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After years of delay, construction begins in downtown parking lot on Vancouver’s newest park


Elaborate downtown park finally set to be constructed

Susan Lazaruk
The Province

Construction is scheduled to begin next month on an elaborate Downtown Vancouver park that includes a public plaza, cafe, raised walkways and a price tag that ballooned to $14 million from its original estimate of $8 million.

The Vancouver park board, which oversaw the design of the park that’s being built on a parking lot at Smithe and Richards streets, is expected to vote on the awarding of the contract to the construction company at its Monday meeting, the final step before construction can begin.

The new park will be divided into three terraces and will include a public plaza with a water feature, small cafe, playground, a community table for programs, seating terraces, plants and overhead “sky-frames” to provide lighting and on which to install public art.

In 2011, it was estimated to cost $8 million, an amount that was to be covered by the community amenity contributions (CACs) paid by the developer of the Telus Gardens condo complex during the rezoning process. CACs are routinely agreed to by developers during rezoning, usually in exchange for increased density.

The Telus Gardens’ developer in 2011 agreed to pay $8 million, which was expected to cover the purchase of the land, demolition of the existing parking lot, park development and construction costs, according to the park board staff report recommending the granting of the tendered contract to Smith Bros. and Wilson.

The actual $13.8-million price tag for the park nine years later is 73-per-cent higher than the $8-million estimate. And the park’s estimated yearly maintenance budget is $500,000.

The park board approved the concept design for the park in 2016, after public consultation, and construction was delayed as staff worked on the design in 2017 and 2018.

The staff report noted Vancouver city council in its second-quarter capital budget adjustments approved an increase for the project “to reflect the complexity of the park design and higher construction costs.”

Because construction exceeds $2 million, the granting of the construction contract requires approval by city council, and councillors will vote on it at the regular council meeting Tuesday.

“I would consider that (73-per-cent increase in cost) higher than usual,” said Vancouver Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung, former parks board chairwoman, who served on the board during the park’s design stage. But she said there were delays in permitting for the project and noted the “design itself is quite complex,” and the increased cost could be “because of the nature of the design.”

She said she will also have questions for the parks board about where the extra funding came from, saying it may have come from the city’s common pool of CACs.

Kirby-Yung said she’s likely to support the final approval of the project because “I do support delivery of new parks” in Vancouver.

The parks board said the park is expected to be “intensely used” by the 30,000 individuals who live and work within a five-minute walk of the site.

Construction is to begin in early 2020 and it’s expected to open in early 2021.

Parks staff called it the “most significant downtown urban park in Vancouver in over 10 years” and said it will provide much-needed park space for the growing Downtown South neighbourhood, and relieve pressure on other downtown parks, such as Emery Barnes, Nelson and Yaletown.

© 2019 Postmedia Network Inc.



Coping with rising cost of insurance for strata Properties


Premiums and deductibles have increased substantially

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Over the past few months across B.C. there has been an industry struggle to renew strata corporation insurance polices. With renewals, the cost of the insurance has increased anywhere from 50 to 300 per cent and the deductibles to cover claims have also increased substantially, from rates of $25,000 per claim to as high as $250,000 and $500,000.

While not all regions of the province have been affected in the same manner, there have been targeted building types or large strata communities across B.C. that have seen the dramatic increase.

British Columbia has over 30,000 strata corporations, which vary from a duplex to over 1,000 units in a single strata community. Many conventional strata corporations are low-rise wood-frame apartment buildings, townhouses or highrise buildings.

When a water failure or fire occurs in multi-unit buildings, multiple units are often affected. The result is an increased risk of cost for damages and losses by the insurance industry.

Under the Strata Property Act, a strata corporation must insure for full replacement value of all common property, common assets and fixtures. This basically means in a duplex, townhouse, low rise or highrise community, the original construction, including finishing attached to the building, is covered under the strata corporation insurance policy.

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What is the cause of the dramatic increases?

In addition to worldwide catastrophes, we live in a high-risk earthquake zone, and with several major building claims in the province, there are a reduced number of insurance companies that are covering strata insurance in B.C. The hardest-hit regions are the high-density metro areas, but resort properties and communities with large developments of more than 250 units are also feeling the crunch as they have the highest compound risks when there is a claim.

In addition, with a limited number of insurers, increase in claims, higher property and construction values and a high demand for insurance, a supply/demand imbalance has been created where the insurers have imposed much higher costs and deductibles to manage risks.

How does this impact owners of strata units in B.C.?

If your strata is faced with a substantial increase in insurance rates, the cost will be reflected in your annual budget, which determines your annual strata fees. If the deductible is dramatically increased to $100,000, for example, it means any claims under $100,000 are not covered by insurance and subject to your bylaws, each owner is likely responsible for damages to their strata lot and the corporation is responsible for the cost to repair common property. The result is many of the past insurance costs will now be downloaded onto the affected owners in the event of a claim.

If an owner is responsible for a claim — for example, their washing machine hose fails, flooding out the building — the owner could be responsible for the $100,000 deductible.

This time, more than ever, homeowners need to consider condo home owner insurance to cover their liability in the event of a claim for damages to their unit, the cost of a deductible or the risk of being sued by other owners if they cause a claim. If there is a claim from a failed pipe and the amount of the claim is over $100,000, resulting in an insurance claim, the $100,000 deductible becomes a common expense of the strata and the council may pay it from the contingency fund or directly levy owners without the need for a three-quarters vote at a general meeting.

What can our strata do to limit the risk?

Work closely with your broker. If the strata corporation is faced with a change in insurance or the possibility of no coverage, immediately give notice to owners. If you fail to obtain insurance, contact your lawyer to determine the liabilities for owners and council members and what next steps you should consider.

Maintain your buildings. Work with your owners to manage risks. Verifying that all units with washing machines have upgraded their hoses to braided steel. Failed rubber hoses in cramped closets and spaces are a chronic cause of water damages.

Address risks that may result in a claim. Smoking, barbecues on balconies, balcony gas heaters and in-suite hot water tanks all present a higher risk. Repair access or building issues that may risk an injury.

Update your bylaws. Bylaws that present a risk of human rights complaints or court actions also increase your risk.

What should buyers consider 

Before you purchase, obtain a copy of the strata insurance and confirm the insurance cost, deductibles for water escape, and the renewal dates. Over the coming year, the increases will likely continue.

© 2019 Postmedia Network Inc.



Latimer Village at Latimer Heights 8242 200 Street Langley the first two buildings with 100 homes by Vesta Properties


Latimer Village condos the hub of Langley community

Simon Briault
The Province

In 2013, Vesta Properties approached homeowners in the Carvolth neighbourhood of Langley with an offer to purchase and then develop their lots. Fast forward six years and a landmark master-planned community is beginning to take shape. Set on 74 acres and comprising 31 lots in total, Latimer Heights will provide the area with just under 2,000 new homes.

Latimer Village is the newest section of Latimer Heights to go on sale and represents the urban hub of the entire community with 487 condos. Set for completion in the late summer of 2021, it will include restaurants, retail outlets, amenities and an urban village space.

Community building on this scale offers potential homebuyers all kinds of options. For Fisher Lietz, it’s the opportunity to own a home for the first time.

“It was very affordable,” Lietz said. “I’m a pretty young guy and don’t have a crazy amount of money to work with so it was really nice to be able to get into a new development like this.”

Tara Desmond, sales manager at Vesta Properties, said Latimer Heights will allow different generations to live in the same location based on their different needs.

 “We have young families who have bought one of the townhomes and their parents are going to be moving into one of the condos,” said Desmond. “It’s a very walkable community that’s completely sustainable on its own – people can very much age in place if they want to and have the amenities and the facilities they need right on their doorstep.”

Homes at Latimer Village will have nine-foot-high ceilings, oversized windows and laminate hardwood-style floors. There are three colour schemes to choose from – grey, caramel and dark – and the kitchens come with Samsung appliance packages, gas ranges and french door fridge freezers with ice and water dispensers.

Bathrooms have dual sinks, frameless glass shower doors, large-format tiles on shower surrounds and floors, and quartz countertops.

“There’s a ton of variation here,” Desmond said. “A lot of the time with condo buildings you’ll see the same plans repeated on every floor. That’s definitely not the case with the architecture and the design at Latimer Village. There are at least 40 different floor plans – it’s really unique.”

At Latimer Village, Desmond said there has been lots of interest from residents of Burnaby and Coquitlam who are attracted by the value on offer, as well as people who already live in the area. Lietz is one of them and he jumped at the chance to own a condo in what is set to become a highly desirable new area of the Lower Mainland.

“I live in Brookswood, south of downtown Langley,” he said. “I like it where I am but I’m really looking forward to going to the new place

Latimer Village at Latimer Heights

Where: 8242 200 Street, Langley

What: The first two buildings of Latimer Village, comprising approximately 100 homes, are on sale now, with new phases to be released shortly

Where: 8242 200 Street, Langley

Residence size and prices: Homes range from 507 to 1,331 square feet. Available homes have one to three bedrooms and are priced from the upper $300,000 range

Developer: Vesta Properties

Sales centre: 8242 200 Street, Langley Township

Hours: noon to 5 p.m., Sat — Thurs

Telephone: 604-371-1669

© 2019 Postmedia Network Inc.

 



Metro homeowners hit by weak market


Five more Metro Vancouver homeowners hosed in a falling market

David Carrigg
The Province

A recent report from Central 1 Credit Union suggests a rebound in Metro Vancouver’s housing market is coming. However, at the moment there are property owners losing hundreds-of-thousands of dollars on their investments.

Released last month, Central 1 foretold of a turnaround in B.C.’s housing market — with both sales and prices jumping by 2021 — as long as interest rates stay low.

However, for Twitter real estate watcher Mortimer, his online hobby of tracking losers in the local market has never been more active.

Here’s a list of the five latest property owners to lose big in the local real estate market:

1: 4891 McKee Pl., Burnaby

This solid, 1953 home on a very large 60-by-150 lot in Burnaby would have seemed like a good pick in May 2016 when the owners forked out $1.9 million for their stake in Metro. Then the former B.C. Liberal government introduced its foreign owner’s tax and things started going downhill from there, leading to late November 2019 when that same home was sold for $1.495 million. A loss of $405,000, plus realtor and legal costs. It’s now assessed at $1.5 million. 2018 Assessed: $1,504,500 – 2017 Assessed: $1,659,400

2: 3018 Burfield Pl., West Vancouver

This beautiful, 3,100-square-foot, custom built home was bought new for $3.347 million on April 19, 2016 — again, right at the wrong time. It just sold for $3.1 million, marking a $250,000 loss, plus expenses. 2018 Assessed: $3,114,000 – 2017 Assessed: $3,358,000

3: 6210 Buckingham Dr., Burnaby

Assessed on July 1, 2019, at $2.371 million, this older (1967) home sits on a 10,881-sq.-ft. lot and was bought on April 26, 2016, for $3.11 million. There’s a real theme here of people who bought in early 2016 and are now losing a lot of money. In this case, the loss is a whopping $1 million, as it sold recently for $2.1 million. 2018 Assessed: $2,371,000 – 2017 Assessed: $2,665,000

4: 2929 West 29th Ave., Vancouver

Bought in (you guessed it) February 2016, this 2,200-sq.-ft. Dunbar oldie cost its owner $2.7 million. Assessed now at $2.4 million, the property sold last month for $2 million — a $700,000 loss. 2018 Assessed: $2,406,300 – 2017 Assessed: $2,670,600

5: 667 Baycrest Dr., North Vancouver

This property was bought in March 2017 when the market had already started to drop, so the bath isn’t as hefty as what might have been. The owner paid $2.36 million for a 2,800-sq.-ft. home on a massive 15,000-sq.-ft. lot wedged between Dollarton Highway and Baycrest Drive, three blocks from the water. Listed for $2.36 million (hoping to break even on paper), the house sold for $2.05 million last month — a loss of $310,000. 2018 Assessed: $2,172,000 – 2017 Assessed: $2,260,000

© 2019 Postmedia Network Inc.



Signs of real estate innovation after Supreme Court decision opens housing data


Regional startups like Fisherly are emerging as other boards change rules

Mortgage Broker News

When Chris Pollard wanted to list his Toronto condo, he decided to try a private sale in his neighbourhood first.

And thanks to a Supreme Court decision last year against the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), he and his wife were able to look up how much similar units had sold for in the area to better price the home themselves.

Private listings and other alternative sales models are still outliers in Canada’s real estate market, despite an opening up of data on sale prices and listing history.

Still, last year’s ruling has ushered more information for consumers into the market and spurred innovation opportunities, said Anthony Durocher, deputy commissioner for the Competition Promotion Branch of the bureau.

“For the average consumer, they’re able to benefit from greater choice of online tools to enable them to make an informed decision,” he said of the change, which came after seven years of “hard-fought” litigation.

“That’s really a great outcome for competition and innovation.”

The additions to the online real estate landscape have taken a variety of forms, including international companies like Redfin that promise low commissions.

Meanwhile, Canadian players like Zoocasa and HouseSigma are expanding their data-driven models, regional startups like Fisherly are emerging as other boards change rules and realtors are setting up their own data sites.

Stephen Glaysher, who’s worked as a downtown Toronto realtor for 18 years, set up a site called MLS Sold Data as a resource for current and potential clients to boost transparency and trust.

He said he’s long been an advocate of more disclosure on sale prices, in part to keep his own industry in check.

“I see a lot of unethical business practices with real estate agents,” said Glaysher.

He said it’s been too easy in the past for realtors to fudge numbers when determining bid and sale prices, where they could manipulate comparables up or down by as much as $200,000 to make sure they win a bidding war.

“You can doctor it to make it look how you want it to look.”

He said clients can double-check data themselves now that sale prices can be made available online, though he worries some people could make wrong decisions by not analyzing the data properly.

TREB, which fought the release of data largely over privacy concerns, said the ruling has started to dilute the MLS system, because some consumers aren’t providing information or not even listing on the system over privacy concerns.

John DiMichele, president of TREB, said in a statement that he’s concerned how people both in and outside of the industry are using the data. He said the board, which has restrictions including no scraping, mining, or monetizing of the data, is looking to protect its intellectual property and defend personal information.

“We are currently in the process of auditing and protecting confidential information in TREB’s database, which is what our members and consumers expect and what the law demands.”

Aware of privacy concerns, real estate site Zoocasa has taken down some price history information on request, generally a couple a month, said CEO Lauren Haw.

Overall though, the data has allowed the company to provide more information and will play into a range of better tools and valuation features it plans to unveil in the coming months to help people better predict price changes.

“This does allow us to better innovate, in terms of the data interpretation that we’re providing,” she said.

And despite privacy concerns, the Supreme Court ruling has prompted real estate boards in other major cities including Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa to open up their data online, while Quebec’s amalgamated board is considering the issue.

The competition bureau said it has been generally pleased with how other boards have reacted, and that “most” have implemented new rules, but did not provide specific numbers.

But even as the openness of information increases and new companies enter the market, the overall market does not look to have changed all that much, said Queen’s University real estate professor John Andrew.

“Most people aren’t accessing the data that is available, so I don’t see really that it’s had a very profound impact on the market,” he said.

“I kind of made the prediction that this might be kind of the next step of several in the general trend towards the liberalization of data, and that really hasn’t happened, to my surprise.”

He had expected more Canadians would follow the growth in the U.S. of flat-rate listings and other ways to reduce commissions, where the cost savings are “simply staggering,” but the vast majority are sticking with the standard model.

“I think it’s just about the consumers’ confidence level. They’re dealing with their home, and by far their largest investment.”

Pollard, who had listed his condo privately, decided after a quick test of the option to go with a realtor. He said one of the big trade-offs in paying a commission was the greater potential for multiple bidders.

“There’s definitely benefits of having a realtor, and I’m seeing that right now actually, the fact they know how to price it, they have the network. It’s a marketing campaign.”

Copyright © 2019 Key Media



Creekside 24076 112 Avenue Maple Ridge 130 three bedroom homes by StreetSide Developments


Creekside has family-friendly allure

Kathleen Freimond
The Vancouver Sun

Back in 1874, about 50 families decided at a group meeting to incorporate and established one of British Columbia’s earliest municipalities, Maple Ridge. They were optimistic that the community would be a great place to raise their children. That attitude hasn’t changed and over the years as new residential developments have continued to attract young families to the area.

Creekside, a project by StreetSide Developments, is a good example.

Located on a six-and-a-half-acre site on 240 Street and 112 Avenue, Creekside will have proximity to Siegel Creek and the green space in the southwest corner of the site.

The finishing touches are being made to the first few homes in the 130-unit project, says Jonathan Meads, vice-president at StreetSide Developments, adding that the development will be completed in planned phases starting in the northeast corner and progressing southwards.

While Creekside is attracting interest from across Metro Vancouver, most potential buyers are from the Maple Ridge area, Meads says.

“Typically, it’s families moving up from smaller townhouses who are looking for some extra space, or downsizers who no longer want to maintain a large single-family house, but still want to live in a roomy home,” he says.

Buyers can choose from five floor plans ranging in size from 1,424 to 1,714 square feet. While the A and A1 plans offer three bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms with a downstairs (at grade) rec room that can be a comfortable guest suite or fourth bedroom, the two B plan choices comprise three bedrooms and two-and-and-half bathrooms. The smallest option, the 1,424 square feet C plan has three bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms. Garages, tandem or side byside depending on the floor plan, have extra space to accommodate a workshop or for additional storage, says Meads, adding all homes have outdoor space.

For the interior design, Jamie Judd at Portico Design Group, took her inspiration from the setting.

“Creekside is uniquely nested within nature, yet close to schools and shopping. I kept the look clean and contemporary while utilizing natural-looking materials,” she says, adding her goal was to create a design to appeal a wide range of buyers.

“The architect [Bingham Hill Architects] did a great job of incorporating large windows – it helps to bring in a great amount of natural light as well as showcase the beautiful nature that surrounds the buildings,” Judd says.

Complementing the natural sunlight, all lighting fixtures are LED and energy efficient.

The two showhomes at 24076 112 Avenue each display one of the colour palettes: warm and cool. In both schemes, the backsplash is a standout: two-inch-by-nine-inch ceramic tiles laid in a chevron pattern.

“I wanted this to be a feature in the kitchen, something a bit traditional done in a contemporary way,” notes Judd.

The clean lines of the slab cabinet doors and drawer fronts in the kitchens and bathrooms enhance that up-to-date ambience.

The major appliances are by Whirlpool, including the gas range, counter-depth refrigerator, chimney-style hood fan and dishwasher, as well as the front-loading washer and dryer.

In the A-plan display home, the interiors show the warm scheme with white quartz kitchen countertops and taupe-tone cabinets. In this layout, the double-bowl stainless-steel sink is below a window, leaving the island to serve as extra workspace and a convenient place for the kids to enjoy a snack.

The interior design in the B-Plan townhouse features the cool palette. For this scheme, Judd specified white cabinets in the kitchen to contrast with the dark wood accent cabinets around the refrigerator and the spacious full-height pantry cupboard.

The double undermount sink in the island, with its elegant Grohe faucet, creates one point in the work triangle in kitchen, while the refrigerator and the slide-in gas range with cast-iron grates mark the other two positions.

The contemporary design extends to the bathrooms where the glass shower enclosure in the ensuite bathroom gives the space an airy feel, while the double sinks and storage in the vanity ensure its functionality. The main bathrooms feature soaker tubs.

Creekside will also include a clubhouse, scheduled to be constructed during the second phase. The internal space will be vaulted, says Meads.

“It will offer a kitchen, dining and living area designed for families to gather for parties, groups to get together for meetings, or a Grey Cup party,” he says.

Double doors will open on to a patio that looks across the outdoor space.

“In summer, the patio will have tables and chairs and a barbecue and will be a natural extension of the indoor space. Beyond the patio will be a lawn for games and a children’s play area,” he adds.

Meads says his favourite aspect of the whole project is the design of the interior space, as well as the placement of the homes on the site.

“The space – inside with the high ceilings and oversized windows that let in lots of natural light – and the layout of the site itself with less density than many developments, makes it a hidden little gem,” he says.

All the homes have separate driveways and entrances and are close to a green space or path that connects them to the natural surroundings.

Creekside

Project address: 24076 112 Avenue, Maple Ridge

Developer: StreetSide Developments

Architect: Bingham Hill Architects

Interior designer: Portico Design Group

Project size: 130 three-bedroom homes

Unit size: 1,424 — 1,714 square feet

Price: Starting from low $500,000s

Sales centre: 24076 112 Avenue, Maple Ridge

Sales centre hours: noon — 5 p.m., Sat — Thurs

Phone: 778-572-8218

Website: livecreekside.ca

© 2019 Postmedia Network Inc.