Big Real Estate Executives Among Top Donors to Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives
Conservative Party’s donor list includes names of real estate investors and developers that are buying up affordable housing across Canada
Executives at big real estate companies profiting off and even driving up high real estate prices across Canada are listed as donors to the federal Conservative Party, Elections Canada records show.
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre has been railing against high real estate prices and presenting himself as the solution to Canada’s housing affordability crisis, yet Poilievre’s party also appears to have received financial support from top executives at some of Canada’s biggest real estate investment trusts.
Housing experts and advocacy groups have blamed real estate investment trusts, or REITs, for the financialization of housing and skyrocketing rents across Canada. Property wealth is a massive source of inequality in BC and across the country.
The name of Richard Abboud, the CEO of an REIT called Forum Asset Management is listed as donating $7,875 to the federal Conservative party since 2017, according to Elections Canada records.
A Forum Asset Management property was recently criticized for a Vancouver viral video that showed a housing unit in a former single room occupancy hotel in the Downtown Eastside – that historically housed people at around shelter rates – was now a “micro suite” available for $2,000 a month.
According to CBC News, “Toronto-based company Forum Asset Management purchased the building less than two years ago, and has offered tenants in unrenovated units $15,000 to leave.”
Poilievre even tweeted about the viral video, blaming the situation on “8 years of Trudeau and the NDP,” despite the name of the company’s CEO being listed as a top Conservative donor.
$2,000 a month to live in a 200 sq.ft. room in one of the most drug and crime-heavy neighbourhoods in Canada.
Housing, after 8 years of Trudeau and the NDP.
— Pierre Poilievre (@PierrePoilievre) August 17, 2023
According to Forum Asset Management’s 2022 Impact Report, “the enterprise value of (their) assets under management currently exceeds C$1.7 billion.”
Abboud did not return PressProgress’ request for comment.
Dr. Penny Gurstein, Professor Emeritus, School of Community and Regional Planning and Co-Director of the Housing Research Collaborative, says REITs are increasingly responsible for rising rents across the country.
“There is a pattern now of REITs sort of buying up across Canada,” Gurstein told PressProgress.
“It is something that we need to be really aware of. Before, the most expensive rental housing were ones where people were buying individual condos and then renting them out and using the rent to pay off the mortgage. But now we have this phenomenon.”
In BC, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives BC, a consequence of the housing crisis and shortage in BC includes “an explosion of residential real estate wealth now totaling over $2.1 trillion in the province.”
The names of other top REIT executives are listed as recent donors to the Conservative Party, according to Elections Canada records.
The name of Jason Jogia, Chief Investment Officer for Avenue Living Real Estate Core Trust, who previously said that the company’s business strategy is to focus on provinces “without rent control,” is listed as having donated $1,900 to the Conservative Party in 2022. In the same year, Avenue’s assets under management grew by 48% to $4.6 billion.
The name of Haven Developments CEO Paolo Abate is also listed as making $6,600 in donations to the Conservatives from 2020 to 2022, while the name of Canadian Apartment Properties’ Chief Investment Officer Julian Schonfeldt appears to have donated $7,060 between 2012-2020.
The name of Granite REIT CEO. Kevan Gorrie is listed as having donated $4,600 to the Conservatives in 2022. From 2022-2023, Granite’s net operating income also increased by $16.2 million.
The name of Choice REIT CEO Rael L. Diamond appears to have donated $4,640 to the Conservative Party from 2015-2022.
None of the REIT executives nor their companies responded to multiple requests for comment from PressProgress’ about their donations.
“We need both purpose-built rental housing, we need non-market housing. We’re woefully inadequate in building that. And we need to be preserving our existing affordable housing stock,” said Gurstein.
“Developers are looking at areas where it’s ripe for redevelopment, and the Downtown Eastside is one of those,” Gurstein added. “We’re losing our affordable housing at a significant rate and we’re beyond the crisis point.”
“I don’t know if we’re ever going to be able to get back to really having some kind of equity and equitable housing delivery.”
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