Avenue Living’s Most-Read Content for 2023

Most-Read Content for 2023

Examining the economy and markets heading into 2024, we see a landscape dotted with opportunities. We believe our strategy of measured growth, sustainability, and defensibility has put us in a strong position for the next leg of our journey. 

As we reflect on the year, we’re looking back on the blogs and white papers that resonated most with our readers in 2023.  

The topics run the gamut from our partnership-oriented agricultural investment strategy to academic research on key stakeholder segments for our business, to our efforts in leading the charge on sustainable workforce housing. 

At the heart of it all is our commitment to providing value for our residents, investors, and the communities where we’ve put down roots.  

BLOG: 

Harvesting Alpha in Canada’s Agricultural Heartland 

We unpack how the Avenue Living Agricultural Land Trust and its successor strategy, Tract Farmland Partners LP, are set to benefit from long-term tailwinds while prioritizing an active approach and partnership with the community.  

WHITE PAPER: 

An International Examination of Market Orientation and Performance in Residential Property Management 

In this peer-reviewed study, our leaders in the Capital Markets team, Gabriel Millard and Cameron Hills, collaborated with the University of Regina’s Dr. Grant Wilson to examine how a commitment to understanding and serving residents translates into tangible benefits — including loyalty, trust, pride in accommodations, and timely rent payments — for residential property managers. 

BLOG: 

Multi-Family Retrofits: The Case for Going Green 

Following on from our 2022 partnership with the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB), this blog outlines the energy-conservation measures (ECMs) we’re planning across our Canadian portfolio of multi-family rental properties. It also uncovers our framework for ensuring the viability and impact of deep energy retrofit projects. 

WHITE PAPER: 

Examining Personal Financial Advisors’ Knowledge, Client Recommendations, and Personal Investments in Private Real Estate and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) 

In another collaborative study published in the Journal of Financial Services Marketing (JFSM), our Chief Investment Officer, Jason Jogia, worked with Dr. Grant Wilson to investigate the under-researched subject of financial advisors’ REIT knowledge and engagement with REITs, including how their personal perceptions influence client recommendations. JFSM is a leading journal in finance and marketing, ranked B on the ABDC list, and recognized by all management and real estate journal quality lists. 

BLOG: 

Revitalizing Canada’s Housing Landscape: The Crucial Role of Retrofits 

As the country manages two major challenges — housing affordability and environmental impact — it’s becoming clear that retrofits to existing buildings are a key part of the solution. This blog looks at how strategic retrofits can help solve Canada’s increasingly critical housing supply challenge. 

This commentary and the information contained herein are for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute an offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy, any securities or related financial instruments. This article may contain forward-looking statements. Readers should refer to information contained on our website at https://avenuelivingam.wpenginepowered.com/forward-looking-statements for additional information regarding forward-looking statements and certain risks associated with them. 

Investing in Alberta Real Estate | Edmonton

Invest in Edmonton Real Estate

Avenue Living has always believed that the Prairies is a region filled with promise. We were founded here and have strategically invested in Alberta since 2006, and today we own and operate approximately 3,500 multi-family units in Edmonton alone. While others may have looked eastward, or to the coasts, we have kept our eyes firmly on western Canada.

“We’re focused on continuing to build our multi-family residential portfolio in the Prairies,” says Gabe Millard, SVP Capital Markets — Equity & Research. “There’s plenty of opportunity to deliver safe, affordable, comfortable housing to our target demographic, workforce housing residents.” Amid rising interest rates and inflation, Alberta attracts people from other provinces as well as new arrivals to Canada due to its affordable cost of living and strong employment prospects. 

Promising Market Demographics 

Alberta has experienced population growth in the past year, especially inter-provincial migration — in 2023, it led the country, with a rate significantly higher than other provinces. Edmonton’s population is expected to grow from 1.25 million to 1.86 million by 2033, and the city is expected to surpass the two-million mark by 2041. In 2023 alone, the province grew by 3.5%

Many industry experts anticipate the demand for multi-family residential rentals to increase as the population ages, a trend that holds true in many municipalities. The demand for apartment-style housing tends to be high among younger populations just forming households, then rises again as people grow older and seek alternatives to single-family homes. 

Alberta is known for its affordability, and Edmonton has a reputation as an affordable “big city.” In 2022, a benchmarking study ranked Edmonton among the most affordable in the country.

Industry and Employment 

In addition to being an affordable city, Edmonton boasts a high median renter income, 42% higher than the national median thanks to strong employment opportunities. While the province is renowned for its energy sector, an industry that has driven employment for decades, Edmontonians also work in a variety of other industries. The city has a strong technology sector, fueled by its reputation as a leading research and education centre — the University of Alberta is home to the National Institute for Nanotechnology and the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute. The city is also home to several regional offices of major banks. 

Edmonton’s largest employer is Alberta Health Services (AHS); the government of Alberta is second. The University of Alberta is also a top employer, and one of the country’s leading research institutions. In total, there are six post-secondary institutions in the city, which provide services to 180,000 full and part-time students each year. Other leading employers include manufacturers, engineering firms, and retail — the West Edmonton Mall is the largest shopping centre in North America, and the city is also home to the continent’s largest open-air retail development. 

Edmonton’s location is also a draw for the distribution and logistics sector, it’s home to a major intermodal freight facility, and CN Rail has announced intentions to consolidate operations in Edmonton. 

Culture and Recreation 

Edmonton has a thriving cultural scene. Known for its arts festivals (including the Edmonton Fringe), you’ll find 25 local theatre companies, contemporary dance troupes, and more. The city is also filled with museums and art galleries, including the Royal Alberta Museum and the Alberta Art Gallery.   

The ICE District — the area surrounding the Rogers Place Arena — is home to restaurants, entertainment, retail, hotels, and office space, all in the downtown core. The revitalized, mixed-use district attracts tourists and Edmontonians alike.  

Nearby, the Edmonton River Valley Park attracts visitors on foot or on bike. The park is the largest urban park in North America, and boasts more than 160 km of maintained pathways that connect 20 major parks. People flock to the park year-round to boat or canoe, for picnics, to run, walk, bike, or cross-country ski and skate in the winter months.  

South of the valley is Old Strathcona, a historic district home to retail, farmer’s markets, pop-up art galleries, and restaurants. The neighbourhood is a registered provincial historic area, populated with heritage buildings erected in the early part of the 20th century.  

On the horizon 

Avenue Living is investing in a significant renovation of its Capital Tower building, a 12-storey, 179-unit complex in the city’s downtown core, acting as a gateway to Chinatown. This set of deep retrofits includes an 85-foot art installation by renowned Edmonton artist Lance Cardinal, and this mural will be constructed as a vertical solar array to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The refurbishment of this building will contribute to the growing community in this district, which is on the upswing.  

That sense of community is something we strive to foster in all our properties — and we see plenty of opportunities for growth across the city. 

This commentary and the information contained herein are for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute an offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy, any securities or related financial instruments. This article may contain forward-looking statements. Readers should refer to information contained on our website at https://avenuelivingam.wpenginepowered.com/forward-looking-statements for additional information regarding forward-looking statements and certain risks associated with them. 

Capital Tower: A Beacon of Sustainability and Community Revival in Edmonton 

Capital Tower in Edmonton

On the periphery of Edmonton’s downtown core sits a 12-storey, 179-unit building that Avenue Living is transforming into a modern, affordable, and sustainable multi-family residential and commercial building. 

Built in 1970, Capital Tower is located at the gateway to the city’s Chinatown district. And as with so many buildings of its vintage, it’s due for a refresh. Upon completion, the building will provide warm, inviting homes to the vibrant surrounding community.  

Art Meets Sustainability 

Capital Tower’s revitalization focuses heavily on sustainability and reducing its environmental footprint — measures that will also provide an improved living experience for residents. Most notably, this project will include the largest vertical array of solar panels ever proposed in North America — one that also doubles as a stunning piece of art.  

The north face of the building will be home to a 26-metre (85-foot) tall mural designed and illustrated by Edmonton Indigenous artist Lance Cardinal. The mural represents the unity, coexistence, and cultural similarities between First Nations and Chinese Cultures using imagery from the Cree seven sacred grandfather teachings and the Chinese zodiac. Thanks to technology from solar panel innovator Mitrex, the landmark artwork also harnesses the energy of the sun to help power the building.  

Beneath the solar façade, new insulation on the building’s exterior walls — which will add an R-value of 12 — will improve the efficiency of the interior. Coupled with new triple-glazed windows, the measures will help keep residents comfortable year-round and allow the heating and cooling systems to run more efficiently. 

But the upgrades don’t stop with the building’s exterior. 

“We’re making improvements to almost every building system in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” says Neal Shannon, Avenue Living’s Senior Vice President, Capital Projects.  

A Broader Commitment to ESG 

These improvements are part of our broader commitment to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives across our portfolio. This approximately $26 million project is made possible thanks to favourable financing terms with BMO. The arrangement allows us to access funds from both BMO and the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) to complete the green retrofits, which meet CIB’s Environmental Consumption Measures (ECMs).  

“This project is separate from Avenue Living’s partnership program with CIB,” notes Daniel Veniot, Associate Vice President, Capital Markets — Debt. “But BMO has its own relationship with the CIB, allowing us to access advantageous lending terms through their programs. Together, these terms will allow us to offer residents upgraded suites at fair market prices, so we can continue to serve our target demographic.” 

Meeting the CIB’s ECMs also allows us to take part in the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) multi-unit loan insurance project, MLI Select. MLI Select is a points system that offers insurance incentives based on affordability, energy efficiency, and accessibility. “This project qualifies for MLI Select based on the environmental upgrades alone,” says Veniot. 

Building Comfort and Community 

The renovations and retrofits are designed to improve the experience for those who call the building home. The property will have features and amenities that foster community, including a rooftop garden, library, games and movie room, fitness centre, storage area, and refurbished commercial space on the main floor.  

The in-suite upgrades will provide increased comfort for residents while contributing to emissions reductions. Heat pumps in each suite — along with smart thermostats — will allow residents to accurately control the temperature of their environment through both heating and cooling. The addition of new makeup air units also helps improve air circulation throughout the building, eliminating cooking odours, improving air quality, and keeping temperatures more even throughout the space. These measures all contribute to improved health for occupants, according to the Canada Green Building Council

Other improvements include LED light fixtures in both common areas and suites, modernized elevators, and updated bathrooms and kitchens. Taken together, the renovations all contribute to an elevated experience for future residents.  

A Community on the Rise 

The result will be a high-quality, safe, affordable and comfortable property that contributes to the revitalization of the surrounding community. In recent years, the area has seen renewed education, hospitality, and entertainment options. The building is within walking distance of the ICE District (Edmonton’s entertainment hub), Epcor Tower (one of the newest AA office buildings in the city), and Grant MacEwan University. It’s also close to transit lines which gives residents easy access to the University of Alberta and other business districts. Nearby, the Station Lands development is revitalizing an underused part of the downtown core, transforming it into a vibrant, walkable community. 

The project, which is already underway, is set to be completed in late 2024. We’ll provide regular, more detailed updates here, so follow along for the full story as it unfolds.  

 

This commentary and the information contained herein are for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute an offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy, any securities or related financial instruments. This article may contain forward-looking statements. Readers should refer to information contained on our website at https://avenuelivingam.com/forward-looking-statements for additional information regarding forward-looking statements and certain risks associated with them. 

The Benefits of Submetering in Multi-Family Residential 

Submetering in Multi-Family Residential

Rising energy costs and the environmental impacts of energy consumption are at the forefront of Canadians’ minds. Statistics Canada reported that Alberta’s electricity prices rose by 128% year-over-year in July. These increased costs, along with the environmental impacts around energy consumption, have prompted organizations and individuals to look for ways to reduce their utility usage. 

Traditional methods of charging residents for utilities by including them in fees (based on square footage, for example) might seem straightforward on the surface, but it can end up costing both property owners and residents more.  

Residential and commercial buildings in Canada account for 17% of our energy consumption. Reducing that consumption is a key part of the overarching strategy to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and help meet the Government of Canada’s commitment to achieve net-zero by 2050.  

Different Methods of Utilities Distribution 

There are three main ways to deliver utilities to a residential unit in a multi-family property.  

  1. Master meters: Traditionally, utilities have been delivered to a master meter, and the total cost of these services is split evenly between the units and included in each resident’s monthly rent. Every resident pays the same price, regardless of how much water or electricity they use each month.  
  1. Individual unit meters: Some properties use individual meters in each suite, and utility hookups and pricing are managed directly by the resident. They assume the costs of access fees and other riders connected to their utility bill and are subject to rate fluctuations. In this case, property owners have no visibility into what the resident is using or how much they pay. 
  1. Submeters: Properties with submeters receive water, gas, and electricity through a master meter, but also have a submeter in each unit to measure individual consumption. Residents pay the submetering company for their utilities, based on how much they use. The property owner might assume the access fees and the resident may have the benefit of a lower rate if the property manager has negotiated one with utility providers. 

The Benefits of Submetering 

When it comes to energy consumption, knowledge is power. With submeters in each unit, both residents and property owners have a deeper understanding of consumption habits and opportunities to reduce waste. 

A clear picture. Individual submetering allows residents to see how much energy they use, and property owners can understand their residents’ usage. With a clear picture of consumption, property owners can make informed decisions about equipment maintenance and upgrades, finding ways to optimize the building’s energy use overall. In turn, residents can see their own consumption patterns, and make decisions accordingly.  

Responsibility… and accountability. With submeters, residents are responsible for their own energy, heat, and water use rather than paying a portion of the bill for the entire building. They only pay for what they use, rather than what their neighbours might be consuming. This motivates residents to be mindful of their daily energy usage. 

The potential for better rates. Some property owners, like Avenue Living, can negotiate lower bulk utility rates for their residents rather than a single customer could on their own. In addition, property owners might assume some or all of the access fees.  

Environmental benefits through reduced emissions. Studies suggest that submeters can reduce a building’s energy consumption significantly — a study in New York revealed that submetering reduced consumption by 18-25%, while a building in Ontario recorded even bigger savings (approximately 40%). This is likely because residents can see their consumption and make choices to reduce it, and property owners can realize the tangible benefits of installing energy-efficient fixtures.  

Increased efficiency and building value. The ability to monitor consumption also helps property owners and managers spot equipment failures or building inefficiencies. A spike in water consumption could indicate a leak, for example, or high energy use could flag the need for appliance upgrades. This insight allows the property owner to be proactive about maintenance, increasing the property value and comfort for residents. 

Avenue Living’s Submetering Strategy 

Avenue Living has transitioned several buildings to a submetered system. The submeters we have installed are certified by Measurement Canada, and the program is implemented through a certified third-party provider.  

“Avenue Living still covers the cost of utilities in common areas and vacant units,” notes Daniel Klemky, Energy Manager at Avenue Living. “But with submetering we can now give residents the tools to take control of their own costs and be accountable for them. In many cases, we also give people the benefit of a much lower utility rate, due to our negotiations with the providers as part of our procurement strategy.” 

The comprehensive insight we get from submetering will allow us to accurately measure the impact of our energy efficiency capital improvements (e.g., replacing a furnace or installing solar panels). And as we continue to upgrade our properties through the deep energy retrofit program, in partnership with the Canada Infrastructure Bank, submetering will play a crucial role in meeting the reporting and data collection requirements.   

Submetering provides numerous benefits to both the resident and the owner and is becoming a common tool for property managers to quickly take control of energy consumption, and reduce emissions and operational costs.  

This commentary and the information contained herein are for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute an offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy, any securities or related financial instruments. This article may contain forward-looking statements. Readers should refer to information contained on our website at https://avenuelivingam.wpenginepowered.com/forward-looking-statements for additional information regarding forward-looking statements and certain risks associated with them. 

Revitalizing Canada’s Housing Landscape: The Crucial Role of Retrofits  

retrofits

As cities across North America deal with a growing crisis in affordable housing, it is clear that the solution is not one-size-fits-all and it involves more than simply building new stock. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) estimates that Canada needs to add an additional 3.5 million units, above the current build pace, by 2030 to restore housing affordability. With rising interest rates and inflated costs, the ability to own a home is becoming out of reach for many. Further, there’s a concern that there are not enough rental properties for the population who need them. Add to that the constraints of building permits, labour shortages, and spiralling costs for developers, it is essential to look at other ways to support individuals and families. One such approach is to retrofit existing housing stock.  

While building new homes is essential and necessary, reinvigorating existing housing is equally as important to ensure that people have safe and comfortable homes and to curb greenhouse gas emissions. With approximately 90% of Canada’s existing multi-family housing built before the year 2000, many of these buildings are reaching an age where renovations and upgrades are required to improve overall energy efficiency and quality.  

In a recently published CMHC report, it states that in order to achieve housing affordability, there must be a “variety of housing options available” including those for both ownership and rental, a mix of single-family and multi-family homes, and new builds and retrofits. “Partnerships and innovation are needed in all parts of the housing system,” says the report.  

Strategic Retrofits Are Key 

In 2022, Avenue Living embarked on a landmark partnership with the Canada Infrastructure Bank and other key industry partners to retrofit approximately half of its multi-family portfolio. The initiative demonstrates a solid business case for the property management industry to make widespread changes.  

Catalys, an energy and sustainability program designer, and one of the partners we have engaged to help achieve our deep retrofit goals, understands exactly what a difference these improvements can make. The firm has a track record of working with a variety of enterprise clients to help reduce their environmental impact by designing energy and sustainability programs, either through retrofits or improved processes. Catalys employs a data-driven technology and AI analysis model that helps property owners maximize the environmental benefits of retrofits and other investments. 

“The environmental impacts of demolishing an existing building and replacing it with a new development can be significant,” says Luke Ferdinands, CEO of Catalys. “Both deconstruction and construction are waste-intensive, and a deep refurbishment of an existing building cuts operational carbon emissions — without the emissions associated with building new.   Approximately 60% of embodied carbon emissions are associated with the sub-structure, frame, upper floors, and roof of a building. A deep retrofit will generally retain these elements, meaning on average, the carbon footprint of a refurbished building is about half that of the newly-built replacement.”  

The firm has provided consultation and support to Avenue Living throughout the project, from feasibility studies to ongoing program management. As the retrofits scale, Ferdinands and his team will continue to assist with managing complexity, verifying performance, and measuring success through data tracking and analysis.  

Benefits of Retrofits, from the Bottom (line) Up 

Retrofitting can be completed much more efficiently than new builds, which often require lengthy schedules due to permitting and other considerations. “In Canada, a new building can take well over two years to be completed”, says Ferdinands. “Retrofits can take far less time — and they can benefit from streamlined processes that some municipalities have in place to expedite the permitting for such projects. 

“When executed properly, deep retrofits can deliver buildings that appear to be totally different — they look newer and with a more modern aesthetic,” continues Ferdinands. “But more importantly, the resident experience of living there is also significantly improved.” 

Studies show that living in an energy-efficient or “green” building improves residents’ overall quality of life. Not only are they living in more comfortable spaces, but they experience better health through upgraded lighting and balanced heating and cooling. In many cases, these buildings can become a vital part of the social fabric of a community — as Canada’s Green Building Council (CGBC) notes, “everyone benefits when community members have access to healthy, affordable housing and when communities are resilient and can withstand extreme weather events.” 

Not all retrofits involve turning over the entire building; some upgrades can be quite simple, yet still achieve positive results. Less complex upgrades, such as boiler replacement or rooftop solar PV installations, mean residents can remain in place as retrofits occur with minimal disruption in their daily lives. “From a continuity perspective, it’s really important to make these upgrades as seamless as possible  to minimize the impacts to the people who have made that building their home,” says Ferdinands. 

These retrofits bring aging stock up to today’s standard, but they also ensure buildings are optimized for the future. “We’re making these buildings much more resilient,” says Ferdinands. “With more extreme weather — hotter summers, colder winters, and wildfire smoke – these upgrades really tighten up the building. We’re redoing roofs, adding insulation, improving windows, all of which help the building perform better in different conditions.” 

Social Benefits 

Ensuring existing buildings remain comfortable, desirable, and affordable places to live helps preserve communities. The ability to live in established neighbourhoods close to transit routes, schools, employment, and amenities offers a better quality of life for renters and encourages neighbourhoods to remain vibrant. Residents who are happy with their neighbourhood and comfortable in their homes are likely to stay, bringing added economic stability to a community. In addition, retrofitted, affordable rentals support a growing and stable population, and encourage local economic growth as working renters, seniors, and children all participate in their community, supporting nearby businesses and services. 

“Renewing these older buildings is vital for communities,” says Gabriel Millard, SVP, Capital Markets – Equity & Research, who notes that many are often demolished and replaced with larger, more expensive rental properties. “In Canada, where we have fewer and fewer options at the less costly end of the rental spectrum, renewal helps extend the lifespan of these buildings so they can keep housing families. We’re making sure that important piece of the rental puzzle stays on the market.”  

Retrofits for the Future 

As we deal with two major challenges — housing affordability and environmental impact — it’s becoming clear that retrofits to existing buildings are a key part of the solution. Through a strategic and sustainable implementation, property managers can bring buildings up to date without losing occupancy. At the same time, residents can reap the health, social, and financial benefits of having a comfortable, affordable place to live in an established community.  

This commentary and the information contained herein are for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute an offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy, any securities or related financial instruments. This article may contain forward-looking statements. Readers should refer to information contained on our website at https://avenuelivingam.wpenginepowered.com/forward-looking-statements for additional information regarding forward-looking statements and certain risks associated with them. 

A Proven Alternative | Communicating Our Value Proposition

A Proven Alternative

Alternative investments are enjoying a rise in popularity, but not all are created equal.

Investments in alts, such as real estate, may offer opportunities to increase diversification and generate competitive returns while potentially providing protection against inflation. Avenue Living’s funds offer an accessible way to invest in multi-family real estate, farmland, and self-storage.

Learn what investors should look for:  

This commentary and the information contained herein are for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute an offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy, any securities or related financial instruments. This article may contain forward-looking statements. Readers should refer to information contained on our website at https://avenuelivingam.wpenginepowered.com/forward-looking-statements for additional information regarding forward-looking statements and certain risks associated with them.