Frenzied commercial development marks next phase for emergent metropolis

Montreal’s residential real estate market has grabbed all the headlines in recent years, but the city’s commercial sector is beginning to burgeon and it, too, will get its due.

Toronto-based Michel Durand, President and CEO of Multi-PretsMortgage Alliance Commercial, says that Toronto and Vancouver cast a pall on Montreal, but as those cities have begun topping out, the Quebecois metropolis is attracting international attention.

“The Montreal market is finally seeing its share of the Asian influence, which we saw in Vancouver about 10 years ago and then it moved to Toronto when things got overcrowded and overpriced. Now we’re seeing a lot of development money moving into Montreal, which we’ve witnessed over the last three years and which, I think, is a trend that’s going to stick for at least the next five years,” said Durand.

Of course, in Montreal, it began with an explosion of interest in residential, and with its success has come the next, if more lucrative, phase of the city’s real estate development.

“Residential is a catalyst for commercial development,” continued Durand. “Once investors and developers get a  taste of how easy it is on the residential side—we’ve seen a lot of condos and towers go up from Asian investors—which is where they start, then they go into commercial development, like office buildings and new retail plazas, by partnering with local players.”

Likely contributing to Asian interest in Montreal is the city finally has direct flights to Mainland China, added Durand.

“Flights would go China-Vancouver and China-Toronto, and that’s where the money stayed,” he said, “but a few years ago flights started going to Montreal directly and we immediately saw the effects on the commercial real estate side, which also includes residential—transactions that are completely investments.”

In tandem with an institutional partner, Kevric Real Estate Corporation recently announced its purchase of a major downtown Montreal office tower located at 600 de la Gauchetière West, for which it has big plans. The purchase is also the latest sign that downtown Montreal’s commercial real estate sector is getting a boost the likes of which it hasn’t seen since a bygone epoch in the city’s history when, as Canada’s largest city, it was the country’s economic engine.

In addition to updating 600 de la Gauchetière W.’s architecture and building a new lobby facing Square Victoria, it will try to attract companies from Montreal’s up-and-coming industries, including technology, knowledge, and media.

“This important acquisition allows Kevric to expand its offering of commercial real estate spaces for organizations which aim to distinguish themselves and will ensure the company’s growth in Montreal for years ahead,” said Richard Hylands, Kevric’s president. “Kevric is proud to continue fueling the evolution of downtown Montreal into a world-class Canadian city.”

Published on MortgageBrokerNews.ca

by Neil Sharma
31 July 2019

Fed announces interest rate decision

The Federal Reserve reduced interest rates for the first time since the financial crisis and hinted it may cut again this year to insulate the record-long U.S. economic expansion from slowing global growth.

Central bankers voted, with two officials dissenting, to lower the target range for the benchmark rate by a quarter-percentage point to 2%-2.25%. The shift was predicted by most investors and economists, yet will disappoint President Donald Trump, who tweeted on Tuesday he wanted a “large cut.’’

“In light of the implications of global developments for the economic outlook as well as muted inflation pressures, the committee decided to lower’’ rates, the Federal Open Market Committee, led by Jerome Powell, said in a statement following a two-day meeting in Washington. It also noted that “uncertainties” about the economic outlook remain.

Officials also stopped shrinking the Fed’s balance sheet effective Aug. 1, ending a process that very modestly tightens monetary policy and was previously scheduled to come to a close at the end of September.

Policy makers appeared open to another cut as early as September when they next convene while sticking with wording in their statement that preserves their options.

“As the committee contemplates the future path of the target range for the federal funds rate, it will continue to monitor the implications of incoming information for the economic outlook and will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion,” they said.

Kansas City Fed President Esther George and Boston’s Eric Rosengren voted against the cut. The statement said they “preferred at this meeting to maintain the target range for the federal funds rate.” It was the first time since Powell took over as chairman in February 2018 that two policy makers dissented.

Investors had forecast the Fed to continue easing monetary policy this year, with futures pricing the key rate to fall about another half-point by January. U.S. stocks rose to a record last week in anticipation of easier money, while the yield on two-year Treasuries has undershot 2% since May.

While the domestic economy has performed relatively well, the Fed cut amid concern that softness abroad threatens the decade- long U.S. expansion. Trump’s trade war with China is hurting foreign demand. Data released earlier Wednesday showed the pace of quarter-over-quarter growth in the euro area slowed by half in the latest three months to 0.2%.

In the U.S., after growing 2.5% last year, fuelled by now-fading tax cuts and higher government spending, the economy expanded at a 2.1% annualized pace in the second quarter. The trade dispute was blamed for a manufacturing slowdown and the first drop in business investment since 2016.

In their assessment of the US economy, officials made only minor changes to their statement language.

Powell has repeatedly said the Fed’s “overarching goal’’ is to keep growth going. Acting now, when the central bank has less room to pare rates than in past downturns, is partly aimed at getting ahead of any potential slump.

Lacklustre inflation also offered the Fed space and reason to ease. Its preferred price gauge, excluding food and energy, rose 1.6% in June from a year earlier and hasn’t met the Fed’s 2% target this year.

Trump is unlikely to be satisfied as he puts the economy at the heart of his re-election bid. He has broken with convention and undermined the Fed’s political independence by lobbying it to loosen policy and publicly questioning his nomination of Powell as chairman.

At his press conference, Powell will almost certainly be asked if the Fed buckled to that pressure. He may also be quizzed on whether the Fed, if requested, would join the U.S. Treasury in any effort to weaken the dollar given Trump’s complaints about the currency’s value.

Limited Scope

While Trump and some investors wanted the Fed to be more aggressive, its scope for doing so is limited. Stocks are high, unemployment is around the lowest in a half-century and consumers continue to spend. At the same time, a measure of business in the Chicago region fell this month to the lowest since late 2015.

The rate reduction was the first since December 2008 when the Fed dropped its benchmark effectively to zero as it battled recession and financial crisis. It began raising borrowing costs in December 2015, doing so another eight times. Officials indicated as recently as December they intended to continue to hike this year.

They dumped that plan in January as financial markets fretted monetary policy had become too restrictive.

Fellow central banks are set to follow the Fed. Those in IndiaSouth Africa and Australia are among those to have cut this year. The European Central Bank has indicated it will do so in September.

A worry for policy makers is that a decade of easy money leaves them short of ammunition for fighting a serious downturn. That likely means governments will face demands to do more if economies keep struggling.

 

Copyright Bloomberg News

by Bloomberg 31 Jul 2019

Debt & Structured Finance | Canada Research

Curve inversion draws CRE capital

Increasing evidence of a global economic slowdown in recent weeks has elevated the risk profile for Canada’s economy. Globally, Brexit negotiations are still gridlocked, the Eurozone economy falters and U.S.-China trade negotiations drag on. Domestically, household debt-to-income levels are the highest they have ever been, retail sales are slowing, oil sands producers are reevaluating projects due to pipeline delays and the likelihood for ratification of the CUSMA trade deal wanes as tariffs remain. These developments have sparked concern that a technical recession may emerge in Canada given weak expectation for Q1 2019 growth and a potential downward revision to Q4 2018’s already meager results.

Amid these growing headwinds, the Federal Reserve eliminated their expectations for an interest rate hike this year. The Fed acknowledged the need to avoid getting stuck in a deflationary environment like that which has plagued Japan for the last two decades. In turn, this dovish shift in tone triggered an inversion on another segment of the U.S. yield curve as investors sought the safety of bonds. Widely considered a reliable harbinger of a downturn within a few years, the spread between 10-year Treasury bond yields fell below its 3-month counterpart for the first time since just prior the Great Financial Crisis. The inversion also emerged in Canada and pulled down global bond yields. In fact, investors are even pricing in expectations for central banks to cut interest rates by the end of 2019 to keep the economy going. For the commercial real estate market, falling bond yields may translate to lower mortgage rates with wider cap rate spreads. The precipitous fall in bond yields has some lenders contemplating next steps.

Against this backdrop, commercial real estate has become an increasingly attractive investment vehicle. According to CBRE’s Global Investor Intentions Survey 2019, diversification is the primary driver for investors in the Americas showed the strongest interest for value-add property assets. However, the commercial real estate sector has attracted an abundance of capital over recent years and real estate funds are now challenged to deploy all that capital as the levels of dry power continue to rise. But even more capital is expected to come with the recent formation of several mega-sized real estate funds such as BCI and RBC’s CA $7 billion investment partnership, Brookfield’s recent closing of its US$15 billion BSREP III fund and Blackstone’s record-setting US$20 billion property fund on the horizon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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deemed to include CBRE, Inc. The information set out herein, including, without limitation, any projections, images, opinions, assumptions and estimates obtained from third parties (the “Information”) has not been verified by
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Commercial Mortgage Commentary – Customer Forward Thinking.

Making News

Economy

2018 started with confidence from the Bank of Canada’s (“BOC”) economic outlook for the year. However, the GDP growth forecast gradually declined as oil prices dropped and as tensions grew in international trade markets. As a result, we saw a reversal in the increasing trend of Government of Canada (“GOC”) bond yields at the end of 2018. 2019 begins with some uncertainty around the growth in the Canadian economy, the direction of GOC yields, and whether further increases in the overnight rate will occur in 2019..


.

GOC Yields

GOC bond yields ended generally flat in 2018 – the 3-year GOC
increased by 11 bps, 5-year increased by 1 bps, and the 10-year
GOC yield decreased by 9 bps.

.

Overnight Rate

There were three rate hikes in 2018 for the Bank of Canada (“BOC”) overnight target rate, which brought the rate to 1.75%, the
highest since Q4/08, but the Bank of Canada held the overnight
rate constant for their last two meetings.


Commercial Mortgage

Capital supply and competition for commercial mortgages remained strong throughout 2018 as spreads continued to absorb the increases in the GOC yields, holding commercial mortgage coupons relatively steady. During Q4/18, GOC bond yields fell in response to the deteriorating outlook from the BOC, reversing the upward trend in 2018. Corporate bond markets reacted as investors demanded higher spreads – roughly 50 bps higher for BBB-rated corporate bonds in Q4/18 alone.

Commercial mortgage spreads became a hot topic towards the end of Q4, as brokers and investors alike were looking for signs of change in the market. Commercial mortgage spreads eventually reacted with an increase in December by 10-15 bps, ending the 

year at 150-170 bps for top quality assets. The average 5-year conventional commercial mortgage coupon ended 2018 roughly flat at 3.60%. January 2019 has quickly seen another 15 bps increase in spreads, now in the range of 165-185 bps for top quality assets.

BBB-rated corporate bond investments tend to compete for the same capital as commercial mortgages, since BBB-rated corporate bonds provide a similar return on risk. As firms look to make portfolio investment decisions, the spread premium for commercial mortgages over BBB-rated corporate bonds can be an indication of where capital supply may shift or how commercial mortgage spreads may respond to changes in BBB-rated corporate spreads.

Recent increases in BBB-rated corporate bond spreads improved the relative attractiveness of this investment against commercial mortgages. The spread premium for commercial mortgages dropped from 85 to 25 bps year over year – significantly lower relative to the 67 bps long term average. Consequently, commercial mortgage funds may 

require higher spreads to compete for capital against their BBB-rated corporate bond counterparts.

Based on the low spread premium for commercial mortgages compared to the long-term average, a further widening in commercial mortgage spreads is possible.


Senior Unsecured Debt

In Q4/18, senior unsecured debt issuance reached $1 billion,up from $375 million in Q3/18. Total issuance for the year was driven largely by the nearly $2 billion raised by Choice Properties REIT in Q1/18. 

Overall spreads on BBB-rated senior unsecured debt rose sharply from 145 bps at the end of Q3/18 to 194 bps by the end of Q4/18. With the increase, spreads surpassed those of conventional commercial mortgages. With the current premium for unsecured debt, REITs and REOCs may consider more conventional mortgage financing.


CMHC

CMHC-insured mortgages offer an attractive return for lenders looking to earn additional yield, while maintaining an indirect

guarantee from the Government of Canada. As most insured mortgages are originated with the purpose of securitization into the National Housing Act (“NHA”) Mortgage-Backed Security program run by CMHC, lenders tend to quote spreads based on Canada Mortgage Bond (“CMB”) spreads. Given this, it is no surprise with the increases in CMB spreads seen in Q4/18, that CMHC-insured spreads also increased.

Through Q4/18, the 5-year and 10-year CMB spreads increased from 29 bps to 42 bps and from 38 bps to 55 bps, respectively. Spreads on CMHC-insured mortgages followed suit with a 10 – 15 bps increase to 90 – 115 bps over GOC on 5-year terms and 100 – 125 bps on 10-year terms.


Quarterly Lenders Sentiment Survey and
Annual Commercial Mortgage Survey

The CMLS Mortgage Analytics Group conducts market surveys to enhance market knowledge and transparency on areas such as size, segment analysis, and trends in the Canadian commercial mortgage market. Since inception in 2010, the surveys have grown to cover over 90% of the commercial mortgage market.

 

February 2019

 

Bank of Canada keeps benchmark interest rate at 1.75%

Central Bank has hiked key rate five times since summer of 2017

The Bank of Canada kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 1.75 per cent Wednesday, despite a few dark clouds appearing on Canada’s economic horizon. 

The bank has raised its key rate five times since the summer of 2017, attempting to keep inflation in an acceptable range, typically between one and three per cent annually. The bank last raised its rate in October, before deciding to do nothing in December and then again today.

The bank’s rate affects consumers by raising or lowering the rates that Canadian borrowers and savers get for lines of credit, savings accounts, and variable-rate mortgages.

The bank also downgraded its expectations for Canada’s economy this year. A 25 percent plunge in the price of oil since October has had a “material impact” on the economy, to the point where the bank is now forecasting just 1.7 percent growth this year. Three months ago, it was expecting 2.1 percent growth.

But despite that slowdown, the bank still indicated it plans to raise the rate again sooner rather than later. “The policy interest rate will need to rise over time into a neutral range to achieve the inflation target,” the bank said.

At a press conference following the announcement, Poloz said the slowdown in the oil sector is acute, but so far the impact is being offset by strength elsewhere in the economy.

“By all of our readings, something like 90 percent of the economy is operating at capacity, having trouble finding workers, struggling to invest and to grow, and so on. So we have to pay a lot of attention to that, while at the same time acknowledging that the economy will always have the stresses of some form of something declining,” he said.

“There are a whole lot of other things … going on out there that are actually doing very well,” he said, adding that he expects the impact on overall GDP to be less than the oil slowdown in 2014 was because the energy sector isn’t as big a part of the Canadian economy anymore.

 

 

That sentiment buoyed the loonie, which gained about a third of a cent to 75.73 cents US after the decision came out.

Like just about every economist covering the bank, CIBC’s Avery Shenfeld wasn’t expecting the central bank to announce a hike on Wednesday, but he found the bank’s rationale for its decision interesting nonetheless.

“Its message today suggests that it isn’t quite as sure about when it will come off the sidelines and hike again,” he said.

Stephen Brown with Capital Economics had a slightly more subdued take.

“The bank continues to think that further interest rate hikes are necessary, despite a host of factors that are weighing on the outlook,” he said. “But if we’re right that oil and housing will be a bigger drag on growth than the bank expects, then further interest rate hikes are very unlikely and the odds of interest rate cuts will rise in the coming quarters.”

TD Bank economist Brian DePratto said that on the whole, the bank seems to be taking a cautious approach, but is still on a path to higher rates.

“The roller-coaster ride of the past few months has brought a note of greater caution to the Bank of Canada’s communications, and today’s decision looks to be an extension of that,” he said.

“Governor Poloz and company still see more rate hikes down the road, but aren’t in any great rush to get there.”

 

Pete Evans · CBC News · 

Good News for Landlords

2018 forecast: New mortgage rules could be boon for investors

The new mortgage stress test, in addition to rapidly escalating housing prices, is keeping an increasing number of people in rental accommodations, and that’s good news for investors.

“A+” tenants—people with high incomes and good credit—used to rent for about a year before purchasing their own homes, which would repel investors, however, they’re becoming long-term renters.

“With the mortgage rules changing, what we used to consider an A+ tenant, who would usually

 only stay in a rental unit for about a year and then move onto purchasing their own home, are now staying for two to four years on average,” said Crystal Ross, owner of Investors Property Management.

“It’s very good news if you’re an investor. Investors used to back away from A+ tenants because they’d have to find new tenant the following year. I think they’ve given up on the idea of owning a home and decided there’s comfort in being long-term tenant. They’ve accepted the lifestyle.”

 Ross noted that the Greater Toronto Area housing market has normalized, but the new mortgage stress tests will remove about 40% of middle-income earners from the purchasing market. Coupled with a rental shortage in Toronto, they’re looking elsewhere.

“We’re seeing a lot of renters are willing to go outside big cities,” said Ross. “There is a lot of construction and building development being done on the outskirts of big cities, like Toronto and Hamilton.

Peopled aged 25-39 are increasingly putting roots down in smaller towns like Grimsby, Beamsville and St. Catharines.

That doesn’t mean Toronto’s condo market isn’t still the best real estate investment in the region.

“I think the condo market will remain strong because it’s the only market younger people can afford; it’s the first step to getting into the real estate market,” said Engel & Völkers Toronto Central’s Owner and Broker of Record, Anita Springate-Renaud. “Investors will buy them to rent them because there’s a shortage of rentals.”

Springate-Renaud is confident the market will assimilate the new mortgage rules and that market fundamentals, like the GTA being the fastest growing region on the continent, will carry the day.

Montreal has recently emerged as a hot market and Springate-Renaud says that will continue provided things don’t change.

“Montreal is still going up,” she said. “It was depressed for a long time and things would take 

time to sell, but now it’s a hotter in-demand market. As long as the government stays stable and the separatists don’t win, it’s going to stay strong. Montreal is a great place, a fantastic city, and a lot of people are investing there as well. There’s surprisingly a lot of development going on.”

Volatility Normalization_CBRE November 2018

Interest rate hikes, plunging oil prices, unresolved U.S.-China trade tensions and an uncertain Brexit outcome are all factors lifting market volatility from its doldrums of the past face years. However, even as the stock market works through its fourth major rout this year, the CBOE Volatility Index has remained in line with its long-term historical norm this month. According to The New York Times, this period of volatility is likely to persist as the U.S. economy and financial markets become more vulnerable to risks including slowing global growth and higher domestic interests rates.

Back home, falling global oil prices and a wide discount to WTI crude has led to the worst pricing environment for Canadian oil in history. At the same time, the industry is at an impasse on how best to resolve the supply glut. Some producers are calling for mandated production cuts while refiners decry government intervention. Stalled pipeline projects continue to exacerbate the situation.

General Motor’s recently announced global restructuring plan signals a transformation in the auto industry towards electric and autonomous vehicles. While this industry shift has the potential to ripple across one of Canada’s key economic drivers, its impact will likely see some offset from increased capital expenditures. Auto manufacturers will need to repurpose and upgrade their facilities in order to adapt to shifting transportation demands. As well, the $14 billion in corporate tax cuts introduced by the federal government will be of particular benefit to Canadian manufacturers.

The prevailing risk-off mood of investors this month pushed Canadian bond yields down towards their September levels, igniting fresh concerns over the yield curve inverting and the economy being late in the cycle. During a recent presentation at the Toronto Real Estate Forum, two prominent economists called for an impending slowdown of the economy, through each argued for differing levels of its severity. Under either scenario, the need may weaken for the Bank of Canada’s projected interest rate increases in 2019.

Challenges may have risen in some sectors, but the Canadian tech industry continues to benefit from a strong and expanding tech employment base as reported in CBRE’s 2018 Scoring Canadian Tech Talent report. While Toronto still leads the country with top talent, significant growth has also been recorded across emerging markets from coast to coast.

 

Economic Highlights :

  • Retail sales grew 0.2% in September with increases in six of the 11 subsectors
  • Headline inflation rose 2.4% in October and the average Bank of Canada measures rose to 2.0%.
  • The share of highly indebted households in Canada fell to 13% in Q2 2018 from 18% last year.

 

 

 

Benchmark Yields

Viewpoints :


This disclaimer shall apply to CBRE Limited, Real Estate Brokerage, and to all other divisions of the Corporation; to include all employees and independent contractors (“CBRE”). The information set out herein, including, without limitation, any projections, images, opinions, assumptions and estimates obtained from third parties (the “Information”)has not been verified by CBRE, and CBRE does not represent, warrant or guarantee the accuracy, correctness and completeness of the Information. CBRE does not accept or assume any responsibility or liability, direct or consequential, for the Information or the recipient’s reliance upon the Information. The recipient of the Information should take such steps as the recipient may deem necessary to verify the Information prior to placing any reliance upon the Information. The Information may change and any property described in the Information may be withdrawn from the market at any time without notice or obligation to the recipient from CBRE. CBRE and the CBRE logo are the service marks of CBRE Limited and/or its affiliated or related companies in other countries. All other marks displayed on this document are the property of their respective owners. All Rights Reserved.

Rental Market in Canada – Fall 2018

A Falling Vacancy Rate

Once per year, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation provides a comprehensive review of rental markets across Canada. The survey occurs during the first half of October. Results for this year were released on November 28.

For October 2018, the vacancy rate was 2.4%, which was a substantial drop from the 3.0% rate recorded a year earlier. The vacancy rate for 2018 is far below the average of 3.3% for the entire period shown in this chart. The reduction in vacancies resulted in more rapid rent increases, at 3.5% this year. Over the entire period shown, the average increase was 2.6%. This data shows that the situation has become increasingly challenging for Canada’s tenants.

 

 

Vacancy rates fell in 7 of the 10 provinces. Manitoba, BC, and Ontario saw small increases in their vacancy rates. These three provinces also saw the most rapid rent increases. The lowest vacancy rate is now in PEI, followed by BC and Ontario. The highest vacancy rates are in the three provinces where economies have been hurt by the plunge in oil prices (Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Alberta). These provinces saw the weakest rent increases.

 

Interpretation

Since the data is collected only once per year, it is difficult to construct any models for analysis or forecasting of rental markets. The author’s experimentation over many years, for many different communities across Canada, has resulted in statistical models that have low “reliability”. But, those low-reliability results have been surprisingly consistent, and have led to a conclusion: the two most important drivers of changes for the vacancy rate are job creation during the past year (which allows more people to buy or rent housing) and total completions of housing during the past year.It is tempting to expect that completions of new-rental apartments would be important, but the author’s analysis has found that this is rarely the case.

On reflection, this makes sense:

  • The rental market is part of a complex housing system in which there are very large flows between ownership and renting, and between different forms of housing.
  • Expansion of the total stock of housing offers people more choice: even when people move into new home ownership dwellings, that move sets of a chain of other moves. Much of the time, that chain of moves includes someone moving out of a rental, which creates an opportunity for a new tenant.
  • Moreover, the tenure on a new dwelling is not fixed for all time. In particular, it is well known that many new condominium apartments are occupied as rentals. In addition, some low-rise dwellings (single-detached, semi-detached, and town homes) are ostensibly built for ownership but are made available as rentals.

It is also tempting to expect that changes in resale market activity will affect the rental market. But, once again while the statistical analysis produces unreliable results, over many repetitions it has been found that resale activity has little effect on vacancy rates. This also makes sense on reflection. Most of the time a resale transaction does not add to total demand for housing (the buyer usually moves out of a different dwelling) and it usually does not alter the total supply of housing (unless the new buyer adds or removes a basement apartment).

Employment Trends

Our impressions about the employment situation are largely based on data from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey (“LFS”). This data indicates that during the year up to this September, employment in Canada expanded by 1.2%. This is slower than the rate of population growth (1.3%), and this therefore should be considered a mediocre result. Based on this data, we would expect that housing demand would be weak, and the drop in the vacancy rate this year would be a surprise.

However, the data from the LFS is derived from a sample survey and like all such surveys, it can produce errors. Statistics Canada has a second survey (Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours, or “SEPH”), which is based on data from employers, and is therefore likely to produce more-accurate data. This data receives much less attention because it is published almost two months after the LFS (the most recent data is for August). The two datasets usually tell similar stories. At present, however, SEPH shows growth of 1.8% (as of August) versus the 1.2% shown by the LFS (as of September).

Over the entire period shown in this chart, job growth averaged 1.5% per year. Strong job growth in both 2017 and 2018 helps to explain the drops in the vacancy rates that were seen in both years. Housing completions were at above average levels during 2017 and 2018 (the chart shows the figures for 12 month periods ending in September). These elevated volumes of new housing supply provided some relief for rental markets. Without this additional housing supply, the drops in the vacancy rates in 2017 and 2018 would have been even larger than they were.

 

Looking Forward

The mortgage stress tests have resulted in reduced buying of new and existing homes. It takes some time for changes in purchases of new homes to translate in reduced housing starts (and even longer for housing completions to be affected). Increasingly, it appears that housing starts have peaked, and may have started to fall. The next chart illustrates that total housing starts were very strong during 2016 and 2017, but the trend has started to fall during 2018. A more detailed examination would show that housing starts have turned sharply for low-rise dwellings (single-detached, semi-detached, and town homes) but remain very strong for apartments. During 2019, starts for apartments will gradually reflect the reductions in sales that have occurred this year. This is explored in more detailed within the Housing Market Digest reports (for Canada and the regions) that can be found here: https://goo.gl/kJ6mcC

Following from these trends for housing starts, housing completions are expected to fall only slightly during the coming year, meaning that new housing supply will continue to provide some relief for the rental sector. However, housing completions are expected to fall considerably during 2020. As for employment, higher interest rates can be expected to gradually weigh on job creation during 2019 and 2020.

For 2019, a combination of continued high levels of housing completions and a slowdown of job creation should mean that there will be little change in the apartment vacancy rate (perhaps a drop to 2.3% from the 2.4% seen in 2018). The low vacancy rate can be expected to result in continued rapid rent increases, at a rate of at least 3%.

During 2020, the reduction of housing completions that will result from the mortgage stress tests will add to pressures in the rental sector. For 2020, the vacancy rate is expected to drop further (approaching 2.0%) and rent increases will quicken.

Government Policies at Cross Purposes

The federal government has announced plans to make major expenditures in support of affordable housing ($40 billion over 10 years). The federally-mandated mortgage stress tests, by reducing movements out of renting, will add to pressures within rental housing markets, and are operating at cross-purposes to the National Housing Strategy.

 

 

 

Disclaimer of Liability

This report has been compiled using data and sources that are believed to be reliable. Mortgage Professionals Canada Inc.
accepts no responsibility for any data or conclusions contained herein. Completed by Will Dunning, November 28, 2018.
Copyright: Mortgage Professionals Canada 2018

Commercial Mortgage Commentary – CMLS Mortgage Analytics Group

Making News

Overnight Rate
In late October, the Bank of Canada (“BOC”) announced the third 25 bps rate hike this year, which brought the overnight target rate to 1.75%. The increase comes after continued strength in economic figures and the negotiation of the “new NAFTA” trade deal with Mexico and the U.S. This pushed the prime rate of major Canadian banks to 3.95%.


GOC Yields
Spread premiums between the Government of Canada (“GOC”) 3, 5, and 10-year term bond yields remain extremely tight. Through Q3/18, the premium between 3-year and 10-year tightened by 4 bps, while the premium between 5-year and 10-year remained unchanged.

Investments
In Q3/18, Telus sold its Vancouver headquarters, Telus Garden, to a partnership of investors represented by Regina-based Greystone Managed Investments for an undisclosed amount. The property was built as a joint-venture by Telus and Westbank Corp. for $750 million and consists of an office tower and residential building in Downtown Vancouver. Telus is expected to generate approximately $170 million in profit on the sale.


Commercial Mortgages

Lenders and borrowers have maintained balanced supply and demand for the 5th straight month with commercial mortgage spreads staying flat. 5-year deals are pricing 145 bps to 160 bps over GOC bonds for top quality assets, while 10-year spreads are pricing at a 10 bps premium for similar risk. The liquidity premium of commercial mortgage spreads over BBBrated corporate bonds remained generally unchanged since our last report with the premium down slightly from 64 bps to 62 bps as a result of a slight increase in corporate spreads. This moves the liquidity premium away from the long-term average of 70 bps.


CMBS

The CMBS market continues to be challenged by unattractive profitability due to tightening commercial mortgage spreads relative to CMBS bonds. Recent weighted average breakeven mortgage spread for new CMBS issuance was approximately 225 bps and with current spreads around 190 bps, the prospects of profitability falls short by 35 bps. Until the commercial mortgage spreads move past the CMBS breakeven point, new issuance activity is expected to be thin.

Senior Unsecured Debt

In Q3/18, senior unsecured debt issuance slowed to $625 million, down from $1.65 billion in Q2/18. However, cumulative 2018 issuance is up 27% on a YTD basis and makes up 86% of the total issuance in 2017. Since our last report, Crombie REIT issued a $75 million, 2.9- year note with a 170 bps spread. Overall, spreads on BBB-rated unsecured debt decreased through Q3/18 to 145 bps. For now, spreads on unsecured REIT debt continue to receive cheaper investor dollars compared to conventional commercial mortgages with a difference of only 10 bps at the end of Q3/18.

CMHC

Spreads on multi-family CMHC-insured loans remained stable since our last report with spreads ranging between 80 bps and 105 bps over GOC on 5-year terms and between 85 bps and 110 bps over GOC on 10-year terms. This is partly due to the relatively unchanged spreads on CMHC-backed Canada Mortgage Bonds (“CMB”). 5-year CMB spreads only decreased 3 bps to 28 bps and the 10-year CMB spreads remained flat between July and September.


High Yield

In Q3/18 the British Columbia Securities Commission (BCSC) announced it will not be renewing the exemption that previously allowed Mortgage Investment Corporations (MICs) to operate in BC without engaging in the onerous registration process with the BCSC. The impact of this announcement will be felt in the local industry as many small MICs will now have to endure registration costs.

ABOUT CMLS MORTGAGE ANALYTICS GROUP
The CMLS Mortgage Analytics Group (“MAG”) is a division of CMLS and the leading provider of independent mortgage valuation, risk ratings, market research and software to the commercial mortgage industry in Canada. Our clients include some of the largest institutional asset managers and insurance companies with assets under management ranging from single digit billions to over $100 billion.

Condoville: What is the real estate boom doing to downtown Montreal?

Units in high-rise condos are a hot commodity, but critics worry they will hurt the city’s vitality

On a cold Saturday morning in April, a small group of hockey fans mixed with real estate investors in the showroom of one of the many upscale condo developments in the city.

The 55-storey tower bills itself as “Montreal Canadiens-inspired,” and is being built in the shadow of the Bell Centre, near two other Habs-themed high-rises.

 

Guy Carbonneau, the team’s one-time captain and coach, was on-hand signing autographs, and hawking units.

“The Habs are built on a history of greatness and I believe Tour des Canadiens 3 will do the same for the Montreal real-estate landscape,” Carbonneau said, reading from a prepared statement.

Such is the velocity of Montreal’s condo market these days that everyone seems to be sucked into its orbit.

 

While the city’s real-estate market is enjoying a sustained growth period, downtown condo sales have been particularly hot.

Last year, 3,365 condo units were sold in central Montreal, a record that surpassed previous highs reached in 2012 and 2006, according to figures compiled by Altus Group, a real-estate data firm. There was a near 22-per cent increase in the fourth-quarter alone.

Former Candiens captain and coach Guy Carbonneau met with fans and investors at a recent event in the showroom of the Tour des Canadiens 3 condo development. (Jonathan Montpetit/CBC)


High-rise condo boom

Much of this growth was driven by new construction projects, such as the Tour des Canadiens 3, suggesting there is no longer any excess supply on the market.

“We’ve exhausted the inventory of unsold new units that were in the big towers during the difficult years of 2013, 2014 and 2015,” said Vincent Shirley, director of real-estate development at Altus.

“Today it is the launch of condo projects that is really effervescent. They will account for 50 per cent of first-quarter sales this year.”

Foreign investors have started to take note. They now account for roughly 1.7 per cent of Montreal purchases, though that’s small compared to Toronto (3.4 per cent) and Vancouver (4.8 per cent).

The high-rise condos in downtown Montreal are a bigger draw for professionals with no children or older people with equity looking to downsize. Market observers estimate as many as 25 per cent will be used as investments.

“What we’re seeing is people are wanting to live in larger spaces in the downtown. They want great views and to be able to walk to everything,” said Rizwan Dhanji, a residential sales executive with Canderel, the developer behind Tour des Canadiens.

High-rise projects with names like Crystal, YUL and the Drummond are the most ostentatious manifestations of the city’s hot condo market. (Jonathan Montpetit/CBC


In the condo development’s showroom, prospective buyers can visit a mock-up of a two-bedroom, 1000 square-foot unit.

Hints of the lifestyle on offer are embedded in the furnishings: modern leather-backed chairs, a crystal decanter on a quartz kitchen countertop, wooden Henriot box tucked away in the corner.

A floor-to-ceiling high-resolution photograph of the Saint-Lawrence River represents the view available to those who can afford the upper-level units.

Outside, Montreal’s new condo towers — imposing steel and glass structures rising 100 meters or more — are impossible to miss.

City of glass

With names like Crystal, YUL and the Drummond, they are the most ostentatious manifestations of the city’s hot condo market.

Many consider them to be its most problematic element as well.

Some of these concerns will be familiar to anyone who has followed recent developments in the country’s two other major real-estate market.

These include worries about affordability, which has declined steadily in Montreal since 2015. And some municipal politicians have mooted the need for a foreign-buyers tax.

But alongside the economic, there are architectural concerns. Not only have these residential skyscrapers reshaped the city’s skyline, they have dramatically altered the pedestrian experience along René Lévesque Boulevard and large parts of Griffintown.

In the condo development’s showroom, prospective buyers can visit a mock-up of a two-bedroom, 1,000 square-foot unit. (Jonathan Montpetit/CBC)


Like all skyscrapers, the new downtown condo towers block out sunlight and deflect air currents.

“You need lead shoes just to stay on the ground because of the wind vortex,” joked Dinu Bumbaru, policy director of the urban advocacy group Heritage Montreal.

And if the condo towers can be unpleasant to walk by, some feel they’re not much better to look at either.

“I don’t see virtue in any of them. It’s not architecture, it’s commodity,” said Phyllis Lambert, founder of the Canadian Centre for Architecture and an influential architecture critic.

“Montreal used to be a place where you would have high-rise buildings with light and air between them. But now it’s just a cavern down Réné-Lévesque.”  

Thinking beyond boom-and-boom

Neither Lambert nor Bumbaru are opposed to downtown condo-living per se. Indeed, both acknowledge the need for mid-rise residential building to combat sprawl.

But they are concerned that many of the high-rise condos are being built with little consideration for the impact they will have on surrounding neighbourhoods.

The Projet Montréal administration is expected to draw up a new master plan this year, which will guide zoning and development decisions.

They hope it will encourage a greater emphasis on the aesthetics of high-rise towers and the “strollability” of the surrounding area, by ensuring new developments don’t block out sunlight or include street-level stores, for instance.

Community groups, parents and the Commission Scolaire de Montréal (CSDM) have been pushing for a new French-language school in the downtown area, between Atwater and University streets. (Verity Stevenson/CBC)


Mayor Valérie Plante has also suggested making the downtown more accessible for families is a priority for her administration.

But many of the new condo developments don’t contribute to that goal, said Lambert.

She was dismayed to see that the development on the site of the old Montreal Children’s Hospital was allowed to proceed without setting aside space for an elementary school, which the neighborhood needs urgently.

“There isn’t proper planning in Montreal,” Lambert said.

Bumbaru, whose group intends to contribute several proposals for the new master plan, agreed. Proper planning, he said, should consider the city’s needs beyond the current boom in the real-estate market.

“In the past, we managed to generate genuine neighbourhoods with real life in them. But you wonder if the kind of building we’re doing today will support authentic city life because there is no room for families. The units are basically there to generate short-term gain for builders and investors,” he said.

“We have to raise our planning skills in this city.”


Jonathan Montpetit · CBC News ·