Leadership Changes at the Foundation

Foundation thanks Cheryl De Paoli and welcomes Governor Christine Zwozdesky.

At the end of June, AREF will say farewell to Executive Director Cheryl De Paoli. Cheryl has held various roles at the Foundation since 2006 and served as Executive Director for the last nine years.

“We thank Cheryl for her years of service, steady leadership and many valuable contributions to the Foundation. We wish her the best of luck on her next professional adventure. Her dedication to the Real Estate industry and Alberta’s communities will be missed,” said Doug Leighton, Board Chair.

“Thank you for the opportunity to represent the Foundation,” said De Paoli. “I am honoured to have served in various roles and leaving now, on the eve of the organization’s 30th Anniversary, allows time for my successor to bring a fresh perspective to the Foundation’s next decade.”

And while we must say goodbye, this month we also welcomed Christine Zwozdesky to the Board of Governors for a three-year term. She brings a wealth of experience in the real estate industry and community and is looking forward to bringing her considerable knowledge in governance, strategic planning, and financial management to the board. Christine is one of the three Public Appointments sitting on the Board of Governors.

Christine was a licensed real estate professional for 18 years. She enjoyed a lengthy career in property management with regional and national companies until she started her own commercial real estate consulting firm in 2007. A former President of both the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) Edmonton chapter and Edmonton’s Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) chapter, Christine also sat on the Real Estate Council of Alberta for two terms, including serving as Chair of Council, and she was a Director with the Capital Region Housing Corporation for 9 years.

Christine is pleased to working with AREF in its efforts to support of the real estate industry and the community at large. “I believe the real estate industry was facing significant and material challenges even before the onset of our new pandemic realities,” she said. “As a result, investment by AREF in community projects is more important than ever.  I am honoured to lend my education, experience, and enthusiasm to identifying the needs, analyzing the initiatives, and supporting progress to strengthen our industry and economy.”  Read more about Christine here.

“Moving forward, the Board is excited to further engage with our stakeholders as we enter an exciting new chapter for the Foundation” said Leighton.

The Board of Governors has initiated a search for a new Executive Director. For more information, please contact Alberta Real Estate Foundation Chair Doug Leighton at dleighton@aref.ab.ca.


Thank you to Cheryl for her passion and dedication to the Foundation, our stakeholders and our province. We look forward to following her next steps, and are hopeful and excited for the next chapter of the Foundation.

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) is pleased to announce that Christine Zwozdesky has joined our Board of Governors for a three-year term.

June 2020 Community Investment

The Board of Governors of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation approved $546,000 in community investment projects at their recent meeting.

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation invests in real estate policy, research, practices, and education that strengthen Alberta’s communities. Under the Real Estate Act, whenever a consumer deposits money in trust through a real estate broker, property manager, or commercial broker, the interest earned on the deposit is accumulated and forwarded to the Foundation for reinvestment into Alberta’s communities. Individually, it is nickels and dimes. But across the province it adds up.

Since its inception in 1991, the Foundation has invested over 22.6 million in grants to 640 initiatives across Alberta.

Projects approved at the June meeting include:

  • Civic Commons Catalyst Evergreen
    The Civic Commons Catalyst is a timely, creative, shared platform that brings together organizations and institutions to research, convene, evaluate, and develop public and private real estate opportunities in Alberta. The Catalyst is a solutions lab that will address the challenges facing the Alberta and Calgary urban development sector including the potential impacts of COVID-19 on the built environment, impacts of the downturn in the oil and gas sector and the vacancy and under-utilization of assets in Calgary’s downtown core.
  • Creating emergency accommodations for Wood Buffalo HousingWood Buffalo Housing and Development Corporation
    This project will provide 30 multi-family units in one of Alberta’s most progressive communities that through the last few years have been going through extraordinary change. This project will meet immediate needs in this extraordinary time of multiple stressors in the community with industry in flux, COVID-19 and now in the wake of a major wildfire and now a flood. In the long-term, these units will provide bridge accommodations as people look to longer-term real estate options.
  • Enhancing Rural Properties and Communities Values Agroforestry & Woodlot Extension Society
    The project will assist in increasing property values of rural lands by educating and assisting rural landowners in improved management of their forested lands.  This includes supporting hamlets and summer villages in understanding opportunities for improved management of rural forested lands by current and future owners.
  • Fragmentation and Conversion of Agricultural LandUniversity of Alberta
    This project will survey the attitudes of Alberta residents, leaders, and planners towards open space, farmland conversation, and economic development features in urban and peri-urban areas, providing qualitative research to realtors, municipal leaders, planners, and the public to inform decision-making.
  • Green Building Education DevelopmentSouthern Alberta Institute of Technology
    The Green Building Education Development will provide a high-quality educational opportunity for Real Estate Professionals to learn best practices on green building standards. The intent is to equip Real Estate Professionals with knowledge they can share as the front line of the industry with consumers, building owners and property managers, As the demand for green building standards increases, so will the need for this type of training.
  • Investigation into Present and Future Cooperative Housing Alberta Rural Development Network & Alberta Community and Co-operative Association
    Co-op housing is an essential piece of the housing continuum in Alberta and Canada. However, as government subsidies continue to dwindle and current co-op assets face increasing maintenance costs, a number of units are threatened. This project will assess the financial needs of current co-ops, research solutions, and put forward recommendations for new co-op housing models such as the Limited Equity Housing Co-Ops (LEHCs), land trusts, and other models.
  • Renewable Skills for Remote and Indigenous Communities Iron & Earth
    The rapidly shifting energy industry has led to increased job insecurity for many fossil fuel industry workers since the downturn in 2014. The Renewable Skills Initiative is designed to empower fossil fuel industry and Indigenous workers to fill these new jobs and build the infrastructure required to meet climate targets through tailored upskilling training programs and career support.
  • Updating and Enhancing the Green Communities GuideLand Stewardship Centre of Canada
    This project will update and re-print a highly successful and impactful educational and awareness resource called the Green Communities Guide (GCG), a resource that has resonated deeply with the municipal and stewardship community. This essential update to the GCG will enable us to offer an enhanced resource to realtors, municipalities, land-use planners and developers to help communities plan and implement strategies to conserve valuable natural assets in the face of development and expanding communities.

Your Trees do have Value

by the Agroforestry & Woodlet Extension Society 

Most people that live in Alberta have trees as part of their landscape. That can be in the yard around their home as ornamentals and fruit trees, or it can be in rural Alberta as large tracts of natural native trees that existed prior to any land clearing or shelterbelts and windbreaks that have been planted over the years. Those trees have a large variety of value to the owners and the communities in the province. So how do you find out those values and what can you do manage or improve those values?

In 2019 the Agroforestry & Woodlot Extension Society initiated a project, with support from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, to assist primarily rural landowners of acreages and farms in learning about the value of their trees and also how manage aspects of the trees to improve the growth and quality of the trees and the overall value of their property. However, the project efforts can also benefit landowners in cities, towns, and small hamlets as all these areas have plenty to trees and can use some assistance.

The project involved meeting with landowners talking about their treed area or about an area they would like in trees and providing them advise on best way to achieve their goals. In many cases, the conversation turned to how to successfully plant more trees or how to improve the health and growth of their existing trees. Over the past year the program resulted in benefits to over 30 landowners, leading to six new planting projects that involved planting over 20,000 trees on private lands in central and northwest Alberta. It also has the potential of creating another 6-8 projects that will be planted in the spring of 2021, with a growing number as the project proceeds.

So, what are some of the values that might come from your trees? There are obvious values like producing wood if the tree is cut down, to be used in the manufacture of many things, including most of the homes in Alberta, but there are a lot of other values that they can provide as they stand and live in our backyards. As examples: trees will affect the microclimate (climate of a localised area) around them, primarily by altering wind, potentially reducing heating and cooling costs by 17.5% – 25%, and protecting livestock; they act as a physical buffer for odours and particulates, improving air quality; the reduction of wind speed prevents the movement of valuable topsoil off of fields and helps prevent the drying situation that leads to loose soils in the first place. One of the most beneficial synergies of trees is in how they interact with water and water bodies on a property. Their ability to control snow can be quite extensive, and they can act as water filters for runoff. Wooded areas also offer a variety of habitats for wildlife, which in turn offer their own benefits.

This partnership has allowed us to demonstrate that there are many and varied values the forested areas and trees can have, from their economic values to their inherent value as natural areas. Due to the complexity of these forested areas and trees, it is important to look at each case individually, and assess a forest or shelterbelt’s value on a case-by-case basis. All of this is explained in detail in the educational document produced as part of the project on the many and wonderful values that trees provide to people.