the typical regulatory cost per dwelling unit in Burnaby at $17,542, 47 percent of neighbouring Vancouver’s which is estimated at $37,283. This estimate includes single family detached homes which have typically higher costs than multifamily dwellings.

A separate study by the Greater Vancouver Homebuilders’ Association entitled “Getting to Ground” compared the per unit townhouse fees and charges and found that costs vary region-wide from a low of $8,390 in White Rock and Port Moody to a high of $33,713 in Surrey. In Burnaby the estimated cost was $11652.50 based on a typical 22 unit townhouse project.

 

Building Costs

The Altus group publishes an annual construction cost guide. The values are calculated by building types that usually have underground parking (condominiums, offices and hotels). The gross livable area  averages 70% of gross floor area which includes parking garages. To illustrate, if a proposed condominium has a gross floor area of 100,000 sf and the unit costs are between $170 and $235/sf, the approximate cost is based on the gross livable area (70,000 sq. ft. x $185 – $250 = $11,900,000 – $16,450,000).

Unit costs vary depending on the cost and quality of the materials used. Basic to medium quality apartment constructions range from $185 to $250 per square foot. Townhomes, depending on form, range from $100 to $180 per square foot.

Given the above assumptions, the 90 unit affordable housing apartments ( 94,400 sf of gross living area) would cost at the most $25 million (100,000sq. ft. x $185 – 250= $18.5 million- $25 million). Similarly, a seniors residence, as proposed with 90 two-bedroom units (800sf) would cost $13.4 million to $18 million.

The unit rates for the building type are an average range only for that particular type of building. The unit rates assume that a level, open site exists with no restrictions from adjoining properties. It is assumed that stable soil conditions prevail. Average-quality finishes (unless otherwise stated), both to the exterior and interior, are also assumed.

The unit costs outlined cover construction costs only. In all commercial developments, the project budget must also include development or “soft” costs. These would include architectural, special design and engineering fees, insurance and bond costs, l interest charges and lender’s fees, permits and development charges, rezoning costs, and other municipal fees and levies.

Cedar Place Redevlopment Map

So How Much?

The city development charges for 180 units are estimated to be $2.1 million. I estimate the cost of the entire project to be, at most $45 million and would retain all of the public land and most of the existing homes, which are old but structurally sound.

According to the City’s press release, the City’s proposed contribution is approximately $8.5 million through the density bonus program,” and “the resulting value of the provincial investment is approximately $47 million.”  That works out to a cost of $55.5 million and a loss of two- thirds of public land to the developer.

How much did LedMac pay the Province for this chunk of prime real estate? How much of the provincial investment of $47 million is new money and how much is from the net sale of public land?

 

Where is the federal government  in this enterprise?

Justin Trudeau promised new money for infrastructure, yet there is no federal involvement in this social housing plan. Did our two MPs drop the ball on this?

 

Similarly, where is Metro Vancouver?

At Christmastime, Metro announced that it had purchased Metrotower 3 at Metrotown for $205 million.  Additionally, improvements at the new location is currently budgeted at $28 Million. This is slightly less than the planned upgrades to the office space at the current location since the new building will not require demolition or staff relocation prior to office upgrades. The annual household impact of this gift to itself is expected to be $5 – $6 per household per year from 2018 to 2031. Metro plans to recover part of the cost by selling off the old publicly owned 29 – 32 years old buildings. They are assessed at  $82.5 million. If Metro Vancouver can find $ 150 million for new offices, certainly they could have found money for new affordable housing the private sector cannot provide.

Could the market component of this plan be developed by the City, BC Housing or the federal government?

Many would scoff at the idea of government building homes for the marketplace, but why not? A developer in my neighbourhood  recently constructed three stacked multi-family buildings on two  single -family lots. The combined assessed values of the 34 strata properties was $15.8 million, making the average value per unit $464,000. This calculation is close to the GVRB estimate for December 2015

Conservatively, the developer paid $3 million for the properties. based on the  construction cost guide, I estimate the cost of each building to be between $2.22 to $3 million to construct in 2015. (12,000sf livable floor area x $185-250/sf= $2.22- $3 million)

Then we have the municipal costs. In Burnaby the estimated cost per unit is $11652.50 or $400,000 for the project. The average construction cost per unit for these units using materials of basic or moderate quality would be between $207,600 to $276,500.

The bottom line is this. BC Housing and taxpayers could get a better deal than the one they are getting. The Province and City could save $10.5 million by organizing the project and offset the cost through the sale of selected new homes to consumers and funding from the federal and regional governments.

McAllister Developments donated $10,000 to the Mayor’s political party in 2014. An amendment to the BCA’s financial disclosure documents indicates McAllister Developments contributed an additional $5,000 to the BCA in 2013

McAllister donated $69,900 to the BC Liberals in 2013/2014

McAllister Donations

http://www.altusgroup.com/media/4099/costguide_2015_web.pdf

https://www.fraserinstitute.org/sites/default/files/residential-land-use-regulation-in-BCs-lower-mainland-rev.pdf

http://www.refbc.com/sites/default/files/G2G_Report2014_FINAL.pdf

http://evaluebc.bcassessment.ca/Property.aspx

 

Additional Calculations

4277 Sardis Street   Land Assessment    2016    $1,350,000

      2015    $1,095,000

4255    Strata Assessments   34 homes in three buildings

17x2br ( 700sf) – $325,000- 360,000

17x3br (1400sf) – $550,000- 622,000 total assessed value

2015  $15,779,000

All homes purchased above assessed value.

 

Estimated floor area (17*700sf)+ (17*1400sf)= 35,700sf  

Each building would be approximately 12,000sf

 

Affordable housing: a survey of 15 Metro Vancouver cities

Fraseropolis

In my February 9 post on measures for comparing B.C. communities,  I overlooked a 2011 report by Margaret Eberle and associates on affordable housing and housing diversity.

The report, submitted to the Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation,  measures the performance of 15 Metro Vancouver municipalities — the 15 largest — in implementing the 2007 regional housing strategy.

View original post 359 more words

Should Burnaby Take Control of Burnaby Lake Conservation Area

 

I have strong reservations about Metro Vancouver handing over control over Burnaby Lake Regional Park to the City of Burnaby.

http://www.burnabynow.com/news/city-still-has-eyes-for-burnaby-lake-regional-park-1.2141252

The 140-hectare park has been operated by the regional district since 1978, most recently under a 21-year lease at a cost of $1 per year.

About 75 per cent of the land around the park is owned by the city.

Given the ecological sensitivity of these wetlands, Burnaby Lake Park has additional protection under regional stewardship. The park lies outside the “Urban Containment Boundary” which is intended to establish a stable, long-term, regionally defined area for urban development. The Urban Containment Boundary reinforces the protection of agricultural, conservation and rural areas.

The park’s current status buffers the park and conservation area from activities in adjacent areas. By reducing the status of the park to a municipal park, this protection and buffer no longer apply. The fact that Mr. Dhaliwal does not see Burnaby Lake as an eco-sensitive area is concerning, especially considering that it is home to one of the largest known B.C. populations of the endangered Western painted turtle.

 

If someone wants to develop their property adjacent to a city park, they need a simple majority of councillors to agree to the development and the blessing of the Parks and Recreation Commission, which is composed of some of the same councillors, including Mr. Dhaliwal, and a few unelected appointees hand picked by the Mayor. In contrast, developing next to a regional conservation area requires the support of Metro Vancouver whose mandate is protection and conservation. The needs of the region often come into conflict with the aspirations of individual city councils.

The mandates of Metro and the Parks and Recreation commission are different. Metro Vancouver focuses on protecting exceptional representative regional landscapes and providing opportunities for passive outdoor recreation, nature study and community stewardship. The Parks and Recreation Committee focuses on outdoor recreation and  providing facilities like sports fields and pools for active sports. Conservation and nature based recreation make up an important but minor portion of the services they provide.

Finally, here is also an economic argument against  the transfer of the park. No longer will the cost of maintaining the park be spread among the 21 municipalities that compose Metro Vancouver; that burden will fall on the residents of Burnaby alone. Even Mr Dhaliwal acknowledges that paying for the park is “becoming very expensive in many ways.”
I think this negotiation initiated by the City is not just a question of who can manage the park better, but rather about making development around the lake easier for the Mayor’s contributors.

Metro Vancouver Moving to Platinum Office Tower in Metrotown

Metro Vancouver is on the move eastward in Metrotown. Without any indication that anything like this was in the works, Metro Vancouver announced it has purchased Metrotower III adjacent to the Metrotown Skytrain Station. The cost to taxpayers, $205 million. the new acquisition ”offers over 414,000 square feet of ‘AAA’ Class office space-” Possibly the most expensive office space in the City.

 

Metro Vancouver’s media relations stated in its press release,

As part of our long-term strategic planning, we evaluated options to best meet our future needs for necessary office facilities including potential redevelopment scenarios and relocation,” says Greg Moore, Metro Vancouver Board Chair. “Based on thorough due diligence, detailed forecasting and independent third-party validation, the acquisition of Metrotower III was deemed by the Board to be the most economically and environmentally responsible decision in the best interests of our members and ratepayers.

 

Over the last year, Metro Vancouver has been updating all of its long term plans for its infrastructure, which included an undisclosed evaluation of the options for the current Head Office at 4330 Kingsway and 5945 Kathleen.

“There appears to have been no prior public discussion on this matter.” According to City Hall Watch, a Vancouver Blog. “The board went in-camera on Friday, December 11, 2015 and at that time likely approved the purchase.”

 

The video feed of Metro Vancouver Board meetings are not archived. 

“Within 10 minutes of the start of the 2016 Inaugural Metro Board meeting, the discussions went in-camera. Was one of the first decisions by this board to authorize spending $205 million of taxpayer’s money on a brand new building? Will anyone ever be held accountable for this decision?”

Ivanhoé Cambridge, the previous owner and developer of the site, will manage Metrotower III on behalf of its new owner.

Metro Vancouver’s existing head office complex, consisting of two office towers located at 4330 Kingsway and 5945 Kathleen Avenue in Burnaby, will be disposed of at market value and the proceeds used to offset costs associated with the acquisition of Metrotower III.  “The regional authority’s former head office will likely be redeveloped and subsequently removed from Burnaby’s office inventory,” according to Avison Young 

This is a little concerning from a taxpayer’s point of view, since speculation has driven up sale prices of land in Metrotown far beyond assessed value in many cases. The combined 2016 Property Assessments for Metro Vancouver’s existing head office complex is approx. $82.5 million. Given the influence and primacy of developer money in most municipal election campaigns, it is reasonable to be concerned that the successful bid for the property will greatly favour the buyer over the seller-taxpayers.

The future fate of the 30 year old gold, glass structures is unknown, but there has been speculation that it could be demolished and replaced with something “much taller”.

It should also be noted that most of the adjacent properties are owned by the Bosa family, and that Mayor Corrigan and his council are advocating for an event center somewhere in the Willingdon-Kingsway area, close to Bosa’s Sovereign project.

 

Metro Vancouver may have trouble renting out the rest of the building. Currently the building has two major tenants, Stantec Engineering  and Hemmera Engineering.

 

According to the leasing site for Metrotower III, entire floors 8,9,10,11 and 12 are available for rent. Most likely they have sat empty since construction was completed in 2014 after being mothballed for 4 years due to a sluggish economy. Ground was broken on the development in 2008.  Despite renewed strength in the economy, office vacancy rates are over 13 percent in Burnaby and the inventory continues to grow. 

 

Avison Young states, rates may soften in Burnaby as heightened vacancy persists and new supply is delivered. Vacancy will likely continue to rise in 2016. Additional office space is also included as part of the Brentwood Town Centre redevelopment and Onni Group’s Gilmore Station project. With leasing activity likely to remain subdued for the remainder of 2015 and only a handful of large users currently in the market with lease expirations in the next 12 to 36 months, landlords such as Metro Vancouver in Burnaby’s office market will need to be very competitive and creative by offering large inducements and extended deal terms to attract and retain tenants.

 

In 2015, almost all submarkets registered positive absorption, led by Surrey, Richmond and Vancouver-Broadway. However, Burnaby registered negative absorption during the first half. Meanwhile, vacancy rose year-over-year in Burnaby.

 

Total office space inventory in Burnaby is around 9.1 million sf with approximately 1.22 million sf or 13.5% vacant.

 

In comparison to the region, regional vacancy increased to 10.3% – the highest since year-end 2004.

http://www.avisonyoung.com/fileDownloader.php?file=files/content-files/Offices/Vancouver/Research/2015/Vancouver_OMR_MY2015.pdf

 

In sum, in my opinion the predicted revenue streams will be far less, leaving taxpayers with larger burden and less public land to benefit the public good.

 

Thanks to City Hall Watch

 

Brenhill judgment could undermine faith in “system” — “Citizens must seek change through political process” say the judges re CANY (New Yaletown) appeal vs City of Vancouver & Brenhill

The below mentioned Residents’ association successfully argued that the City of Vancouver had not been forthright with its residents. This decision was overrturned upon appeal. Citizens who disagree with the City’s view of the public interest must seek change through the political process rather than the courts…”

CityHallWatch: Tools to engage in Vancouver city decisions

508HelmckenOn a tip from North Van City Voices, here are the “Written Reasons for Judgment in the Appeal of the Community Association of New Yaletown vs City of Vancouver and Brenhill Developments.” As we have reported previously, this was a high profile case. The three judges of the B.C. Court of Appeal announced their decision in a session that lasted less than one minute on April 23, 2015, but did not provide their written reasons until this morning. Here is the link to the actual text.

http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/CA/15/02/2015BCCA0227.htm

Here we have created a PDF file of the document: Court reasons for judgment 2015 BCCA 227 CANY (New Yaletown) v Vancouver City, 21-May-2015

The punchline according to the three judges is this:

“When the City is considering rezoning a property, local residents have two important rights. They have the right to be given information sufficient to enable…

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Friendly Landlord Network

Friendly Landlord Network

For a landlord, finding a good tenant is a challenge and a risk at times, you hope you find someone who will stay and provide a steady income stream from your investment. You want someone who will take care of your property as best he or she can. You want someone who is patient and responsible when things do not go well. I have heard anecdotal stories about “bad” tenants and unfriendly, irresponsible landlords. I also know the stories about the difficulties in evicting the “wrong” tenant. Consequently, I advertised the price a little higher than it needed to be. My logic was to attract tenants with a steady income to avoid the possibility of bounced cheques or broken leases. I also thought, quite illogically, that people with good paying jobs were somehow more considerate of others.

Unfortunately, I am embarrassed to say, I contributed to the unaffordability of the neighbourhood and probably prevented some good people with average paying jobs from even considering renting the place. In my defence, I have a small mortgage of about $450 a month, strata fees of over $280 a month, and net municipal taxes of $200 a month. After all is said and done, my property generates a modest return of 1.4 percent which is then taxed as income. I could do better, but I want a responsible caretaker, not a cash cow. I live in the least affordable, least accessible, most overcrowded rental market in the country- Burnaby. It ranks 523 out of 523 municipalities studied across Canada by the Canadian Non-Profit Housing Association.

I met my first tenant and his spouse about four years ago when I was looking to rent out the apartment my family had grown out of. He was very eager to get the place and provided all the possible documentation a landlord could ask for. When I called his reference, a family friend, I was overwhelmed by the positive feelings and respect the reference had for this would-be renter. There were other qualified applicants, but he was the first, so we decided to take a chance. He told me recently that in his youth, he had “done some things” that landed him in trouble, but had turned his life around.

I am glad he didn’t tell tell me this earlier, or that, if he did, I wasn’t listening because I am certain I would probably not have rented to him. I would not have had three years of worry free tenants. I would not have had the opportunity to dogsit his canine companion. And, I would not have gotten the opportunity to write a character reference for him, so that he can get a pardon to enter the United States.

The reason I feel compelled to tell people this is because there is a need for understanding landlords that put people before profits. There is a need for affordable rental homes for young adults that are overcoming challenges in their lives. The Friendly Landlord Network managed through Aunt Leah’s Place, a registered charity, helps young people in BC aging out of foster care into adulthood get a solid foothold in society.  In BC, 45 percent of youth leaving foster care end up on the street within three years. Many people, including myself, believe that access to secure housing is the first step toward reversing this trend. A troubled youth does not condemn a person to a troubled adulthood, but uncertainty in housing can result in sad outcomes.
The Friendly Landlord Network is designed to address the housing gap for this demographic that face additional barriers and prejudices in this already brutal rental market. The Network  connects Metro Vancouver youth from care, with homeowners and property managers who want to be part of the solution. Each youth is supported by a local youth serving organization, who helps provide landlords with market rent and ongoing tenancy support.