Multi-Family Retrofits: The Case for Going Green

Multi-Family Retrofits

In June 2022, Avenue Living and the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) joined forces to commit $162 million towards deep retrofits across our Canadian portfolio. The partnership will fund upgrades to 220 residential buildings, touching approximately 6,700 homes and helping lower the carbon emissions for nearly half of our Canadian portfolio.

As a key pillar of our ESG efforts and overall strategy, Avenue Living has always made responsible and impactful capital improvements — for example, installing a better-insulated roof, higher-efficiency windows, or a new boiler. These energy conservation measures (ECMs) extend the life of the asset and make living spaces more comfortable in summer and winter.

Our portfolio spans a region with some of the coldest weather in North America, and these upgrades help increase energy efficiency. A better-insulated building envelope, for example, keeps the building temperature more even year-round and allows heating and cooling systems to work more effectively. Upgraded high-efficiency HVAC systems, paired with better-insulated building envelopes, help reduce consumption.

In 2020, commercial and residential buildings accounted for 17 per cent of Canada’s GHG emissions (excluding construction and building materials, which pushes the number to 30 per cent). The Government of Canada is committed to reducing carbon emissions to below 45% of 2005 levels by 2030 and reaching net-zero by 2050 — and estimates that, to meet that goal, Canada needs to retrofit 600,000 homes and 750 million square feet of commercial space per year between now and 2040 to meet those commitments.

Avenue Living is doing our part while paving the way to setting a new standard in the multi-family industry. As an open-source advisor and collaborator, we are sharing how these retrofits can benefit investors, residents, and our communities at large. Our partnership with the CIB aims to reduce emissions from buildings in the program by 50 per cent, and pilot projects are already underway.


Retrofitting buildings to create the most energy savings is based on careful analysis, energy audits, and a well-developed strategy for capital improvements. As part of our current acquisition strategy, Avenue Living systematically determines which capital improvements will be the most impactful for each property. Deep energy retrofits are no different.

Before a property can be included in the CIB retrofit program, it must meet Investor Ready Energy Efficiency (IREE) Certification. IREE is a global framework that signals a building has undergone appropriate due diligence and the retrofit projects have been developed by qualified professionals who adhere to a series of protocols for assessing risk, comparing savings, and evaluating opportunities. This third-party certification reduces costs for transactions, capital, and due diligence and increases investor confidence through reliable and consistent projections.

Baselining is essential to determining the viability of any retrofit project, and as part of IREE protocols, our buildings have undergone multiple energy audits. When we examined our portfolio in search of the most impactful ECMs, we discovered our larger properties — those with more than 24 units — presented our best opportunity to reduce GHG emissions. Energy audits have also revealed that wood-frame buildings can be further optimized compared to brick or concrete buildings, which are already quite efficient. In addition, we closely evaluated other aspects of the building’s mechanical operations and construction for ways to increase efficiency — roofs, boilers, and exterior cladding, for example.

“As we were going through the program details, we looked at a number of factors to determine if a building would be a good candidate for upgrades, for example, will the improvements offset enough energy and emissions to be financially viable, or is the building equipment old or inefficient,” says Daniel Klemky, energy manager at Avenue Living. “If building equipment is reaching the end of its useful life, there may be an opportunity for us to modernize that property in a cost-effective way.”

Our retrofits include:

  • Upgraded heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) systems, which allow us to heat and cool buildings more efficiently and keep temperatures even throughout the property
  • An upgraded building envelope and roof, which improves insulation, eliminates the possibility of pipes freezing and improves aesthetics
  • Triple-glazed, high-efficiency windows, to reduce heat loss (or gain)
  • Low-flow water fixtures, to reduce water consumption and provide a better experience for residents
  • LED lighting and more efficient fixtures, for brighter, more effective lighting in common areas
  • Solar panels, where applicable, allow properties to generate their own power, reduce consumption, and offset operational costs

Implementing these retrofits requires coordination — and manpower. Our plan has incorporated a phased approach, which allows us to make as many updates as possible without overwhelming the trades in each city. This perfectly illustrates the combined benefit of environmental projects: job creation, and the need for expansion in the sector. Canada’s Green Building Council estimates that by 2030 the opportunities for growth in the green building sector could account for approximately 1.5 million jobs and contribute $150 billion in GDP.  

“It is difficult to retrofit multiple buildings in a single market at one time,” says Ward Woolgar, senior vice president, capital investment at Avenue Living. “We’ve planned out our retrofits with projected schedules and dates to make sure we have the tradespeople we need available at each phase to minimize delays.”

The solar project slated for Wetaskiwin Mall, for example, requires extensive work on the roof. “It’s not as simple as just putting solar panels on top of the existing structure,” says Klemky. “There’s a great deal of work that has to happen to the roof first, such as detailed design, structural reinforcement, electrical capacity considerations, and regulatory restrictions.” The mall’s solar retrofit, however, will also account for the biggest reduction in emissions.


While reducing consumption and emissions is our primary goal, we know that these building improvements have other benefits for residents. As an active property manager, we recognize that happy residents stay in their homes for longer, and these upgrades will enhance the comfort and livability of their rentals. Studies show North Americans spend approximately 90 per cent of their time indoors, so air quality, temperature, and lighting are more important than ever.

These renovations require minimal disruption to residents’ lives or schedules, and in most cases happen outside the suites. Although retrofits like window replacement or upgrading water fixtures do require apartment entry, these jobs can be completed in just a few hours, like any regular maintenance task. That said, any construction work in a building has an impact on its occupants, and we’ve developed a plan to communicate with our residents early and often to ensure they understand the work schedule.

“These updates will have a noticeable effect,” says Woolgar. “For example, our upgrades to HVAC systems will mean there’s more even heating throughout the building, so we’ll avoid the problem with overheated hallways and common areas that a lot of apartment buildings have. New windows and fixtures will also mean residents can enjoy more even temperatures in their suites, better water flow and lighting, and improved aesthetics.”


The United Nations estimates that 80% of the buildings in cities today will exist in 2050. Reducing emissions through deep-energy retrofits is key to ensuring Canada — and the world — meets sustainability targets. For Avenue Living, the benefits of this retrofit project are very close to home: we see these retrofits as an opportunity to demonstrate to the industry what is possible. We aim to create a portfolio of properties that provide residents with safe, affordable, comfortable, and modern homes — ones that are well-equipped for a low-carbon future.

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 for additional information regarding forward-looking statements and certain risks associated with them.

Vertical Integration and Performance in Residential Real Estate

Vertical Integration Real Estate

We’re thrilled to share our newest piece of thought leadership that contributes to the research and best practices that shape our industry.   

The article explores vertical integration, a growth strategy where a company engages in multiple stages of the value chain — an approach Avenue Living has taken since 2006. Few studies have examined the effects of vertical integration in real estate. We aimed to fill that gap by surveying 1,251 renters in the U.S., the U.K., and Canada, exploring their perceptions of property managers’ downstream vertical integration and effectiveness. The results show that property managers’ vertical integration enhances their overall effectiveness, as perceived by their residents, leading to better residents, sustained real estate performance, and an overall competitive advantage.  

View our most recent paper in Critical Housing Analysis, a ranked peer-reviewed journal by the American Real Estate Society:

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 for additional information regarding forward-looking statements and certain risks associated with them.

Investing and Connecting with a Community: Wetaskiwin Mall’s New Mural

Wetaskiwin Mall

Inclusivity can take many forms — the people who make up an organization’s team, the causes they support, and the principles they operate under. But it can also take the form of representation in other ways like in the case of Wetaskiwin Mall, an exciting piece of original art, painted by a local, renowned Indigenous artist.  

As property owners and operators, we know our investments have an impact on the people who live and work in the communities in which we operate. We invest in spaces — multi-family homes and commercial space — that people develop deep connections with. The mural at Wetaskiwin Mall aims to showcase the culture of the community and evoke the theme of “Healing Medicine.” 

Collaborating with a Local Artist 

Painted by distinguished Indigenous artist Lance Cardinal, the 50-foot mural in the north wing of the mall symbolizes many ways of healing: ceremonial, medicinal, cultural, and healing through dance — a fitting subject given its location right outside an Alberta Health Services office and the Care Gateway Clinic. Cardinal painted the mural over ten days, with the help of an assistant.  

Cardinal, from Big Stone Cree First Nation, is an artist and entrepreneur on the rise. In 2022, he collaborated with the Edmonton Oilers to write and produce the team’s new land acknowledgement and design their Turtle Island logo, which helped raise funds for Edmonton charities, while being one of the most popular and beloved alternate designs in the team’s history. His shoe collection with Kunitz Shoes, an Edmonton-based company, is set to launch this year and is currently on display at the Royal Alberta Museum.  

Wetaskiwin, Alberta, which is 70 km south of Edmonton, is a community of around 13,000. The city is located on Treaty Six territory, bordered by two of the four Maskwacis First Nations — the Ermineskin and Samson Cree Nations — and serving two others — the Louis Bull Tribe and Montana First Nation. Wetaskiwin has rich Indigenous history; its name (which means “the hills where peace was made”) is a direct reference to the outcome of a battle between the Cree and Blackfoot. 

Bringing People Together 

Our strategy with Wetaskiwin Mall has always been to create a “community hub,” a place that provides customers with the essential services they need all in one place. In addition to national retailers and locally-owned stores and services, the mall is also home to Alberta Health Services, a pharmacy, medical clinic, optometrist, and more. Avenue Living has invested in Wetaskiwin for over a decade, with a presence that includes 401 multi-family units and 158,000 square feet of commercial space. In keeping with a key tenet of our strategy as an active manager, we have developed a deep understanding of the market and its residents.  Since acquiring the shopping center in 2017, Avenue Living has carefully curated a roster of retailers and services that reflect the needs and wants of area residents.  

“You don’t usually see local art in a retail environment like this,” says Slava Fedossenko, Director, Commercial Asset Management for Avenue Living, “but we wanted to create something that reflects the culture of the community.” 

Avenue Living is immensely proud of our partnership with Lance Cardinal and the finished mural. While it is one of the first projects of its kind for us, we have plans to ensure it is not the last, and we look forward to working with local artists in other communities to showcase the places our residents and customers call home.  

Read more about Lance Cardinal and this exciting project in The Wetaskiwin Times. 

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 for additional information regarding forward-looking statements and certain risks associated with them. 

This Year’s Most-Read: Our Top Content in 2022

We’ve gathered the blog posts, articles, and white papers that garnered the most interest from our readers last year. They cover a diverse range of topics, from our partnership with the Canada Infrastructure Bank to the complexities of the private rental housing market, but they all come back to one thing: understanding the real estate investment landscape. As investors seek opportunity in a changing market, it’s important to explore and analyze the fundamentals that impact our industry to refine our strategy and provide value for our residents, our investors, and the communities in which we operate.



This announcement is the next step in our commitment to ESG — one we officially started when we began a relationship with PRI (Principles for Responsible Investing). Our partnership with Canada Infrastructure Bank will allow us to undertake capital improvements that reduce our carbon footprint and provide comfortable homes for our residents, without compromising affordability.


RE-EXAMINING A HEDGE AGAINST INFLATION: Multi-family Residential Real Estate 

This paper examines the effects inflation and rising interest rates have on affordability, and how investors may find opportunities in multi-family real estate. 



Our founder and CEO, Anthony Giuffre, collaborated with the University of Regina’s Dr. Grant Wilson on this examination of the North American rental housing market, identifying the lifestyles, demographics, and value propositions that make up six major groups in the housing spectrum. The peer-reviewed paper was published in the International Real Estate Review in April 2022. 



This white paper explores how diversification in real estate portfolios — across asset types and markets — can enhance value for investors, helping them minimize risk and maximize the potential for returns. 



We examined factors that make the workforce housing market an attractive investment opportunity and  why it’s the focus of our multi-family strategy.  

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 for additional information regarding forward-looking statements and certain risks associated with them. 

Avenue Living’s 2022 Year in Review

In 2022, Avenue Living grew in more ways than one. In addition to expanding our footprint and operations with new offices in Toronto and Dallas, we improved our customer satisfaction through active management, invested in technology, and elevated our ESG efforts.  We’re also entering our third year as signatories for PRI and since signing on, we have partnered with the CIB to sustainably retrofit nearly half of our multi-family portfolio. In 2023, we look forward to commencing phase one of the project and making a positive impact. 

How Avenue Living’s formidable 2022 provides solid base for 2023

With a cycle-tested business model and a steadfast commitment to the everyday, Avenue Living continued to make great strides.

In 2022, accelerating inflation and rising interest rates created a challenging investment environment, with negative returns flashing across the asset spectrum. Still, that didn’t stop Avenue Living’s 16-year growth streak.

After ending 2021 with just over $3.1 billion in total assets under management (AUM), the organization grew by 48% to reach $4.6 billion AUM. It achieved broadly diversified growth across its multi-family apartment, farmland, and self-storage real estate portfolios — all while staying true to its strategy of investing in the everyday.

“It speaks to the durability of Avenue Living’s business model across multiple market cycles,” says Gabriel Millard, SVP, Capital Markets – Equity & Research. “2008 (GFC) and 2014 (Commodity Crisis) were lost years for many other players, but they were periods of growth for Avenue Living as we leaned into the opportunities. 2022 was another very formative year for us.”

A win-win in the multi-family residential space

Avenue Living entered the apartment space as owner-operators in 2006 with a relentless focus on the resident experience. The company has continued to grow while offering an institutional level of service to those who call its buildings home. A pivotal strategic development was the establishment of the Avenue Living Real Estate Core Trust, which has grown into the first North American Workforce Housing Fund in just five years. Today, Avenue Living’s residential portfolio includes over 15,000 multi-family suites across 3 Canadian provinces and 5 U.S. states.

While headlines around real estate investments tend to revolve around high-growth markets — the likes of Toronto and Vancouver — Avenue Living leans into moderate growth markets, such as the Prairie provinces, where assets are valued at a relative discount. Its vertically integrated business model has also allowed it to control operational costs.

Those factors have enabled Avenue Living to responsibly raise rents in pace with higher inflation and interest rates, without hurting residential stakeholders. “We’re achieving our targeted returns while still maintaining affordability for our residents,” Millard says. “We’ve seen collections improve, occupancy continued to tick up, and we have wait lists at over 100 of our buildings.”

Growing opportunity in Canada’s breadbasket

Meanwhile, Avenue Living’s farmland holdings have expanded from 49,000 acres of Saskatchewan farmland at the end of 2021, to over 83,000 acres today. 

In terms of global output, Canadian farmland represents a large portion of durum wheat, peas, and other important base crops. Saskatchewan is a big piece of the agricultural puzzle, as it accounts for approximately 40% of the cultivated acres in Canada.

“We’re witnessing a breakdown in the global food supply chain,” Millard says. “Canada has a real opportunity to be a world leader in ensuring food security.”

With a history of outperforming inflation over the past 30 years, farmland is also growing more attractive as a diversifying asset class. That’s bolstering Avenue Living’s bullish view on Saskatchewan farmland, which remains at a steep discount compared to neighbouring provinces.

Great strides in self-storage

The Mini Mall Storage Properties Trust has also cemented itself as a premier player in the secondary and tertiary markets of North America’s self-storage industry.
From just over 2 million square feet at the end of 2021, the trust has grown to nearly 6 million square feet of self-storage space. That expansion was partly driven by Avenue Living’s ability to introduce its proprietary technology stack and operating expertise into all the new locations it enters.

“A lot of innovation has happened in the primary downtown, new-development segment of self-storage over the past decade,” Millard says. “We’re taking that approach and applying it to older legacy-run assets that have traditionally operated as mom-and-pop, cash-and-paper businesses.”

Avenue Living is pushing for more growth through a new office in Dallas, where it has hired key industry leaders in the self-storage landscape.

“Our expansion into Texas has taken us from a smaller, scrappy Alberta-based company into a truly North American player,” Millard says. Mini Mall Storage is now a top 25 self-storage operator in North America.

More milestones

Above the 49th parallel, Avenue Living has arrived on Bay Street with a new Toronto office. With that new foothold in Canada’s financial hub, the company is positioned to further reinforce and broaden its capital base in the years to come.

With about $160 million in expenditures made toward capital improvements in its residential properties, Avenue Living is also sharpening its focus on maintaining a superior resident experience and providing great customer service.

After becoming a PRI signatory in 2021, the company is doubling down on sustainability through a partnership with the Canada Infrastructure Bank, which includes a $150-million co-investment on deep energy retrofits on its older-style multi-family assets.

“Real estate – especially older stock properties – represents a significant portion of GHG emissions in Canada,” Millard says. “Our goal is to reduce GHG emissions by at least 49% through deep energy retrofits”.

Leveraging its unique perspective on workforce housing, Avenue Living has also published industry-leading papers and research. That includes a peer-reviewed paper on the residential housing spectrum, which unpacks the nuances of typical renter demographics, as well as their needs in terms of rental housing.

“We’ve published a number of white papers on the importance of affordability, and how a changing cost of capital affects real estate across different markets and asset classes,” Millard says. “We’re really solidifying ourselves as thought leaders within the industry, while continuing to advocate for our residents and provide value for our investors.”

The way forward

Avenue Living has built a strong capital stack. Coupled with a diversified equity base and the use of longer term, fixed-rate debt instruments, Avenue Living is focusing on innovation and investment to ensure strong same-door performance and operations in 2023. It also plans to continue focusing on active property management to deliver the best possible results for residents and investors alike.

“We’re heading into a world with a lot of dark clouds, but we’re seeing opportunities in the market. We’re in a defensible position, and we are aiming to take advantage of any disruptions that may come,” Millard says. “2023 is going to be an interesting year globally, and a very exciting year for Avenue Living.”

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 for additional information regarding forward-looking statements and certain risks associated with them.