Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Housing market 'correction is behind us': price index
Financial Post
Published: Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Home prices in Canada rose 1.6% in July, the third straight monthly increase after eight consecutive declines, according to the Teranet-National Bank house price index.

Prices rose in all of the six metropolitan areas surveyed, the first time that has happened in 13 months, the report stated.

Moreover, in three of the six areas - Halifax, Ottawa and Montreal - prices rose to levels above their pre-recession peaks.

Nationally, prices were still down from a year earlier, off 5.1% in July, representing the eighth consecutive 12-month decline.

Nevertheless, the recent monthly gains indicate "the market correction is behind us," said National Bank senior economist Marc Pinsonneallt.

"Furthermore, prices have more than recovered the lost ground in three regions out of six. This is a huge difference with the U.S. Case-Shiller index, where all of the 20 cities surveyed have yet to experience home price increase over the last 12 months."

Ottawa home prices gained 2.6%; Toronto, 2.2%; Vancouver, 1.5%; Halifax, 0.8%; Montreal, 0.7%; and Calgary, 0.1%. For Calgary, it was the first month-over-month advance after 12 straight months of declines.

PHOTO: Brian_Beijl

Friday, September 25, 2009


Cantos announces winner for King Eddy design
Nancy Tousley
Calgary Herald
September 23, 2009

Allied Works Architecture, of Portland, Ore. and New York City, with BKDI of Calgary, is the winner of an international architectural competition to design the new National Music Centre at the King Eddy, it was announced today by the Cantos Music Foundation.

Brad Cloepfil, the firm’s 54-year-old founder, said he was thrilled to win the $100 million project, which offers a once-in-a-career opportunity: to invent a new kind of institution, a museum for the 21st century.

“The initial thing that caught my eye was the complexity of the vision in the description of what the National Music Centre aspired to be,” Cloepfil said. “It was so many different things, it was like nothing I had ever heard of, no nameable institution. It’s not just a museum, it’s not just performance space. It has this crazy blues club associated with it. It was quite a far-ranging vision.”

“To be a part of inventing a new institution, that’s something you don’t encounter. A lot of times you get to reconceive an institution, but to really invent one, which is what we’re doing, that touches on so many parts of music at once and concentrate it into some sort of cohesive place in Calgary is an amazing challenge.”

Cloepfil and 65 other international architectural firms answered the call for expressions of interest (EOI) sent out by the Cantos Music Foundation, which is transforming itself into the National Music Centre. The building program called for incorporating the historic King Edward Hotel, which became a legendary blues bar known fondly in Calgary as the King Eddy, until the building was condemned in 2004.

If all goes according to plan, the King Eddy component of the project, a live music venue and lounge, will be completed first, in time for the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede in 2012.

Allied Works was chosen from a shortlist of top international competitors: Diller Scofidio + Renfro, New York, with Kasian, Calgary; Ateliers Jean Nouvel, Paris, France; Saucier + Perrotte, Montreal; and Studio Pali-Fetke, Los Angeles. All five architects presented their proposals at a public event at the Grand theatre on July 23.

Cloepfil’s proposal envisions a five-storey building designed as a series of “resonant vessels” or instruments orchestrated by the collections and programs of the new building.

“We really do see the building as an instrument,” Cloepfil said last July. “The body of the building is designed and detailed to refer to instrument cases, while the freer forms of the interior are influenced by acoustics. Entering an exhibition gallery, a visitor will activate a threshold of sound, there will be ambient sound throughout and an interactive acoustical area where visitors can make sound with their bodies. Silence will also be present as an important element of the soundscape.”

The new building also refers to the western landscape with canyons of space in its interior and an exterior clad with visually rich material that could possibly be stone veneer.

“There is a monumentality to the design that is intended to evoke the spirit of place,” said Cloepfil, who is known for the influence of the landscape on his work.

The National Music Centre at the King Eddy, to be located in the East Village, will comprise a collection of musical instruments that ranges from harpsichords to electronic keyboards, spaces for performance and education, a recording studio and a radio broadcast facility for the radio station CKUA.

Cantos needs to raise $75 million for the capital cost of the building and another $25 million for an operating endowment.

Allied Works was a frontrunner in the competition from the beginning, said Andrew Mosker, executive director of the Cantos Music Foundation.

“I would say Allied Works, better than any other firm, going back to the EOI phase, has been able to distill the true essence of our project. All 66 of those EOIs were spread out on the project room table and Allied Works’ was the first one I read, for no particular reason.

“I remember the first thing that struck me about their EOI was the way they addressed every single aspect of the project. The vision and understanding of what we wanted to build, their related experience with cultural, and particularly music museum, projects.”

“I think that they, better than anyone else, truly understand the vision we are trying to create here at the National Music Centre at the King Eddy. It’s a new way of looking at cultural buildings, music museum collections and programs all tied into one. It is truly the museum of the 21st century.”

Among the other commissions Allied Works has won through international design competitions are the Booker T. Washington School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Dallas, Texas; the Museum of Arts and Design, New York; the Clyfford Still Museum, Denver, Colo., and the Walt Disney Animation, Pixar Animation Studios, Los Angeles and Emeryville, Calif.

Allied designed the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and the 12-storey expansion of the Seattle Art Museum, which was added to a building designed by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates.

The public favourite in an online survey was the proposal by Studio Pali-Fetke, Los Angeles.

Mosker said Cloepfil’s experience in designing cultural buildings, the expert team he has put together, which includes exhibition designers who worked on the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, and the chemistry between architect and client, were all considerations the led to choosing the AlliedWorks proposal.

Cloepfil was able to sum up the soul of the project, Mosker said, in “a place that people can return to and that didn’t invade the space it is in but complemented its surroundings. Movement is away from large-scale architecture now. The deep meaning comes from inside, from what goes on in the building.”

The architect, who will be spending every other week in Calgary for the next three or four years, has ties to Calgary, where he has had friends for 40 years, and to Alberta. His maternal grandmother was from Tees, near Red Deer. He said he is looking forward to flyfishing here and to skiing in the winter.

When asked if it is possible to bring the project in on its $75 million budget for the building, Cloepfil said, “As possible as it is to bring any building in on budget.

“There is still a lot of work to do to wrangle the building’s scope into shape, since it has so many simultaneous aspirations. I think the design process will have a big impact on synthesizing things. It’s certainly an adequate budget and that’s not always the case either. People’s dreams are usually much bigger than what their development committee has told them they can raise. I think they’ve done a lot of good homework. They seem extremely well prepared.

“Pre-design and planning essentially will take us through the rest of the year,” he said, “to review everything and do our due diligence, compile information and get the team organized. Then I think we would ideally start on the design cycle on the first of the year.”

The building, which is still awaiting confirmation of its funding from three levels of government, is the first phase of a project that will eventually include a concert hall, expanded gallery spaces and retail space, and is considered the main cultural focal point of Calgary’s East Village development.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Fort McMurray surpasses Calgary, Edmonton as most expensive housing market
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald
September 23, 2009

CALGARY - Fort McMurray is Alberta's most expensive residential real estate market, surpassing both Calgary and Edmonton, says a report released today by Coldwell Banker.

The 2009 Coldwell Banker Home Price Comparison Index of most expensive and most affordable North American markets evaluated average home values for select 2,200 square foot single-family dwellings with four bedrooms, two-and-one-half baths in 345 markets across Canada and the United States.

In Alberta, the average price in Fort McMurray was $638,000, eclipsing Calgary at $525,525 and Edmonton at $432,250.

"While Canadian home prices have been on the rise again following a brief market downturn, today's historically low interest rates have kept the dream of homeownership within reach for most of today's homebuyers," said John Geha, president of Coldwell Banker Canada. "It is particularly interesting to compare the affordability levels now seen across North America and other global centre. Compared to many major markets throughout the world, Canadian real estate looks like a bargain."

The study's four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home is what would typically be sought for middle-management corporate transferees, said the report. "It's what we call the 'aspirational home' and is usually purchased by move up buyers experiencing lifestyle changes," said Geha. "Despite record-breaking prices in many of Canada's major markets, these homes are selling, as buyers take advantage of today's historically low interest rates. These move-up buyers have been a critical component in our resurgent real estate market, and will continue to play a major role in Canada's recovering economy."

In Canada, the report said Vancouver's price in the survey was $1.26 million, putting it in tenth place overall for the highest price in North America. La Jolla, California, topped that list at $2.13 million US. Canada's largest city, Toronto comes in at $824,347.

Outside of North America,. Singapore was the most expensive market at $1.9 million.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Housing sales gain pace as Calgary market warms
By Mario Toneguzzi,
Calgary HeraldSeptember 16, 2009

An upswing in Calgary's real estate market helped push national residential sales in the resale market in August to their largest year-over-year gain in more than two years.

The Canadian Real Estate Association said Tuesday that MLS sales across Canada remained elevated from year-ago levels for the third consecutive month.

Across the country, 42,483 homes traded hands through MLS, an increase of 18.5 per cent from the same month last year and the third consecutive year-over-year gain of more than 15 per cent, but sales in August were also 6.6 per cent below the record for the month set in 2007.

The association said resale activity in August was up from year-ago levels in about three-quarters of all markets including Vancouver (117 per cent), Toronto (27 per cent), Calgary (17 per cent) and Montreal (nine per cent).

The trend in Calgary for the first two weeks of September has also been positive.

"It's beautiful. I have to say there was a light at the end of the tunnel, which is good," said Christina Hagerty, a real estate agent with Re/Max Realty Professionals in Calgary. "What we're seeing right now after a long lull in the first quarter of this year is the momentum slowly building."

According the website of Mike Fotiou of First Place Realty, up until Monday there have been 578 singlefamily home sales this month and 254 condo sales. The average MLS sale price in Calgary for singlefamily homes this month is $458,924, up from $454,130 for the month of August. The median price month-to-date is $395,000, down from$400,000 in August.

So far this month, the average MLS sale price for a condo is $297,520 and the median price is $268,825, both up from the $283,330 average and $260,000 median in August.

"It's actually been crazy. We're doing a deal a day so far in September," said Hagerty.

In August, the national average sale price was $324,779, up 11.3 per cent from a year ago.

Alberta saw MLS sales of 5,407 units for the month, up 7.5 per cent from August 2008, and an average sale price of$343,727, which was also up 0.2 per cent.

Calgary MLS sales, which included all properties, were 2,324 units for an average sale price of $388,725, down by 0.4 per cent from a year ago.
Photo by CarrieAlways

Monday, September 14, 2009


Housing numbers bode well for Alberta developers
Posted: September 14, 2009, 1:02 PM

by Jonathan Ratner
Real estate, Market Call

Desjardins analyst Jeff Roberts says a new housing forecast from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. for the Alberta market bodes well for developers in the province.

“Reflecting recently increased CMHC single-family housing forecasts for major Alberta cities in 2009 and 2010, significantly improved affordability in these markets and increasing lot sales, we believe Melcor Developments Ltd. and Genesis Land Development Corp., two Alberta-focused land developers, are good buys,” Mr. Roberts said in a report.

CMHC is now calling for 3,000 new single family homes in Calgary in 2009 and 4,000 next year — a 33% jump in the forecast from a few months ago. Edmonton single family home construction is expected to jump to 2,650 after CMHC previously predicted 2,000. Next year, the forecast jumps to 3,200 in Edmonton from a previous call of 2,600.

Mr. Roberts noted lot sales for Melcor and Genesis have been stronger in the last few months and he expects that will continue as the market improves.

On the apartment rental side, Mr. Roberts noted CMHC has not made major changes to its forecast but predicts the strong Alberta economy should help boost the bottom lines at Mainstreet Equities Inc. and Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust.

“We expect that higher average energy prices and more confirmed energy projects should continue to generate healthy immigration to Western Canada, especially Alberta which should help boost occupancy Boardwalk and Mainstreet’s Alberta portfolios,” said Mr. Roberts.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Canada housing starts higher than expected
Financial Post
Published: Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Home construction increased by a great-than-expected 12.1% in August, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., as the country's housing market continued to rebound.

The federal agency said housing starts increased to 150,400 units in August from 134,200 units the previous month.

Most economists had expected housing starts to increase to about 139,000 units in August.

"Housing starts are trending higher, reflecting improvements in both the single and multiple segments," said Bob Dugan, CMHC's chief economist. "The improvement in housing starts is consistent with our expectation of a stronger second half for 2009."

CMHC said the seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts rose 14% to 131,800 units in August. Multiple-unit construction rose 23.8% to 77,600 units, while the single-unit sector gained 2.5% to 54,200 units.

Overall, urban construction was up 56% in British Columbia, 16.1% in the Prairies, 13.8% in Ontario, 9.6% in Atlantic Canada, and 2.5% in Quebec.

Rural starts were unchanged in August at 18,600 units.

"This was undoubtedly a strong report, and it indicates that some momentum is perhaps beginning to build in the new homes market, thereby complementing the dramatic turnaround seen in the existing homes market recently," said Millan Mulraine, economics strategist at TD Securities.

"However, while we believe that the recent gains in new residential construction may be sustainable, we are unlikely to see further sharp advances in the pace of construction, particularly given the weak economic backdrop and soft labour market conditions.

"In fact, we expect the level of residential starts to remain in the current range in the coming months."

Canwest News Service

TABLE -- Housing starts in August:

Total 150,400

Canada, rural areas 18,600
Canada, urban centres 131,800
Canada, singles, urban centres 54,200
Canada, multiples, urban centres 77,600
Atlantic region, urban centres 8,000
Quebec, urban centres 41,000
Ontario, urban centres 42,000
Prairie region, urban centres 23,800
British Columbia, urban centres 17,000

Source: CMHC


Home affordability improves,
but recovery threatens trend
Financial Post
Published: Wednesday, September 09, 2009

OTTAWA -- Owning a home in Canada is getting more affordable but that trend could soon end as the real estate market continues to recover, according to a report Wednesday by RBC Economics.

RBC said costs related to home ownership eased in the second quarter of 2009 for the fifth-straight three-month period, with "modest improvement" seen across the country.

"Following the biggest quarterly improvements on record in the first quarter and continued improvement in the second quarter, the national home affordability level has been restored to pre-housing boom levels," said Robert Hogue, RBC senior economist said Wednesday.

"However, the recuperative phase of the affordability cycle seems to be drawing to a close with housing prices firming up in many parts of the country and mortgage rates no longer trending downward."

RBC measures affordability by the proportion of pre-tax household income needed to service the costs of owning a home.

"The levelling off of home affordability is not expected to stop the impressive resurgence in the housing market," Hogue said. "Supply of properties for sale is dropping as demand bounces back, which is working to heat up prices again in many parts of the country."

Canwest News Service

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Calgary housing market in full recovery mode
By Mario Toneguzzi,
Calgary Herald

CALGARY - Calgary's residential real estate market has turned around dramatically from the doldrums it experienced at the beginning of the year.

In January, sales in both the single-family home and the condominium market had plunged to levels about 50 per cent below the previous year.

But MLS data released Tuesday by the Calgary Real Estate Board on August's market paints a different picture. For the fourth consecutive month, sales have increased compared with last year and the average sale price for a single-family home rose in August, the first year-over-year increase since February 2008.

Calgary realtor Laura Schewchenko, with Re/ Max Real Estate (Central), has seen interest pick up in the local real estate market. A listing she has in the prestigious Mount Royal neighbourhood for nearly $3.5 million is an example.

"Every weekend, I've done an open house and it's been a packed house. There's people coming in," said Schewchenko, adding potential homebuyers in the luxury price range are looking again at the market.

She said low interest rates have helped fuel activity in the real estate market as well as prices, which have dropped from peak levels two years ago.

"People are realizing now is the time to buy. (Prices) are not going to go lower," said Schewchenko. "You're seeing now CS(conditionally sold) stickers and Sold stickers on lots of signs. People are just having more faith in the economy."

The real estate board said singlefamily home sales in August were 1,277, up 9.15 per cent from August 2008, while condo sales were 632, up 27.68 per cent from a year ago.

The average sale price for a singlefamily home in August was$454,130, a 3.06 per cent hike from last year. That was the first year-over-year increase on a monthly basis since February 2008.

The average sale price for a condo in August was $283,330, off 1.56 per cent from last year.

"Calgary's housing prices are edging upwards as consumer confidence improves and demand continues to grow," said Bonnie Wegerich, president of the Calgary Real Estate Board. "The recent $10.3-million sale (of former Flames goaltender Mike Vernon's home in Elbow Park) has undoubtedly boosted the average price this month, but even without this sale, the average price is higher than a year ago."

The real estate board said the average price of a single-family home in Calgary without the sale of that mansion would be $446,413.The average in August 2008 was $440,625. The Vernon house sale was the biggest in Calgary history.

"We might see a gradual edging up in average prices come this fall, but, on the whole, prices will most likely remain relatively stable," said Wegerich.

The MLS statistics from the past few months have to be regarded in light of previous years when the market was on fire, said David Allwright, associate dean of the Bissett School of Business at Mount Royal College.

"There certainly was a dramatic braking of the real estate market a little over a year ago," said Allwright. "So the fact we're coming back a little bit now may simply be an indication that it might have been an overreaction back then and this is just a correction back to something a bit more sustainable.

"The fact it increased over last August is more of an indication of just how bad last August was as opposed to how good this August is," he said.

Wegerich said there is more confidence today in the local market.

"I still think it's the first-time buyers mainly now followed by the move-up buyers," she said. "There's not as many lower-end homes (for sale)as there were. There's still a good choice out there, but it's a little bit harder to find them than it was."

She said low mortgage rates and government incentives have had a positive impact on the market. As well, confidence levels have risen with more positive economic news.

The last time average sale prices rose compared with the same month the previous year was in February 2008, when single-family homes experienced a 5.2 per cent hike from February 2007 to$471,696 and condos rose by 3.3 per cent from February 2007 to $311,812.

Average MLS sale prices for singlefamily homes peaked in July 2007 at $505,920 and for condos in May 2007 at $332,237.


Conference Board confident on oil sands outlook
John Morrissy, Financial Post
Published: Wednesday, September 02, 2009

OTTAWA -- Output from Canada's oil sands will double and profits in the oil business will triple by 2013 as rising crude prices kick-start megaprojects delayed by the economic downturn, the Conference Board of Canada said Wednesday.

The board's summer outlook for the Canadian oil-extraction business forecasts that crude prices driven south by the economic downturn will slash pre-tax profits for Canadian producers by 24% from $15.3-billion in 2008 to $11.6-billion in 2009.

But as the U.S. economy recovers, rising oil demand will lift prices to a point that enables Canada's expensive and controversial oil sands projects become profitable again, said board economist Todd Crawford.

"The Canadian oil industry has long been a boom or bust industry, and that has been the case over the past year . . . but stimulus packages around the world will lead to improved performance starting in 2010."

Accordingly, oil prices will resume their long-term upward trend, eventually reaching US$103 by 2013. Surging revenue growth related to higher prices will result in profits topping US$32-billion by the end of the forecast.

"Moreover, the resumption of construction on delayed oil sands projects and production increases at existing oil sands producers will boost output from the so-called non-conventional sources from today's 1.22 million barrels a day to 2.4 million barrels a day by 2013," Crawford forecasts.

The study focuses solely on oil extraction and excludes the "downstream," side of the business such as gasoline retailing. It also excludes the country's sizable natural gas business, which the board covers in a separate report.