Saskatoon condo conversion debate about to get hotter

You’ve got to know that Saskatoon community services manager, Paul Gauthier is having some long days at work. He’s one of the civic officials responsible for processing condominium conversion applications. That can’t be a real funfest right now. In fact, approving condo conversion applications has become so controversial that Gauthier has simply had enough, and he has elected to invoke a clause in the current policy which allows him to toss the political hot potato to city council for review of all existing and future applications.

If you think it’s a hot debate now, rest assured that things are about to heat up.

Council passed a motion on Monday, which essentially puts 21 existing apartment building conversion applications in limbo. Gauthier advised council that a new report would be completed for its March 17 meeting, outlining the current situation and possible policy changes which could be used to regulate condo conversions. Another report, recently brought forward by city administrators was tabled for later discussion following a court date on March 11 when tenants of Saskatoon’s Milroy Apartments will argue against the certificate of approval which was issued on that property. Mean time, no conversion certificates will be granted and those which are already in the hopper would be dealt with in accordance with any new policy council might choose to adopt.

Dealing with a steady flow of angry tenants and concerned citizens can’t be easy. I’m guessing that we’ll have some pretty vocal investors on our hands as we move forward from here. Tens of millions of dollars have been invested and those investments were made with an end goal in mind; conversion and resale.

It’s easy to see valid points on either side of the argument. Displaced tenants have few options and promising them that “the market” will eventually work its magic is of little comfort when you don’t know where you’ll be living in thirty days. Free market proponents will argue that there are major benefits to be realized through conversions. Preventing these units from reaching the resale market limits supply in an already stressed market and puts further pressure on prices. Ultimately, that hurts the rental market as well. It’s a real catch 22.

The complexity of the issue can’t be overstated. At the end of the day, the math is fairly simple. Demand exceeds supply in both the rental and the resale market. We need more property in both arenas if we’re going to see any relief. Development of new rental property is the only solution that serves everyone and it needs to happen fast. Free land anyone? I suspect the city may be open to your proposal.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions. 

All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Norm Fisher

Royal LePage Vidorra

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