RentSmart Alberta: Increasing Housing Stability in Alberta

2018-2019 Annual Report Highlight

People renting a place to live want a safe, suitable, and affordable home. Landlords want their tenants to pay the rent on time and take good care of the property. But knowing how to be a good tenant or a good landlord doesn’t always come naturally.

That is where Capital Region Housing (CRH) and RentSmart come in. CRH is the provincial provider of RentSmart, a tenancy education program that offers support and coaching to help tenants have successful relationships with landlords. Better relationships between tenants and landlords, in turn, help decrease homelessness and increase housing stability. In a survey of RentSmart participants, 97 per cent of those who replied reported that the course “provided them with the knowledge they needed to be a good tenant.”

CRH received $49,000 in funding from AREF to increase awareness, and acceptance of RentSmart across Alberta with outreach and landlord engagement as well as traveling to a number of different communities in the province.

RentSmart Basics is a three-hour engaging and interactive session that includes a manual. When a person successfully finishes the session, they receive a letter of completion to use a reference with a landlord. The RentSmart Certificate covers six modules over 12 hours in a classroom. People learn tenant rights and responsibilities, how to budget to make sure they can cover their rent, and how to communicate with landlords, neighbours, and roommates. Upon successful completion, participants get a certificate they can show landlords.

CRH is the largest provider of social and near market housing in the Edmonton area. CRH manages over 4,500 social housing rental units and over 600 near market housing rental units, and leads community initiatives that promote housing stability and foster healthy tenancies. Since 1970, the CRH mission has been to provide safe and affordable housing that meets community needs.

Read the Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s full 2018-2019 Annual Report.

The Guide to the Planning Process: Next Generation Planning

2018-2019 Annual Report Highlight

The City of Calgary likes to engage residents and get them involved in its planning process. To that end, the City ensures every single community association in Calgary is given the relevant development applications and is asked for feedback but to be able to take part and provide that feedback, community associations need the right tools, education, and support to navigate the city’s “complex planning system.”

That’s why the Federation of Calgary Communities (FCC) developed “A Community Guide to the Planning Process” in 2008 with funding from AREF. Every year since the FCC has tweaked the document to keep it up to date but the time has come to rewrite it. FCC says: “it requires a complete overhaul because of the changes to statutory plans and processes being made by The City of Calgary.”

With $50,000 in funding from AREF, FCC is developing “The Guide to the Planning Process: Next Generation Planning”. The new guide will provide the reader with a basic understanding of planning’s policy context and legal framework; a clarification of the roles, rights and responsibilities of the many stakeholders involved in the process; include helpful information about reviewing planning applications; a description of the steps of the planning process; advice about running a planning committee operation; and a list of resources for more information. The Guide is also of value to the real estate industry because the City is looking at changing the land use designations and the land use bylaw.

The new guide, which was prepared with the cooperation of the City, will empower citizens and community volunteers by ensuring they have the right information and support to be involved in the City’s planning process. It also helps promote good working relationships among communities, applicants, City staff, and all the other players involved in the planning process.

Read the Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s full 2018-2019 Annual Report.

Enhancing Rural Property Values through Extension/Education

2018-2019 Annual Report Highlight

There are millions of hectares of privately owned forested areas in Alberta. This project is creating a variety of marketing materials, including postcards and fact sheets, that are designed to increase awareness among rural landowners about the services provided by Agroforestry & Woodlot Extension Society—AWES—and help them make “the most of their forest.”

The non-profit organization consists of people from government, industry, and non-profit sectors who all “share the common goal of encouraging sustainable forest management on private lands.”

AWES helps rural landowners across the province make the most of any forest they may have on their property. As well as being pleasing to the eye, healthy trees can serve a number of very important purposes on a piece of property— from acting as shelterbelt or windbreak to protect land, wildlife, and buildings against wind and erosion, to helping to maintain the health of riparian areas where land meets water to even encouraging native pollinators.

AWES holds a number of educational workshops and other events over the course of a year and is also available for a landowner to hire as a consultant to provide a number of services. After a site and individual tree health assessment, AWES can help a landowner with planting trees, rejuvenating or creating a shelterbelt, or restoring a riparian area.

In one-on-one meetings with landowners, AWES educates rural landowners about their forested lands and helps them improve how they manage their forested lands, thus helping landowners increase the property value of their land.

The $30,000 in funding from AREF is helping AWES promote its valuable services to landowners. And concurrently, the project is helping people working in the real estate industry better understand and promote the fact that well managed forest on rural parcels of land can lead to increased property values for the current and any subsequent owners.

Read the Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s full 2018-2019 Annual Report.

The Next Step: Examining The Real Estate Foundation Revenue Model & Modernisation

2018-2019 Annual Report Highlight

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) is approaching its 30th anniversary which is an opportune time to ponder our past and look ahead to our future. As we reflect on our many successes over the last three decades, we are also exploring how to modernise our model to ensure the Foundation is well positioned in the changing world of payments, interest rates, and community investment.

The Foundation was created in 1991 by provincial legislation, the Real Estate Act, to enhance the real estate industry and benefit the people of Alberta. The funding model works like this: When a home buyer deposits money in trust through a real estate broker, the interest earned on the deposit is accumulated and forwarded to AREF to invest in the province. AREF has invested more than $21 million towards 620 projects in the areas of community innovation, education and research, housing, industry leadership, and land stewardship.

When the Foundation started collecting funds 30 years ago, interest rates were high.  Recently, they have been historically low. Real estate professionals have also seen dramatic changes in banking, payment verification, and compliance procedures for money laundering. In addition, the 2008 banking crisis resulted in new international banking regulations that change how financial institutions regard short term deposits.

A number of research papers written for our Foundation and the Real Estate Foundation of BC (REFBC)–which follows the same model–have detailed the challenges. These include lower interest rates and higher banking fees compressing Foundation revenue; stakeholders expecting more efficient transactions; and short-term commercial deposits becoming less attractive to financial institutions.

It’s time to revisit the way we do business.

We are investing $100,000 in a year-long comprehensive process to modernise the Foundation model and ensure we can keep innovating and serving Alberta communities for decades to come. This project, in partnership with REFBC and Platform Calgary, will provide the Foundation the opportunity to work with stakeholders to create better workflows and better consumer protection.

A new Real Estate Technology Lab held in Calgary and Vancouver will bring together a number of different stakeholders to generate thought leadership, foster new thinking, as well as identify and help adopt solutions. The lab will convene AREF, REFBC, the Real Estate Council of Alberta, legislative bodies (Service Alberta and BC’s Superintendent of Real Estate), real estate professionals, brokerages, lawyers, financial institutions, start-ups with relevant technologies, and others. Together these stakeholders will explore industry challenges, identify best practices, and accelerate relevant technologies.

The lab will tackle pressing challenges such as the need to automate workflows for residential property purchases and support the long term vision to advance and improve the real estate industries in the two provinces.

AREF and REFBC are taking a leadership role in modernising our funding models. This will lead to a better form of consumer protection, increase revenue for our Foundations, and strengthen the real estate industry’s reputation by positioning both Alberta and British Columbia as innovative real estate ecosystems.

Read the Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s full 2018-2019 Annual Report.