CBRE predicts record $50 billion investment for commercial real estate this year

TORONTO – Canada could see a record-breaking $50-billion worth of investment in commercial real estate this year as economic tailwinds and immigration policies support the booming sector, according to a report by CBRE, but it says the strong economy is also creating challenges of affordability and supply.

The commercial real estate services firm said Tuesday that total investment would be about $5 billion higher than 2019 and about a billion dollars higher than the record set in 2018.

Growth comes even amid low vacancies in major markets as tech companies in particular continue to prize downtown locations. Other strong areas include investments in rental apartments as home affordability gets out of reach for many Canadians, and industrial growth driven by e-commerce demand for logistics centres.

“Canada has so many advantages, and so many underlying fundamentals that are positives over the long-term, that we certainly think that growth in the Canadian commercial real estate market is going to continue,” said CBRE Canada vice-chairman Paul Morassutti.

Those trends, along with strong population growth and stable banking and governance, would help steer the sector if a recession hits, said Morassutti.

“The wild card is a recession. My feeling is we’re very well positioned to weather a recession, and I think we’ll continue to flourish after that because of those attributes.”

Heightened interest in the market is also creating challenges, including rising rents and limited office and industrial space, while climate change is creating its own issues.

CBRE says prime office rents jumped 20.9 per cent in Vancouver between 2018 and 2019, 14.2 per cent in Montreal, and 10.1 per cent in Toronto, while national industrial rents rose by 12.3 per cent between the two years for the largest increase on record.

Rents still form a small portion of company budgets and don’t seem to be a major constraint on growth yet, said Morassutti. He noted that in the industrial sector, costs savings in transportation from better locations more than offset costs from higher rents.

Rental rates for apartments are also climbing in major centres as home ownership becomes more expensive, which has helped drive investment in the multifamily. The sector could see about $11.9 billion in investment this year, up from $8.3 billion in 2018, to see the most of any commercial sector, CBRE expects.

The upward trend in residential rental rates is however putting pressure on income inequality, said Morassutti.

“Partially because of that lack of home affordability, you have all these people becoming renters, so on the one hand that’s a good thing. On the other hand, it’s not great for society that our two major cities are becoming unaffordable, it’s not great for the income divide, which is already a large social issue.”

Along with affordability, CBRE says the lack of investment in transit infrastructure, and increasing pressures of climate change on the construction sector and land values are also structural issues of concern for the year ahead.

More immediately, the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak also loom as a big unknown, but could be short-lived if it is contained, said Richard Barkham, global chief economist at CBRE said in a statement.

“If the coronavirus outbreak is relatively contained sometime in March, impacts on the Canadian economy and most commercial real estate sectors will be noticeable in the near term but less substantive over the year.”

He noted that short-term impacts would largely hit the hotel and retail sectors. He said the global property market should be able to weather the effects of the virus as anticipated today, but that a clearer picture of the epidemic should materialize sometime in March.

 

The Canadian Press 

©2020 The Canadian Press

Dueling multifamily proposals offered for Montreal’s Canada Malting site

The fate of the long-defunct Canada Malting facility along the Lachine Canal in the Saint-Henri section of Montreal is the subject of rival proposals for multifamily housing, one from a real estate development firm seeking a traditional condominium complex and the second from an advocacy group proposing a community-based project.

The Canada Malting site was constructed in 1907 and ceased operations in 1989. Over the years, the site’s terracotta silos fell into disrepair and were covered with graffiti – with many cheeky spray-painted messages complaining about the harsh aroma permeating the wreckage. The site is currently owned by Quonta Holdings, an investment management firm, and is estimated to be worth between $5 million and $6 million.

The fate of the property began to gain a new degree of importance in when Renwick Development put forth a proposal in 2013 to construct a 700-unit condominium complex at the site. This generated a large degree of opposition from local residents, who believed a community-focused project would better serve the borough’s needs. The opponents to the condominium project gathered together into an advocacy group called À nous la Malting and sought to shift the conversation away from traditional multifamily housing.

Renwick Development has since scaled back its 700-unit proposal to a smaller project that incorporates social housing units. Noam Schnitzer, founder and developer at Renwick Development, told the McGill Daily that he envisioned creating “a total of 240 units, of which 80 will be social housing units, and the rest will be condominiums.”

However, the social housing units would be segregated in a separate building on the property, with the remaining available square footage devoted to commercial spaces and an artists’ workspace collaborative. Schnitzer added that under his plan, “the provision of the services would not depend upon government funding.”

Earlier this week, À nous la Malting unveiled renderings of its vision for the Canada Malting site. This proposal envisioned a collectively owned development consisting of 200 affordable rental units, plus spaces for public daycare, a community kitchen, a rooftop garden, a bicycle repair shop and a museum. In its presentation, À nous la Malting emphasized its championing of social housing for the neighbourhood and the need to create “a refuge for people being displaced by gentrification.”

“We want to show people that it is possible to develop our city differently,” said Shannon Franssen, a member of À nous la Malting, in a CBC interview. “We don’t need to make profit off people’s need for housing and for essential services.”

À nous la Malting stated that it worked on this proposal for the past few years, with financial backing from Centraide of Greater Montreal and the Sud-Ouest borough. The presentation included detailed architectural plans for transforming the current eyesore of a site into an aesthetic pleasing multifamily development.

Julie Bélanger, director of the office of Le Sud-Ouest borough mayor Benoît Dorais, told the McGill Daily that the Canada Malting site “is very complicated” and is burdened with “a ton of issues” including the need for extensive land decontamination. Bélanger acknowledged being eager to see how the financial aspects of À nous la Malting’s proposal would add up.

But what if neither the condominium option nor the community-focused proposal worked? Belanger admitted the borough needs new housing units – it has the lowest vacancy rate in Montreal – buy she did not envision the City of Montreal stepping in to buy the property and coordinate new housing construction.

“We don’t have the means to buy it, and it wouldn’t be responsible to do so,” she said.

 

by Phil Hall / 06 Mar 2020

Former niche CRE investment is now big business

Commercial real estate is frequently influenced by changes in the wider business world and one big change is driving interest in a formerly niche asset class.

Data centres are now a cornerstone of business and $100 billion has flowed into the asset class in the last decade according to a new report from Cushman & Wakefield.

These centres include those operated by the technology behemoths who dominate in the cloud platforms, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. These three companies have impacted data centre sizing tenfold. The 10-megawatt (MW) data center that was impressive 10 years ago now pales in comparison to 30-MW leases now signed with increasing regularity.

“The speed with which the industry is shifting makes the creation of a data center strategy a complex and daunting task,” said Dave Fanning, Executive Managing Director and Leader or Cushman & Wakefield’s Data Center Advisory Group. “Investors must be able to assess the long-term potential of a data centre to hold its value and how easily it can be upgraded. All involved require access to capital and a clear understanding of objectives.”

Vancouver challenging the leaders
Ten cities maintain their statuses among the top 10 for data centres – Northern Virginia, Silicon Valley, Dallas, Chicago, New York/New Jersey, Singapore, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Seattle and London – but Vancouver is one of those named by the firm as a contender.

“The top markets provide the greatest number of options to the greatest number of perspectives,” said Kevin Imboden, Director of Research for Cushman & Wakefield’s Data Center Advisory Group. “While one size sometimes does fit all, for certain specializations it’s important to review and understand the factors most important to the specific requirement and aim accordingly. Combined with those markets that have been overlooked and underutilized, there is great potential for niche development and secondary markets across the globe.”

 

by Steve Randall on January 30 Jan 2020

Canadian commercial investment should begin looking further

Would-be investors in Canadian commercial real estate should begin considering markets beyond the usual hotspots of Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver if recent trends south of the border are any indication.

The tech industry’s sustained hunger for Canadian offices is gradually depleting available urban office space. The examples set by some U.S. cities might provide a good answer to this quandary, according to the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA).

“Something like a Charlotte, or a Kansas City, or an Austin,” CompTIA senior vice-president of research and market intelligence Tim Herbert told Postmedia in an interview.

“These cities [are] more affordable, [and] in some cases you can make an argument that there is a better quality of life.”

In its Cyberprovinces 2019 study, CompTIA noted that smaller cities can become more feasible investment options in the very near future. Last year alone, Canadian tech employment expanded by 61,000 new jobs, amounting to a 3.8% annual increase.

Overall, the tech workforce grew by as much as 249,000 new employees since 2010.

Herbert added that demand for Canada’s office spaces is “not just limited to technology companies, who are starting to take office space or build new headquarters, but a range of different company types are attracting tech talent.”

Data from Avison Young showed that the Canadian office market has seen the positive absorption of 9 million square feet (MSF) in the year ending June 30, 2019. This has massively outstripped the nearly 6 MSF absorption during the immediately preceding 12-month period.

The sustained popularity of the industry and the resulting demand upon Canada’s commercial real estate is impelled by the strength of its long-term employment prospects. In 2018, tech earnings clocked in an average of $78,070 – fully 51% higher than the average reading of $51,794 in the private sector.

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by Ephraim Vecina | 24 Oct 2019

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Toronto needs to double rental supply to meet future demand

A new report from RBC Economics focuses on the rental housing deficit which is set to intensify in the coming years, especially in Toronto and Vancouver.

The report says that supply of new rental homes will need to pick up pace to meet future demand; in Toronto the pace must double. In the meantime, lack of supply is leading to “uncomfortable highs” for rents – which means those hoping to save up to buy a home are squeezed even further while high home prices have “crushed some homeownership dreams.”

RBC says that big cities must increase rental supply to have any hope of tackling affordability issues.

It notes that there are some positive signs in some cities, such as Montreal and Vancouver where has new waves of supply underway; and in Calgary where there are elevated rental vacancies.

But in Toronto, the report says supply will not come close to demand in the coming years and calls for specific targets and incentives to address the issue.

Deficit needs action
RBC Economics’ estimates of the supply needed to balance out supply and demand in the major markets as of late 2018 are: a deficit of 9,100 rental units in Toronto, Montreal had a 6,800-unit deficit and Vancouver 3,800 units.  Calgary carried a small surplus of 300 units.

This will be exacerbated by the estimated increase in renter-households of 22,000 in Toronto and 9,400 in Vancouver over the medium term, with Montreal averaging 8,200 per year on average.

The report estimates that Toronto will need 28,600 new rental units on average over a two year timeframe with 11,600 in Montreal, 11,300 in Vancouver and 4,150 in Calgary.

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By Steve Randall |  last updated on the 26 Sep 2019

 

Seven-building acquisition attests to Montreal’s rental strength

Late last week, Greybrook Realty Partners and Marlin Spring announced the acquisition of a Montreal portfolio comprised of seven apartment buildings with a total of 324 rental units.

Said properties are situated close to restaurants, shops, hospitals, grocery stores, two metro stations, the Université de Montréal, and hospitals like the Jewish General Hospital.

Greybrook Realty and Marlin Spring stated that they will also be in charge of renovating suites and improving the common areas across all the buildings.

“The close of this acquisition brings the total number of units within our value-add portfolio to 774. With asking rents currently below comparable products in the area, we believe an opportunity exists to improve both the product offering and revenue through execution of a value-add program,” Greybrook Realty executive director Jared Berlin said.

“With the success of our existing Montreal portfolio, supported by the City of Montreal’s strong rental market fundamentals, we believe these assets are a natural fit in our growing Quebec Multi-family Portfolio” Marlin Spring CFO Elliot Kazarnovsky added.

In recent years, strong population growth – especially immigration – has spurred sustained growth in Montreal’s rental housing market.

Figures from IPA’s Midyear Canadian Multifamily Investment Forecast Report indicated that by the end of June 2019, the city’s average rent increased 4.1% year-over-year, up to $797 per month. Average prices grew by 6% year-over-year, up to $154,400 per unit.

 

by Ephraim Vecina | 23 Sep 2019

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