Written By Simon Crawford
Bennett Jones was pleased to host an oversubscribed NAIOP panel discussion on current issues in office financing, and I am happy to share my key impressions from what was a compelling and thoughtful dialogue.
We are not our neighbours to the south. Our CRE relationship market, lower labour mobility and conservative banking system encourage a more stable and predictive future in commercial real estate sectors, including office. U.S. news headlines about empty office buildings simply do not translate into an understanding of key Canadian markets.
Super-core, close to transit, amenitized office properties continue to be excellent long-term investments. Those office assets that do not check one or more of these boxes may take longer to fill vacancies.
The return to office policy is not the primary driver of downtown Toronto core office vacancy. The major driver is the pullback of the technology sector. The return, in force, of that sector to Toronto is inevitable. With a number of buildings recently joining the downtown office pool, and new ones coming online soon, the return of technology will be a significant force in bringing back Toronto core office buildings to historical vacancy rates.
Institutional lenders continue to lend in the office sector. While there may be an increased focus on the sponsor, tighter underwriting and pricing challenges caused by interest rate hikes, the lending market continues to see value in quality offices.
Of course, my main takeaway was the reminder that we have fiscally responsible, socially conscious and growth-minded people at the helms of our real estate institutions, who do not act in isolation, but who encourage a relationship-based commercial real estate industry with a view to building world-class Canadian cities.
More information on NAIOP is available on the association's website.
The Bennett Jones Commercial Real Estate group is a team of proactive, deal-focused advisors who serve clients in all stages of a project, from development, construction and land-use planning to commercial leasing and property management.
To discuss office financing in Canada further, please contact the author.