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Despite its challenges, Vancouver's commercial real estate market is stable said speakers at the 2024 Vancouver Real Estate Forum.

Forum Message: Vancouver CRE Market is Stable

A recurring theme prevailed at the 2024 Vancouver Real Estate Forum on Wednesday.

Despite facing many challenges, the Metro Vancouver commercial real estate market is solid.

“Vancouver is an island of stability,” said commercial real estate industry veteran Gino Nonni during a panel discussion on the state of the Vancouver market.

Hundreds of attendees heard a similar message across multiple sessions at the one-day event hosted by Informa Connect at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

The market’s challenges range from different urban and suburban retail dynamics to low office values and many distressed land assets to limited available capital and the effects of high interest rates, regulatory approval delays, municipal development cost increases and a host of other issues.

But speakers still expressed confidence in the market and its ability to rebound from a malaise that affected the Canadian commercial real estate market as a whole in 2023.

“I believe in the long term,” said Nonni. “We’ve got a lot of challenges. A lot. And, we get into the minutiae in our day-to-day lives in this industry of how beat down you can.

“I know there’s a lot of people in this room that probably had never been through a bad market. I’ve been through two or three, unfortunately. It pains me to say that, but I think we have to try to be as positive as we can and move forward and do it in a good manner.”

Like many investors and developers, he is anxious for more dry powder to come off the sidelines as the Bank of Canada is expected to reduce interest rates, for credit availability to increase and for other market conditions to ripen. But he is confident that Vancouver projects will pay off in the long run.

“I’ve seen this before and it’s going to sort itself out,” said Nonni.

When asked whether her firm was looking to take its money outside of Vancouver, Crystal Burns, executive vice-president of Canadian retail at investment and development giant QuadReal, said capital is like water and needs to find a place to go. Furthermore, QuadReal has principles as to where it puts capital for its pension-fund parent, the B.C. Investment Management Corporation.

But QuadReal, she said, is very bullish on Vancouver, where the firm is based, and has chosen the city as a long-term growth location for its capital and projects.

“So I think the capital right now is hawkish,” she said. “It’s waiting.”

Burns said QuadReal would love to put more capital into rental residential projects if they can be matched with the required returns.

Also, Vancouver benefits from the presence of additional pension-fund money that renders the region less sensitive to pressures being felt in other markets.

CBRE Chairman Paul Morassutti said his company is very bullish on Vancouver.

Many of the issues that the market faces are the byproduct of its success, he contended, adding that Vancouver is forecasted to be the fifth fastest-growing metropolitan area in North America.

“And, unlike places like San Francisco, Chicago [and] New York, Vancouver has not lost a single large North American head office,” he said.

Vancouver also has the best office, industrial and multi-family vacancy metrics in North America, he added. The city will also receive more than $5 billion in public-transit infrastructure and boasts several Indigenous-led developments that rank among the largest of their type globally and are viewed as models for other cities.

“My advice is: Vancouver will always be viable,” said Nonni. “We’ll just have little bumps in the road.”

Despite the challenges, the West Coast major market is a strong place to be, advised Burns.

“We really are a standout safe haven,” she said.


Inside The Story

Crystal BurnsInforma Connect

About Monte Stewart

Monte Stewart serves as Content Director - Canada for Connect Commercial Real Estate. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Monte provides daily news coverage of major Canadian commercial real estate markets, including Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Calgary. He has written about the real estate sector for various media outlets and Avison Young since the early 2000s. In addition, he has covered sports, general news and business for several leading wire services and publications, including The Canadian Press, The Associated Press, The Calgary Herald, The Globe and Mail, Research Money, The Daily Oil Bulletin, Natural Gas World and The Toronto Star. Monte is active in his community as a youth basketball coach and raises funds for such charitable causes as Movember.

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