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Money Three top issues on minds of Canadian commercial property insiders

10:45  06 november  2019
10:45  06 november  2019 Source:   vancouversun.com

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Where are interest rates headed? When is the next office tower project going to launch? When will the government stop interfering with the property market? When you have hundreds of Canadian commercial real estate developers, brokers and investors in one building

He said demand for commercial space will continue to be driven by large multinational tenants and new market entrants in search of prime location and top talent. Three top issues on minds of Canadian commercial property insiders Vancouver-based Westbank gets green light for

Where are interest rates headed? When is the next office tower project going to launch? When will the government stop interfering with the property market?

When you have hundreds of Canadian commercial real estate developers, brokers and investors in one building, those are the sorts of questions and discussions that keep popping up during keynote speeches, panel talks and coffee break gossip sessions.

The Vancouver Real Estate Strategy and Leasing Conference , held recently, can feel a little like an echo chamber.

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It’s that point in the summer when many brokers and staffers in Canada ’s commercial real estate industry head out of the cities for their vacations in the mountains, at the lake or perhaps to networking events at the Calgary Stampede.

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Most aspects of Canadian big-city commercial real estate have been on a bull run for the better part of the last decade. Commercial property conferences have been teeming with more optimism than complaints lately, and the chatter at the Oct. 29 conference at the Vancouver Convention Centre remained consistent with those talking points.

But there were three major topics that stood out above the rest among the attendees this year.

a large body of water with a city in the background: The office markets in Metro Vancouver, pictured, and the Greater Toronto Area are booming, while also feeling the strain of low vacancy rates.© Francis Georgian The office markets in Metro Vancouver, pictured, and the Greater Toronto Area are booming, while also feeling the strain of low vacancy rates. Canada’s (mostly) booming office market

In Toronto and Vancouver, demand for office space has never been stronger. Toronto’s downtown vacancy is at a 26-year low and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) has the lowest regional office vacancy in North America. Vancouver, which has a downtown vacancy rate of only three per cent, according to brokerage house JLL’s 2019 third-quarter data , is the second-tightest office market in North America.

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The next wave of office space is being built now in both cities. Toronto has roughly 10 million square feet of new space in the pipeline, while Vancouver has about four million square feet of new office space under construction. The problem in both cities (for tenants) is that much of that new space is already pre-leased, which means the new construction cycles will do little to ease the vacancy crunch.

Meanwhile, troubles with inflated vacancy persist in Calgary and Edmonton as those cities continue to be dogged by low energy prices, pipeline politics and a low appetite for economic diversification.

Technology is everything

Technology has become one of the most important drivers of office space demand in the country.

“Technology has become so ubiquitous across all Canadian industries that the true impact that the tech sector has on Canada’s economy has been understated,” said CBRE’s national vice-chairman Paul Morassutti during a national market outlook keynote at the conference.

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CBRE estimates that for every tech employee hired by a tech firm between 2012 and 2017, there were three more tech employees hired by non-tech firms.

“Loblaw, for example,” Morassutti said. “It’s a grocer that employs 1,000 people in its (artificial intelligence) digital division . When you look at it this way, Canada’s tech sector is exceptionally diverse and has a multiplying effect on the economy.”

Over the past 10 years, tech has grown at more than 2.5 times the pace of the energy sector, and three times the rate of the overall economy, he said.

In Ottawa, technology employers are now the largest tenant group in the city, second only to the federal government, and tech firms take up more space than the accounting and legal sectors combined. Canada’s capital now has the second-highest concentration of tech workers in North America, trailing only the San Francisco Bay Area, according to CBRE.

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Massive demand for logistics and warehousing space is overwhelming the industrial inventories of the GTA and Metro Vancouver, in particular.

Both cities are facing critically low vacancy of less than two per cent, and developers — despite a meaningful pipeline of new projects — can’t keep pace with new projects to ease the crunch.

An Avison Young global industrial report earlier this year marked the national industrial vacancy rate at three per cent, and noted that Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa all had sub-two-per-cent vacancy rates.

Average industrial land prices in Metro Vancouver climbed from roughly $1 million per acre in 2017 to more than $2.2 million per acre this year, said Bart Vanstaalduinen , executive director and industrial practice lead with Newmark Knight Frank, on a panel at the conference focused on the regional industrial market.

That means developers are having to get creative with logistics and warehousing projects by building “vertical” or stacked warehouse and logistics structures, he said. Multilevel industrial buildings are already underway in the GTA with a few also expected in the near future in Metro Vancouver.

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