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Climate risk scores could reshape Canadian real estate markets, some experts say –



If the house you’re about to buy is going to be under water in 30 years, should that be disclosed during the sale?

Chris Chopik says “yes.” The Toronto real estate agent has been calling for years for a climate risk assessment to be added to real estate listings in Canada the same way that data is readily available on the ease of walking from any address. He said these conversations need to become commonplace and factored into a property’s value.

“For sure, I would say consumers should consider where they’re buying, and what they’re buying, in the context of climate risk,” he told CBC News.


“So if I’m buying seaside, I’d rather buy high. Let me get a seaside cliff, not a seaside beach.”

Chris Chopik is a real estate agent in Toronto who for years has called for climate risk scores to be added to property listings. (Submitted by Chris Chopik)

This type of information has become more accessible in the United States in recent years, and it’ll likely be available for Canadian properties soon.

At a time when the United Nations is warning that climate change will bring more extreme weather events, it’s already raising questions about who will be able to move to areas of relative safety, and who will be left behind.

‘Top of mind’ for next generation

A company in the San Francisco area, Climate Check, launched a website about 18 months ago offers a free report on risks posed to any U.S. address from climate change. 

An address’s risk is ranked from 0, the least risky, to 100, the most risky. More detailed reports are available for a fee. Users can also read more general breakdowns of the risks for each state. Earlier this month, Climate Check’s risk ratings were added to every listing on real estate brokerage Redfin’s website.

The Climate Check website provides a free climate risk assessment for any address in the U.S. The company is working on a tool for Canada, too. (Screenshot/

The company is working on a site for Canada which could be launched early next year, principal Cal Inman told CBC News. 

“I think realtors are using it as a tool to answer questions that they’re getting every day from homebuyers,” Inman said. “In particular, younger generations are asking these questions. It’s top of mind.”

Another group called First Street Foundation has an online tool called Flood Factor, which can provide a flood risk assessment for any U.S. address.

A woman stands in the backyard of her home in the flooded community of Bowness after about 100,000 people were evacuated from their homes in Calgary in June 2013. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

In Calgary, Chopik said, some of this data has been available to agents for the better part of the last decade. Real estate services company Pillar 9 provides flood mapping data to realtors through the Calgary Real Estate Board. 

The catastrophic flood of 2013, which killed five Calgarians and caused $5 billion in damage, prompted the board to start providing this data, according to Pillar 9 CEO Shane Griffin. But he said he doesn’t believe the data has had a big impact on the market or affected home prices in areas that are more vulnerable to flooding.

“From what we see for transactions, would it stop somebody from buying a house? I don’t think it would,” Griffin said in an interview. 

“But would it potentially give them that knowledge that they need to safeguard the property or ensure that their insurance is correct, or any of that other work that they should do? Yeah, it gives them the opportunity to be proactive.”

WATCH | Canada is already seeing wide-ranging impacts of climate change: 

Canada could see more fires, floods from climate change

6 days ago

As the UN’s new climate report sounds the alarm about global warming, scientists say Canada could see more extreme weather, including drought, fires and floods as the global temperature rises. 4:38

‘People almost forget’

Chelsea Mann is president of the Kamloops and District Real Estate Association in British Columbia, an area where wildfires have raged this year.

She said agents don’t have access to any general data about a property’s wildfire risk and don’t get many questions about it. During fire season, there are many resources for people to check on active fires and smoke forecasts, she said.

“This year, obviously, has been extreme,” Mann said in an interview. “And we have had a few years in the past that we reference — you know, 2003 and 2017. But in between, it’s a little interesting that people almost forget.”

Other experts and academics, however, say climate change may already be reshaping some housing markets and could even create new types of gentrification.

‘We run the risk of people being trapped’

Jesse M. Keenan, an associate professor of real estate at Tulane University’s School of Architecture in New Orleans, studies the ways that climate change affects housing and real estate markets. 

He was one of the authors of a 2018 case study which found that since 2000, homes in Miami at a higher elevation have appreciated in value more than homes at lower elevations.

“There’s examples all around the world, where different shifts of population are crowding out people when they move because of climate change, stress or shock,” he said in an interview. 

Another example is Chico, Calif., where rent prices increased after a neighbouring town burned to the ground in 2018, Keenan said.

“It’s basically climate gentrification.”

Amber Blood looks at a figurine she found in the ashes of her home lost in the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif. in October 2019. A real estate agent, Blood said even she had trouble finding a home after the fire because there was not much available. (Rich Pedroncelli/The Associated Press)

He said tools like Climate Check and Flood Factor will have both positive and negative impacts. The good thing is that people will know what to expect, and investment can be steered away from high-risk areas. 

“Of course, for the people that live there, that will mean that we run the risk of people being trapped, or maybe having [a] decline in their home equity or their valuation of their homes because they become less desirable,” he said.

‘Can’t afford to surrender’

Andy Yan, the urban planner and Simon Fraser University professor who rang the alarm about vacant condos and the impact of foreign buyers in Vancouver, said this phenomenon could further inflate housing prices in Canada.

In 2014, he proposed that Vancouver, the least affordable market in North America, was attractive to wealthy foreign buyers not because of its job market or cultural cachet, but because of its stability.

The same thing could happen in Canadian cities that are relatively safe from the worst effects of climate change, Yan said in an interview. And then there are the regions that will become unsafe.

Deailed data is not yet available on which neighbourhoods or towns in Canada will be hardest hit by climate change. But the latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provides some clues about which areas of the country will be most affected.

Canada’s Arctic, which is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, will see a longer fire season, the report said. There will be more severe heat waves across North America, which create more severe fire conditions. People who live in cities will feel the impact of higher temperatures acutely because they will be exacerbated by air pollution and smoke from fires.

Coastal communities are expected to see severe flooding throughout the rest of the century. But Ontario and parts of Quebec are also very likely to experience more rainfall as well as extreme precipitation, causing floods even in places that don’t normally flood.

Andy Yan, an urban planner and director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program, says house prices could rise in parts of Canada considered relatively safe from the effects of climate change. (Harman/CBC News)

“What we found out with [Hurricane] Katrina was, the first people to move were those who can afford it. And then those who couldn’t were stuck there,” Yan said, referring to the 2005 hurricane.

He said Canadians need to start demanding “political courage” from all levels of elected leadership to mitigate the impact of climate change on housing and infrastructure and more policies like taxes on foreign buyers and empty homes.

“We just can’t afford to surrender,” he said.

‘No safe place’

Annie Preston, the head of data at Climate Check, said she was struck by how widespread the impact of climate change will be. She said everyone’s instinct is to say that the place they live in won’t be affected.

“Especially looking at the heat risks that we calculate, like everywhere is so subject to really significant increases in heat, which is actually the deadliest hazard so far,” she said in an interview with CBC.

“It just drives home how there’s no safe place. I mean, that sounds dark but I think it’s a positive thing too, helping people understand that we’re interconnected and there’s not necessarily [any] escaping from this. There’s only working forward together.”

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‘All hell is going to break loose’: Property titan and Shark Tank star Barbara Corcoran says Elon Musk is right about commercial office space



If you’re a commercial property giant, Shark Tank star Barbara Corcoran has some bad news for you: The market is going to get much worse before it gets any better.

In fact, it’s going to be a “bloodbath.”

Corcoran echoed the sentiments of Tesla CEO and Twitter owner, Elon Musk, who earlier this week tweeted: “Commercial real estate is melting down fast.”

Speaking to Fox Business’s The Claman Countdown this week, Corcoran—who sold her New York real estate brokerage for $66 million in 2001—said there isn’t enough confidence in the commercial property market post-pandemic.


Despite mandates from big businesses like Google, Amazon, and most recently Meta, swaths of office blocks across the U.S. are still lying partially empty.

According to data from security provider Kastle the average occupancy of offices across America is at just under 50%—with the New York metropolitan area seeing some of the lowest rates of tenancy.

“No one really believes it’s going to turn the corner,” Corcoran said. “People are staying home. Our best office buildings in Midtown Manhattan are 50% occupied, and in most major cities or in secondary cities, we have a 20% vacancy rate. No one wants to take that chance.”

She added that with turbulent economic times ahead she expects to see more businesses defaulting on their loans or mortgages—an issue which will trickle back to regional banks.

Corcoran’s theory is in line with the data: UBS said in April it expects to see more defaults on real estate loans as a result of an expected credit crunch.

“I don’t see that turning around,” the Shark Tank star said. “I think it’s going to be a bit of a bloodbath before it gets better.”

It’s a crisis Elon Musk has sounded the alarm on multiple times—his warning earlier this week, in response to Craft Ventures founder David Sacks highlighting the level of debt about to mature in the sector, was just the latest.

In March the SpaceX founder responded to a tweet about real estate debt with: “This is by far the most serious looming issue. Mortgages, too.”



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Vancouver-area home sales rebounded in May, real estate board says



The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) says May home sales increased 15.7 per cent compared to the same month a year ago as average prices also rose.

“Our forecast projected prices to be up modestly in 2023 by about two per cent at year-end,” said Andrew Lis, REBGV’s director of economics and data analytics, in a news release.

“Instead, Metro Vancouver home prices are already up about six per cent or more across all home types at the midway point of the year.”

The composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver was $1,188,000 last month, down 5.6 per cent from May 2022 but up 1.3 per cent from April.


There were 3,411 residential home sales in the region in May 2023, which is a 1.4 per cent decline from the 10-year seasonal average but nearly 500 more sales compared to units that moved in May 2022.

By comparison, in April, home sales slid 16.5 per cent compared to the same month in 2022.

Still, as of April of this year, the number of listings remained low compared to other years, meaning consumer demand is pushing up prices.

There were 5,661 detached, attached and apartment properties newly listed for sale in Metro Vancouver in May 2023, an 11.5 per cent decrease compared to the 6,397 homes listed in May 2022 and 4.3 per cent below the 10-year seasonal average, said the REBGV.

More buyers than sellers

“You don’t have to squint to see the reason prices continue to increase,” said Lis. “The fundamental issue remains that there are more buyers relative to the number of willing sellers in the market.

“This is keeping the number of resale homes available in short supply.”

A graphic from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver showing homes sales activity for May 2023.
A graphic from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver showing homes sales activity for May 2023. (REBGV)

The board said that mortgage rates, elevated after eight consecutive hikes were carried out, also continue to hold back market activity.

REBGV ideas to improve affordability

The May numbers released by the REBGV on Friday come a day after it announced a series of recommendations it made to a provincial legislative committee that seek to improve housing affordability in B.C.

The REBGV’s proposal includes recommendations for an overhaul of the Property Transfer Tax (PTT), which it says has not changed in 36 years.

It wants the PTT removed on any home, new or resale, worth less than $750,000.

Currently, the tax rate is one per cent of the fair market value up to and including $200,000, two per cent for homes above $200,000 and three per cent for homes worth more than $2 million.

Other recommendations include changes to the proposed anti-flipping tax and convincing the federal government to exempt new not-for-profit rental developments from paying GST.


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Vancouver eyes development of last waterfront site – The Globe and Mail



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Construction cranes tower above condos under construction near Southeast False Creek in Vancouver on Feb. 9, 2020.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

The City of Vancouver is working on a proposal to rezone publicly owned industrial land that is also the last of the developable inner city waterfront, making it highly valuable real estate.

Former City of Burnaby senior planner Robert Renger made a freedom of information request last year about the Southeast False Creek site and recently received a largely redacted document from Vancouver’s real state services department. The city proposes making height and density changes to the Southeast False Creek official development plan of 2007 (amended in 2018), and then rezoning the area to allow residential and commercial uses. It’s the first step in the rezoning process for the area, which is about 10.8 hectares, or 24 acres.

Mr. Renger believes that such an important rezoning of public land should have more transparency, and it should have been made public by now.


“I don’t think it is, or should be, the natural order of things for establishing public policy for public lands,” he says. “Real estate services are not a private developer. Public consultation and discussion is warranted for such an important public development area.”

Anyone who walks regularly along the sea wall on the south side of False Creek between Olympic Village and Cambie Bridge will be familiar with the largely under-utilized mostly industrial site. The parcel falls within one of three defined pockets of the Southeast False Creek ODP, which planned early on for residential use.

The first of the three pockets of Southeast False Creek to be developed was Olympic Village. Properties to the east, around the rail yards, have also been developed under the ODP. Concert Properties negotiated a deal with the city to redevelop a large part of that neighbourhood with market housing and social housing.

All that remains is the work yards industrial land, also known as Area 1A, which includes police parking, a very large works yard on the sea wall, a couple of heritage industrial buildings, some temporary modular housing, a small nature island and Hinge Park. About 8.94 hectares can be improved upon, and 2.9 hectares developed, according to the document.

The plan is to rezone the work yards for retail and residential housing, with some units below market, some moderate rate market housing and mostly market strata or leasehold strata, depending on economic viability and council decisions. It’s unclear whether the idea is that it remains public land or is sold off. The part about the sizes of the projects allowed has been redacted, as well as transportation networks, view cones, massing, heights, floor area, and shadowing.

The acreage would be developed in phases, starting in the east and framing around Hinge Park and working westward.

The requested changes would impact height and density, allowing owner-occupied housing for first-time buyers. The document says that 19 storeys are possible within current view cones.

In an e-mail response the city said that the land is contaminated and needs remediation and is in need of considerable infrastructure improvements. The city has hired consultants to prepare for this work and staff are awaiting results of a study.

“If a rezoning application is submitted in regards to the land in Southeast False Creek Area 1A, details will be posted online and there will be a public open house[s], which would lead up to a public hearing about the rezoning. Council will provide direction on any terms of disposition and the future land tenure once a plan for redevelopment has been approved and potential costs and funding sources are fully understood,” said the e-mail.

Mr. Renger questions why the plan wasn’t revealed when the city staff’s controversial plan for False Creek South – the 1970s neighbourhood closer to Granville Island – was presented to the public. Council rejected that plan, which included a tripling of existing density, in October, 2021. The proposal to rezone the adjacent work yards parcel to the east was submitted a few days later, in early November, 2021.

Mr. Renger shared an e-mail from deputy city manager Armin Amrolia that said the rezoning application would take two years along with ODP amendments. Ms. Amrolia says that since the ODP was created in 2007 the city’s policies have adjusted to allow for more height and density in the area, and surrounding buildings have changed the urban context.

“I thought it was very strange when they started that public consultation about what should happen to city lands in False Creek South that they excluded that whole area,” says Mr. Renger. “And they had a plan for this land, but no one knew about it.”

Mr. Renger says he couldn’t understand why major density was being proposed for the existing community of False Creek South, when there was developable land next door that wouldn’t cause upheaval.

“Shouldn’t we be consulting about vacant land instead of developed land first?” he says.

Former City of Vancouver senior urban designer Scot Hein, who worked on the original ODP for Southeast False Creek, is concerned that the city might undo a lot of the planning and design work they’d done to keep mid-rise density. At that time, they planned dense mid-rise buildings for Southeast False Creek, with some minimal allowances, he says. That’s why Olympic Village is an award-winning mid-rise neighbourhood. They didn’t want a sea of towers, such as what exists on the north side of False Creek.

Several well-known names in land use policy circles signed a letter on April 6 2004 to Mayor Larry Campbell and council that argued against a “high-rise approach” for Southeast False Creek. Those names include Chuck Brook, who worked on the recent False Creek South plan update on behalf of the city, as well as high-profile architects Peter Busby and James Cheng, UBC professor Patrick Condon, developer Michael Geller, and others.

The city can either continue that vision, which included a mixed tenure of housing types, such as affordable rental, or go in the direction of a private developer, Mr. Hein says.

Many housing advocates would like to see publicly owned land used for social housing, more in line with the Vienna model, where the city owns considerable affordable housing. The Vancouver way is to sell off public lands to maximize values.

“It’s the last waterfront site in the inner city, and as much as we argue for complete community with mixed equal tenure, there’s another view that can’t be discounted that says it’s a taxpayer owned asset, so exploit the hell out of it – meaning, 100-per-cent market housing … with magical views,” Mr. Hein says.

“And then take the proceeds and build non-market housing somewhere else where the land is cheaper. I get that argument too. It’s not like it’s obvious what we should be doing.

“But if they want to change from the council-approved intention enshrined in the original official development plan, then there has to be a public process around that because it has implications about what will then happen with False Creek South and all the work from that community.”

The city maximized the value of its property further east when it consolidated city land with land already owned by Concert Properties, creating a 6.4-acre five-tower project called The Creek. It includes the 15-storey, 135-unit Railyard Housing Co-op. The project is a community land trust model and more than half the homes offer housing to households with incomes between $25,000 and $55,000. In exchange for extra density, the developer delivered the co-op, which remains public property. Concert then built 443 market strata units in four condo towers ranging from 12 to 17 storeys, with a city park.

At the Vancouver Real Estate Forum in April, Concert’s chief executive officer David Podmore interviewed B.C. Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon, and they discussed “BC Builds,” an upcoming program that will likely use publicly owned land for new developments. Citing exorbitant land costs, Mr. Podmore had been pushing for this sort of collaboration for years.

Mr. Podmore said in an interview last month he’d prefer to see the city hang onto public land and sell leases instead, known as leasehold. In the early 1990s, his company entered into 80-year land leases on six city properties, delivering 970 rental units that they still manage today. Concert is owned by Canadian pension funds.

“The model that we did use in the early 90s, and we’ve used it occasionally on projects since that time, is leasehold interest in the land, and it can be 80 or 99 years. There are a lot of positive features for the government if it’s government owned land. But getting the land at an acceptable price on a long-term lease basis is very, very helpful.”

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