Real estate industry worried Liberal housing plan won’t alleviate supply issues

TORONTO – Liberal leader Justin Trudeau unveiled his party’s housing plan Tuesday, but real estate industry members are concerned it won’t do much to alleviate a lack of supply.

Trudeau’s plan, announced at a Tuesday campaign stop in Hamilton, Ont., is built around helping renters become homeowners through $1 billion in loans and grants, but also involves a two-year moratorium on foreign buyers, banning blind bidding and a Bill of Rights creating a legal right to a home inspection.

The Liberals plan to help young, first-time buyers with a new savings account allowing Canadians under 40 to save up to $40,000 toward their first home, and withdraw it tax-free to put toward their purchase, with no requirement to repay it.

The plan also includes a Housing Accelerator Fund, which would make $4 billion available for large cities to speed up their housing plans, in hopes of building 100,000 new middle-class homes by 2024-25.

“They’re treating the symptom of the problem and not the real problem, which is the supply,” said Ben Young, the senior vice-president of development at Southwest Properties in Halifax.

With the number of available homes failing to keep up with demand in recent years, he would like to see federal and provincial government lands opened up for development, which could boost housing inventory.

He also thinks parties should be less focused on housing tax incentives, even though he admitted they garner broad appeal, because he said they don’t often help supply.

“It’s like saying, ‘come on in my store it’s 100 per cent off, but I don’t have any inventory,” he said.

Davelle Morrison, a Toronto broker with Bosley Real Estate Ltd., thinks the Liberal’s incentive for people under 40 is “nice to have,” but “doesn’t really move the needle.”

She believes the country’s housing sector would be better off if it had a 30-year amortization rate, more attention paid to Indigenous needs and more allowances for laneway housing and basement apartments.

She also wants politicians to stop fixating on foreign buyers, who some have blamed for driving up home prices in recent years.

“We need to stop making foreign buyers the Bogeyman and saying that everything is their fault,” said Morrison, noting studies show they account for less than five per cent of homes owned in the Greater Toronto Area.

“We have had very few foreigners buying into the market because of COVID-19, and real estate prices have still climbed.”

The average price of a home sold reached $662,000 in July, up 15.6 per cent from the same month last year, the Canadian Real Estate Association said earlier this month.

The average price of a Toronto home was just over $1 million in July, up 12.6 per cent compared to a year ago, the city’s local board said.

As those prices climbed, bidding wars intensified, brokers complained of a lack of supply and prospective buyers felt pressure to stretch their budget and drop more cash on already expensive homes.

The Liberals want to take some of the pressure out of that process by banning blind bidding, but Morrison said open auction systems, where all parties know each others offices, have done little to cool the Australian market.

The Ontario Real Estate Association made the same observation.

“Auction fever creates a three-ring circus on front lawns, as hopeful buyers crowd in front of a home with a live auctioneer, or online, and the bidding begins,” said OREA President David Oikle in a statement.

“Far from making homes more affordable, auctions can drive prices higher, and dangerously push buyers to make rushed decisions involving tens of thousands of dollars in just minutes.”

While blind bidding is often criticized because of its secrecy, Halifax broker Sandra Pike said her region differs from many others because people can readily access plenty of data to make informed offers.

Local real estate websites, she said, share when a home was listed, how many days its been on the market, when and for what price a home was sold for and what nearby listings are priced at.

She said, “Our consumers here have all that transparency already.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 24, 2021.

Restaurants want security

Restaurant association calls for security-cost help as vaccine passport looms

Restaurants want security

After angry protests over the province’s impending new vaccine passport, the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association is calling on the province to offset costs of added security at bars and restaurants before the program comes into effect on Sept. 13.

Association chief executive Ian Tostenson said Thursday the industry feels it should be compensated for the expected pushback and increased cost.

“We are doing this, and we are doing it for the benefit of B.C. to motivate people to get vaccinated,” he said. “It seems reasonable to free up some resources to help us do that.”

From Sept. 13, British ­Columbians 12 years and older will need to provide proof of at least one dose of vaccine to enter non-essential businesses and events, including sports competitions, nightclubs, restaurants and movies. Beginning Oct. 24, only fully vaccinated people will be permitted entry.

Given the protests this week near hospitals and already high tensions over mask rules in ­restaurants, the industry is ­worried the vaccine passport program will result in tense standoffs at the door.

Tostenson said the association has forwarded to government a wishlist of things they would like to see before restaurants have to start checking vaccine status and identification.

The list includes clear signage in multiple languages, resources to train staff on how to check ID and vaccine status, information on the kinds of vaccine proof and ID staff will see, fines and penalties for restaurants that flout the rules and assurances the technology the province will be using will work in all settings.

Money for added security was not originally on that list, but Tostenson said it became important after an incident in Port Alberni this week when a customer urinated in a fast-food restaurant when told he would not be served if he didn’t obey the rules.

Tostenson said many restaurants, including quick-service establishments, don’t have a greeting station where patrons can be checked and informed of the rules, and may need additional security.

That’s already on the cards in some Victoria restaurants.

Rob Chyzowski, owner of Belleville’s Watering Hole, said he had no choice but to hire security ahead of Sept. 13 after what has been a difficult summer at times for his staff as they enforced mask rules.

“It’s getting nasty out there,” he said. “Our staff are really concerned about their safety. It’s been a tough summer with just masks — that was hard enough, but now they have to deal with vaccination status.”

Chyzowski said it’s not fair to have young hosts on the front line dealing with belligerent customers, so he will have security in the evenings, and he intends to work the door for a while to see what staff have to deal with.

Chyzowski added that it’s already difficult getting people to take host jobs.

“It’s harder than finding cooks right now,” he said. “A lot are tired of dealing with the people — it has been a long summer with a lot of rude customers.”

Petr Prusa, owner of Floyd’s Diner, said he is planning to have discussions about security so wait staff don’t have to deal with people upset about vaccine passports. “We always have lines at the door, so yeah, it’s a concern,” he said.

Tostenson hopes the province will work with the industry to come up with resources to help deal with the issue and help the industry recruit people to work.

“Right now we are trying to attract people to our industry, and when you hear about things like Port Alberni, those young people start to wonder if that is what they want to be doing,” he said. “We need protection around that.”

Tostenson said equipping restaurants with the resources to handle what’s to come is one way for the province to get through the next phase of the pandemic without having to close restaurants again.

Single-family benchmark price in Central Okanagan near $1 million

 

Home prices take big jump

The benchmark price for a single-family home in the Central Okanagan has had its biggest percentage increase in four months.

The price, which represents a dwelling with typical attributes to those traded in the area, jumped 3% to $961,800 last month, according to statistics the Association of Interior Realtors released Friday. The benchmark price just 12 months ago was $692,800.

AIR said the region remains a seller’s market because of chronically low inventory, although the number of available single-family homes in the Central Okanagan actually increased from 485 to 501 in August.

“The market has slowed down slightly due to a chronic lack of inventory, but it’s by no means slow,” AIR president Kim Heizmann said. “Listings are at record lows and not replenishing to meet the high demand.

“This chronic shortage of supply is putting upward pressure on pricing and making it a strong seller’s market.”

There were approximately 3,000 active listings in August across the AIR area, which includes the Okanagan, Eastgate Manning Park, Revelstoke, Shuswap and South Peace River region. That was down 46% from the 5,556 that were active last August.

The benchmark price of a condominium in the Central Okanagan jumped 4.5% in August to $473,100, while the townhouse mark increased just 0.3% to $644,800.

It was a similar story for single-family homes in the North Okanagan, where the benchmark increased 2.4% to $682,700. On the other side of the coin, the townhouse price actually dropped 0.9% to $444,100.

Lumby resident loses $1,000 in rental accommodation fraud

 

Beware rental scammers

RCMP are warning the public to be wary of an ongoing rental scam after a Lumby resident was cheated out of $1,000.

In this most recent incident, the fraudster contacted the victim, who was in search of a rental, and told them they owned a house in Armstrong they were willing to rent.

The fraudster sent the victim photos of the property as well as personal identification documents. The victim e-transferred a deposit of $1,000 to secure the property prior to viewing it.

But, they realized they had fallen victim to a scam when they went to the property a few days later and were met by the legitimate homeowners.

“With the limited number of properties available, these con artists are taking advantage of renters who are feeling pressured to act quickly to secure accommodation,” says Const. Chris Terleski.

“Fraudsters can be very convincing, but as a renter, prior to any money changing hands, there are some precautionary steps you can take to protect yourself from falling victim to scams such as this.”

  • Arrange for you or someone you trust to visit the property in person
  • Talk to others in the area to confirm who owns the property
  • Conduct an online search of any photos of the rental or the address to see if it has been associated to scams in the past
  • Ask to see previous utility bills for the address to confirm the person is indeed the landlord
  • Ensure a proper rental agreement is provided and signed by both parties
  • Do not send money as a deposit until you verify the property is legitimately for rent

Report frauds to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at www.antifraudcentre.ca or by calling 1-888-495-8501.

West Kelowna rejects proposal for winery lookout tower

 

Winery tower crushed

A wine tasting building proposed for Goat’s Peak Winery will not become the tallest structure in West Kelowna.

Developers of Goat’s Peak Winery had originally proposed a 35 metre tall tasting facility in the form of a lighthouse.

Council deferred a decision on that design after giving it a lukewarm reception, prompting winery owner Darrel Monette to scrap the lighthouse in favour of a more slender, concrete structure.

At 35 metres, the building would easily be the tallest in the city, 10 metres taller than the bell tower at Mission Hill Winery.

Monette is seeking a non-farm use in order to construct the building on ALR land and, at the same time, is asking the city for a height variance. The maximum height allowed is 15 metres.

City planning manager Brent Magnan said the new iteration of the tasting room tower is a “significant redesign” over the lighthouse, but added height was still an issue.

If approved, he told council the city would have to spend about $250,000 on a new training program for the West Kelowna Fire Department.

Fire Chief Jason Brolund suggested the costs, including about $150,000 in training alone, could be spread over two years. Training and equipment would be required before the building opened to the public.

The expenditure was a non-starter for Coun. Rick de Jong, who didn’t see the need for a 35 metre “lookout tower.”

“I think the driving force behind that investment should be because we have a highrise tower coming in with residential development where those apartments are going to be paying taxes, and provide homes for people to live in,” he said.

“This proposal does none of that.”

De Jong says it’s no secret the new Official Community Plan will include highrises in city, but says that should be the driving force behind investing money for firefighter training, not something like this.

Coun. Doug Findlater called the money a “business subsidy,” and didn’t agree with spending it this way.

Speaking in favour of the tower, Coun. Jason Friesen argued the money has to be spent sometime and, whether it’s for this building or something else doesn’t matter.

He also applauded the winery for coming back with a “classy building.”

“We have to remember that part of tourism is about the experience so, yes, it’s a lookout tower, but it’s an experience,” said Friesen.

“We want to create experiences for our residents, experiences for our tourists, and we have to spend the money anyway.”

The tower idea was voted down 4-2, with only councillors Friesen and Jayson Zilkie voting in support.

B.C. provides $12.9 million in grants for fairs, festivals affected by COVID-19

 

Grants for fairs, festivals

The British Columbia government is spending $12.9 million to make grants available to festivals, fairs and community events affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Melanie Mark, the minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport, says events will be eligible to claim up to $250,000 with applications open until Oct. 1.

The money can go toward operational costs, health and safety measures, venue rental, marketing, wages and promotion.

The provincial government previously announced grants of up to $1 million to help major attractions and tour bus companies cover expenses like payroll, rent and utility costs to restart operations for their gradual reopening as provincial health orders eased.

Mark says the government is committed to helping events and attractions, and no money will be “left on the table.”

Shelley Frost, president and CEO of the Pacific National Exhibition, says the funding provides “tangible” assistance and will help many organizations across the province.

“This funding is a road to recovery, and in some cases it’s a return to sustainability from the financial effects of the pandemic,” she said.

Mark added that the government has given out more than $36 million in grants to what the province describes as “anchor” attractions like the exhibition and other major tourism operations so far.

Swimming at Kal Beach in Coldstream still discouraged due to algae bloom

 

Stay out of the water at Kal

Swimmers are still being urged to stay out of the water at Kal Beach.

The District of Coldstream, Regional District of North Okanagan and Interior Health have received reports of an algae bloom on the north end of Kalamalka Lake.

IH is currently classifying the bloom as active.

A post on Coldstream’s website states it has “not been able to verify these reports through water testing and visual inspections; however, since algae can be harmful to humans and animals, we are posting this information out of an abundance of caution.”

The District of Coldstream issued an advisory Aug. 12 that people not swim at the beach.

Interior Health is advising residents and visitors of the north end of Kalamalka Lake to:

  • Avoid all direct contact with the bloom. If contact is made, rinse your body with clean water.
  • Do not drink or allow pets to drink water directly from the lake.
  • Recreational activities, such as swimming, are discouraged.

Greater Vernon Water has a drinking water intake on Kalamalka Lake and is closely monitoring the situation.

GVW has increased water sampling, specifically looking at algae levels, and is conducting regular visual inspections of the lake. As of Aug. 20, GVW has no concerns about the safety of drinking water.

GVW will continue with increased sampling and will notify customers if there is a change in water quality.

Area restriction lifts at site of Brenda Creek wildfire

 

Fire zone restrictions lift

The BC Wildfire Service has lifted the area restriction around the Brenda Creek wildfire, near Brenda Mines off Highway 97C.

The fire, which at one point threatened the only power lines linking West Kelowna to BC Hydro’s grid, was reclassified to “under control” on Wednesday.

The public is being reminded that the Brenda Creek fire zone is still an active job site and caution should be taken. Damaged trees and ash pits are just a few dangers that could cause serious injury.

“Nearby communities may see smoke within the fire’s perimeter over the coming weeks. Smoke appearing from within the fire perimeter and burned material is common; however, smoke that rises from green, unburned fuel or from outside a fire’s perimeter should be reported,” BCWS said.

The Headwaters Family Camp, which was within the now-lifted area restriction, has already announced that it will not be opening until Aug. 31 due to fire risk.

Two stamps specially designed to celebrate Oliver’s history for their 100th anniversary

 

Stamp reflects town’s history

A new stamp has been created to honour the 100 anniversary for the Town of Oliver, specially designed for their One Hundred X One Hundred event.

Peter Lepold has designed several stamps commemorating Okanagan anniversaries and was asked by The Okanagan Historical Society and Oliver Parks and Recreation to assist them in the designs of a couple of stamps for their anniversary.

“This project makes reference that the Syilx Okanagan Nation stretches back 10,000 years ( 100 x 100 years),” Lepold explained over email.

One of the logos which features the McIntyre Bluff north of Oliver and adopted the logo and changed the text to read X100 x 100 in the Okanagan First Nation Syilx language.

The second stamp depicts the Oliver Municipal Hall which at one time used to be the Southern Okanagan Land Project Office.

Canada Post runs a collector stamp program that allows individuals to submit stamps for approval and printing.

Both stamps can be purchased from Carol Sheridan at Oliver Parks and Recreation by contacting ? carol@oliverrecreation.ca (250-498-4985) ext. 201.

36 per cent of non-emergency calls to Vernon RCMP are not a police matter

 

Make the right call

With the surge in demand for emergency services, Vernon North Okanagan RCMP wants to remind the public to ‘make the right call’ during the busy summer months.

Const. Chris Terleski said E-Comm, the agency responsible for handling the majority of emergency calls in the province, reports up to 36 per cent of police non-emergency calls do not belong on these lines and need to be directed to other more appropriate resources.

“Our detachment is supported by E-Comm and the Southeast District RCMP Operational Communication Centre (OCC), which is one of the largest and busiest RCMP 911 police dispatch centres in Canada,” said Terleski. “Often, calls to police non-emergency lines are not police matters and should be referred to another agency such as ICBC, the BC Residential Tenancy Branch, or municipal bylaw services. Any time we can direct these calls to a more appropriate resource, not only does it save time, but it eases the strain on E-Comm and our OCC and ensures essential communication lines remain free for emergency and police matters.
Anyone experiencing a life-threatening emergency, is urged to call 911, but if the call is of a non-urgent nature, people are asked to:

  • check online to see if you should call your local police non-emergency line;
  • report the incident using our online crime-reporting tool at https://ocre-sielc.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/bc/en;
  • or reach out to an alternate resource.

A full list of links to online crime reporting and non-emergency phone numbers is available through E-Comm.