Greg Mills is division president in Calgary for Minto Communities, Canada.
What’s Minto’s presence in the Alberta market – both Calgary and Edmonton?
Mills: The Minto Group is one of Canada’s premier real estate companies with a fully-integrated real estate development, investment and management platform. Since its inception in 1955, Minto has built more than 85,000 new homes and currently manages more than 9,000 rental suites and 2.5 million square feet of office and retail space.
Minto develops residential real estate in Canada and the United States and manages over $3 billion in assets for itself and institutional investors. On July 3, 2018, it completed the successful initial public offering of Minto Apartment REIT, a 4,279-suite apartment REIT focusing on urban markets in Canada.
Minto made its first investment in Alberta in 2012 when it acquired a 750-unit apartment portfolio in Calgary and has continued to invest in apartments in both the Calgary and Edmonton markets.
Minto Communities (Minto’s residential development platform) began purchasing land for development in Calgary in 2015 and planning and sales activities are underway. Minto Communities now owns five projects in the region. These projects include:
- Annex condominiums in Kensington (currently in the pre-sales stage and more than 25 per cent sold);
- ERA condominiums in Bridgeland with a sales launch planned for 2019;
- a future condominium building in Kensington that’s in the design phase;
- two additional suburban low-rise projects in Calgary and Airdrie (in the early planning stages).
How do you see the residential real estate markets in both those cities today?
Mills: On the homebuilding side in Calgary, we see the market moving in the right direction with the launch of our Annex condominium project in Kensington. And while interest continues to grow, we’re seeing a slow recovery from the market downtown and the new mortgage rules that impact first-time homebuyers particularly hard.
On the rental side (in both Calgary and Edmonton) between 2015 and mid-2017, vacancy grew and rental rates declined – an experience also noted by our peers. Moving past mid-2017, we saw the market stabilize, vacancy normalized and rates were flat. In 2018, we have continued to see improvement in vacancy and rental rates.
What’s your feel and sense of what’s happening in the economy in Alberta these days?
Mills: Minto is a long-term investor and we think Alberta is one of our key growth markets in Canada. We see the province and municipalities making a concerted effort to diversify from the past reliance on oil and gas with a growing technology sector, which will pay dividends in the long run.
Reducing the reliance on a single sector will bring greater stability for the province – in turn, resulting in less significant downturns and more conservative peak periods.
Are there markets in Canada that Minto is not in but you would like to see the company expand to?
Mills: Minto Communities continually evaluates homebuilding opportunities to grow geographically. Further to our recent entry into the Calgary market, Edmonton is a possibility when the time is right for our business.
Across our other geographies in Ontario, Florida and South Carolina, Minto Communities builds over 2,000 homes per year.
On the rental side of the business, Minto has operations in Ottawa, Toronto, London, Calgary and Edmonton. Minto Apartment REIT is Minto’s growth vehicle for residential rentals and it has focused on urban locations, close to amenities and transit, in Canada’s largest urban centres.
How would you describe Minto’s philosophy as a company and its strategy going forward?
Mills: Moving into the Calgary market is Minto Communities’ first major Canadian expansion since 1986. We consider the Calgary division as a bit of an organic startup that benefits from the support of a fully-integrated, institutional-calibre real estate platform. Operating this allows us to engage a local team to design and build communities best-suited to Calgarians, meeting their preferences at all stages of life.
Recognized by the Canadian real estate industry as four-time winner of Building Industry and Land Development Association’s (BILD) Green Builder of the year, we’re known for our craftsmanship and commitment to sustainability industry-wide.
Our homes will continue to be built to lower their environmental impact, provide homeowners with a space that is healthier, more comfortable and energy efficient.
Whether renting or buying, we’re proud to provide homes our customers will fill with memories and laughter for years to come.
– Mario Toneguzzi