The next hot property type for investors

With multi-unit properties in Canada’s urban centres now leading the charge in housing starts, investors should be looking at the opportunities offered by combining residential and retail, say experts.

“Convenience is playing a more important role for the changing demographic, and to have a complete community going both ways – from the retailer’s and the resident’s perspective – bodes very well,” said Jason Lester, president of developer Dundee Kilmer.

According to recent figures from Stats Can, multi-unit urban starts increased by 48.2 per cent to 125,263 units in March 2015.

Bill Khanna, an investor and owner of the Khanna Group of Co., mostly invests in mixed-use properties. “I believe it has to be together,” he added.

These properties present a great balance for investors, he continued, with the commercial part of the buildings offering great rental cash flow when the markets are really good, and the residential part of the buildings supporting investors when things slow down.

“You always have a balance, so you don’t get into trouble,” he said. “If you have a couple of empty stores it could take a while to rent them, but residential is easy to rent despite cap rates being low.”

Toronto’s Canary District – purpose-built to provide housing for the upcoming Pan Am Games – is a prime example of leasing demand for mixed use. Its two residential buildings are 90 per cent and 50 per cent sold, respectively, and there is 46,000 square feet of retail space on Front Street between Cherry Street and Bayview Avenue that has also attracted a range of retailers.

But Lester, president of Dundee Kilmer does caution that a mixed-use project is more challenging than one that is just residential or commercial. “You have to make sure the uses are aligned and compatible for the different types of programming that occurs in a small area,” he said.

“Everything you do affects all the different parts of the users in the community. When it works, it works extremely well.”

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