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What’s Coming Unglued Now in Canada?

What’s Coming Unglued Now in Canada?

Canada lumbered through the first half of 2015 in a “technical recession,” Statistics Canada confirmed this week, as GDP shrank in both quarters. Among the culprits: the swooning energy sector and an investment slump.

Now everybody is lining up behind the hope that a sudden acceleration will put the economy back on track in the third quarter, despite oil that has re-crashed and despite the ongoing collapse – and that’s what it is – of the all-important energy sector.

To get to this acceleration, the once booming residential and commercial construction sectors have to hold up, or else Canada’s economy is in real trouble. Alas….

“Canada is also in the midst of an ill-timed supply surge that caused vacancy rates to rise even in markets with positive absorption” in the second quarter, warns a new report by commercial real estate firm Colliers International cited by the Financial Post. It paints a picture of an epic office boom turned into an even more epic office glut, particularly in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta, the epicenter of Canada’s oil patch.

This office glut comes on top of Calgary’s housing meltdown. For the first eight months, total home sales in Calgary plunged 25%, according to the Calgary Real Estate Board. Condo sales collapsed 39% in August and 30% year-to-date. Inventory sits a lot longer on the market before it sells, if it sells. And pressures are building on prices: the average condo price was down over 10% in August from a year ago.

Commercial real estate is heading in a similar direction. Only worse. Calgary was a boom town. Office towers have been sprouting like mushrooms. In recent years, commercial real estate costs downtown were “going through the roof” and “accelerating at a pace far beyond the Canadian average,” Calgary Chamber of Commerce director of policy and research Justin Smith told the Financial Post. But it takes years to plan and build office towers, and now no one can just turn off the flow.


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