February 29, 2012
Every day should be pink shirt day
Today is Pink Shirt Day in Canada. All across the country young people will don pink shirts to send a message to stop bullying. The time has come for all of us to redouble our efforts to stop bullying by getting involved.
Bullying is rampant in Canada. Research suggests that between 20 per cent and 60 per cent of Canadian students are bullied, with younger students more likely to be bullied than older ones. Depending on the age group, up to 40 per cent say they have bullied a fellow student.
Thousands of kids are picked on, insulted, beat up and called derogatory names each day for anything perceived as being "different." Bullied victims are between two and nine times more likely to consider suicide, more than 14 per cent of high school students have considered suicide, seven per cent have attempted it and 4,400 take their own lives in the United States alone each year.
Pink Shirt Day began in September 2007 at Central Kings high school in Cambridge, N.S., when a ninth grader arrived wearing a pink polo shirt. He was bullied mercilessly by a group of 12th graders who told him if he ever wore a pink shirt again he'd pay for it. When two seniors, David Shepherd and Travis Price, got wind of what happened, they had an idea. They purchased 50 pink shirts and tank-tops and sent out messages inviting as many kids as possible to wear them to school. Not only did they easily distribute the shirts, but almost 300 students showed up dressed in pink, some from head to toe. One of the bullies saw the sea of pink and threw a trash can in protest, but as Shepherd would say later, not a peep was heard from the bullies after that day. The story was picked up by the national media and later overseas as well. Today there are schools around the world that hold annual Pink Shirt Days, all because two Canadian Grade 12 students decided to step up and lead.
But five years later we desperately need more people to step up, and not just one day a year. If you're a parent, teacher or friend, you can watch for signs that indicate a child is being bullied: depression, changes in sleeping or eating habits, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, social withdrawal or negative self-talk such as "I wish I were dead." Be vigilant. Inquire. Let them know you care. Encourage them to tell adults. And of course, intervene when you see or hear any behaviour that belittles another. You don't have to be a parent, or hold a position of leadership such as a teacher, to intervene. Any-one can stop it.
One element of bullying that we don't talk enough about is the need for parents of teens who do the bullying to take responsibility. After some recent suicides, I have heard stories of the bullies posting comments and even showing up at funerals to say how glad they are about the suicide. Where are the parents of these kids?
We tend to think of bullying as physical acts, but much of bullying today is more subtle and carried out through social media, increasingly with girls as much as boys. Parents need to look for ANY sign of lack of tolerance in their own children - we need to check it, deal with it, even if it seems harmless, because it is NOT harmless.
This is not just "kids being kids" and this permissive attitude among parents is part of the problem.
When I was a teen, I bullied a kid once and when my mother caught wind of it she read me the riot act. It never happened again.
Pink Shirt Day is a reason for Canadian pride as there are Pink Shirt Days in many parts of the world, including the United States, because two of our best decided to act. But the problem is still growing and it is time for a national campaign to end it. Norway had such a national campaign, significantly reducing bullying.
Edmund Burke once said, "All that is required for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing." The con-verse is also true: All that is required to change things is for more of us - parents, teens and bystanders - to step up, speak up, and let our voices be heard.
John Izzo is the author of Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
February 29, 2012
Housing prices to remain flat or decline in Q4: Teranet-National Bank
Home prices in Canada fell in December by 0.2 per cent from the previous month, the second straight monthly decline following two consecutive months of flat prices, according to the Teranet-National Bank house price index.
Photograph by: Reuters , Reuters
OTTAWA — Canadian housing prices were flat or falling in the last quarter of 2011, according to the Teranet-National Bank house price index released Wednesday.
Home prices fell in December by 0.2 per cent from the previous month, the second straight monthly decline following two consecutive months of flat prices, National Bank senior economist Marc Pinsonneault wrote in his monthly report.
The index was up 6.8 per cent from December 2010, though the year-over-year advance had slowed somewhat from the 7.1 per cent gain posted in November.
Home prices fell in December in nearly half of the 11 markets included in the survey, including Victoria, Ottawa-Gatineau, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. "For Ottawa-Gatineau, Vancouver and Victoria it was the third consecutive decline, and for Toronto it was the second," Pinsonneault said. Prices in Edmonton were flat, while prices rose in Quebec City, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Calgary and Halifax.
The year-over-year gains in Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Hamilton and Quebec City all exceeded the national average. While the year-to-year price differences varied widely, "December was the first month since September 2010 in which all 11 metropolitan markets showed prices up from 12 months earlier."
Meanwhile, Pinsonneault said the Canadian Real Estate Association has determined market conditions are generally balanced across Canada, "the exceptions were tight markets in Toronto, Hamilton, Winnipeg and —suddenly — Halifax, and buyers' markets in Vancouver and Victoria."
February 23, 2012
First-time buyer bonus will make 'bigger difference' in suburbs
The 23-year-old apprentice electrician and paramedic with B.C. Ambulance Service had settled on his two-bedroom home at a project called Outlook, but only learned earlier in the day about a new bonus for first-time buyers announced in Tuesday's provincial budget.
"I heard about it on the radio this morning," said Guemas-Bonell, who takes possession of his 1,220-square-foot home, which he purchased for $295,000, in March.
"This is a huge plus for me," added Guemas-Bonell, referring to a temporary BC FirstTime New Home Buyers' Bonus that will be in effect until March 31, 2013 and is worth up to $10,000. "I was going ahead with the deal before, so this is a nice surprise.
"For a lot of people in my category, the hardest part is getting a down payment," said Guemas-Bonell, who will likely put the extra money onto his mortgage when he gets the tax refund.
"My down payment is $15,000, so it will add up to about 10 per cent of the cost [of the home], which almost doubles my down payment."
But Guemas-Bonell, by buying in Langley, is also part of a buyers' group that industry analysts say stands to get the best bang for its buck with the new tax credit.
Outlying municipalities like Langley, Surrey or Pitt Meadows, where homes are cheaper and buyers can have less money, will fare better, according to a marketing firm that sells condos and townhomes largely to first-time buyers.
"[The bonus] is specifically targeted at first-time buyers and it would make a bigger difference for [Fraser] Valley buyers because it's a bigger percentage of the purchase price," said Cristy Edmonds, vice-president of Fifth Avenue Real Estate Marketing Ltd.
"It would likely be less in Vancouver because in Vancouver you're buying a more expensive property and you're probably making more money to buy that more expensive property."
Michael Ferreira of Urban Analytics Inc., which conducts research for residential developers, agreed that the new bonus - a one-time refundable personal tax credit equal to five per cent of the purchase price of the home to a maximum of $10,000 - will provide a "bigger bang for your buck in the Valley" as a percentage of savings.
Ferreira said most new homeowners in Metro Vancouver will get the full $10,000 credit, which at five per cent is equivalent to a minimum down payment on properties up to $200,000 (for properties over $200,000, it's a percentage of the minimum down payment). In the city of Vancouver, he said, the average price of a 600-square-foot, one-bedroom condo in a concrete building - a typical purchase for first-time buyers - would sell for about $400,000.
With the $10,000 bonus, that's equivalent to 2.5 per cent of the purchase price.
In Burnaby and Richmond, the same unit would sell for $350,000, or 2.9 per cent of the price; in Surrey for $250,000, or four per cent; and in Port Coquitlam for $240,000, or 4.2 per cent.
"I think it's the outlying suburbs that will benefit the most from this."
The bonus declines based on net income starting at $150,000, reducing to zero for single buyers earning more than $200,000 and $250,000 for couples and is based on new-home purchases.
While the bonus is not expected to set the real estate world on fire, it's being seen as an extra incentive for new home buyers to get off the fence and buy their first home.
In Metro Vancouver, that's usually a two-bedroom townhome or a one-bedroom or one-bedroom-and-den condo, with a premium of $150,000 to $200,000 in Vancouver as opposed to Surrey or Langley.
Edmonds, whose firm is marketing homes in Surrey, Langley, Port Coquitlam and Vancouver, said about 60 per cent of their sales are now to first-time buyers and that their townhomes in Langley and Surrey are in the $300,000to$350,000 range with condos in the $150,000-to-$250,000 range. A similar condo at their Commercial Drive project goes for about $350,000, she added. All are wood-frame buildings.
"I think this will get a lot of people coming out and looking again who had put off their decision," she added. "With interest rates lower, it's another added incentive.
"Ten thousand dollars on a $350,000 [home] is a significant amount when you consider that most buyers are buying with five per cent down. They could put [the money] into the mortgage or they could turn it into an RRSP and get a further tax reduction.
Scott Brown, senior vice-president, Colliers International, said he anticipates many developers will move their construction dates up to take advantage of the new tax bonus.
"We're seeing the Panther Group working to accelerate the construction schedule [on The Flats on Georgia, a Vancouver condo project] to ensure they're completed by March 2013, so [customers] are eligible for the rebate."
February 16, 2012
Property sales dip in Greater Vancouver and Fraser Valley, climb in rest of B.C.
While home sales in Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley dipped at the start of 2012, other regions across B.C. heated up, according to the British Columbia Real Estate Association.
Photograph by: Ian Smith, Vancouver Sun
VANCOUVER -- While home sales in Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley dipped at the start of 2012, other regions across B.C. heated up, according to the British Columbia Real Estate Association.
The number of houses sold in the Vancouver region through Multiple Listing Service was down 13.4 per cent in January from the same month last year, the industry group said Wednesday.
In addition, the average price of a Vancouver home declined slightly, from $762,562 in January 2011 to $752,380 this year — a difference of 1.3 per cent.
In the Fraser Valley, sales dipped by 3.1 per cent during the same time period. However, prices rose 6.4 per cent from an average of $441,544 last year to $469,635 in 2012.
Meanwhile, B.C.’s northwest and northeast regions, Kamloops and Victoria saw sales gains of more than 10 per cent.
The biggest jump occurred in B.C.’s northwest region, where the average house price increased 14.2 per cent — from $214,357 to $244,872 — in the 12 months from January 2011.
Powell River, with an average price of $209,636, recorded the least expensive homes in the province — a figure down 1.2 per cent ($212,078) over January 2011.
Cameron Muir, chief economist with the BCREA, said consumer demand driven by low mortgage interest rates saw modest improvements in January from a year ago, despite a decline in provincial sales activity.
Across Canada, home sales were down 4.5 per cent in January from the same month one year earlier, while the number of newly listed homes edged down 1.4 per cent.
“This marks the first monthly decline in national activity since August 2011 and the biggest monthly decline since July 2010,” the Canadian Real Estate Association stated.
“The monthly decline reversed a string of monthly increases over the closing months of last year, and returned national activity to where it stood at the end of the third quarter of 2011.
January’s sales declines were led by Greater Toronto and Montreal, as well as a softening in other major centres such as Greater Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Ottawa.
Still, unadjusted sales last month were up four per cent from January 2011 and were even with the five- and 10-year averages for January sales, it said.
“The national housing market is stabilizing and remains well balanced,” said CREA president Gary Morse.
“That said, forecasts for economic and job growth going forward vary widely for different parts of the country, suggesting a possible continuation of a softening trend in some markets, as well as the potential that demand will pick up based on strong fundamentals in others.”
February 15, 2012
Vancouver: North America's most expensive city
Vancouver overtook U.S. cities to become the most expensive in North America, ranked 37th in the world.
Photograph by: Mark van Manen, Vancouver Sun
CANBERRA - Zurich has topped Tokyo to become the world's most expensive city, as surging currencies push up the cost of living in countries like Switzerland and Australia, a survey showed on Tuesday.
Vancouver overtook U.S. cities to become the most expensive in North America, ranked 37th in the world. Los Angeles was the most expensive U.S. city - equal 42nd with Shanghai - while New York came in 47th.
The Swiss Franc's allure as a safe haven for investors moving their funds out of Euro zone nations propelled Zurich to the top spot from fifth last year, while Geneva came in third.
Five Australian cities made it into the top 20, led by Sydney and Melbourne in seventh and eighth places, according to The Worldwide Cost of Living survey, carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
"Exchange rates have been the greatest influence for the Australian cost of living, with the Australian dollar seeing its value to the U.S. dollar double in a decade," said survey editor Jon Copestake in a statement.
The survey of 130 cities worldwide compares more than 400 individual prices across 160 products, including food, clothing, transport, rents and private schools.
Asian cities moved up the ranking, with Singapore gaining one place to 9th spot and Seoul climbing nine places to 27th.
Asia was also home to some of the cheapest cities. Three of the four cheapest were in the Indian subcontinent: New Delhi and Mumbai in India, and Karachi in Pakistan, which was the cheapest of cities surveyed.
Reporting By Maggie Lu YueYang; Editing by Richard Pullin
February 9, 2012
Richmond population grown by 9 per cent
Richmond’s population grew by 9.2 per cent between 2006 and 2011.
Photograph by: submitted, for Richmond News
British Columbia's population continues to grow rapidly, with new residents preferring urban metropolitan areas rather than rural centres.
And while Metro Vancouver is still taking its share of the growth, Squamish and Chilliwack metropolitan areas saw the biggest gains in population between 2006 and 2011, according to Statistics Canada.
Richmond’s population has grown by 9.2 per cent in that time. The city’s population now stands at 190,473, which means 1,473.5 people living per square kilometre.
The latest Census figures show B.C.'s population increased by seven per cent between 2006-2011, pushing the population to 4.4 million, and making B.C. the second fastest growing province next to Alberta. The Western provinces welcomed 30.7 per cent of Canada's population growth for the five-year period, for the first time surpassing that of the Atlantic provinces and Quebec combined (306 per cent).
Canada's population grew by 5.9 per cent in the five-year period to 33.5 million. The growth credited to the rise to immigrants, is the highest of the G8 nations.
In B.C., the Squamish metropolitan area posted the strongest growth at 14. 6 per cent, followed by Chilliwack at 11.9 per cent and Kelowna at 10 per cent and Metro Vancouver at 9.6 per cent. On the other end of the scale, Prince Rupert and Williams Lake were among the cities with the biggest population declines.
Peter Liang, a spokesman for Statistics Canada, noted the populations are different for individual cities. Langford, near Victoria, for instance, posted the strongest population gain at 30.1 per cent, followed by Lake Country in Kelowna, Port Moody (19.9 per cent) and Surrey at 18.6 per cent. Pitt Meadows was at 13.5 per cent, while cities like New Westminster, Burnaby, Langley, Coquitlam and Maple Ridge saw a 10-12 per cent increase.
The city of Vancouver's growth rate was at 4.4 per cent - with most of the new population settling downtown, Mt. Pleasant and Fairview.
Meanwhile, some areas of Surrey, Langley and Port Moody and Coquitlam posted population growth of more than 100 per cent between 2006 and 2011 , according to the results. In Surrey's Clayton area, the population more than tripled from 4,132 to 14,034, while a section of Port Moody saw its population grow from 1,276 to 3,684 since 2006.
Read more: http://www.richmond-news.com/Richmond+population+grown+cent/6121263/story.html#ixzz1lvEqlq8L
February 8, 2012
Task force on affordable housing cuts across real estate sectors
Developers, academics, operators to work at producing interim report by March 12
February 1, 2012
LEGO Super Bowl Stadium
An awesome Lego scale model of Lucas Oil Stadium was unveiled at the Super Bowl in Indianapolis today. It took designer Brian Alano three years and 30,000 pieces to construct. The working video screens are an impressive touch.
1.Alano dusts off his masterpiece
(AP / ...)
3.Actual Lucas Oil Stadium
February 1, 2012
Len Barrie gets the boot
Globe and Mail, January 27, 2012
Len Barrie was finally kicked out of his opulent mansion near Victoria.
HSBC Canada, which had mortgages on the 12,500-square-foot house for more than $14-million, finally had to resort to a court order to remove Barrie from the property on Thursday. The bank was supposed to take over the house on Jan. 16 but Barrie and his family were still living there, which prompted the bank to obtain a court order evicting the former co-owner of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.
“It’s one of those things,” Barrie told CHEK television in Victoria. “It’s disappointing but you move on. Now there’s some closure.
“We finally settled everything with the bank. It’s been three years and everything’s settled.”
Even if everything is settled with HSBC Canada, Barrie is still facing legal problems on a number fronts related to the collapse of the Bear Mountain golf resort and real-estate development in the fall of 2010. Barrie was in charge of the development, which went into bankruptcy protection after its debts grew to more than $300-million. Most of that money was owed to HSBC, which took over the development.
Barrie is the subject of a criminal investigation by the RCMP’s commercial-crime unit on Vancouver Island as the result of a complaint filed by Sean Burke, a former NHL player. Burke is one of 18 current and former NHL players who lost a total of more than $13-million when Bear Mountain went into bankruptcy.
In addition to numerous civil lawsuits related to Bear Mountain, Barrie is also facing one from The Bellagio, an upscale casino and hotel in Las Vegas. The Bellagio wants $2.2-million in unpaid casino credits, interest and legal fees.
Barrie’s former house is on Skirt Mountain, which overlooks Victoria. As shown in this report from CHEK News, it is a spectacular property with six bedrooms, 10 bathrooms and an amazing swimming pool.
The Victoria Times Colonist reported the house is now assessed at $8.49-million and is up for sale. The asking price was recently lowered from $13.9-million to $9.99-million.
February 1, 2012
Bankers and Brokers may be in agreement
A new survey suggests Canadian bankers may be less concerned about mortgage credit risk than they were two years ago or, indeed, the government is now, given speculation it will again tinker with the country’s mortgage rules.
While credit risk topped the list of concerns for Canadian bankers participating in the 2010 Banking Banana Skins survey – produced by the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation in association with PwC – it fell to fifth place in this year’s polling.
More pressing concerns for Canadian respondents were macro-economic risk, liquidity and regulation, with the availability of capital also moving up ahead of any risk associated with their mortgage and consumer loan portfolios.
The survey results lend support to brokers and others who continue to challenge the need for additional tightening of mortgage rules.
The new survey suggests there are other risks to contend with, more specifically thoes from Europe.
“While Canada may be better prepared to handle some of these risks, the issues are intertwined with the global banking system,” says John MacKinlay, national leader of the Financial Services Consulting practice for PwC in Canada. “Everyone is concerned about contagion from more troubled economies, particular in the U.S. and Europe.”
What bankers in this country are less concerned about is the ability of Canadians to manage their mortgage and other consumer debt. That’s even with the real possibility of recession and a resulting correction in housing prices, mostl likely in the condo market.
The survey results may help quiet concerns that the government is now preparing to introduce more changes to mortgage rules, including axing the 30-year amortization for default-insured mortgages.
Both mortgage and consumer credit debt spiked in the third quarter of last year, increasing to $1 trillion and $448 billion, respectively, according to a StatsCan. Those individual debt levels increased even as personal disposable income remained unchanged.
In December, top bankers were among the first to sound the alarm about those new national debt numbers, little more than a month before this recent survey suggesting bankers see little risk of a spike in defaults.
February 1, 2012
Vancouver condo market on watch list as real estate balloon deflates
Vancouver Sun, January 31, 2012
General price declines in B.C. make province ‘nation’s new weak spot,’ according to report.
Canada’s housing market is not a bubble, it’s a balloon. And unlike the catastrophic decline the U.S. housing market experienced in 2008, the market in Canada will deflate slowly rather than pop, according to a report by BMO Capital Markets.
The sole possible exception is Vancouver, where the number of unoccupied condominiums is high due to building the Olympic Village, economists Sherry Cooper and Sal Guatieri wrote in “Will Canada’s Housing Boom Forge On, Fizzle Out, or Flame Out?”
But generally, the report says that despite rising household debt, low interest rates and rising home prices, it is unlikely that a sudden correction will take place.
“The main take-away is that the national housing market appears some-what pricey, but is far removed from bubble territory,” the report stated.
It compares average resale prices with median family incomes and finds the ratio is 4.9 nationally, compared to 3.2 a decade ago.
In Vancouver, though, where house prices have gone up 159 per cent in the last 10 years – compared to 104 per cent nationally – the ratio of price to income is 10, nearly double what it was a decade ago, the report said. Victoria is also high, at 5.7, but not as high as Toronto, which has a price to income ratio of 6.7.
Montreal has also seen prices rise dramatically – by 153 per cent – and its price-to-income ratio double, but that ratio remains low at 4.5.
Despite rising home prices in most of Canada’s major cities, the growth doesn’t seem to be excessive, the report said. But elevated valuations could lead to trouble in the event of a shock.
For example, if interest rates were to spike by about four percentage points, the affordability of homes would quickly drop throughout the country. A severe recession would also affect affordability.
But the chance of either of those events happening is unlikely, the report authors stated. Also, except for a few markets, the national housing boom has already cooled.
And British Columbia is now “the nation’s new weak spot, with prices generally declining,” the report said.
Some of that decline reflects fewer sales of high-end homes.
“[But] some real underlying softness is at play, and will likely continue until valuations improve,” the report stated.
Tsur Somerville, director for the Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate at the Sauder School of Business at UBC, said BMO’s report is one of many predicting slight drops or slight increases in the housing market rather than a major correction.
“The kinds of things you need to get major corrections, like oversupply or radical change in the financing environment, just aren’t there,” Somerville said.
And just because the overall market will be flat, it doesn’t mean that certain portions of it – such as areas that have had higher run-ups in prices over the past few years – aren’t in for a correction, he said.
Helmut Pastrick, chief economist with Central 1 Credit Union, believes that while there may be a soft landing at some point in the future, it won’t be in 2012.
“The market is holding up generally well and it looks like 2012 is going to be fairly similar to 2011 in terms of overall unit sales,” Pastrick said. “Housing prices will go up by some amount, sales will also increase by a small amount.”
And while the economy isn’t booming, it is growing, interest rates are low and there is job growth, he said.
“So the conditions to me aren’t ripe for a correction.”
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that Canada’s banking regulator fears that Canadian lenders are loosening standards on mortgages that are similar to U.S. subprime loans, posing an “emerging risk” to financial institutions.
Banks and other lenders are becoming “increasingly liberal” with mort-gages and home-equity credit lines that don’t require individuals to prove their income, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg under freedom of information law request from the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.
“Non-income qualified” lending has been added to a list of issues to be considered by OSFI’s “emerging-risk committee,” Bloomberg reported the documents showing.
Pastrick disputes this finding.
“We’re not subprime, not by a long shot,” he said.
Lenders in Canada have “credible lending criteria and standards.” And while lenders will lower rates to grab market share “credit isn’t easy like it was in the U.S.,” he said.
Somerville believes the problem is with home equity lines of credit which have become more popular over the year and don’t always require income verification.
Not only are lines of credit given out without the same level of super-vision or the same standard of care that is applied to mortgages, they are also junior in seniority to mortgages, Somerville said.