Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Own a piece of West Vancouver's history. Ambleside's Vinson House is back on the market at a reduced price!

It is no secret that the West Vancouver housing market has changed significantly since Summer 2018 when the restored 1913 heritage Vinson House first went on the market. It is also no secret that now that the other three homes forming part of the Vinson House Cottages development are sold, my partners and I are eager to sell the main house.

So please take a look at these photos and if you are in the market for a most unique property in Ambleside offering 3 bedrooms in over 2500 sq.ft. or know someone who is, please tell them about this property and have them contact Kyla or Grant Gardiner at

For more details,


NOW SELLING! Ambleside Mews, West Vancouver

A view looking west at the restored heritage house and 1155 12th Street
     I am pleased to report that the small heritage infill project that I developed at 12th Street and Jefferson Avenue in Ambleside is now on the market.
     Ambleside Mews, formerly known as Major Rush Mews, is a four unit strata development comprising a completely rebuilt heritage house and three infill units on a large double lot in Ambleside. The development includes a 1390 sq.ft. single level suite below the house which was moved about 30 feet, and 2 brand new detached houses. The new houses each offer 4 bedrooms and four and a half bathrooms and lots of space-between 2650 and 2860 sq.ft.
     While construction took much longer than expected, (doesn't it always?), the development has turned out very well, and I am gratified by the positive comments from neighbours who feel that it really fits in with the neighbourhood.
     While we have not yet made any sales, our Sunday open houses have been, in the words of Clara Hartree who is managing the sales program, a zoo, and a number of potential buyers have been back for repeat visits.
     It is no secret that the West Vancouver housing market has changed dramatically since I first bought this property in 2017. While the number of sales has recently increased, prices are still well down from their peak.
    Given the unfortunate experience I had with the somewhat similar Vinson House development (the beautiful heritage house is still on the market after a year) we have priced these homes appropriately. That being said, I do not expect to make any money on this project, but hope to recover my costs. Furthermore, I am proud that it has saved a significant heritage home from the wrecking ball and like Hollyburn Mews, will become a celebrated example of 'missing middle' housing in West Vancouver.
The Garden Suite, a brand new home below the heritage house, has a separate entrance from Jefferson Avenue. 
1177 12th Street offers two separate living areas on the ground floor. A kitchen/dining/family room (above) and a living room with a covered porch (below)

Bathrooms feature lots of windows and separate showers and tubs, recognizing many buyers will be downsizing (or should I say right-sizing?) from larger properties
1155 12th Street features a large living/dining/kitchen area similar to that which was so popular in Hollyburn Mews

     Here are a few more photos. For more details go to or contact Clara at or phone 604 889 9977
The new houses feature porches and private patio areas
A view of 1155 12th Street looking along the landscaped lane
The single level Garden Suite is located below the heritage Rush House. It is brand new.

The central courtyard has been designed as a shared space for the four homes

Opinion: Weighing the pros and cons of strata property ownership in Vancouver Vancouver Courier November 18, 2019

     Do you know the difference between a strata development and condominium development?
     There is no difference. 
     While condominium is the term generally used for strata properties in other provinces — in B.C. the two terms are interchangeable, although condominium is often wrongly used to refer to an apartment, as distinct from a townhouse.
     In fact, townhouses are usually condominiums, as are duplexes and even some detached houses.
     There are also commercial, industrial and mixed-use strata developments. In my neighbourhood, horses live in strata-titled stables.
     In a condominium, owners own their individual strata lots and together own the common property and assets as a strata corporation. Private balconies and patios are designated ‘limited common property’ for exclusive use.
     British Columbia enacted the first Strata-Title Act in 1966. However, it wasn’t until the early 1970s that condominiums became popular. To date, approximately 29,000 Strata Corporations comprising 500,000 units have been created, housing 1.5 million of B.C.’s five million residents.
     Although the first condominiums were developed primarily for those seeking an affordable alternative to a single-family house, today condominiums appeal to a much broader range of households, especially those selling for tens of millions of dollars.
     While many single-family homeowners have reservations about strata living, it can be the ideal arrangement. Owners generally enjoy a more carefree lifestyle, with less worry about individual maintenance and repairs. There can also be a greater sense of community, especially in smaller projects.
     While some regard strata fees as an additional cost, they cover items a single-family homeowner would normally pay including home insurance, municipal fees, repairs and maintenance. There is also a prudent contingency reserve.
     In British Columbia, condominium residents must abide by the Strata Property Act and bylaws. While the province has developed standard bylaws, I recently discovered they may not adequately address emerging issues, such as smoking and short-term rentals.
     Most British Columbians do not smoke tobacco and do not want to be exposed to second-hand smoke. Strata owners and residents can ensure smoke-free environments by passing strata bylaws or rules to restrict or ban smoking.
     An issue is whether these restrictions should apply to just common areas, or within individual homes as well. Furthermore, do they also apply to vaping and marijuana smoked for pleasure or medical purposes.
     The provincial government has prepared some helpful information on bylaws to addressing smoking.
     It advises that if a strata council wants to try and ban smoking in individual units, it should seek expert legal advice.
     Strata bylaws can limit the number or percentage of residential strata lots that may be rented or limit the length of time they may be rented. This often applies to Airbnb. Again, the province has again prepared useful information on this as well.
     Given our affordable rental housing crisis, the B.C. government and some municipalities are now discouraging stratas from placing restrictions on long-term rentals. I do not agree with this.
     Condominiums should be treated as a type of ownership housing, not a means to increase rental supply. Investors who purchase units with the sole intention of renting often have different priorities than owner-occupiers.
     Governments should allow strata corporations to decide on long term rentals.
     Short term rentals, such as Airbnb are another concern. Increasingly, many condominiums are banning them since they often negatively impact the quality of life for other residents.
     A year ago, the provincial government passed legislation increasing the fine a strata corporation can impose from $200 a week to $1,000 a day for owners not complying with a strata bylaw limiting or banning short-term rentals.
     As Vancouver’s planners encourage more duplexes, smaller infill developments, and other forms of multi-family housing, condominium living will become even more prevalent. While it may not be for everyone, most condominium residents will tell you the pros generally outweigh the cons.
     Especially when they don’t have to deal with leaky roofs, bats in the attic, or racoons under the deck.

Opinion: Addressing vehicle pollution. Vancouver Courier November 4, 2019

      Last week, CBC’s The National reported on a study undertaken by the University of Toronto in collaboration with the Canadian and Ontario governments and Metro Vancouver. It found that air pollution levels near major roadways in Canadian cities are "definitely too high for the public," especially at rush hour and in winter.
      This study, and similar previous studies, found pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, ozone, sulphur dioxide and particulates are responsible for an estimated 7,700 premature deaths in Canada each year. Furthermore, deaths and illness due to air pollution cost Canada tens of billions of dollars.
      Other studies carried out in the U.K. and Canada have suggested a link between pollution and a reduction in cognitive skills and the probability of developing dementia.
     The University of Toronto studies revealed that pollution levels were not directly related to the number of vehicles. Vancouver’s Clark Drive had similar pollution levels to a portion of Highway 401 in Toronto with more than a dozen lanes and 10 times more traffic.
     Poorly maintained diesel trucks are largely to blame. Their emissions, especially nitrogen oxides, are even worse in winter because catalytic converters and other vehicle systems designed to reduce emissions work poorly in colder temperatures.
     Increasing "non-tailpipe" emissions, which include metal-rich dust from tires and brakes, are another problem. They are blamed on the growing popularity of SUVs and pickup trucks, which cause more tire and brake wear because they're heavier. They also generate more greenhouse gas emissions.
     While the results of this study were news to many people, they were not news to Vancouver city council. Last May, Councillor Jean Swanson submitted a motion addressing truck pollution in the Clark-Knight Corridor and other city streets.
     Swanson was concerned that often the poorest people are forced to live along busy streets. She is right. But it is no longer just poor people. Increasingly, city planners are proposing the highest density housing along the busiest streets.
     Why? Because those living in single family houses off the busy streets don’t want apartments constructed next door.
      Swanson’s motion proposed that council seek an update from Metro Vancouver on progress made on its Air Quality and Climate Change Plan, and initiate actions to strengthen the region’s guidelines for permitted pollutants.
     It also proposed a variety of other actions, including motions at forthcoming Union of B.C. Municipalities and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities meetings seeking stronger provincial and federal regulations restricting traffic pollution.
     The reason I decided to write about this topic is that the University of Toronto studies and Vancouver city council recommendations ignored another effective solution to addressing the negative impacts of traffic pollution.
     We should start planting more hedges. Yes, hedges, or a combination of hedges and trees along both sides of busy streets, and down the central median wherever feasible.
     I first learned about the benefits of urban street hedges during a visit to Tokyo in 1992. As I travelled around the city, I was surprised to see what seemed like suburban hedges along many downtown streets. I was told they helped reduce the negative impacts of pollution.
     Earlier this year, I saw hedges along busy downtown streets and highways in southern China. Numerous research studies have revealed that street trees on their own are not as effective in reducing the adverse impacts of traffic as hedges, either on their own or in combination with street trees.
      In both Japan and China, many downtown streets also had extensive tree canopies covering the roadway, like those found along Blenheim Street and other residential streets.Vancouver should consider planting more canopy trees along major streets unless they interfere with trolley wires. While some may argue they will interfere with overhead power lines, then it is time to bury the power lines.
      One final thought: If the engineering department and park board cannot afford to bury wires and plant more street trees, the costs could be subsidized by a tree dedication program. I first saw this in a French city where plaques along the sidewalk dedicated many trees in memory or honour of someone.
     I am confident a similar program could work in Vancouver, especially once we know it could reduce health costs and help us all live longer.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

In advance of Election Day, a preview of this week's Vancouver Courier column on housing promises

The redevelopment of the South Shore False Creek, with it's 1/3 low-income, 1/3 mid-income and 1/3 higher income housing was the result of a significant federal government investment in housing

     I write this as Canadians are about to go to the polls. Not all Canadians, since approximately four million have already voted at advance polls and sadly, millions of others will not vote at all.
     This has been an awful election campaign. The stump speeches and debates were often unforgivably cringe-worthy, as was Andrew Scheer’s response when accused of being linked to an ugly smear campaign against Maxime Bernier.
     While many voters won’t vote for Trudeau because of his handling of the SNC Lavalin matter, I can’t help but observe many of these voters think nothing of paying a contractor or cleaning lady in cash, knowing full well they won’t be declaring the income or filing GST. After all, everyone is doing it.
     Like many observers, I won’t be surprised to see a minority Liberal government, supported by the NDP, but not necessarily by Jody Wilson-Raybould, who I also expect to be elected.
     During the campaign, the parties often tried to bribe us with our own money. Many promises were made that were not costed and unlikely to be implemented. However, given Vancouver’s need for much more affordable housing, let’s look at some housing-related promises from the three major parties.
     The Liberals say they will keep their new first-time buyer incentive. This is essentially a shared-equity mortgage program like those implemented in UK and elsewhere. While these programs helped some first-time buyers buy a home, they also resulted in people buying more expensive homes. If Liberals form government, I expect this promise to be kept.
     Liberals also promised to create a national tax on vacant residential properties owned by non-Canadians who don’t live in Canada. As someone very concerned about the unintended consequences of Vancouver’s and B.C.’s so-called empty and vacant home taxes, I worry about this.
     What will be the definition of a vacant residential property? Is it a dwelling that’s never occupied, or a furnished second home occupied less than six months a year? If it is the latter, I hope this promise is not kept.
     The Liberals will also work with others to crack down on financial crime in the real estate sector. This is long overdue and let’s hope this campaign promise is kept, regardless of who forms government.
     The Liberals also promise to build new, purpose-built, accessible and affordable housing for veterans and others. There is no doubt housing affordability across Canada was exacerbated when the Conservative government cancelled many federal programs in the early 1990s.
     More federal money is desperately required, especially since many of Vancouver’s homeless, and others seeking subsidized housing have come to our city from elsewhere across Canada.
     The NDP has promised an additional $5 billion to fund new affordable housing during its first 18 months in office. It has also promised to create half a million quality, affordable housing units over the next 10 years. That’s 50,000 units a year.
     To put this in perspective, in 2017, housing starts hit a ten-year high at 221,000, and the 2019 estimate is less than 200,000.
     While it is not clear what the NDP means when it says “it will create” this housing, or how it will be funded, some industry experts question whether governments, the non-profit sector and construction industry even have the capacity to build all this housing, in addition to market housing.
     The NDP also says it would waive the federal portion of the GST/HST for new affordable rental units. This is something I support since currently developers must pay GST on the construction of a rental unit, but not a condominium unit, since GST is paid by the buyer.
     The Conservatives want to change the federal government’s ‘stress test’ and like the NDP, increase amortization periods on CMHC-insured mortgages to 30 years. CMHC’s CEO Evan Siddall has referred to these promises as “reckless myopia”.
     The Conservatives have also promised to make surplus federal real estate available for development to increase the supply of housing. I recall a similar promise in an annual 1970s Budget Speech when I worked for CMHC. Following the announcement, staff were asked to identify sites that could be made available. There were a lot less than anticipated.
    Promises, promises. Let’s hope this time some good ones are kept.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Opinion: Vancouver real estate advisor urges conference goers to ‘Jurock’ this way Vancouver Courier September 23, 2019

Ozzie Jurock’s annual conference full of investment advice, life philosophy and predictions

“If you have a living room, start living in it.”
“Enjoy your own reality show. Don’t watch somebody else’s”
“Over 65 with all your assets in a

$2-million home? Sell it and live.”
“Over 70? These are crazy times. Protect what you have. Keep half your portfolio in cash.”
“To survive in 2020 and beyond, become a student for the rest of your life.”
 “Don’t eat kale. Eat steak. Die from something tasty.”
These are just a few of the brainchilds offered by Ozzie Jurock at his 27th annual Real Estate Outlook 2020 conference held at the Sheraton Wall Centre this past Saturday. (Full disclosure: Glacier Media was a sponsor of the event.)
     German-born, 75-year-old Jurock is a legend for many in the real estate industry, and regular listeners to Michael Campbell’s Money Talks program on CKNW. Once the national president of Canada’s largest real estate brokerage firm, today he is an entrepreneur, real estate advisor, author and highly sought-after public speaker.
      At his annual spring and fall conferences, he dispenses his own brand of real estate advice, life philosophy and oftentimes surprisingly accurate predictions to hundreds of people who pay good money to attend.
     In 2012, he told attendees to expect Christy Clark’s government to win the forthcoming provincial election and plan accordingly. In 2016, he correctly predicted Trump’s victory and expects him to be reelected.
     Given the political events unfolding in our federal election, he is no longer certain whether Trudeau or Scheer will win. But he does predict a minority government. He is quite certain the NDP will win the next provincial election.
     Over the years, Jurock has helped a lot of ordinary people make money by investing in real estate. When asked what is now going to happen to the Vancouver housing market, he responds there is no Vancouver housing market. There are many markets.
     There is a single-family market that performs differently from the multi-family market. There is a rental market and condominium market.
     Downtown Vancouver is not the same as Maple Ridge, Port Coquitlam or West Vancouver.
Jurock's presentation addressed what he says are the negative impacts new government programs are having on housing affordability and housing. Photo Michael Geller
     For the past decade, Jurock has told investors to buy in Phoenix. Today, he maintains it is still a good place to invest, along with other American cities such as Dallas, Houston and, more recently, Seattle.
     Closer to home, while prices have softened considerably over the past 18 months, Jurock remains bullish on Vancouver and many British Columbia regions. He expects a third of the 300,000 Canadian Chinese in Hong Kong to eventually come back to Canada.
     He observes that 70 per cent of Canadians say they would like to retire in British Columbia, and this bodes well for many retirement communities on Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, the Kootenays and Okanagan.
     Approximately 60,000 people move to B.C. every year, and this is expected to increase to 75,000 and higher.
     Jurock was joined by a variety of experts, including an engaging Englishman who travels across America buying distressed properties, tax deeds and liens at auctions. His recent purchases included a $10,000 eight-unit multifamily project in Indiana that he fixed up and now rents for $850 per month per unit.
     Another speaker, who owns an Edmonton property management firm, asked landlords in the audience how many of them give their tenants an annual Christmas gift. Quite a few did.
     For 15 years, Jurock has been urging business owners to buy their own offices, and invest in industrial space, mobile home parks, mini-storage and prime recreational property.
     Don’t buy hotel condos, time-shares or ski resorts that do not have golf and other year-round activities.
     Over the years, he has urged his audiences to buy rental properties, but only if they offer positive cash flow.
     He agreed with apartment realtor David Goodman that we can expect more apartment buildings to come to market since long-time owners are fed up with new government regulations that don’t allow rent increases to cover costs, or tenant removal to carry out renovations.
     Observing how the retail industry is changing, Jurock advised investors to avoid traditional retail centres, but invest in inner-city warehouses to store all that “next-day-delivery” product.
     Jurock concluded the day by observing that real estate markets have come and gone for thousands of years, but we only have one life to live. So, live it to the full, and take the occasional bubble bath. Oh yes, and drink beer. He is German after all.