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Platform 87 Moody Street, Port Moody 104 condos, townhouses and live-work lofts by Aragon Properties


Community of condos, townhomes and live-work lofts uses both rustic and soft materials

Mary Frances Hill
The Province

Platform

Where: 87 Moody Street, Port Moody

What: 104 homes, including condos, townhomes and live-work lofts

Residence sizes and prices: studios, one, two and three bedrooms, 560 —1,612 square feet, starting at $409,900 for a junior one- bedroom, two bedrooms starting $653,900 and three-bedroom townhomes at $899,900

Developer and builder: Aragon Properties

Sales centre address: 2708 St. Johns Street, Port Moody

Sales centre hours: Call or register at www.aragon.ca/platform to book your private appointment

At Platform, Aragon Properties’ community of condos, townhomes and live-work lofts in Port Moody, Maria Zoubos shows she’s as much a designer as a story teller.

In the display spaces, she uses what she calls a “light industrial” décor theme to illustrate the traits of the surrounding historic community and reflect the desires of people who want to immerse themselves in character and warmth.

There’s no better way to reflect both of these elements than through this décor, says Aragon’s in-house designer, describing it as “a combination of hard rustic materials such as reclaimed woods or metals with softer, more refined elements.”

To illustrate this theme, she takes typical features and softens them with texture. Characteristics of light industrial can be seen in the stained oak planks, which offers a depth and richness through the colour and grain, she adds. Also, black accents reflected in the hardware and plumbing fixtures are softened by the matte texture of kitchen cabinet doors.

Throughout the display space, she pairs strong elements with soft ones in the more classic features. Glossy subway tile is applied with contrasting grout, and a cable-knit area rug and soft upholstery “help add richness and a sense of comfort to the space that would otherwise feel very cold,” Zoubos says.

“We took industrial elements such as the rich woods and black hardware and contrasted them with the soft cabinetry and modern quartz countertops.”

As is the practice in other Aragon projects, the bricks that adorn the walls in Platform will come from a character building that is either going through renovations or coming down. Recent Aragon projects had the developer repurposing bricks from the 1912-era Continental Hotel on Granville Street. The use of brick adds a history, a depth and character to the new homes, Zoubos says.

 “Repurposing the bricks and having them incorporated into someone’s new home is a process that our homeowners agree is really special,” she says.

“The colour scheme shown in the display suite shows this contrast of urban city comforts and industrial accents beautifully.”

Port Moody’s roots lie deep in the sawmill and forest products industry, while today it has such urban amenities as the SkyTrain Evergreen Line expansion, craft beer sites and Suter Brook Village, a shopping hub.

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc



Plaza of Nations site pitched as vibrant waterfront neighbourhood for Vancouver


Plaza of Nations site gets a revamp

Derrick Penner
The Province

A new proposal for the Plaza of Nations site on False Creek calls for development of 1,400 housing units on a 10-acre site that would link Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside to the waterfront.

The residences, 20 per cent of them to be provided as social housing, would be in terraced, garden-topped buildings in the proposal from Canadian Metropolitan Properties Corp., a Vancouver company owned by Singapore billionaire Oei Hong Leong.

The concept includes a civic plaza, new waterfront restaurants and stores, a 69-place daycare centre, and a community centre with ice rink intended to be a practise facility for the Vancouver Canucks.

Oei said all of the marketing of the units would take place in Vancouver.

“Other developers have marketing offices in China, in Hong Kong, but we don’t,” Oei said on Wednesday. “We can’t stop overseas buyers coming here, but we don’t have any promotion overseas.”

The proposal is a departure from the 2012 application that Oei’s company submitted to the city. Project architect James Cheng said the city’s decision to remove the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts sent them back to the drawing board.

“The stars are all aligned right now,” Cheng said in an interview. Removing the viaducts, he said, “opens up the entire neighbourhood at this end of False Creek.”

It turns the Plaza of Nations land, which Oei bought for $40 million in 1989 from Li Ka-shing, into a more important hub in the City of Vancouver’s plan to redevelop northeast False Creek.

Oei, a part-time resident of Vancouver, said he bought the land “for my retirement,” and looks forward to developing what he hopes will be a landmark piece of the city.

“It is also very important how it serves the community,” Oei said. “James Cheng has good ideas (for) it.”

Cheng said that in the concept, the buildings are gently terraced to frame views of B.C. Place Stadium and Science World.

“Mr. Oei has always wanted to give back to the community, so the whole idea of the project is to blend in with the city but at the same time be iconic,” Cheng said.

Oei is in a legal dispute with Concord Pacific — he filed suit against the developer last year claiming that the competing firm was trying to constrain his development options on the site.

Canadian Metropolitan’s senior vice-president, Daisen Gee-Wing, wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit because it is before the courts, but said “we are confident we’re going to proceed with development.”

 

From the city’s perspective, the Plaza of Nations redevelopment is a chance to complete northeast False Creek “in a very different and interesting way,” said Kevin McNaney, the city’s project director for the area.

“We’ve done a lot of False Creek that’s residential with the seawall and people going by, but it doesn’t really have a lot of life,” he said.

“This is a real opportunity for some south-facing waterfront to create a vibrant commercial district on the water and really enhance the sports, stadium and special events functions (of the area),” McNaney said.

The proposal is conceptual, so there are no prices or specifications for market housing on the site yet.

McNaney said the social-housing component of the development will fall within city definitions for affordability. He said the city will seek to “maximize affordability and decrease rents as much as possible.”

The surrounding neighbourhood is already expensive, but McNaney said the size of the Plaza Nations site will likely provide “diversity” of price points. He added that Canadian Metropolitan has made a point of planning for larger, family-oriented units in the development.

Gee-Wing said Canadian Metropolitan is hoping to hear from the city on its application by fall, which would pave the way for public hearings in late 2017 or early 2018. If all goes well, the company could start construction by early 2019.

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.



Belpark 375 West 59th Avenue 120 homes in a 6 storey building by Intracorp


Intracorp?s Belpark attracting plenty of interest from its immediate Vancouver area

Simon Briault
The Vancouver Sun

Belpark

Project location: 375 West 59th Ave

Project size: 120 apartments. The project is already at least 80 per cent sold. The two-to-four-bedroom homes still available start at $1,877,900 and are between 1,426 and 2,312 square feet

Developer: Intracorp

Interior designer: Scott Trepp

Architect: Ramsay Worden Architects

Hours: noon — 5 p.m., Sat — Thur

Telephone: 604-891-1281

Website: http://www.belparkliving.com

Finding a tranquil, natural setting that still provides easy access to rapid transit is a hard thing to pull off in Vancouver’s increasingly tightly developed neighbourhoods. But the people at Intracorp reckon they’ve nailed it with Belpark, a 120-home development of three buildings planned for a block east of Cambie Street on West 59th Avenue.

“We have an extensive history building on the west side of Vancouver, including at UBC,” said Barrett Sprowson, vice-president of sales at Intracorp. “The appeal of those buildings was their tranquil settings and lots of interaction with water. We wanted to pull in some of that history at Belpark with the idea of a courtyard with water features and reflecting pools in a very peaceful setting.”

Belpark will be built between the Langara Golf Course to the north and Winona Park to the south, making it a rare location in Vancouver’s city limits in that there’s green space all round. At the same time, the development will also be just a couple blocks from rapid transit after a new Canada Line station is completed at Cambie and West 57th Avenue.

The natural setting was an important factor for Deborah Jennings, who has bought a two-bedroom home at Belpark with a media room and a large rooftop terrace.

“I had a house in Dunbar on Olympic Street for 21 years,” she said. “It’s a combination of downsizing and moving in with a new partner. He’s always felt like it was my home that he moved into, so this will be our first home moving in together.”

“We were actually looking for a duplex, but we kept getting outbid on them,” Jennings added. “We looked at this because there’s a nature trail right outside and there’s the golf course right there so we know it won’t be like downtown where there’s the possibility of a building coming up in front of you and taking your view away. Then there’s Winona Park as well and we have two dogs. It was really important for us to have green space around us.”

Sprowson said that many of the buyers so far are very familiar with the area and understand the benefits of the location with the park and the golf course being right next to all the amenities available on Cambie Street.

 “We’ve seen a lot of people who I would describe as hyper local – from the absolute immediate area – and they’re primarily downsizers,” he said. “They get what a great spot this is so we don’t have to sell them on the neighbourhood because they already know it so well.”

“There are also some younger folks who are getting help from their parents and then, when we still had one-bedroom homes available, we had a few investors as well,” Sprowson added. “Again, these were really local people who knew the area and had to have a piece of this because they understood that in the future a location like this is not replaceable.”

Given the benefits of the location, it’s perhaps not surprising that the project is already 80 per cent sold. But there are still some larger homes available, which Sprowson said would appeal to the local downsizer market that Intracorp is targeting.

“We often hear people saying they want to be in more than 1,500 square feet,” he said. “We go up to 2,300 square feet, which is a ton of usable space given how well we lay things out these days. We make sure we make use of every single square inch and offer a lot of functionality. You can take somebody from their 3,500 square-foot single family home and they come in here and it doesn’t feel small to them at all. That’s rare in the Cambie corridor.”

Homes at Belpark feature a choice of two colour schemes, hardwood flooring, private patios and oversized windows. The development also includes a games room, a fitness studio and a climate-controlled wine room.

Bathrooms have wall-hung toilets, storage niches, recessed medicine cabinets, marble accent feature walls and heated floors in ensuites. Kitchens come with custom-made Italian cabinetry, LED strip lighting and stone countertops with elevated island extensions. The high-end appliance packages are by Gaggenau.

“Downsize buyers have all done renovations over they years and they’ve done exactly what they want in the space that they have,” said Sprowson. “We’re building condos that are not custom homes, but we’re looking to achieve some of that same desirability. That’s why we looked after all the luxury details that you won’t see generally in the market.”

As for Jennings, the move to Belpark represents a big change from her current living arrangement in Dunbar.

It’s the start of something new and different for me and that’s very exciting,” she said. “I also want to do a little more travelling so it’s great that it’s turn-key.”

The Belpark sales centre at 660 West 41st Ave (Oakridge Mall) is open from noon to 5 p.m. every day except Fridays. Completion is scheduled for summer 2019.

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.



Risky mortgages, shadow bankers threaten Vancouver housing market’s stability


Vancouver?s hot real estate market is plagued with another concern that shows similar characteristics to the fraudulent loans exposed in the U.S. in 2008, writes Sam Cooper

Sam Cooper
The Vancouver Sun

Massive and risky home loans are increasing in number across Metro Vancouver, while mortgage fraud cases are also on the rise, connected to the growth of so-called “shadow banking,” a Postmedia investigation shows.

The trend of increasingly risky loans underlying Metro Vancouver’s high home prices is illustrated by Bank of Canada figures that show the rapid growth since 2014 of large mortgages made to people with relatively low incomes.

This is a growing danger for Vancouver’s real estate market, because under new tighter lending standards introduced for banks in fall 2016, the Bank of Canada says that many of these big mortgages can no longer be insured, and won’t be issued again by federally regulated lenders. 

As a result of the tighter federal lending rules, borrowers trying to buy million-dollar-plus properties in Vancouver’s market are increasingly taking out dangerous loans from shadow bankers in a fast-growing and poorly regulated financial market.

There is also evidence of growing links between shadow banks and traditional banks, according to the Bank of Canada’s June 2017 report, as people borrow large amounts from shadow lenders to use as down payments in order to qualify for lower-interest loans from federally regulated banks.

“Price increases in Vancouver and Toronto have an element of speculation to them,” Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz said last week, while issuing the bank’s biannual financial system review. The review showed “riskier characteristics are increasingly evident” in new mortgages.

A December 2016 Bank of Canada report estimates shadow lenders now account for $1.1 trillion in debt — about half as much as the traditional banking sector — and that over the past decade “these new players have become more important and have changed the face of the Canadian mortgage market … (as) tightening bank regulation can lead to migration of activity from the traditional banking sector to the shadow banking sector.”

Shadow lenders are non-bank lenders that increase the supply of credit in Canada’s financial system, without facing the regulatory oversight of banks. Critics say shadow banking is vulnerable to loose lending standards, mortgage fraud, money laundering, and collateral that is overly leveraged (also called re-hypothecated) — meaning debt backed by property assets is used over and over again by related lenders to issue more home loans, in ever riskier chains of debt.

Shadow lenders identified by Postmedia through a review of B.C. civil court filings, lending documents and regulatory filings, include mortgage investment corporations, hedge funds, and private lenders such as realtors, crowdfunding companies, real estate lawyers and mortgage brokers.

A number of cases involving these lenders contain allegations with characteristics similar to the fraudulent loans exposed in the aftermath of the U.S. subprime lending crisis of 2008. Postmedia’s review of over 30 regulatory or civil court cases shows a trend of allegations that home buyers and real estate professionals are involved in deceptive mortgage applications that include exaggerating the incomes of borrowers, forged documents of home ownership used by multiple borrowers to obtain mortgages, phoney claims of offshore assets used to back home loans, falsely inflated collateral accepted by subprime lenders to fund real estate development loans, and falsified CRA tax return documents.

For Hilliard MacBeth, an Alberta-based author and wealth manager, the Bank of Canada loan risk statistics and the related growth of shadow banking in Vancouver and Toronto herald a crisis. 

“These properties in Vancouver are so expensive that you need people either laundering money or loan fraud or people borrowing such large amounts of money that should never be allowed, in order to keep it going,” MacBeth said. “If everyone is reporting their incomes honestly in Vancouver, there is no way that housing prices can stay where they are.”

In B.C., the provincial regulator B.C. Financial Institutions Commission, known as Ficom, is in charge of monitoring the growing shadow banking sector. Postmedia’s review of Ficom enforcement hearings shows an increase in the number of alleged mortgage fraud cases in B.C., mostly linked to private mortgage lenders and mortgage brokers.

“We have experienced an increase in mortgage broker complaints in the last few years,” Chris Carter, acting registrar of mortgage brokers, confirmed. “About a third of our investigations relate to application fraud.”

The Bank of Canada warns of two key risks in Canada’s housing market.

The first is that property prices and household debt have reached such extremes in Vancouver and Toronto, that “just about anything” could trigger a correction, Poloz said last week. Highly indebted borrowers could be forced to sell in a correction, the Bank of Canada says, leading to further selling, tighter lending, and a potential domino effect on banks and shadow banks.

The other elevated risk is the potential for a shock from China’s volatile economy. China has its own shadow banking problems, the Bank of Canada says.

In China, “linkages between the banking and shadow banking systems are also becoming more complex and opaque, increasing the underlying credit risk,” the Bank of Canada’s December 2016 risk report says. “The experience of the 2007-09 global financial crisis showed that financial stability can be threatened by vulnerabilities originating in the shadow banking sector.”

As a result of the flood of money pouring from Mainland China into Vancouver real estate in recent years, some financial experts say they believe Canadian banks are directly exposed to shadow lending in China and the risks of so-called “ghost collateral” — meaning collateral that may not exist or is used continuously to secure loans for multiple borrowers.

Postmedia confirmed that Canadian banks are allowed by the federal regulator, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, to accept collateral from China to secure real estate mortgages in B.C.

“OSFI does not dictate what type of collateral (federally regulated banks) can accept,” spokeswoman Annik Faucher said. “Whether the borrower is foreign or domestic, OSFI (allows) financial institutions to compete effectively and take reasonable risks.”

One U.S. hedge fund manager, who did not want to be identified, said: “We all know that the ghost collateral is a huge deal, and we all know that the shadow banking and other Chinese influence in Vancouver is profound. The issue it that the ghost collateral ends up re-hypothecated and laundered. So by the time it shows up in Vancouver, it will likely just look like a rich Chinese cash buyer with a suitcase of money. “

RISKY LOANS SPREAD

The spread of high risk loans in Metro Vancouver can be seen in Bank of Canada maps that show where new ‘high-ratio’ loans — meaning the buyer makes less than a 20 per cent down payment on a home purchase and borrows the rest — have been issued. If the value of the loan is 450 per cent of annual income or more, the borrower is considered particularly vulnerable. The Bank of Canada will not reveal the number of high-ratio loans issued in Metro Vancouver, but says they are concerned with the rapid growth in these loans. In 2014, across Metro Vancouver, 31 per cent of new high-ratio mortgages were at least 450 per cent of the borrower’s income. In the second half of 2015, this figure rose to 37 per cent. By late 2016, it was 39 per cent.

The Bank of Canada says that under the new tighter federal rules, about 43 per cent of the high-ratio loans issued in Vancouver between September 2015 and September 2016 would have been rejected. This means either that an increasing portion of buyers in Metro Vancouver will be unable to get loans in the future or that the shadow lenders will fill the void.

There are four areas across Metro Vancouver in which more than 50 per cent of new high ratio loans are above 450 per cent loan to income. In an indication of rapid price rises or extreme speculation, South Vancouver, a neighbourhood bordering Granville Street and just north of Richmond, had an explosion in high ratio loans in 2016, from very few in 2015. The other three areas at the top of Bank of Canada’s risk scale, at over 450 per cent loan-to-income, are Burnaby’s South Slope neighbourhood, a northern part of Richmond, and a northern part of Delta. 

GROWTH OF SHADOW BANKING AND GHOST COLLATERAL

Shadow lending can be as simple as a mortgage loan provided by one person to another in need of financing, or as Byzantine as the complex processes through which credit is created and exchanged and repackaged between various lenders to fund mortgages.

For example, the director of a Surrey lumber and real estate investment company explained to Postmedia that his group’s business model consists of pooling the real estate assets of an extended group of family and shareholders, and using these homes as collateral to borrow money from financial institutions. The borrowed capital is then issued in mortgages to home buyers that can’t obtain financing from chartered banks.

In another example researched by Postmedia, lending documents show that controversial “crowdfunding” developers are using single-family homes owned by investors in Vancouver to secure loans from subprime lenders that are active in B.C. in order to fund condo developments in Vancouver and Burnaby.

Ben Rabidoux, a Canadian analyst who provides market research to U.S. investors that are betting on a sharp correction in Canadian housing, said that his research with on-the-ground mortgage brokers suggests that loan fraud is a systemic concern in Ontario and B.C.

“The shadow market is absolutely booming,” Rabidoux said. “Of course B.C. has a mortgage fraud problem, but you won’t really see it until there is a problem with collateral in the system.”

Ghost collateral is explained in a recent investigation from Reuters that concludes that China’s financial system faces a potential collapse similar to the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis of 2008, due to “massive credit expansion,” and “collateral risks” connected to $17.2 trillion in outstanding loans as of April, up from $5.8 trillion in 2009.

The report says that 60 per cent of all loans issued in China’s system are backed by property, and that China’s property values are “wildly misleading” — which is part of the reason that China’s credit rating was recently downgraded. Reuters reported that Chinese lenders are prone to fraud “with loan officers turning a blind eye to the quality of collateral and knowingly accepting dubious and even fraudulent documents.”

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.



Homes sales decline ?sharply? in May


Justin da Rosa
REP

The Canadian Real Estate Board releases latest round of housing market stats.

National home sales dropped 6.2% month-over-month from April to May, according to CREA. That represents the largest sales decline since August 2012.

The most drastic sales decline occurred in the Greater Toronto Area, where the market experienced a 25.3% month-over-month drop.

Activity was also down “significantly” in surrounding areas, including; Oakville, Hamilton, and Barrie.
“Recent changes to housing policy in Ontario have quickly caused sales and listings to become more balanced in the GTA,” said CREA President Andrew Peck. “Meanwhile, the balance between supply and demand in Vancouver is tightening up, while many places elsewhere in Canada remain amply supplied.”

CREA argues the sales declines in the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area are a sign of dwindling speculative home purchases.

“This is the first full month of results since changes to Ontario housing policy made in late April. They provide clear evidence that the changes have resulted in more balanced housing markets throughout the Greater Golden Horseshoe region,” said Gregory Klump, CREA’s Chief Economist. “For housing markets in the region, May sales activity was down most in the GTA and Oakville. This suggests the changes have squelched speculative home purchases.”

The national average home price increased 4.3% year-over-year last month and newly listed homes increased 0.3% month-over-month.

“With sales down considerably in May, the national sales-to-new listings ratio moved out of sellers’ territory and back into balanced market territory for the first time since late 2015,” CREA said in its release. “The ratio stood at 56.3% in May 2017, down from 60.2% in April and the high-60% range over the first three months of this year.”

Copyright © 2017 Key Media Pty Ltd



Home sales across Canada register biggest monthly decline in nearly 5 years


The Vancouver Sun

OTTAWA — Home sales across the country dropped sharply last month, driven by a plunge in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) after the Ontario government imposed a tax on foreign buyers aimed at cooling the red-hot market.

The number of residential properties sold nationwide fell by 6.2 per cent in May compared to April, the largest month-to-month decline in nearly five years, the Canadian Real Estate Association said Thursday. The industry group, which represents real estate agents, brokers and salespeople in Canada, noted sales were down a whopping 25.3 per cent month-over-month in the GTA.

The data showed that while real estate may be local, the impact of changes in a market the size of Toronto can have a sweeping effect nationally.

“This is the first full month of results since changes to Ontario housing policy made in late April. They provide clear evidence that the changes have resulted in more balanced housing markets throughout the Greater Golden Horseshoe region,” CREA chief economist Gregory Klump said in a statement.

“For housing markets in the region, May sales activity was down most in the GTA and Oakville. This suggests the changes have squelched speculative home purchases.”

The Ontario government introduced more than a dozen measures, including a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers, aimed at stabilizing Toronto’s blistering housing market. Prices have spiralled out of reach for many potential homebuyers both in and on the outskirts of the city.

Sal Guatieri, a senior economist with BMO Capital Markets, said while the rules have had an effect, they merely brought back “some semblance of normalcy after a manic winter” that will likely be short-lived.

“Given the strong economic, demographic and financial backdrop, don’t expect the GTA market to stay down for the count,” Guatieri said in a note to clients.

“Policy tinkering will do little to cool demand on a sustained basis. Time to take out the heavy artillery: higher interest rates. The ball is now firmly in the Bank of Canada’s court.”

The central bank has dropped hints that the era of historically low interest rates may be coming to an end. Just this week, governor Stephen Poloz said cuts to the benchmark rate have “done their job” as the economy builds momentum, a statement that some market watchers have interpreted as a sign that a hike could be six to 12 months away.

In the closely watched Vancouver market, sales were up by 22.8 per cent month-over-month. There are concerns that the city may be returning to bubble territory less than a year after the British Columbia government instituted a tax on foreign buyers of properties in the Vancouver area.

Nationally, the average price for all homes sold last month was $530,304, pulled up by Toronto and Vancouver, where it was $863,910 and $1,110,376, respectively.

© 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.