Justice Austin Cullen, commissioner for the independent Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, hinted Monday that his team will specifically address trade-based money laundering, the ability to act on evidence of wrongdoing and the impact of criminal proceeds on the B.C. real estate market.
The commission heard opening statements from lawyers for the provincial and federal governments on the first of three hearing days this week. This week is the first of several weeklong hearing intervals to the end of the year.
If the first day is any indication, the inquiry will be a slow grind through complex matters related to government legislation, regulatory oversight and enforcement efforts.
“I think we’ll be hearing evidence that it’s a pretty elusive issue and one that’s difficult to bring down to the ground,” said Cullen.
Both senior governments largely outlined their existing efforts to address money laundering.
B.C. government lawyer Jacqueline Hughes opened by noting that “the Lower Mainland has earned an international reputation for money laundering,” and asked, “Was there wilful blindness to what’s going on?”
She said the government hopes the commission can address that question and many others over the course of the year.
Hughes’ statement focused on two key areas: government-regulated gambling and the real estate industry.
Judith Hoffman, general counsel for the federal government, began by saying the inquiry is a provincial one but money laundering “obviously has many federal dimensions.” Ottawa is assisting the inquiry to understand the scope of the problem in B.C. and the effectiveness of federal enforcement, she said.
Hoffman said new federal regulations are coming for foreign virtual currencies that have yet to face the kind of regulations that govern credit cards or bank accounts. Likewise, cryptocurrencies present similar oversight issues.
Cullen interjected at one point to note that the commission may want to specifically look at trade-based money laundering and may seek federal help in better understanding current efforts to address it.
Hoffman addressed a maze of federal agencies whose work falls under the umbrella of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act.
The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (FINTRAC) “has an enormous mandate,” with upwards of 25 million reports annually, Cullen said.
“I am interested in perhaps turning Canada’s attention to that,” he told Hoffman.
Hoffman noted the interconnected roles of FINTRAC, RCMP, the Canada Revenue Agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, which regulates banks and money service businesses. The Canada Mortgage Housing Corp. also plays a role as the federal regulator of housing policies.
Using money service businesses as an example, Hoffman explained how the RCMP’s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit is working with the B.C. Attorney General and City of Richmond on a provincial licensing program.
Both senior governments are looking at new regulations for greater transparency in business ownership.
Hughes spoke about B.C.’s ongoing public consultation process to create a provincial public registry of corporate beneficial ownership, as it has done for property ownership – key recommendations of the Expert Panel on Money Laundering in Real Estate, commissioned by the province in 2019.
That panel provided a broad picture of money laundering in B.C., estimating that between $800 million and $5.3 billion was cleaned through B.C. real estate in one year.
The Cullen inquiry has been spurred largely by the perceived impact of dirty money on the real estate industry and its impact on B.C.’s middle class. Furthermore, as noted by Hughes, criminal proceeds from the opioid crisis are flowing through casinos and ending up in real estate.
The BC NDP government has created a new Crown agency to regulate the real estate and finance sectors in the province – the B.C. Financial Services Authority, which now controls the formerly independent role of the superintendent of real estate.
Real estate at critical juncture to embrace dynamic workplaces – PR Newswire
JLL’s Future of Work Survey shows that while hybrid work is here to stay, the office remains critical to business operations
CHICAGO, Aug. 18, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — As businesses continue to evolve their workplaces to best meet the needs of their employees, JLL’s (NYSE: JLL) global Future of Work Survey finds that 72% of decision makers believe the office is critical to doing business. The research shows that over the next several years companies anticipate hybrid work to become the dominant model and will be looking across their real estate portfolios to re-think their office spaces, invest in new technology and prioritize sustainability.
“The next three years will prove to be an inflection point for real estate as businesses plot their future path and rethink the purpose of their portfolio,” said Dr. Marie Puybaraud, Global Head of Research, JLL Work Dynamics. “The changes accelerated by the pandemic represent an opportunity to pause, think about a long-term real estate strategy and how it aligns with future business priorities.”
Rethinking the office layout to accommodate hybrid working in the long-term
The mass adoption of hybrid work will have a lasting impact, with 77% of CRE leaders agreeing that offering remote or hybrid working will be critical to attracting and retaining talent in the future. As the trend toward dynamic working will continue, successfully operationalizing hybrid working will be the most important strategic priority for commercial real estate (CRE) executives over the next three years. This includes exploring flexible space options, with 43% of companies planning to accelerate investment in flexible space between now and 2025, and 51% saying they will lease flexible space through a third-party provider.
“As the office finds a new purpose post-pandemic as a destination for collaboration in employees’ hybrid workstyles, occupiers will need to continue increasing their investments in creative spaces,” said Cynthia Kantor, Chief Client Value & Growth Officer, JLL Work Dynamics. “Enhancing socialization, especially among a large, often geographically dispersed, workforce will be critical to future talent strategies, as the office accelerates its role as the innovation hub of the work ecosystem.”
Forty-five percent of organizations consider collaboration to be one of the primary purposes of office space and 73% have planned or are planning to make all office spaces open and collaborative, with no dedicated desk spaces. Many companies are also investing in spaces that support new workforce priorities around health and wellbeing.
Environmental and social aspirations will shape future portfolio transformation
As organizations face ever increasing pressure to deliver clear outcomes in the race to net zero and create social value through real estate, 77% say investing in quality space is a priority. With green strategies having a direct impact on real estate decisions, 74% say they are likely to pay a premium for green credentials; further, more than half of occupiers (56%) plan to do so by 2025.
However, stakeholder aspirations are not solely environmental, with nearly 8 out of 10 companies saying their employees expect their workplaces to have a positive impact on society. This means increasing investment in social considerations will be equally as important as funding environmental objectives. With diversity, inclusion and wellbeing now falling high on the corporate agenda, companies are underpinning these objectives with further investment and resources. Seventy-nine percent of respondents agree that their organizations are acting today to make the workplace more inclusive and diverse for all employees.
Investing in technology investments to boost workplace performance and productivity
Technology and data will be critical foundations in the future of successful real estate operations, but the gap that needs to be filled is immense. Only 13% of CRE executives say they are collecting data on an ongoing or real-time basis using advanced analytics. With the transformative power of technology to shape the dynamic workplace, companies are focused on ramping up investments in intelligent solutions to unlock new opportunities for boosting workforce performance and productivity.
The research finds a clear roadmap for CRE technology shaped around 15 anchor technologies, including workplace apps, remote working technology and virtual reality.1 As organizations plan future investments, CRE leaders are focused on key strategic areas like sustainability and employee wellbeing. By 2025, most companies (78%) plan to have incorporated over ten of the anchor technologies in their operations, and 40% plan to incorporate all 15.
Real estate needs are becoming more sophisticated and complex
To respond to the complex range of future of work challenges, CRE leaders will focus more on harnessing specialist skills to achieve their strategic objectives. Seventy-five percent of leading CRE functions anticipate greater reliance on external partners, with the two top areas for outsourcing growth expected to be health and wellbeing services (44%) and sustainability strategy (44%). Further, as technology becomes a crucial platform to boost performance levels on all fronts, 43% say they will need more outsourcing support for CRE technology solutions over the next three years.
1 For a list of the 15 anchor technologies, refer to p. 30 in JLL Future of Work Survey (August 2022)
JLL (NYSE: JLL) is a leading professional services firm that specializes in real estate and investment management. JLL shapes the future of real estate for a better world by using the most advanced technology to create rewarding opportunities, amazing spaces and sustainable real estate solutions for our clients, our people and our communities. JLL is a Fortune 500 company with annual revenue of $19.4 billion, operations in over 80 countries and a global workforce of more than 102,000 as of June 30, 2022. JLL is the brand name, and a registered trademark, of Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated. For further information, visit jll.com.
Contact: Gayle Kantro
Phone: + 1 312 228 2795
Email: [email protected]
Why real estate startups are hot right now, according to a top VC – Fortune
Good morning. Finance writer Anne Sraders here, filling in for Jessica.
Flow, the new residential real estate startup from infamous WeWork founder Adam Neumann, ruffled feathers this week after Andreessen Horowitz announced on Monday that it had funded it—shoveling $350 million into Flow, per The New York Times. The most eye-catching part of the announcement was, of course, the founder, Neumann. His previous startup WeWork bungled its first attempt at an IPO, cost investors billions of dollars, and ultimately ejected Neumann in Hollywood-worthy fashion.
But like WeWork, the new startup is tethered to real estate—a seemingly increasingly hot area for venture capitalists. Over the years startups have popped up looking to solve or build on disparate corners of the real estate market, whether by offering community-focused residential spaces (like Neumann’s Flow apparently intends to, with a concept some are comparing to dorm rooms for adults—as well as, potentially, crypto?) or pitching fractional real estate investing.
But the reason why some VCs are funneling cash into the sector isn’t simply because home prices have soared in recent years. Brian O’Malley, partner at Forerunner Ventures, told me this week that instead, they’re trying to address a deeper dissatisfaction (and dysfunctions) among consumers and investors.
As investors, “we’re trying to be less focused on timing the market and what might look great in the next six months, and to be more focused on, ‘What systematic change do people want to have happen over the next decade or two?’” O’Malley says. “The relationship people have with their housing isn’t exactly what they maybe want anymore.”
Forerunner has invested in a couple real estate-tied startups, most recently Arrived, a company that enables everyday investors to purchase shares in single-family rental properties and receive dividends in return. Forerunner led the company’s $25 million Series A round in May (in total, the startup has raised roughly $71 million, per PitchBook data). Other backers of Arrived include Jeff Bezos’s investment company Bezos Expeditions; PSL Ventures; and Spencer Rascoff, the cofounder and former CEO of Zillow. On theme, Forerunner also invested in Homebound, a tech-enabled homebuilding platform, back in 2018.
According to O’Malley, real estate is, if not the largest, “one of the largest personal expenditures that [people] have, and there’s not been a lot of technology applied to change the way the business works. What’s exciting about that is that you’re looking at, you know, ultimately trillions of dollars of spend and an opportunity for change.” That’s “what’s got us excited,” he says.
O’Malley suggests that unlike other industries, real estate has not seen big productivity gains over recent decades. “Building things is not getting cheaper, regulation is getting more complicated, the actual financing component is still, you know, a bit of a small ecosystem of the people that were always able to finance these properties,” he notes. “The way that you buy houses, the way that you rent properties—it hasn’t really changed with other categories,” like transportation (think Uber) or restaurants (think Toast), he added.
There are clearly “different approaches to the general concept,” notes O’Malley; just look at startups like Neumann’s Flow or Arrived, aimed at tackling very different problems. And even with other competitors that focus on fractional ownership within real estate, like Fractional and LEX (the latter of which raised $15 million in January), O’Malley argues it could be more of a “rising tide” to lift all boats, as the startups take different approaches to the market.
Of course, fractional investing in real estate isn’t new. “The pitch is not that this is a get rich quick, put all your money in this and see what happens,” O’Malley suggests of startups like Arrived. “It’s like, ‘Hey, this is an important part of a balanced portfolio,’ and some level of exposure, especially the kinds of exposure we’re getting [with Arrived], which…is not highly leveraged and is dividend-focused, is healthy for everyday investors.”
What first comes to my mind is the host of big risks out there—not least a possible upcoming recession, rising interest rates, still-constrained housing supply, and a cooling residential market. Meanwhile some have raised concerns about the model of taking home properties (which people might buy to live in) off the inventory-constrained market when buying up single-family homes for such startups—the worry being that buying property to rent for investors could make homes more unaffordable for everybody else. (In defense of Arrived, O’Malley notes that “unlike other players in the market, Arrived isn’t bringing institutional money to compete with local buyers.”)
But VCs like O’Malley believe there’s a lot of change right now in how people are living and working, and “with those challenges comes opportunity.” “The category is still nascent,” he says.
We’ll have to see if these startups, like the properties they’re focused on, are built to last.
Jackson Fordyce curated the deals section of today’s newsletter.
– DriveNets, a Ra’anana, Israel-based cloud-native networking solutions provider, raised $262 million in Series C funding. D2 Investments led the round and was joined by investors including Bessemer Venture Partners, Pitango, D1 Capital, Atreides Management, and Harel Insurance Investments & Financial Services.
– Orna Therapeutics, a Cambridge, Mass.-based RNA therapies biotechnology company, raised $221 million in Series B funding. Merck, MPM Capital, BioImpact Capital, and others invested in the round.
– HiBob, a New York and Tel Aviv-based HR platform, raised $150 million in Series D funding. General Atlantic led the round and was joined by Bessemer Venture Partners and others.
– VidMob, a New York-based advertising platform for brands, raised $110 million in Series D funding led by Shamrock Capital.
– Bevi, a Boston-based smart water cooler developer and provider, raised $70 million in Series D funding from Cowen Sustainable Investments.
– Super, a London-based payments platform, raised £22.5 million ($26.5 million) in funding. Accel led the round and was joined by investors including Union Square Ventures, LocalGlobe, and other angels.
– Agora, a New York and Tel Aviv-based SaaS company for real estate firms, raised $20 million in Series A funding. Insight Partners led the round and was joined by Aleph.
– GrayMatter Robotics, a Gardena, Calif.-based robotics company, raised $20 million in Series A funding. Bow Capital led the round and was joined by investors including B Capital Group, Calibrate Ventures, OCA Ventures, Pathbreaker Ventures, Stage Venture Partners, 3M Ventures, and Swift Ventures.
– Tessera, formerly Fractional, a New York-based NFT trading platform, raised $20 million in Series A funding. Paradigm led the round and was joined by investors including Focus Labs, Uniswap Labs Ventures, E Girl Capital, Yunt Capital, and other angels.
– BRAVO SIERRA, a New York-based male personal care company, raised $17 million in Series B funding. The Merchant Club led the round and was joined by investors including Capstar Ventures, Redo Ventures, AF Ventures, and Mousse Partners.
– Trial Library, a San Francisco-based oncology clinical trials company, raised $5 million in seed funding. Lux Capital partner Deena Shakir led the round and was joined by investors including NEXT VENTŪRES managing partner Julian Eison, Unseen Capital, and other angels.
– Microverse, a San Francisco-based online school for remote software developers, raised $4 million in Series A extension funding. Northzone, General Catalyst, All Iron Ventures, True Equity, and other angels invested in the round.
– Quaddro, a São Paulo-based management solutions platform for small businesses and entrepreneurs, raised $3.2 million in seed funding. Valor Capital Group fund led the round and was joined by investors including Grão, Bridge Latam, NXTP and other angels.
– Insomnia Labs, a New York-based Web3 advertising and technology company, raised $1.5 million in funding. Polygon, Animoca Brands, Eden Ventures, HBJ Investments, and Concept Art House invested in the round.
– ARC Health, backed by Thurston Group, acquired Southeast Psych, a Charlotte-based mental health provider. Financial terms were not disclosed.
– McCarthy Capital acquired a minority stake in WellnessLiving, an Ontario-based business management software company. Financial terms were not disclosed.
– Francisco Partners agreed to acquire Litmos, a San Ramon, Calif.-based corporate training solution provider, from SAP. Financial terms were not disclosed.
– CI&T agreed to acquire Transpire Technology, a Melbourne-based technology consultancy. Financial terms were not disclosed.
– Pattern acquired Current, a Lehi, Utah-based influencer marketing platform. Financial terms were not disclosed.
– Sage agreed to acquire Lockstep, a Seattle-based accounting automation platform for workflows between companies. Financial terms were not disclosed.
– WilliamsMarston acquired Paradigm Advisory Group, an Atlanta-based boutique advisory firm. Financial terms were not disclosed.
– PAG, a Hong Kong-based private equity firm, is considering delaying its $2 billion initial public offering in Hong Kong to 2023 due to market volatility, according to Bloomberg. The company is backed by Blackstone.
FUNDS + FUNDS OF FUNDS
– Shima Capital, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm, raised $200 million for their first fund focused on early-stage blockchain startups.
– Red Cell Partners, a Tyson, Va.-based incubation firm, hired Roger W. Ferguson, Jr. as chief investment officer, chairman of the investment committee, partner, and a member of the board of directors.Formerly, he was with TIAA.
– Sumeru Equity Partners, a San Mateo, Calif.-based private equity firm, promoted Pejman Pourmousa to operating partner, Sofija Ostojic and Nick Sheehan to vice presidents, and Raymond Shen and Blake Shott to senior associates.
Local builders still busy as real estate market takes a break – Times Colonist
The real estate market may be taking a breather, but there has been no such break for homebuilders in the region judging by new housing start figures from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
The numbers, released Tuesday, show 2,681 new homes were started through the first seven months of this year in Greater Victoria, ahead of last year’s pace when 2,500 new units were started.
It’s a tale of multi-family projects in two parts of the region, said Casey Edge, executive director of the Victoria Residential Builders Association.
Edge said Victoria and Langford are once again doing all of the heavy lifting.
“There are a bunch of municipalities that just fly under the radar every year, like Oak Bay that still doesn’t have zoning for duplex housing,” he said noting Oak Bay has built just 19 new homes this year, while North Saanich has started 16.
“And people question why do we have a housing affordability problem,” he said.
“Well, you have just a handful of municipalities that are really carrying the weight for 13 municipalities.”
The lion’s share has been done by Victoria so far this year.
With a focus on condo and rental apartments, the city has seen 1,219 homes started, well ahead of last year’s 696. Langford has started 663 so far this year, off last year’s pace of 862 through the end of July.
Edge said what’s missing is the missing middle housing — townhomes and houseplexes, rather than the usual condos and single-family homes — that can suit small families and provide more housing options in all parts of the region.
The fact builders in at least two of the region’s centres are busy may help the market catch up a bit, as the number of property sales has slowed considerably. The B.C. Real Estate Association released numbers on Tuesday showing Victoria’s sales dropped 37.5 per cent in July compared with the same time last year, while the Island saw a 40 per cent drop and the province fell 42 per cent.
“High mortgage rates continued to lower sales activity in July,” said BCREA chief economist Brendon Ogmundson.
“Many regions around the province have seen sales slip to levels well below normal for this time of year.”
At the same time, provincial active listings rose 28 per cent year-over-year.
Inventories remain quite low, but the slow pace of sales has tipped some markets into balanced or even buyers’ market territory, the association noted.
Year-to-date, residential unit sales were down 29.3 per cent to 56,801 units, while the average residential price was up 13.2 per cent to $1.03 million.
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