Calgary apartment tower sale bet on tight Canadian housing market

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Hines, a real estate company with nearly US$96 billion in assets under management, is pitching international investors on a Canadian apartment building deal as a way to bet on the country’s tight housing market.

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The US firm is seeking to sell a 462-unit rental building in Calgary after completing construction nearly three years ago, with the expectation it will fetch around $200 million, according to Avi Tesciuba, head of Canadian operations at Hines.

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Rents in Canada climbed last year as a longstanding shortage of housing was met with a record amount of immigration. Meanwhile, in the for-sale market, higher mortgage rates and a lack of homes being listed are squeezing buyers, exacerbating the housing crunch.

“We believe long term in Canada and it starts with population,” Tesciuba said in an interview. “The housing supply has frankly been very slow to respond to this population change, and therefore, the housing shortage that we’re seeing now is expected to intensify in the coming years.”

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The oil-producing province of Alberta in the western part of Canada has been a particular draw for migrants both from abroad and within the country. Forecasts for gains in oil prices may help support the prospect of stronger economic growth in the area compared to other regions.

Calgary, the center of Alberta’s oil industry, saw a record migration to the area last year, helping push the rental vacancy rate down to 2.7 per cent, the lowest since 2014, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

Hines is selling the 32-storey One Park Central building in Calgary to return profit to investors at a time when the market is favorable. The aim is to secure a deal by the early fall. The company expects to finish construction on the second phase of the Park Central project, a 40-storey tower, next year.

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Despite Canada’s population growth, new apartments are relatively rare. Most efforts have been focused on condominium buildings, which are perceived as less risky to construct since developers can line up financing from buyers in advance.

Finding more buyers for apartment buildings could provide more of an incentive for developers to pursue these types of projects.

“You’re taking a major risk,” Tesciuba said, referring to a developer such as Hines starting on an apartment project. “Knowing that capital will be available and interested in the exit gives you more comfort in making that big bet.”

The sale is being managed by brokerages RBC Capital Markets Real Estate Group and Avison Young.

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