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Minto milestone: Firm celebrates 100,000th home closing

Holding to founding values, adjusting to market key for longevity, presidents say

Minto's 'The Caraway' dream home in Ottawa. The company is celebrating the closing of its 100,000th home sale. (Courtesy Minto Group)

Respect, consistency and a willingness to diversify are the values underpinning Minto Communities' longevity as it closes its 100,000th housing sale and plans ahead for its 200,000th closing, two company executives told RENX Homes.

The Ottawa-based homebuilder, developer and real estate manager prefers not to single out one development or property as its milestone. Rather, it is celebrating the achievement across its offices and sites in Canada and the U.S., as the 68-year-old firm closes on sales almost every day.

“Centring on one house is probably not the right move,” Greg Mills, president of Minto Communities – Alberta and British Columbia, said in an interview with RENX Homes. “What we’ve done across North America is get everybody involved.”

After decades of navigating real estate cycles, new priorities and bringing in a CEO outside of the founding family, Minto is confident it can play a continuing role in overcome today's housing affordability and accessibility challenges.

New geographies, new leadership

Founded by the Greenberg brothers in 1955, Minto initially operated as a family-run, family-owned business servicing primarily Ottawa, Toronto and Florida.

In 2013, Minto Group transitioned away from the family-run model with the appointment of Michael Waters as CEO. The firm was narrowed down to residential assets and elevated “to the next level” by expanding to new locations, according to Brent Strachan, president of Minto Communities – Ontario.

Minto has since expanded into Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria, and into South Carolina in the United States.

On the West Coast of Canada, there has been a focus on purpose-built rentals due to incentives and market needs, Mills said. Plans for the region also include more condos over the next five to 10 years, and potentially penetrating the western U.S. market, though nothing is finalized.

Broadening its horizons has allowed Minto to navigate real estate cycles for almost seven decades, Strachan said. Minto's adjustments include diversifying geographically and pivoting to products like stacked units, small condo suites and retirement bungalows in Margaritaville communities.

Calgary is a stand-out market currently, Mills said, due to immigration and the city’s diversifying job mix. However, Minto's entry into Calgary in 2015 was not without its hurdles. The price of oil plummeted and a few years later, the COVID pandemic hit.

Despite the stumbling blocks, Minto’s Calgary team and its sales have grown.

Minto will be closing over 2,000 homes sales in the U.S. and over 1,000 in Canada this year. Strachan said the company would normally close more homes in Canada, but the market has cooled this year as a result of interest rate hikes.

On the purpose-built rental side, Minto has approximately 2,000 units under development across Canada.

Holding to Minto’s values

The change in leadership has not affected Minto’s adherence to its founding values, Strachan and Mills said.

Waters has preserved Minto’s values and, while using similar systems and processes, aligned its teams on operations and growth of its rental business, Strachan said. He runs the company in such a way so Minto “doesn’t veer off from the values or trajectory it was on.”

The Greenbergs emphasized giving back to the community and innovation, which lives on through Minto’s support for community education, sports and health; building Canada’s first condo high-rise; and pushing forward on sustainable housing with net-zero demonstration homes and retrofitting purpose-built rentals.

Respecting and recognizing the cities it builds in is a foundational value for Minto, Strachan said.

“You can’t have a successful business without a thriving, healthy community. Being part of that and giving back is key, as well as the recognition that your trade partners are a key partner.”

Being fair and consistent with stakeholders is a value Mills highlighted. Loyalty and consistency to stakeholders through peaks and valleys means success will follow, he said.

Taking on affordability

With housing affordability being a national priority, Strachan said Minto is trying to tackle the problem.

He gave the example of two projects in Ottawa, where 1,100-square-foot units are being marketed for under $400,000.

Strachan said a housing market downturn 30 years ago slowed homebuilding, so Minto adapted by building more rental housing.

Municipalities can tackle the problem by making more land available for development by streamlining the approval process, and addressing stress tests and mortgage durations, Strachan said.

Mills said an important factor often lost in the discussions is the dearth of skilled workers to build housing, so more young people and immigrants have to be drawn into the trades to rectify this gap.

Looking to its 200,000th closing

As Minto’s portfolio and geographic reach grows to encompass more of North America, Strachan expects its 200,000th closing to arrive much quicker than its 100,000th.

“It’s providing that broad mix of built form . . . We’ll do high-rise, we’ll do mixed-use, we’ll do low-rise, we’ll do wood frame, concrete and everything in between.”

Mills anticipates Minto will have a denser portfolio in the years to come, which means creating communities with smaller suites which remain livable, affordable and efficient without losing value.

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