Multi-family real estate has long been recognized as one of the best ways to hedge against inflation. Property classes reflect an A, B, or C grade based on a combination of factors such as amenities, management styles, location, and tenant income levels. However, the best bets aren’t always shiny new Class A properties in hot housing markets with high rents. Avenue Living Asset Management holds B and C multi-family real estate assets and has a tried-and-true track record of providing A-class institutional quality management through customer-centric operations and services, capital improvements and a vertical integration model.
With climbing inflation and rising interest rates dominating headlines, the housing market has become top-of-mind for Canadians from coast to coast. Ensuring adequate affordable supply is a complex problem with no easy solution, and tackling it requires input and action from all areas of the housing industry, as well as various levels of government. From our inception, Avenue Living has focused on providing safe, well-managed housing at affordable prices — a focus that has allowed us to weather several economic challenges, and one that we know is a key part of the housing spectrum, now and in the future.
For investors, there is potential opportunity in existing supply, especially in assets that serve the workforce housing demographic — the focus of our Core Trust. This group, which makes up approximately 40 per cent of the private rental market, is anticipated to seek more affordable solutions as inflation and rising interest rates delay or disincentivize homeownership. Several external factors continue to bolster the strength of the workforce housing market, from population growth to the geopolitical and economic environment. Here, we explore those factors and their impact on our model.
The conversation around housing supply often raises the need for new builds. But with inflation at 6.8 per cent in April, and supply chain challenges making project plans unpredictable, construction of new buildings is not an immediate answer to the housing affordability problem. Avenue Living is in a unique position, as we acquire and refurbish existing housing stock to create safe, comfortable, and affordable homes for renters. As the cost of new builds continues to rise — and take rents with them — renovating existing property becomes a quicker, more efficient way to inject appealing inventory into the market at a reasonable price point. Renovations require an investment of approximately 10 to 15 per cent of the asset value, mitigating the risk of rising costs and allowing us to continue to provide safe, comfortable homes at an affordable rent, on a shorter timeline — and to potentially generate more immediate returns for our investors.
Housing affordability is top-of-mind for residents, as the cost of home ownership has risen out of reach for many. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Commission (CMHC) dictates that for housing to be considered “affordable,” a household must “spend less than 30 per cent of pre-tax income on adequate shelter.” Avenue Living residents, on average, earn $56,000 per year and spend roughly 23 per cent of their income on rent — which is significantly lower than the affordability construct from CMHC.
The government of Canada has an ongoing plan to increase immigration levels, as a way to increase our workforce and help the country recover from the economic challenges of the pandemic. This plan aims to attract over 400,000 people to Canada a year through 2024. In 2021, we welcomed a record number of newcomers — 401,000 people made Canada their home, the largest influx ever. Alberta is consistently one of their top destinations with Calgary and Edmonton as the fourth and fifth most popular cities among newcomers to Canada. Many newcomers rent when they arrive in Canada and fit into our target demographic, with the median pay for those arriving in Canada in 2018 sitting at $31,800.
Changing Resident Preferences
The pandemic changed how individuals view their homes, but beyond that, people are making space a priority, a trend that is becoming increasingly evident in rental patterns. We have seen more interest in suburban locations with larger floor plans — especially townhomes — across our portfolio, as inflation and rising interest rates cause people to put off home ownership and opt for more spacious rentals. Our experience as active property managers also tells us residents are seeking institutional-quality service, something rarely paired with affordability, but that we are committed to delivering.
Labour Market Shortages
The construction industry has been struggling with labour shortages for several years, and in the past year, those shortages have become more extreme. The 2021 BuildForce Canada report suggests the construction industry could be short as many as 81,000 workers by 2030 as it tries to keep up with retirements and increased demand — especially for housing. Avenue Living’s strategy of purchasing built assets and making capital improvements shields us from much of the risk that comes with that labour shortage.
Opportunity in the Workforce Housing Market
Our focus on multi-family residential, and particularly the workforce housing demographic, has historically shown opportunity for investors interested in real estate; a trend we believe will continue. As inflation and interest rates compel people to consider renting long-term, Avenue Living continues to set itself apart through strategic acquisitions, value-add capital improvements, and an unparalleled focus on the resident experience.
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 https://www.avenuelivingam.com/forward-looking-statements for additional information regarding forward-looking statements and certain risks associated with them.
Grant Alexander Wilson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Faculty of Business Administration, University of Regina
Jason Jogia, MBA, M.Fin., Chief Investment Officer, Avenue Living
Dr. Wilson is an Assistant Professor at the Hill and Levene School of Business, University of Regina. His research focuses on marketing, strategy, and innovation. He has published over 20 peer-reviewed articles in top management journals including Journal of Small Business Management, Research-Technology Management, and Journal of Business Strategy. His research has been featured in the National Post and by the World Economic Forum. Dr. Wilson is also a research consultant and contributor to Avenue Living Asset Management.
Mr. Jogia is the Chief Investment Officer at Avenue Living and has over 15 years of experience in real estate capital markets, originating over $10 billion in real estate loans and $1 billion in equity. He has extensive experience in real estate investment analysis and capital structure across various real estate classes. In addition to holding 2 Masters’ degrees in Finance, Mr. Jogia is pursuing his Doctorate of Business Administration and currently serves as an instructor at the University of Calgary, specializing in real estate finance.
The inflation example of milk increasing from $0.40 to $4.00 per gallon over a 100-year period (Wilson, 2021a) requires an update, as milk prices are expected to increase by a record-breaking 10% in 2022 (Canadian Broadcast Company, 2021; Heslop, 2021). Inflation is the increase of prices (e.g., milk), resulting in decreased purchasing power of consumers (e.g., milk buyers) (Lumsden, 2011). The primary explanations of inflation are demand-pull and cost-push (Lumsden, 2011). Prices of goods and services appreciate as a result of increased aggregate demand (demand-pull) or the rising production costs (cost-push) of such items. According to Pride et al. (2020), a stable rate of inflation is 2% per annum.
The most common measure of inflation is the change to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) (Statistics Canada, 2021a). The CPI “measures price change by comparing, through time, the cost of a fixed basket of goods and services” (Statistics Canada, 2021a). Prior to COVID-19, annual changes to the Canadian CPI averaged just below 2.0% (Figure 1). Canada’s pandemic-induced economic contraction and unemployment increase, resulted in unprecedentedly low inflation in 2020. With the rollout of vaccines in 2021 and the full reopening of the economy, Canada is now experiencing above-average inflation. This trend is likely to continue, with high inflation forecasted into 2022 and beyond (Trading Economics, 2021a) (Figure 1).
FIGURE 1 – 12-MONTH CPI CHANGE & FORECAST
Statistics Canada (2021b) & Trading Economics (2021a)
Although inflation is a country’s natural economic tendency (Rothbard, 1962), if prices increases too quickly and without corresponding wage changes, purchasing power is diminished (Pride et al., 2020). Over the last five decades, industrialized nations’ monetary policies have placed great emphasis on the prevention and reduction of inflation (Lumsden, 2011). However, such policies are imprecise, much less guaranteed. Accordingly, savvy investors have explored ways to hedge against inflation. Specifically, multi-family residential real estate investments are increasingly appealing for investors (Nickerson, 2021). The next sections describe how forecasted interest rates, home values, and energy prices support the investment in multi-family properties.
INTEREST RATES & AFFORDABILITY
According to the Bank of Canada (2021a), it “carries out monetary policy by influencing short-term interest rates. It does this by adjusting the target for the overnight rate.” In an attempt to stabilize the economic contraction from the pandemic, the Bank of Canada (2021b) decreased the overnight rate from 1.75% to 0.25% in early 2020. As Canada’s economy expands and high inflation looms, the Bank of Canada is expected to increase the overnight rate by 1.25% to 1.50% by March 2023 (Trading Economics, 2021b) (Figure 2).
FIGURE 2 – CANADIAN OVERNIGHT RATE & FORECAST
Bank of Canada (2021b) & Trading Economics (2021b)
According to the Bank of Canada (2021c) the overnight rate is the starting point for “interest rates in the economy that matter for Canadians.” Changes to the overnight rate result in corresponding changes to commercial lending rates (Kenton, 2021). Based on the forecasted overnight rate and resulting commercial lending rate changes, mortgage interest rates are likely to increase by 1.25%. Table 1 illustrates the homeownership affordability effects of a 1.25% interest rate increase across various home values ($350,000 to $1,000,000), assuming a 5% down payment, 4% Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) insurance premium, 25-year amortization period, and 12 payments per year.
TABLE 1 – MORTGAGE PAYMENTS & INTEREST RATE CHANGES
*2.25% IR = 2.25% interest rate, **3.5% IR = 3.50% interest rate
The change of 1.25% in mortgage interest rates elicits an increase of 14.8% in monthly payments. Given over 25% of Canadian homeowners currently spend more than what is considered “affordable” on mortgage payments (Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, 2018; Statistics Canada, 2019), the planned interest rate increases will create further affordability issues. Specifically, there will be heightened barriers to entry for new home buyers and greater risk exposure for variable-rate mortgage holders. As a result, the rental market is increasingly appealing to middle-income earners (Wilson, 2020). The growing rental demand is also appealing for real estate investors, as more renters mean lower vacancy rates and stronger cash flows. Individuals and property investors with fixed interest rates will be advantaged over those with variable rates. Individuals will be better able to manage their household budget and property investors can increase residential rents – in accordance with the tenancy agreements – in response to interest rate changes.
HOME VALUES & AFFORDABILITY
As with interest rate increases, the appreciation of home values in Canada has created affordability issues for housing market participants. Since the onset of the pandemic, Canadian home prices have appreciated significantly (Figure 3). Home prices increased by nearly 20% from October 2020 to October 2021. The new housing price index – a proxy for residential property appreciation – is expected to continue to increase in 2022 and plateau well above pre-pandemic values.
Statistics Canada (2021c) & Trading Economics (2022)
The appreciating nature of residential real estate, including single and multi-family dwellings, is both promising for investors and challenging for new home buyers. According to Wilson (2021a; 2021b), capital appreciation from property investments has historically outpaced inflation, proving to be an effective hedge. In contrast, the wages of low and medium-income earners lag market price changes (Shahid, 2021), making homeownership increasingly difficult. Aside from the rising home prices and impending interest rate increases, the energy market outlook poses new affordability concerns.
ENERGY MARKET & AFFORDABILITY
After 18 months of natural gas supply shortages caused by the pandemic and its increased demand due to the reopening of the global economy, prices have surged to new heights (Figure 4). Average natural gas prices are expected to track above $5.00 per Metric Million British Thermal Unit (MMBtu) for the foreseeable future. These increases “will fuel inflation and hit low-income Canadians the hardest” (Alini, 2021).
FIGURE 4 – NATURAL GAS PRICES & PROJECTIONS
Investing (2021) & Trading Economics (2021d)
As natural gas is the main source of energy that heats homes and businesses (Canadian Gas Association, 2020), Canadians will be impacted both directly and indirectly by price increases. Natural gas prices will directly impact most Canadians’ utility bills, making homeownership less, and renting more, desirable. The indirect effects of natural gas price increases are realized by consumers via cost-push inflation. For example, higher energy costs make it more expensive to produce, transport, and store goods, resulting in higher-priced goods and services. The energy market outlook makes renting an affordable or in some cases a necessary, alternative to homeownership. From a real estate investor perspective, the natural gas market outlook and its inflationary pressures are poised to create strong demand for residential real estate, further supporting low vacancy rates that translate into consistent cash flows.
INSIGHT FOR INDIVIDUALS & INVESTORS
The multi-family residential real estate market is ideal for individuals and investors amid high inflation, increasing interest rates, soaring home values, and energy price forecasts. For middle-income individuals and families, these market uncertainties support renting in the short term. For investors, the capital appreciation from increasing property values and consistent cash flow from the high rental demand support investment positions in multi-family residential real estate.
STRATEGIC INVESTMENT IN MULTI-FAMILY REAL ESTATE
It is well documented that real estate has historically outpaced inflation (Wilson, 2021a; 2021b). Accordingly, investments in real estate have been regarded as a strategic hedge against inflation. However, based on the current market outlook, residential real estate has advantages over commercial real estate investments. As discussed, rising inflation, interest rates, and natural gas prices are making homeownership increasingly difficult for many Canadians. Strong demand for rental housing is imminent, affording residential real estate investors strong cash flows due to low vacancy rates. Commercial renters – producing goods and services – are not immune to inflationary pressures, as operation costs are continually increasing. In many cases, these costs are passed down to the consumer, but not always. The pandemic and its lagged effects created some of the highest commercial vacancy rates on record (The Canadian Press, 2021). Despite the recent declining trend in commercial vacancy rates across Canada – due to the reopening of the economy – changes are less immediate and rates are far greater than in the residential market (The Canadian Press, 2021). Lastly, residential, as compared to commercial, leases allow for more flexibility. Residential leases are short-term, ranging from month-to-month to 12-month contracts. Conversely, commercial leases are conventionally five-year terms. The flexibility of such short-term contracts permits greater responsiveness to inflation and interest rate changes, advantaging residential real estate investors.
Rising inflation, increasing interest rates, and soaring natural gas prices are working against the proverbial homeownership dream in Canada. The re-examination of real estate’s effectiveness as an inflation hedge is upheld and supports previous work (Wilson, 2021a; Wilson, 2021b). However, current market dynamics advantage residential versus commercial estate in the short and medium term. Consequently, investments in multi-family properties are likely to be both strategic and profitable.
Alini, E. (2021). Natural gas price hikes will fuel inflation and hit low-income Canadians the hardest. https://globalnews.ca/news/8245318/natural-gas-prices-canada-inflation/
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Bank of Canada. (2021b). Canadian interest rates and monetary policy variables: 10-year lookup. https://www.bankofcanada.ca/rates/interest-rates/canadian-interest-rates/
Bank of Canada. (2021c). Understanding our policy interest rate. https://www.bankofcanada.ca/2021/04/understanding-policy-interest-rate/
Canadian Broadcast Company. (2021). Milk, cheese prices could soon jump 10 to 15 per cent. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/milk-prices-increase-new-brunswick-1.6237730
Canadian Gas Association. (2020). Natural gas facts. https://www.cga.ca/natural-gas-statistics/natural-gas-facts/
Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. (2018). About affordable housing in Canada. https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/developing-and-renovating/develop-new-affordable-housing/programs-and-information/about-affordable-housing-in-canada
Deschamps, T. (2021). Home prices were up 18% annually in Canada last month. https://globalnews.ca/news/8374771/home-prices-canada-crea-october/
Evans, P. (2021). This is the busiest year ever for the housing market, with prices up 18%. https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/crea-housing-october-1.6249145
Gibillini, N. & Gaviola, A. (2021). Food prices rose nearly 4% in September. These products saw biggest jump. https://globalnews.ca/news/8283469/food-prices-inflation-september-2021/
Heslop, B. (2021). Cost of milk expected to jump in Canada in 2022. https://www.iheartradio.ca/610cktb/news/cost-of-milk-expected-to-jump-in-canada-in-2022-1.16411210
Investing. (2021). Natural gas futures. https://ca.investing.com/commodities/natural-gas-historical-data
Kenton, W. (2021). Bank rate. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/bankrate.asp
Lumsden, K. G. (2011). Economics. Heriot-Watt University.
Nickerson, C. (2021). Multifamily withstands pandemic better than most property types. https://renx.ca/multifamily-withstands-pandemic-better-most-property-types/
Pride, W. H., Hughes, R. J., Kapoor, J. R., Althouse, N. R., and Allan, L. A. (2020). Business. Nelson.
Rothbard, M. N. (1962). The case for a 100 percent gold dollar. Libertarian Review Press, 94-136.
Shahid, S. (2021). Low-income Canadian households will suffer the most from soaring inflation. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-low-income-canadian-households-will-suffer-the-most-from-soaring/
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Western Investor. (2019). Cap rates for multi-family rentals are lowest of all CRE sectors. https://www.westerninvestor.com/news/multi-family/cap-rates-for-multi-family-rentals-are-lowest-of-all-cre-sectors-1.23925194
Wilson, G. A., & Jogia, J. (2020). Essential workers, workforce housing, & property investing. https://www.avenuelivingam.com/essential-workers-workforce-housing-property-investing/
Wilson, G. A., & Jogia, J. (2021a). Canadian real estate & farmland: A hedge against inflation. https://www.avenuelivingam.com/canadian-real-estate-farmland-a-hedge-against-inflation/
Wilson, G. A. (2021b). As inflation looms, here’s how real estate and farmland have protected investors. https://theconversation.com/as-inflation-looms-heres-how-real-estate-and-farmland-have-protected-investors-155854
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 https://www.avenuelivingam.com/forward-looking-statements for additional information regarding forward-looking statements and certain risks associated with them.
Calgary-based Avenue Living Asset Management, announced today its Avenue Living Real Estate Core Trust has raised $103 million in equity since December 2021. Beginning with an original expansion target offering of $60 million, the allocation of this close to a series of accretive purchases, brings the Canadian alternative asset manager from $3.25 billion to over $3.5 billion in assets under management in only two months.
According to Jason Jogia, Chief Investment Officer at Avenue Living, “this strong investor interest demonstrates confidence in Avenue Living’s uniquely designed, vertically integrated investment platform.”
“We are very excited about the timing of this accretive capital raise, and what it does for the execution of our continued growth and diversification activities. It builds on a carefully defined consolidation strategy focused on multi-family, low-to-medium density workforce housing apartment assets across the North American Heartland,” says Jogia. “These funds continue to support and accelerate further acquisitions, many of which are already in action in key regions across Canada and the United States.”
The Core Trust focuses on multi-family assets and delivers institutional-level servicing to North America’s most essential workers. The fund provides investors with an opportunity to own real assets that are not correlated to the public markets and delivers a valuable hedge against inflation.
“Right now, investors are shying away from market volatility,” says Anthony Giuffre, Avenue Living’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer. “An offering like the Core Trust is an ideal way for them to invest in real estate without actively managing the assets themselves. We are thrilled about the response to this capital raise as it will help us actualize our growing pipeline of North American acquisitions, allow us to gain significant market share, and provide investors with geographic diversification at a time when housing affordability is in high demand.”
ABOUT AVENUE LIVING
Founded on the principle of investing in the everyday, Avenue Living focuses on opportunities that are often overlooked by others, having grown to over $3.5 billion in aggregate assets under management across four private real estate investment mandates. The Avenue Living team includes over 750 professionals with expertise in real estate operations and transactions, property management, research, investment origination, and capital markets, as well as a suite of subject matter experts to support Avenue Living’s growing portfolio of multi-family residential, commercial, agricultural land, and self-storage assets. In addition to over 14,000 multi-family units located in Canada and the United States, Avenue Living and its related entities own over 450,000 square feet of commercial space, 48,000 acres of productive farmland, and more than 2,700,000 square feet of self-storage space.
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 communication may contain forward-looking statements. Readers should refer to information contained on our website at www.avenuelivingam.com for additional information regarding forward-looking statements and certain risks associated with them.
Avenue Living’s strategic approach and milestones from the past year continue to support our business expansion across North America.
Avenue Living Asset Management reached a number of significant milestones in 2021. Despite the ongoing pandemic and challenges facing the world today, our robust investments in workforce housing, self-storage, and agricultural properties — on both sides of the border — grew our total assets under management to over $3.1 billion, more than doubling in value in under 1.5 years.
Throughout the year, Avenue Living focused strategically on two key areas of our business to drive greater customer satisfaction — our platform and our service model. “Like healthy soil, when you start with a solid foundation, anything you plant in it will grow,” says Anthony Giuffre, CEO of Avenue Living. “This is why we focus on investing in our people while optimizing and refining our end-to-end customer service model. For us, it was vital to have these two important elements in place before expanding our assets under management.”
“During the last two years we’ve had to navigate numerous waves of COVID-19 and changing public health restrictions — and through that process, we’ve constantly adapted,” says Anthony. “When housing 30,000 people and serving a diverse set of customers, it’s essential to understand their specific needs. To cater to these unique needs, we had to make our operations as fluid and functional as possible to ensure a high level of customer satisfaction. I would say our team did that exceptionally well in 2021.”
With the addition of more than 2,800 multi-family apartment units, 6,600 acres of farmland, and 1,750,000 square feet of storage units last year alone, Avenue Living continued to fortify our position as a leading multi-family owner/operator in Canada, along with a growing presence in the self-storage, agriculture, and U.S. multi-family spaces.
Avenue Living’s portfolio now includes over 13,000 multi-residential units, over 2 million square feet of self-storage property space and 48,000 acres of agricultural real estate — and we anticipate significant growth in 2022 with our Core Trust’s acquisition of our U.S. Real Estate Trust, moving us towards a more holistic North American investment focus with a large pipeline of potential assets.
“We’ve now created a more institutionalized and robust platform for our business,” says Anthony. “Our well-defined processes, technological advancement, and clear objectives differentiate us. In addition to having a laser-focused acquisition strategy for workforce housing assets, we have prioritized our overall customer experience, which is key to our continued success.”
Below are some of our most important milestones and achievements from last year, all of which set us up for a strong start to 2022.
The Avenue Living Team Passes 750 Employees Strong
Our team welcomed a record number of new colleagues last year; now totaling 750 employees within the company and across North America. These experts are the backbone of our platform and one of the main reasons we have been able to achieve such sustained growth.
Assets Under Management Grow to $3.1 Billion
Avenue Living reached a major benchmark earlier this year as the company surpassed more than $3.1 billion in assets under management. This is a significant achievement and shows incredible growth as the total amount of AUM doubled from $1.5 billion to $3.1 billion in less than 1.5 years.
Avenue Living Joins Principles for Responsible Investment
We were honoured and proud to announce that Avenue Living became a signatory of the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), the world’s leading proponent of responsible investment. The PRI framework encourages investors to use responsible investment to enhance returns and better manage risks and is supported by the United Nations. We are pleased to be among the 218 global organizations that became new signatories in 2021. The PRI now has 4,375 signatories, representing US$121 trillion of AUM. As PRI signatories, we ensure that as we grow, we do so responsibly.
MMSP Trust Establishes U.S. Footprint
Mini Mall Storage Properties Trust acquired its first storage property south of the border in December 2021. Located in Arkansas, this property is the beginning of an expansion into the American Heartland, where we will continue to move into attractive secondary markets under the leadership of our new President of U.S. Operations.
Avenue Living Creates First North American Workforce Housing Fund
Our U.S.-focused Trust, which was established in February 2020 and exclusively held multi-family properties in the United States, reached the $100 million AUM mark in 2021. The Trust’s success demonstrates the defensibility of our investment strategy and the value our U.S. expansion brought to the Avenue Living portfolio. On the strength of this growth, Avenue Living Core Trust acquired 100 per cent ownership of the U.S. Real Estate Trust, and its U.S. assets. This alignment created the first North American Workforce Housing Fund, offering further diversification to investors by operating across a broader geographic platform while continuing to specialize in what we do best.
Poised for Continued Growth in 2022
With a clear focus on Avenue Living’s pillars of success and key investment strategies, we have achieved many pivotal milestones in 2021. These foundational elements have become the framework for us to continue our expansion and growth into 2022.
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 www.avenuelivingam.com for additional information regarding forward-looking statements and certain risks associated with them.