Bad blood behind concerns over marketing video: realtors

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

Group defends ad after Real Estate Council launches investigation

The Vancouver Sun

The Real Estate Council of B.C. is investigating a marketing video advertising a “future redevelopment opportunity” that isn’t possible under current city zoning and policies.

However, the real estate agents behind the ad maintain they’ve done their due diligence. They noted that the concern at city hall over the video is just a distraction from the issues surrounding the city’s rental stock in a highly politicized discussion on real estate.

“We’ve been writing about this issue for the last decade and City Hall does not like us because we’ve basically outed them,” said Mark Goodman of the Goodman Report.

The Goodman Report is a Vancouver-based group specializing in commercial real estate that has been publishing regular reports on the real estate industry since the 1980s. The news of the investigation came just days after Carolyn Rogers, the superintendent of real estate with the Financial Institutions Commission (FICOM) presented a report on behalf of the Independent Advisory Group on Real Estate Regulation in B.C. (IAG) to Vancouver City Council, where the topic of whose duty it is to regulate aggressive and misleading real estate advertising was discussed during question period. Rogers is the former chair of the IAG.

Rogers said the FICOM “recognizes the public’s concern about aggressive real estate marketing practices, and the Real Estate Council is increasing its focus on industry practices following the Report of the Independent Advisory Group.”

The video released by the Goodman Report showcases an assembly known as Southview Gardens, located at 3240 East 58th Ave. The 6.58-acre property is the site of a rental complex, housing 140 townhouse and apartment units across 16 buildings. Many of those rental suites are three- and fourbedroom family units. Advertising material accompanying the video boasts an annual holding income of about $1.42 million, and invites interested buyers to “capitalize on extreme demand for new market and rental housing in an established neighbourhood.”

In the video, block renderings of a “future redevelopment opportunity” resembling condo towers and large buildings are superimposed onto an aerial view of the property. The video notes that the area’s zoning allows for apartments; townhouses; seniors’ and public housing; retail, service and entertainment establishments; gas stations; public parks; as well as church and related schools.

The site featured in the video, which was posted to YouTube earlier this year, has been designated and protected for rental housing according to land-use policy developed by the city in the 1970s. It is also part of a group of sites, which includes the nearby Champlain Mall, that is under single CD-1 zoning, which has no remaining capacity for further development.

“We have screened the marketing video submitted to our offices, and the Real Estate Council has opened an investigation,” said Rogers.

However, a lawyer representing the Goodman Report forwarded a statement from the Goodmans Tuesday, noting that no complaint was received.

“The information we have from the Real Estate Council of B.C. is that no formal complaint has been received by them with respect to the marketing or advertising of the subject property,” the statement read.

According to the City of Vancouver, there had been inquiries about the listing, but officials have put out the same information each time.

“It’s the speculation that’s associated with it that is inconsistent with our policies and bylaws,” said Susan Haid, the city’s assistant director of planning for Vancouver South, noting the redevelopment suggested in the video isn’t in line with the area’s community vision plan or the city’s rental housing stock development plan. The only development permitted under current zoning bylaws would be a “1:1 requisite replacement of rental housing along with tenant relocation strategies.”

“We would not entertain a rezoning of the site.”

Haid said if any changes were to occur, it would require “a major community initiative” and planning process be undertaken, something the city has no intention of pursuing at this time.

Mark Goodman says his firm has been in communication with the city and that there have never been any concerns expressed about the handling of the listing, which was sold about three weeks ago and is slated to close in the fall. The buyer plans to keep Southview Gardens as rental property for the foreseeable future.

“We’re not suggesting you can demolish anything now — we’re suggesting, in the future, it will make a very nice redevelopment opportunity for market housing, assisted social housing, affordable rental housing — all the initiatives that the city wants to see,” he said.

David Goodman, who founded the Goodman Report, said they were upfront with every interested party who inquired about the property and directed them to the city for more information on applicable zoning policies.

“We have not represented this as a development site, it is a future redevelopment site and frankly, half of Vancouver is a future redevelopment site,” he said.

Of the city’s concerns over the Southview Gardens advertising, he called it a “witch hunt,” noting the Goodman Report has been “critical over the past six or seven years of the city’s housing policies.”

“We believe the city’s policies have been regressive and not pro-rental,” he said, noting the 140 rental units at Southview Gardens could be 500 or 600 rental units instead, if regulations were loosened by the city.

Jon Stovell of Reliance Properties said his company was interested in the Southview Gardens listing, but eventually decided it was not for them.

He said he understands how the video might alarm residents currently living in Southview Gardens, but that anyone in the discussion to purchase a multimillion-dollar property would make no mistakes over something like zoning.

“We certainly never felt that we were presented with something that was a promise that would lead to an erroneous conclusion,” he said.

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