CALGARY, Feb. 27, 2012 /CNW/ - Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust ("BEI.UN" - TSX)
Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust ("Boardwalk", "Boardwalk REIT" or the "Trust") responds to the Edmonton Journal article of February 14, 2012, entitled "Fire Traps Now Legal, NDP Says" (the "Article"):
The Article, contained a number of statements about Boardwalk, which, if left unchallenged, would leave the reader with the impression that the Trust, along with other apartment rental companies, exercises undue influence over the Government of Alberta, and that its apartments are not safe.
Firstly, the Article states that Boardwalk has long pressed for changes to the Standards and has repeatedly tried to have Alberta's safety laws overturned by the Courts. This assertion is incorrect. Boardwalk sought judicial review of the Standards in 2005 and 2006, because the Standards were drafted in such a way as to create confusion between the requirements of the Alberta Building Code and the Standards. Once the Courts of Alberta definitively determined that the Standards took precedence over the building code, Boardwalk, in consultation and cooperation with Alberta Health Services, complied with the Standard's requirements vis a vis windows, as well as guardrail heights and widths. Since 2005, Boardwalk has repaired and/or replaced almost $7 million worth of windows and almost $3 million worth of guard rails in the City of Edmonton alone in order to comply with the Standards. This was done notwithstanding the fact that none of the properties were ever cited by a safety codes officer for having an unsafe condition under the building code.
Boardwalk's first priority is the health and safety of its tenants and employees. To that end, since 1995, Boardwalk has spent over $1 billion on capital improvements, most of which, directly or indirectly, was spent to improve the health, safety and comfort of our tenants. Boardwalk has spent significantly more on capital improvements than any other landlord in Canada during that time.
Boardwalk's record on health and safety reflect a business organization that adheres to the highest standards. In the 27 plus year history of the Trust and its predecessor (Boardwalk Equities Inc.), there has not been a single injury or death which resulted from fire, unsafe guardrails or from windows. Boardwalk's safety record was recently acknowledged in an external health and safety audit conducted by Safety Insights in 2011, under the Workplace Health and Safety/ Worker's Compensation Board's Partnership's Certificate of Recognition ("COR") Program, which awarded Boardwalk a score of 99%, higher than the vast majority of the more than 6500 companies being evaluated under that high universal standard for their Health and Safety Management Systems. According to Dan Miller of Safety Insights, who has conducted more than 1,000 audits and evaluations in his career, Boardwalk's health and safety policies, programs and procedures are rare for an organization of the size and type of Boardwalk. In the category of "hazard assessment" alone, usually the area of greatest health and safety weakness in businesses participating in the COR Program, the audit awarded Boardwalk a score of 96%, which, we are informed by Mr. Miller, is extremely high and show's that Boardwalk is making every effort to identify and thus minimize and mitigate, any possible Hazard to both our employees and our tenants.
The Article suggests that because of political donations since 2004, which averaged $5,750 per year, Boardwalk exercises undue influence over the Government of Alberta. Nothing could be further from the truth. Boardwalk has always supported honest, open and accessible government for all Canadians. Boardwalk also supports the free enterprise system as the best system for all Canadians and will continue to support free market oriented political parties and candidates in the communities in which we conduct business across Canada. Consistent with our principles, as well as the current Premier and her predecessor's commitment to honest, open and accessible government, when the Government of Alberta set out to redraft the Standards, they sought the opinions of key stakeholders, including tenants, representatives of Alberta Health Services and landlords, including the Trust. Consistent with our support for clear legislation and our commitment to provide affordable housing to Albertans, Boardwalk welcomed and participated in the opportunity to comment on the proposed Rental Housing Premises and Shelter Standards. Contrary to what the Article suggests, during such process, Boardwalk advised the Government that the new Standards should be more, not less, specific, and should, like the building code, focus on unsafe conditions and not burden landlords with unnecessary regulation and costs which, ultimately, would have to be passed on to the tenants in the form of rent increases. Rent increases, which, in turn, would defeat Boardwalk and the Government's shared goal of providing clean, safe and affordable housing to Albertans.
Contrary to what the Article implies, the building code does not "grandfather" unsafe building conditions, but only provides an exemption for pre-existing structures where it can be shown that no unsafe condition exists. Boardwalk's health and safety record speaks for itself - we have the best maintained, safest and cleanest rental accommodation in Alberta and across Canada.
Boardwalk REIT is an open-ended real estate investment trust formed to acquire all of the assets and undertakings of Boardwalk Equities Inc. Boardwalk REIT's principal objectives are to provide its unitholders with monthly cash distributions, partially on a Canadian income tax-deferred basis, and to increase the value of its units through the effective management of its residential multi-family revenue producing properties and the acquisition of additional properties. Boardwalk REIT currently owns and operates in excess of 225 properties with 35,277 units totalling approximately 30 million net rentable square feet, and is Canada's largest owner/operator of multi-family communities. Boardwalk REIT's portfolio is concentrated in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec.
CAUTIONARY STATEMENTS REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
Information in this news release that is not current or historical factual information may constitute forward-looking information within the meaning of securities laws. Implicit in this information, particularly in respect of Boardwalk's objectives for 2012 and future periods, Boardwalk's strategies to achieve those objectives, as well as statements with respect to management's beliefs, plans, estimates and intentions, and similar statements concerning anticipated future events, results, circumstances, performance or expectations are estimates and assumptions subject to risks and uncertainties, including those described in the Management's Discussion & Analysis of Boardwalk REIT's 2011 Annual Report under the heading "Risks and Risk Management", which could cause Boardwalk's actual results to differ materially from the forward-looking information contained in this news release. Specifically Boardwalk has assumed that the general economy remains stable, interest rates are relatively stable, acquisition capitalization rates are stable, competition for acquisition of residential apartments remains intense, and equity and debt markets continue to provide access to capital. These assumptions, although considered reasonable by the Trust at the time of preparation, may prove to be incorrect. For more exhaustive information on these risks and uncertainties you should refer to Boardwalk's most recently filed annual information form, which is available at www.sedar.com. Forward-looking information contained in this news release is based on Boardwalk's current estimates, expectations and projections, which Boardwalk believes are reasonable as of the current date. You should not place undue importance on forward-looking information and should not rely upon this information as of any other date. While the Trust may elect to, Boardwalk is under no obligation and does not undertake to update this information at any particular time.
For further information:
Investor Relations at (403) 531-9255