New development will support those at risk of homelessness
Kingston ― The governments of Ontario and Canada are investing over $625,000 in a new affordable housing development in Kingston to help provide individuals and families who are at risk of homelessness the housing and support services they deserve.
Construction is underway on a new 40-unit, mixed-income apartment building on Wright Crescent, with five units being funded through the federal-provincial Investment in Affordable Housing Program. The project will have a mix of one-bedroom, two-bedroom and bachelor units, and is expected to be completed by Fall 2021.
“Home is a place of safety and refuge. Our government is dedicated to housing more Canadians which is why we are proud to have invested in this development in Kingston. These new units are more than just safe and affordable places to live, they are key to a better life for the residents who call them home,” said Adam Vaughan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.
“We know that people across Ontario are struggling to find affordable housing they need,” said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “This investment in a new 40-unit community housing complex will create more homes for the people in Kingston who need it most.”
The federal-provincial Investment in Affordable Housing Program gives local communities the flexibility to address their local housing needs by funding new rental construction, home repairs, housing allowances, rent supplements or home ownership.
Ontario is safely and gradually restarting the economy so that everyone can get back to work. As communities continue to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, this funding will help those most in need find stable housing and access support services, such as counselling, addiction services and life-skills training.
The Investment in Affordable Housing Program provides funding for affordable housing projects across Ontario.
The Program is designed to give local service managers and Indigenous program administrators the flexibility to select which program components they would like to participate in based on local housing needs in their communities.
As part of the Community Housing Renewal Strategy, Ontario is investing nearly $1 billion in 2020-21, which will help sustain, repair and grow community housing and help end homelessness across the province.
Ontario has provided $350 million in funding to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep vulnerable people safe. This includes funding to local service managers and Indigenous program administrators who were given the flexibility to expand the key services they already offer to meet their local needs, including supporting people having a hard time paying rent.
Canadian pension fund giant Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec has seen a loss on its investments for the first time since the financial crisis more than a decade ago, hit largely by its exposure to shopping centres amid the coronavirus crisis. Its chief executive sees more pain ahead.
The Montreal-based institution, Canada’s second-biggest pension fund, on Friday disclosed a negative return of 2.3 per cent for the first half of the year – its first decline since the $40-billion, 26-per-cent loss of 2008. Net assets fell to $333-billion at the end of June from $340-billion at the end of December.
In the months to come, the Caisse said it would speed up a pivot to more promising real estate holdings and boost investments in technology companies, in which the pension fund has been underinvested of late. It is also writing down to zero the US$170-million invested in Cirque du Soleil since 2015, but declined to say whether it could come back with partners and make an offer for the insolvent company.
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“This is a historic crisis that is not done yet,” Caisse CEO Charles Emond told reporters on a conference call. “We have difficult months ahead of us. We are hoping for the best but we are ready for the worst and for any situation.
“The markets will remain difficult to predict. We will have to be prudent, rigorous, selective because the next year will be difficult given this economic crisis that is going on and we are not immune to it. If it lasts, good companies could go under.”
The results highlight the scope of the challenge ahead for Mr. Emond, a former Bank of Nova Scotia executive who took over as CEO of the pension-fund manager in early February as global stock markets were climbing to record highs. The coronavirus pandemic has altered the picture completely since, creating deep problems in many sectors of the global economy even as it opens up private-equity buying opportunities.
Exceptional central-bank monetary policies coupled with historic government assistance programs have prevented the recession from becoming a depression, but there is a growing dichotomy between the real economy and financial markets, Mr. Emond said. The pandemic has accelerated certain trends that were already under way, particularly in technology and retail, he said.
Trouble in the Caisse’s shopping-centre investments, intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic as many malls were shut down, contributed to an 11.7-per-cent loss for the real estate portfolio, the pension fund said in a statement Friday. The Caisse said it would speed up plans for each of those assets and shift resources to other market segments, such as warehousing and logistics. The bulk of its shopping centres are in Canada, including Vaughan Mills in the Toronto region and Market Mall in Calgary.
Like other major real estate players, the Caisse’s Ivanhoé Cambridge property arm is facing an extraordinary economic crisis, with malls suffering and the future of office towers coming into question as tech giants such as Shopify and Twitter embrace permanent work-from-home arrangements. Ivanhoé head Nathalie Palladitcheff is trying to whittle down the company’s stake in malls, but she told The Globe and Mail in June that she still has faith in office buildings and wants to increase investments in residential and industrial real estate.
Infrastructure, private equity and credit investments were all bright spots for the Caisse in the quarter. The pension fund has sufficient liquidity to meet the needs of its depositors while supporting Quebec companies and investing opportunistically, Mr. Emond said. He said the pension fund came into the coronavirus crisis with a “defensive position.”
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It might have been too defensive. The Caisse took a major hit in the first half of the year from a loss of 5 per cent in equities, which it pinned on its limited exposure to technology stocks that punched to record highs.
To illustrate the dynamic, shares of the world’s five tech giants – namely Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft – soared 31.4 per cent during the first half of the year while some 3,000 other stocks tracked by the MSCI All Country World Index fell by a combined 4.8 per cent, the Caisse said. The five companies together now make up about 20 per cent of the S&P 500 index, a concentration not seen since the 1990s, it said.
“Caisse analysts are used to evaluating companies based on historical modelling, weighing things like past cash flow,” said Michel Nadeau, a former vice-president at the pension fund who now works for Montreal’s Institute for Governance. “Now they’re going to have to make a leap of faith. When these companies are such huge fixtures in the index, it’s hard to say ‘I won’t [own them].’ “
Given the tech sector’s increasing economic importance, the Caisse has to “look at it through a new lens, open our minds,” Mr. Emond said.
The Caisse, which operates under a dual mandate to generate returns and contribute to Quebec’s economic development, in March created a $4-billion fund to help Quebec businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The aid includes loans and lines of credit. About 45 per cent of the funds have already been allocated, the pension fund said Friday.
The pension fund was a 20-per-cent owner in Cirque du Soleil, which filed for bankruptcy protection in late June. A court-supervised process to sell Cirque is now under way, with a credit bid worth about US$1.2-billion from the company’s lenders approved by the court as the offer to beat.
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To succeed in the future, Cirque needs “a strategic operator” among its owners in order to reinvent itself as well as a reasonable level of debt, Mr. Emond said. Whether the Caisse puts more money in play and makes a bid for the company will depend on how things unfold, he said.
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Emond identified two conditions as an “absolute necessity” for the Cirque to succeed — a “strategic operator” with a deep knowledge of the industry, and a smaller debt load.
“It needs a strategic operator to allow the Cirque to reinvent itself, a Cirque 2.0,” Emond said. “It also needs a reasonable debt level. It’s not the best company for high leverage.”
The offer by a group of Cirque debt holders led by Toronto firm Catalyst Capital Group is valued at approximately US$1.2 billion, according to court-appointed monitor Ernst & Young.
Up to US$375 million will be made available to the Cirque, while two funds totalling US$20 million will be set up to pay money owed to former employees and artisans. The agreement also commits to maintain Cirque’s head office in Montreal for at least five years.
“No matter what happens, there’s a minimum value out there which the debt holders have actually agreed to pay, and conditions for maintaining the Cirque here and taking care of various stakeholders,” Emond said. “That’s something you’d never see in a process like that. So there’s a minimum outcome that’s already been achieved.”
Other bidders have until Aug. 18 to submit a fully funded offer that is at least US$1.5 million higher than the creditor bid.
KINGSTON — Eleven local companies are to each receive up to $5,000 in support as part of a micro-investment program.
Kingston Economic Development Corporation’s Starter Company Plus program is meant to fund training, coaching and mentoring for business owners who are launching or have been in business for less than five years.
In the past, the program has awarded seven grants, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic compelled KEDCO to broaden the scope of the program’s awards.
“This flexibility has allowed us to reach more businesses in need,” said Ian Murdoch, KEDCO’s business development officer for business retention and expansion.
“I’m pleased to see that we were able to provide some level of grant funding to 11 young businesses this spring.”
Debbie Fitzerman of DFC BBQ Sauce, Jenna Richmond of BSE Skateboarding, Brendan Cregg of Tree of Life & Restoration and Native Plant Nursery, Cynthia Kennedy of Hunter’s Creek Golf Course, Jonathan Zelt of Black Rose Waterproofing Inc., Laura Oomen of Wiggie Wizzle Club, Megan Blay of GreenWell Design Co., Sarah Botros of Yoga LunaSol, Sean Monteiro of Bounce, Suzanne Garrett of Travel Health Experts, and Tammy Watson of Trillium and Maple Woods received funding.
“Building a company is already a daunting feat for many individuals, but when coupled with a global pandemic, it’s exponentially more difficult,” Monteiro said. “The Starter Company Plus program did an incredible job helping Bounce focus on adapting to these unprecedented times and how to continue building a sustainable business.”
Applications for the fall session open on Sept. 1. Details can be found on KEDCO’s website.
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