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Feds to fund 3 Vancouver temporary modular housing projects for the homeless

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The federal government announced plans Monday to develop three projects in Vancouver that will create new affordable housing, helping those who are homeless and expanding the number of shelter spaces available in the city.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his government is providing funding to the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency for a temporary modular housing initiative that is aimed at helping those without a home to transition into longer-term housing.

WATCH: Nov. 9, 2018 — Housing crisis leaves many homeless living in vehicles in Metro Vancouver






Once completed, the project is expected to provide more than 600 pre-built units that can be relocated where they are needed across the city.

The funding will also help with the redevelopment of the Union Gospel Mission’s Women and Families Centre in the Downtown Eastside. The centre is expanding to more than 60 units, which will provide shelter for women who are recovering from addiction.

Trudeau made the announcement at the site of the $40-million project that will provide 115 rental-housing units in the city later this year.

“By investing in affordable rental housing, temporary shelters for people who are living on the streets, and support centres for women battling addiction, we’re not just investing in our communities – we’re investing in people,” he said.

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The funding is part of the government’s National Housing Strategy, a 10-year, $40-billion program announced in 2017 that Ottawa has billed as a plan to provide more social housing and affordable rental units.

The New Democrats said in a news release that Trudeau’s government has neglected the housing crisis. One in five Canadians is paying more than 50 per cent of their income on housing and a growing number of people are one paycheque away from being homeless, the party said.

Later Monday, Trudeau joined Liberal candidate Richard T. Lee for a second straight day of campaigning in Burnaby South, the federal riding where NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is seeking a seat in a byelection.

WATCH: Trudeau says justice minister to provide recommendations on possibly waiving solicitor-client privilege






The prime minister and Lee mingled with patrons at a restaurant before chatting with commuters and posing for selfies outside the Metrotown SkyTrain station. Trudeau said Lee’s experience as a provincial legislator representing Burnaby made him a strong candidate.

“We know that having someone grounded in the community, who’s served Burnaby for more than 16 years as an elected politician already, is the kind of strong voice we need to represent Burnaby South in Ottawa,” Trudeau said.

Asked how he felt the prime minister visiting the riding could sway the byelection, Singh said he hears on doorsteps that people are disappointed with the Trudeau government’s approach to the housing crisis, pharmacare and the environment.

“On all these issues, this government and Mr. Trudeau have let people down,” Singh said. “I’m confident that what we’re talking about, what we’re proposing, are solutions that will make their lives better.”

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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