Gowling's Mark Giavedoni on the housing shortage and logistics sector 'boom in real estate'

Giavedoni was recently named head of the firm's national real estate industry and sector group

Gowling's Mark Giavedoni on the housing shortage and logistics sector 'boom in real estate'
Mark Giavedoni, Gowling WLG

Gowling WLG recently named Hamilton partner Mark Giavedoni leader of the firm’s national real estate industry and sector group. Giavedoni is a certified real estate law specialist and former president of the Hamilton Law Association. He spoke with Law Times about the leading trends in Ontario real estate law. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

What will be your responsibilities in your new role?

Initially, it’s to connect and liaison between the real estate professionals throughout the Canadian firm and to coordinate our efforts, as well as our ability to be responsive to client needs at a local and national scale.

We can leverage our expertise in different markets in a way that is common sense and a real advantage to our clients because we can move our expertise pretty quickly. Bottom of Form

Gowlings is a national and international firm. It has offices throughout Canada and in other countries as well, which helps bridge the need.

Real estate expertise is not only local and regional; it can also have far-reaching implications across the country, as we're seeing with the housing issues. The housing crisis is one example of how those issues can span beyond the province. We're all having the same general issues. It makes sense to have a national platform.

What are the most significant leading trends in the real estate law landscape in Ontario or nationally?

There's a couple.

The national housing crisis – if that's what you want to label it as – seems to be pervasive. It is not a sudden recognition that there's an issue. There is an attempt to try and solve a very difficult problem because it impacts so many different sectors, from construction to those who invest in housing. We're not just talking about individuals but also pension plans and REITs [Real Estate Investment Trusts] that look to housing as an investment strategy.

Many other people look at housing as where they're going to live, as almost a human right. So, there's a shift in housing inventory, accessibility, and regulation.

That's a huge hot-button issue right across the country. Each province seems to be looking at it through different lenses and different models. That’s the predominant one at this stage.

Another issue is how to leverage real estate for business. In some cases, it's recognizing that how people do business is slightly different these days.

Warehousing is becoming big, given the rise in logistics companies or companies that must invest in logistics to make their businesses thrive because they ship worldwide. Those types of models are starting to be increasingly popular, but it’s still challenging to get off the ground.

There's still high interest in that. The logistics sector is starting to see an exciting boom in real estate, whether you're talking about transit, rail, shipping, or land cartage.

Labour shortages, inflation, and developers going into receivership are contributing to the housing shortage. Based on your practice, can you expand on what you see leading to this?

I'm clearly not an economist. So, don't hold me to anything. But we're seeing this convergence of several issues. The market has done very strange things over the last five years. There's been a lot of rapid movement in the residential market.

Speaking from an Ontario perspective, during the pandemic, many people left some of the major cities to relocate almost wherever they wanted to leverage the sale of their house and acquire a similar house or a bigger house for a significantly lesser value.

It quickly changed the availability and affordability of houses in certain markets, and at a rate that was not keeping pace at all, with people either being able to save or earn the money needed to put down a down payment.

That is coupled with increasing construction pricing and labour shortages from the pandemic. At the same time, interest rates were starting to climb, which they hadn't done for a very long time. That began to create this perfect storm. Housing affordability has just become unattainable for so many. It's a bit strange to see it all happening at once. But that's probably the most logical explanation.

How do you rate Ontario's and the federal government’s response to the shortage?

It's a bit of a loaded question. I think everybody's trying to do something. It would probably be a lot better if everybody tried to do it in a coordinated fashion because it exacerbates the problem otherwise.

I'm not really getting the sense that there's a lot of consultation and coordination between various sectors and the federal and provincial governments. I'm not sure where that will land in the near term. We need a short-term and a long-term strategy, and then they need to get people to buy into that.

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