Business & Economy
February 19, 2019

Foreign Property Investment for Visas Displacing Locals in Athens

Imagine you are in a country that is looking to increase investment in a floundering real estate market. Even though real estate prices are now at 40 percent from their peak, Greece has not recovered from the 2009 debt crisis, and is offering  visas to non-European Union citizens when they invest 250,000 Euros in real estate. This is cheaper than Portugal’s offer of a visa which requires twice the investment of at least 500,000 Euros. Those prices translate to 374,000 Canadian dollars in real estate in Greece to obtain a visa, and 748,000 Canadian dollars  to get a visa in Portugal.

There are three direct flights a week from China to Greece, and for those Chinese investors in Athens real estate their buying power enables them to purchase two properties for the price of one in Portugal. Despite curbs on the exporting of currency from China,  Chinese investment has continued in Greece, along with Russian and Turkish real estate investment.

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Carla Guererra, founder and CEO of Purpose Driven Development, Planning and Strategy, and member of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), drops a startling statistic in a new blog post on the ULI website:

In a global survey of 279 companies in 2010, McKinsey found that those companies with the greatest proportion of women in their executive committees earned a return on equity of 47% higher than those without female members.

It’s a simple message — more women equals more money.

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Today, Minister of Tourism, Arts & Culture Lisa Beare announced an RFP for corporate naming rights for BC Place, the 54,500-seat stadium right next to the smaller, 12-years-newer, Rogers Arena.

Boasting the largest retractable roof in the world, BC Place is one of the many legacies of Expo ’86, and is operated by B.C. Pavilion Corporation, the Crown corporation responsible for the BC Pavilion, in that seminal year of, well, showcasing BC.

In addition to operating BC Place Stadium and the Vancouver Convention Centre, PavCo has also administered the ground lease and development of the land west of the stadium (now known as Parq Vancouver, a Paragon Gaming hotel-casino-spa-fitness concept).

But for the past decade, ever since Roofgate — sorry, Deflategate was taken — and the 2014 completion of the roof reno, BC Place has largely flown under the radar as a major, name-brand venue for a generation of youth looking for something to do.

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Maybe this won’t become a thermal coal port

Port Metro Vancouver has cancelled the permit for a project that would have resulted in more thermal coal shipments, these from Fraser Surrey Docks.  The only reason currently available is that the permit’s 83 conditions have not been met — specifically one requiring substantial start of construction by November 30, 2018.

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Placemaking is also about people that interact with place and others in their neighbourhoods. A classic example is the extraordinary Davis Family who maintain the heritage houses in the 100 block of West Tenth Avenue in Vancouver. There’s always a family member sweeping the sidewalk, or tending to a hedge, comforting in a time of residential anonymity.

Newspaper delivery people also are placemakers, connecting to every door in a community. For any one that delivered newspapers as a kid, you know that it can be a trial, whether you dealt with the snow in Saskatoon or the pouring rain in Sechelt. But who would have imagined the honesty and ingenuity of Ivan, who delivers the Saanich News. This kid sent a note to each of his customers when he missed a day delivering the paper that deserves a special mention. His note reads:

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As reported in the Zero Hedge, the tightening of money in China is impacting North American real estate, with the Wall Street Journal estimating that more than 1 billion dollars of property has been dumped in the United States as Beijing moves investors into debt-reduction regulations.

In the third quarter of 2018 “Chinese investors dumped $1.05 billion worth of prime US real estate in the third quarter while purchasing only $231 million of property, according to data firm Real Capital Analytics. This marks the second consecutive quarter where investors were net sellers of US commercial real estate, and the first time investors sold more US property than they bought since the 2008 crash.”

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While New York City real estate experts have suggested that anywhere between 10 and 20 percent of Manhattan’s retail space is vacant, that figure in itself may not be an indicator of good retail health of an area. A successful retail area may be more about the uses.

The writer Derek Thompson in the New York Times had a real estate broker walk 18 prime retail blocks. Out of 246 storefronts, only 13 had for rent signs in vacant storefronts, suggesting a vacancy rate in the manageable  5 percent range. But there is a change of use in retail. Food and drink categories have been the main businesses leasing retail spaces in New York City in the last three years, with what is termed as “fast casual” eateries multiplying  over 100 percent in ten years.

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It’s been obvious that the constant increase in Vancouver real estate pricing did not appear to be a locally driven construct.  Global Televison  and Sam Cooper’s team have referenced a confidential report from Police that studied 1,200 luxury residence purchases in Metro Vancouver in 2016. The study  found that while only ten per cent of the purchasers had criminal records, 95 per cent of those transactions were “believed by police intelligence to be linked to Chinese crime networks.” This means that  home purchases could have laundered one billion dollars of black/gray cash in 2016.

The house purchases examined were in the 3 million to 35 million dollar range. The study did not include housing between 1 and 3 million dollars or condo flipping due to a lack of resources to scrutinize over 20,000 transactions. Researchers felt that significant suspicious activity would be found in these purchases as well.

Evidence is appearing that the funding for these real estate  purchases is from the street proceeds of selling fentanyl, and laundering that cash. One unidentified expert stated “You know that Netflix show Ozark, about laundering drug cartel money? I always think that if those characters came up to Vancouver, they could launder all their cash in just one day.”

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South of the Fraser in Delta things are progressing just like you’d expect in a place pretty rooted in trucking related business, highways, and advocating for the multi-billion dollar oversized ten lane Massey Bridge.

At the first meeting of the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation the new Mayor of Delta George Harvie (who was Delta’s city manager until May 2018) wanted to get the bridge going again, despite the fact that under the previous Mayors’ Council every other Metro Mayor had rejected it. New chair of the Mayors’ Council, Jonathan Cote reminded the Mayor of Delta that having or not having a bridge was not in the Mayors’ Council’s jurisdiction.

That Delta mayor just has to wait for the findings of the Province’s consultant who has reviewed the bridge and alternatives, and the report which will be presented to the Mayors’ Council some time soon in advance of being released to the public.

Meanwhile the City of Delta received happier news that the B.C. Lottery Corporation gave final approval to the “Cascades Casino Delta” which will be located on the site of the old Delta Town and Country Inn on the Delta side of the Massey tunnel. Delta Council has fast tracked approval of this 70 million dollar facility with 61,000 square feet and an associated 800 stall parking lot. The casino will  be located on property owned by Shato Holdings, Ron Toigo of White Spot fame. Mr. Toigo is also the developer of Tsawwassen Springs, a luxury home golf course community in Tsawwassen where the current mayor of Delta resides.

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