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Improving Water Quality to Sustainable Communities and Ecosystems

By Olds College Centre for Innovation

Use of native wetland plants on cold climate floating island systems for the phyto-remediation of water with excess nutrients, the quantification of the hyper-accumulation capabilities, and the water use efficiency of each species of native wetland plants, has been the focus of the Wetland and Applied Research Program at the Environmental Stewardship division of the Olds College Centre for Innovation. 

Water and water security represents one of the key components of life and one of the core components that determines the success and failure of ecosystems.  With the potential impacts of climate change on our water supply, the urgency of protecting and cleaning water has never been more evident.  The main methods for cleaning water used today focus on the physical and chemical.  Some of these methods treat the symptoms while others allow true solutions.   However, there is another area of remediation of water that is becoming a growing interest and this is in biological and ecological engineering.  Phyto-remediation holds a potential to create functioning ecosystems that allow for water to be remediated effectively, economically, and passively. In addition to water remediation, this technology provides many other advantages such as wildlife habitat, natural ecosystem functions and nutrient cycling, and anthropogenic assistance.

Improving water quality at the source of contamination is an important goal for developing sustainable communities and vegetated treatment islands can be implemented in agricultural, indigenous, urban, industrial, and other world environments as an effective and efficient water management tool.  The results from this research show great potential for removing nutrients for in-situ water treatment using vegetated cold climate floating islands.

During the CoVid-19 pandemic, the Olds College Centre for Innovation hosted a webinar to present the findings of the projectThe webinar was recorded and can be accessed on the OCCI website here.

 

                                     

Carex aquatilis (Water Sedge) Feb 18, 2019                 Carex aquatilis (Water Sedge) Aug 01, 2019

 

 

 

 

ACCA and ARDN Partner on Co-operative Housing Initiative

By Alberta Co-operative and Community Association (ACCA) 

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.

ACCA is proud to be partnering with the Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN) and the Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) on a research initiative to develop a better understanding of the current successes and challenges in co-op housing. 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.

There are three main activities as part of this project:

  • Consult with current co-op members, real estate professionals, and industry stakeholders
  • Research and review applicable models and feasibility studies
  • Dissemination of findings through education and recommendations

When the project is complete, the team expects the following outcomes:

  • Recommendations to help bolster the co-op housing supply in Alberta
  • Define potential housing employment opportunities to help develop housing co-ops
  • Provide Alberta co-ops with the tools and resources to help navigate their rental/governance models
  • Introduce new housing models to developers and communities.

Would you like to help with the research?

To help develop a better understanding of the current successes and challenges in co-op house, we are inviting existing co-op housing members or anyone interested in the research to complete the Co-op Stakeholder Engagement Contact Form.

 

Alberta Real Estate Foundation Increases Funding to Help Provincial Recovery

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) has increased its granting program to better support organizations and projects that are working to strengthen Alberta’s communities, the real estate industry, and the province as a whole.

Alberta has suffered significant economic and public health effects due to COVID-19. AREF’s Board of Governors voted to double the 2020 granting program to $4M to bolster support as the province moves to recover. This increase will, in part, support AREF’s creation of a major grants category to mark the Foundation’s 30th anniversary in 2021.

AREF works with industry stakeholders to support projects across Alberta that improve civil society, help build vibrant and healthy communities, and develop land where people want to live. AREF distributes grants to a wide variety of projects.

“The projects we fund have varying scope and time horizons,” says Doug Leighton, Chair of the Board of Governors. “It’s important that we get that balance right. The goal is to maximize utility for our stakeholders, strengthen the province, and always keep in mind that real estate is the medium that connects everything we do.”

In March, as the COVID-19 lockdown began, AREF’s Board recognized that the province’s real estate industry required additional short-term support, and in response, the Board more than doubled the Sponsorship and Small Grants budget to $250,000 to ensure the Foundation responded nimbly to the needs of its stakeholders.

AREF has since collaborated with its valued industry partners and stakeholders—including Real Estate Boards, the Alberta Mortgage Brokers Association, and the Building Owners and Managers Association—to discuss how to use sponsorship funding to support them and help strengthen their ability to serve their members in these extraordinary circumstances.

Last year, AREF’s Board of Governors approved an increase to its 2020 grant budget from $1.5M to $2M to help counter the effects of the province’s declining economy. And despite AREF’s revenue being negatively impacted by historically low-interest rates and decreased real estate transactions, in June the Board approved a revised budget allowing for an additional increase to the grants program up to $4M.

In celebration of its 30th Anniversary, AREF will introduce a major grants category for 2021. Projects could include social housing projects, research on housing developments for a post-pandemic world, a mural or piece of art that enhances the vibrancy value of a community, or providing education on condo living. “We know Albertans have great, big ideas,” says Leighton. “We want to help fund those ideas and turn them into reality.”

AREF invests in real estate policy, research, practices, and education that strengthen Alberta’s communities. To find out more about eligibility and applying for funding from the Foundation, please visit  Get Funding and stay tuned for details around AREF’s 30th Anniversary Major Grants Category.

September 2020 Community Investment

The Board of Governors of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation approved $520,000 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 23 million in grants to 640 initiatives across Alberta.

Projects approved at the September meeting include:

  • Studying the impact of COVID-19 on Alberta real estate marketsUniversity of Alberta, Department of Resource Economics & Environmental Sociology
    This project uses data-driven approaches (e.g., machine learning) to evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Alberta’s real estate markets. The University of Alberta will collaborate closely with the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton so that the research aligns with industry stakeholder interests. The main objective is to analyse the impact of COVID-19 on: market prices, listing durations, valuation of specific property attributes, how these impacts vary by neighborhood or region, how these impacts vary by property type.
    The Edmonton real estate market will act as a pilot project for the development of statistical methods, analytical tools, and workshops. As the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton and other organizations seek to generate value from proprietary transactional data, the results and outcomes of this project will serve as the basis for the analysis of other real estate markets across Alberta.
  • Industry toolkit for healthy, resilient homes and communitiesUniversity of Alberta, School of Public Health
    The COVID-19 pandemic and related public health have drawn people’s attention to how critically important their homes, neighbourhoods, and communities are to their health. Public health works proactively to create the conditions for long-term recovery by focusing not only on the disease but on promoting the health of people. Healthy people are the foundation of a healthy economy.
    The engagement process, which will include real estate professionals as a key stakeholder, and the resulting easy-to-use online toolkit will help provide supports for Albertan’s healthy home choices. The toolkit will identify factors needed to drive economic growth, sustain community vitality and resiliency, promote environmental stewardship, and improve citizens’ health outcomes.
  • Preserving Heritage Districts in CalgaryCalgary Heritage Initiative
    The Calgary Heritage Initiative will create educational resources for real estate professionals, residents, and municipal leaders on the impacts of heritage policies and bylaws to protect Calgary’s heritage districts. Heritage districts and heritage places of interest can create niche markets for shopping, living, and eating in “differentiated” heritage environments that contribute to urban liveability and the attraction of talent.
  • Feasibility study and market assessment for affordable and accessible housingAccessible Housing Society
    With the current economic and health crisis, Albertans need options related to accessible, suitable housing more than ever. This feasibility study and market assessment will identify gaps in Calgary regarding accessible, affordable housing and establish plans to meet the demands in community, including what type of programs and services need to be developed.
  • Impact of invasive plants on homes and real estate value – Alberta Invasive Species Council
    Updating the Identification Guide for Alberta Invasive Plants – Invasive species threaten Alberta’s environment and economy. They outcompete the native species that provide food and habitat for wildlife; some pose risk to public safety; others are problematic in crop fields, resulting in reduced yields; and other species like Japanese knotweed exhibit such vigorous growth that they can break through concrete building foundations. The Alberta Invasive Species Council will to work with local municipalities and the Alberta Association of Agriculture Fieldmen to update and reprint the widely popular Identification Guide to Invasive Plants in Alberta.
    The new version of this guide will include provincial distribution maps, information on prevention initiatives, and will also indicate the species that are problematic in specific habitats (e.g., urban areas, farmland, in grassland ecosystems forests, etc.). There are several invasive plant species that are particularly problematic in urban areas that homeowners and realtors should be aware of. These can be a liability as landowners are responsible for controlling or eradicating prohibited noxious or noxious invasive plant species that persist on their property as per the Weed Control Act.
  • Transportation options to support Albertans living in rural communitiesAssociation for Life-wide Living (ALL) of Alberta
    Rural Transportation: Knowledge Sharing for 2020 and Beyond – Access to transportation is a ubiquitous issue facing rural Albertans. In many cases, if a resident lacks access to a private vehicle, it is nearly impossible to live and work in a small Alberta community. To make matters worse, over the past several years, the few existing transportation services have begun to disappear. In collaboration with partners like Alberta Rural Development Network, the Association for Life-wide Living (ALL) of Alberta will revitalize and reconnect Alberta’s rural transportation stakeholders to seek viable solutions to this ever-growing problem. Transportation options will help ensure that people can continue to live, work, and thrive in rural Alberta.
  • WPACs/Municipal Joint Initiatives and their Effect on Municipal Planning for Sustainable Communities in AlbertaUniversity of Lethbridge
    Alberta’s 2003 Water for Life strategy marked a major shift in the management of Alberta’s water resources to better enable shared responsibility and environmental stewardship. The province’s 11 Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils (WPACs) cover the entire province and were created as the main mechanism to foster collaboration at the watershed level. Given that municipal governments play a central role in the management of land and water, they are crucial WPAC partners. In collaboration with four WPACs, this study will evaluate the effectiveness of joint WPAC-municipal initiatives that enable land stewardship and planning policies that impact real estate, water management, and ecosystem resiliency for sustainable communities in Alberta.
  • Real Estate Industry / Community Sponsorships and Small Grants 2020-2021 – Alberta Real Estate Foundation
    The purpose of the small grants and sponsorship fund is to enhance the Foundation’s profile and strengthen its connection to the real estate industry through the support of industry-related initiatives and community events. This fund allows the Foundation to respond nimbly to the needs of its stakeholders.

Opportunity – Alberta Real Estate Foundation Executive Director

Reporting to the Board of Governors, the Executive Director is accountable for the overall management of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation and provides strategic leadership and direction to the staff.

The Executive Director coordinates AREF activities with outside agencies and provides highly responsible and complex administrative support to the Board.

Click here to read further details about this opportunity.

Wood Buffalo Housing receives grant to furnish accommodations

July 20, 2020 – Wood Buffalo Housing learned last month that they are the successful recipient of a grant provided by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation to create affordable furnished accommodations for the people of the Wood Buffalo Region. Funding from this initiative will provide 30 single and multi-family units in one of Alberta’s most progressive communities, meeting immediate housing needs during these challenging times. In the long-term, these units will also provide bridge accommodations as people look to establish longer-term real estate options.

Representatives from AREF contacted WBH following the flood to see if there was some way their organization could help the people of this community.

“We were completely honest with them,” says Henry Hunter, President and CEO of WBH. “Based on the overwhelming number of calls we were receiving at that time, people were in need of affordable furnished accommodations and we only had a handful to provide.”

WBH saw a similar situation after the wildfire in 2016.

“Suddenly we had an entire group of people who are without their homes, their belongings and their basic furnishings, and they needed to find somewhere that they could stay until they had access again,” says Hunter.

AREF told WBH they could apply for a grant with their organization. So they completed the application and submitted it that week. They received notice in late June that their application was approved.

“We were of course ecstatic,” says Hunter. “Funding from this grant means we will have increased capacity to accommodate more people in times of emergency. Even outside of these natural disaster-type scenarios, we often receive requests from people seeking affordable furnished accommodations, whether it’s someone travelling from one of our region’s rural communities for an extended period of time for medical or other reasons, or someone new to the community that needs an affordable and safe place to lay their head at night.”

“Our Board was unanimous in its desire to help the people of Wood Buffalo,” says Doug Leighton, Chair of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation. “We are all aware of the extraordinary chain of events that has hurt this community and our Board was eager to fund an initiative that would have a significant and immediate impact. While the Foundation does not normally fund capital projects, the Board agreed that the creation of furnished emergency accommodations will help meet immediate housing needs and enhance affordable housing options in Wood Buffalo.”

Work to furnish the units will be conducted in the coming months, and the units will be ready for applicants as they are completed. If you are in need of affordable furnished accommodations or have been affected by the recent flooding in Wood Buffalo, please contact WBH at 780-799-4050 or info@wbhousing.ca.

About Wood Buffalo Housing (WBH): Founded in 2001, WBH is the lead non-profit housing agency in our region. We collaborate with our many stakeholders, including tenants, community groups, non-profits, industry and government to pursue safe and sustainable housing solutions for all of the people of our community. Since 2001, we’ve helped more than 10,000 people – those new to our community and those making a new start – find the right apartment, the right townhouse, and the right way to achieve home ownership. WBH also facilitates the provision of funding for the Rent Supplement Program and Community Housing on behalf of the Province.

Media contact info:
Wood Buffalo Housing:
Christina MacKay
Manager, Communications and Marketing
Phone: 780-714-8139
E-mail: christina@wbhousing.ca

Pedesting app is helping Calgarians find the easiest, safest, most accessible routes

Submitted by Bricolage Calgary

The Pedesting app is navigation software that provides the easiest, safest and most accessible pedestrian routes through the City of Calgary for various mobility types, including wheelchair users, strollers, and walkers.

The software employs cutting edge data collection methods and recognizes the different mobility requirements of the user. In this way Pedesting can enable all pedestrians to find authoritative directions from point A to point B anywhere in the city. Further, once at the location, Pedesting is able to assist with navigating indoors to find the ultimate destination. We designed the Pedesting app to understand routes through spaces that are complex, such as Calgary’s +15 system or a university campus. Pedesting will establish routes that are easily navigable by anyone, anywhere: from a smart device at home or a phone on the go.

The Pedesting app was created to help people who feel that the urban environment is full of barriers and  challenging to navigate; Pedesting will enable more involvement in society by people who want to contribute but feel isolated. Pedesting is more than an app: it is a community of people who see their respective city as a place for everyone to come together and contribute. The Pedesting community is unified by the belief that a society is best served when everyone is represented, when all citizens are accounted for and able to partake.

Pedesting was formally introduced to the citizens of Calgary through a series of showcases in the fall of 2019 and into the early months of 2020. These showcases were made possible by a generous grant from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF). At the showcases the Pedesting app was presented to a variety of groups; the Pedesting team fielded questions and actively enrolled beta testers for the app as to assist with the ongoing software development.

Photo Credit: Laura Colpitts Photography
Showcase at Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC)

The showcases were tailored to address the different groups at each event: the City of Calgary was represented by the Mayor, several Councillors, Calgary Economic Development, Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), Facilities Management, Roads, Transportation, Calgary Tourism and other municipal employees from a variety of departments; other showcases targeted business and industry, the real estate community, the general public and the disabled community. A final showcase was held in January 2020 at Civic Tech and included the technology community. The showcases were important and successful. Pedesting is now a part of the public conversation in Calgary and many alliances and potential working relationships were formed as a result. The events also enabled the Pedesting team to actively recruit a variety of guest bloggers, as well as beta testers to assist us as we move forward to the next iteration of the app.

This important public introduction of the Pedesting app was only possible due to the funding from AREF. The Pedesting team was able to provide a professional event in safe and public venues such as the New Central Public Library and  the CMLC event space at the St. Louis Hotel. We were able to employ closed captioning and ASL interpreters for persons with hearing limitations as well as a modest variety of sandwiches or baked goods. The following are some pictures from the respective showcases:

We would like to express our appreciation to AREF for helping Pedesting to present the culmination of three years of research and software development. It was a rewarding experience for our team and we were proud to formally introduce the Pedesting app to the leaders, early adopters and citizens of Calgary.

For more information about the Pedesting™ app and to receive news and updates, please visit our website or follow us on social media (@pedesting)

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.

Energy Futures Roadshows Helping to Deepen Connections With Communities Across Alberta

By Energy Futures Lab

Energy Futures Roadshows continue to deliver in Alberta communities with the support of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation. Since 2018 the Energy Futures Lab has been supporting the Roadshows to visit communities across Alberta with a tailored workshop meant to explore and identify actions for a successful energy transition.

The purpose of the Energy Futures Roadshow is to support Albertan communities to explore their unique opportunities and challenges arising from energy transition. This is achieved by delivering a multi-day workshop in the Roadshow community, staying connected to other participating communities through a peer-to-peer network (managed by the EFL), and by participation at Community Accelerators. The communities that have participated to date include: Crowsnest Pass, Devon, Hinton, Grande Prairie and Drayton Valley. Three more Roadshows are currently being planned for 2020.

As energy transition presents unique challenges specific to each community, the Roadshow design team works closely with champions from each of the communities to ensure that the group focuses on solutions that are relevant to the community. To arrive at the best initiatives and actions for the community to undertake in the energy transition, a diverse mix of people are invited to participate in each Roadshow. The diverse participant mix typically includes City, Town and Municipal District Council members and administrative staff, members of industry, community groups and organizations, staff from colleges and universities, youth and seniors and many other community members. To date there have been over 90 organizations represented at the Roadshows.

Following the in-person Roadshows, each community participates in a peer-to-peer learning network who connect online monthly. The network calls have allowed participants to exchange knowledge and lessons learned from their experiences with energy transition in their communities, as well as provide one another with recommendations to advance specific initiatives.

The Communities Accelerators bring together EFL Fellows, industry members from a wide swath of Alberta (including the AREF) and community members and municipal leaders to work on accelerating initiatives that deeply impact their communities. The most recent Accelerator in March of 2020 focused on the following three initiatives:

  • Advancing the Alberta-wide Solar Lab Project: Supporting smaller and rural communities in Alberta to bridge the gap between desiring to implement community-owned renewable energy projects and actually doing so.
  • Creating and Leveraging a Regional Electric Vehicle Mobility Vision: Working together to understand regional eMobility opportunities for innovation, economic development and tourism in Northwest Alberta by learning from successful implementations in Alberta and BC (e.g. Peaks to Prairies).
  • Accelerating Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing in Alberta through the Clean Energy Improvement Program (CEIP): Exploring PACE as a financing tool, sharing best practices in North America (including Alberta’s version, CEIP) and working with other committed stakeholders to meaningfully accelerate this program in other Alberta communities.

The Roadshows supported by AREF are helping to create more resilient communities through the energy transition, by meeting them where they are at and fostering a unique approach to communities ready to create an energy system that is fit for the future. As one Roadshow participant said: “I am excited for new opportunities for partnerships, collaboration and to move to actionable items that can begin the energy transition in my community.”

The Energy Futures Lab would like to thank AREF for making this opportunity possible. It is very rewarding to our organization to see positive results achieving the purpose of the work we do together, and we cannot do this work without the support of organizations like the AREF!

Foundation Introduces New Board Chair

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) is pleased to announce that Doug Leighton has been elected to serve as the seventeenth Chair of the Board of Governors, effective January 27, 2020.  Doug has served on the Board of Governors since 2015 as a public member appointment, representing Alberta businesses. He will serve a two-year term.

Doug believes the Foundation is more important than ever. “Our province, the real estate industry, and Alberta’s communities were already facing significant economic challenges which have resulted in reduced community investment by corporations, other foundations, and philanthropists. In contrast, the Foundation has stepped up our investments and collaboration with others to leverage economic, environmental, and social benefits for Albertans,” Doug says. “The situation has since escalated into a critical public health and economic emergency with the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic that affects all Albertans. In response, the Foundation is adding greater flexibility for our grantees and exploring opportunities to respond nimbly and collaboratively to the needs of our stakeholders.”

Doug’s priority as Chair is to continue delivering on the purpose and mandate of the Foundation.  “The Foundation was established almost thirty years ago through far-sighted provincial legislation. Since that time, the Foundation has received the interest from the many small trust accounts of individual real estate brokers. These public funds are then aggregated and re-invested into research, education, innovation, and projects for the benefit of both the real estate industry and all Albertans.” He says. “We have a great Board and team, all focused on improving and building on our successful track record of the past thirty years.”

Doug is a graduate of the Master’s program in Environmental Design at the University of Calgary, with additional studies in Finance (Queens), Urban Design and Management (Harvard), and Leadership (Banff Centre). He has taught at several universities and was appointed Planner in Residence by the University of Calgary for both 2019 and 2020.

Doug is currently Principal of EDG (Environmental Design Group) specializing in planning, urban design and sustainable development.  He claims three careers so far: as a corporate executive (Alberta and BC), consulting firm principal (New Zealand), and in senior planning positions (Whistler and Banff). He is a member of the Institute of Corporate Directors, the Canadian Institute of Planning, and Royal Architecture Institute of Canada. He has served as a Director of the Alberta, New Zealand, and BC Planning Institutes; as well as ULI Alberta and QUEST Canada.

Doug brings to the role of Chair an understanding of organizational governance and strategy together with experience in all four of AREF’s areas of interest: Community Innovation, Education & Research, Housing, and Land Stewardship & Environment. “The Foundation will continue to do its part to support Albertans and welcomes strategic and funding partnerships with groups that share its commitment to this great province.” Doug says, “Let’s overcome the challenges of the times together.”

Going Forward – The Foundation In Unique Times

Albertans and people around the world are responding to the extraordinary and evolving circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the Alberta Real Estate Foundation we are thankful for the dedication and purposeful action by our grantees, partners and industry stakeholders which is contributing towards strengthening Alberta’s of our communities.

In an effort to provide support through this period of increased uncertainty, the Foundation is committed to the following:

  • We will continue to process grant payments in a timely fashion, respond quickly to questions, and to support open projects through to completion. We have put the necessary technology in place to enable our team to work remotely and we can still be reached through phone and email. In an effort to do what we can to “flatten the curve”, any in-person meetings scheduled for the coming months will be moved to teleconference and video online.
  •  We will not be asking any organisation to return funds due to impacts to a project or event resulting from COVID-19.  If you have any concerns regarding your project, please contact us. We are open to working with you to adapt the project so it can get back on track or discuss the potential of redirect funding, depending on how your organisation would like to move forward.
  •  We will be flexible on timelines and deadlines for reporting. When you determine the amount of time your project will require, you can let us know.
  •  We will be open to discussing the potential of releasing grant payments early, if organisations are facing cash flow concerns.
  •  We will connect with our philanthropic and government partners to identify opportunities to respond nimbly and collaboratively to the needs of our stakeholders.

Grantmaking going forward:

Our existing grant program will move forward as planned. Our next round will be in May, for a decision in June. Please visit our Get Funding page for more details and to submit your inquiry.

Over the coming weeks and months we will determine if there is additional support the Alberta Real Estate Foundation can provide. Now is a good time to prepare for what happens in the medium to long term, even if that preparation is just in the form of thought experiments and “what-ifs” to think through the possibilities.

If you have any questions or suggestions for us, please don’t hesitate to reach out to questions@aref.ab.ca.

March 2020 Community Investment

The Board of Governors of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation approved $616,500 in community investment projects at their recent meeting.

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) invests in real estate policy, research, practices, and education that strengthen Alberta’s communities. AREF was established in 1991 under the Alberta Real Estate Act. Since then, it has awarded over 22 million dollars in community and industry grants to nearly 630 projects across Alberta.

Projects approved at the March 2020 meeting include:

ANPHA Regional Housing Collective (Alberta Network of Public Housing Agencies) – ANPHA seeks to provide leadership to advance the affordable housing sector and act as a convener and resource to connect stakeholders from a wide variety of sources who could benefit from information sharing, networking and direct support. This project will establish an opportunity for individuals and organizations within the non-profit housing sector to establish strong regional relationships with one another, and both the provincial and national sector. Uniting the sector together will result in a stronger unified voice that can accomplish collectively what could not be done individually.

Cities Institute: Kick-off conference (University of Alberta, School of Business) – The Cities Institute looks to be a global leader in facilitating collaboration in urban research, teaching, and partnerships which will ensure that Edmonton, and other cities in Canada, can benefit from the latest advances in technology and city building. The Cities Institute will launch in spring 2021 with a conference what will engage researchers, teachers, government officers, NGOs, and industry members who are involved in city building. The ultimate goal of the Cities Institute’s conference is to foster ‘city builders’ both on and off campus and kick-start projects that will help to make Edmonton and Alberta a more viable, livable, and competitive city and province.

Condominium Law Education Project (Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta) – This phase of the Condominium Law Education Project will update resources to reflect recent legislative changes while continuing to deliver credible and plain language materials to Albertans, staying up to date on condominium law developments and condo industry issues. This project currently reaches over 70,000 resource users per year, which include condominium buyers, owners, board members and real estate professionals.

Defining Challenges and Opportunities for South Saskatchewan Watershed communities under a rapidly changing climate (University of Lethbridge) – This project will prepare urban and rural communities in the South Saskatchewan Watershed for climate change in two ways. The project will provide an extreme weather events analyses necessary to adapt infrastructure and operations systems to cope with increasing weather stresses.  Second, it will provide transition opportunities to renewable energy systems that provide community resiliency, energy security and price stability with a meaningful greenhouse gas management plan.

Diversity Certified (e4c) – e4c and Edmonton Shift Lab will co-develop a training curriculum and toolkit for market landlords and non-market housing providers on the prevention of discrimination in housing.  This training will reflect input and collaboration between landlords, housing providers, and renters.  Diversity Certified will set up housing professionals for success through encouraging positive and reciprocal relationships between landlords and tenants, through reduced tenant turnover and tenant satisfaction, and through growing more cohesive rental communities where residents from diverse backgrounds are welcome.

Fort Vermilion & Area Seniors’ & Elders’ Lodge (Fort Vermilion & Area Seniors’ & Elders’ Lodge Board 1788) – There is an under-reported demand for supportive living facilities in Fort Vermilion and the surrounding area. The Fort Vermilion & Area Seniors & Elders Lodge Board 1788 is leading a community based initiative to create more supportive living space. By working with subject matter experts in various fields, this group will create a hopefully replicable process for other grassroots movements to follow.

Soil Health: Policy, Science, and Law in Action (University of Alberta, Alberta Land Institute) –  The Alberta Land Institute, together with other stakeholders, will engaged in promoting scientific research, government policy, producer practices, and public education and outreach related to soil health.  ALI will convene a stakeholders’ working group, conduct a scan (policy, regulatory, governance, and social action) in Alberta and across Canada, and compile a resource guide for policymakers and members of the public.

Welcome to the Lake Program (Pigeon Lake Watershed Association) – The Welcome to the Lake Program engages realtors as healthy-lake stewards to help generate awareness about healthy-lake practices that will protect the lake and support a resilient ecosystem and strong community. This program provides training and resources for Alberta realtors selling properties in watersheds in Alberta. The professional development themes include watershed basics for maintaining a healthy lake, low impact development solutions, and lake wise landscaping with in-person training options for realtors selling in the Pigeon Lake watershed and online options for realtors selling properties in other watersheds across the province. To share their knowledge, this program offers realtors with a welcome stewardship package that they can provide to new home owners.

WellWiki.org Alberta v4.0 & Educating Alberta’s Landowners on Policy Changes (University of Alberta, School of Business) – This project will update WellWiki.org data on more than 600,000 Alberta oil and gas wells; add new features to the website including township search function, inactive and abandoned wells, and municipal tax revenues related to oil and gas activity.  It will also make available on WellWiki.org a version of the content developed as part of the Pembina Institute’s Landowners’ Guide to Oil and Gas Development and Primer.

The University will also work with the Pembina Institute on the policy review of oil and gas liabilities by the Government of Alberta. The goal will be to inform landowners on what the proposed policy changes are and how they may potentially impact them. A roundtable will convene various experts in this area including representatives from landowner groups, WellWiki, University of Calgary, government, industry, the Orphan Well Association and the Alberta Energy Regulator. Based on discussion and conclusions from the roundtable, resources will be developed for rural Albertans.

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.

HOMEOWNERSHIP IS STILL THE DREAM – But moderate-income Calgarians might not realize they can afford it.

Who says people are moving away from homeownership? In fact, the dream is stronger than ever for moderate-income Calgarians. 81% of this group want to own a home either now or in the next few years.

New research released today examines attitudes toward homeownership and the assumed barriers to achieving it for moderate-income Calgarians. This research was referenced at yesterday’s CREB Forecast and is the collaboration between Attainable Homes Calgary, the Alberta Real Estate Foundation and the Calgary Real Estate Board.

When asked, “Why homeownership?” moderate-income Calgarians selected their top three reasons: housing stability – sense of permanence; personal investment – paying themselves instead of a landlord; cost certainty – knowing exact monthly costs without unexpected rental increases.

So, if moderate-income Calgarians (who do not currently own a home) want to buy one, why aren’t they? Not shockingly, the reasons are financially based: they don’t think they can afford the costs of homeownership; they can’t save a down payment; and they believe prices are too high.

When comparing renting to owning, most renters primarily value the freedom of renting, except for single-parent rental households.
Over one-third of respondents who think they could qualify for a mortgage indicated they could afford between $1,250 and $1,500 per month in mortgage and property taxes which translates to home prices between $245,000 and $310,000.

In terms of housing supply priced below $300,000, moderate-income Calgarians may not know there are 2,161 resale and 715 new construction homes all currently available for purchase. This hints to a potential disconnect between renters’ price perceptions and actual list prices.

Recent media reports and social media communication across the country suggest a shift away from the desire of Canadians to own a home. This newly released research counters this assumption; the dream remains firmly in place for those earning a moderate-income in Calgary.

An infographic summarizing highlights of the research can be found here.

Media Contacts:

Jennifer McCarron
Director of Marketing & Communications
Attainable Homes Calgary
(o) 403.265.9934 (m) 403-389-1512
Jen.mccarron@attainyourhome.com

Ann-Marie Lurie
Chief Economist
CREB
403.781.1372
ann-marie.lurie@creb.ca