Calgary-based Avenue Living Asset Management was founded in 2006 with the purchase of 24 residential rental units in Brooks, Alta., for $3 million.
Recently, the quickly growing company surpassed $2 billion in assets under management with growth coming not only in its core business – residential rental properties in Canada’s Prairie provinces – but also through expansions into rental properties in the U.S. as well as the self-storage sector.
The company, which also has agricultural land holdings and commercial real estate property, has seen its assets under management grow by $450 million, or 30 per cent, since December 2019.
Anthony Giuffre, founder and CEO of Avenue Living, told RENX surpassing the $2-billion mark is a significant milestone for the organization with more growth planned for the future.
Avenue Living’s “wonderful milestone”
“It’s a wonderful milestone and frankly I’m a bit awestruck that we hit it. Literally this business started with very humble beginnings . . . I went in with everything I had and then I borrowed everything I didn’t have to make this happen,” said Giuffre. “Going from $3 million to $2 billion in a relatively short span, being 15 years, I mean to me that’s an overnight success.
“What no one will ever understand or appreciate, other than those that have been involved in the journey, is the sheer number of stumbles and pivots and recasts and re-creation(s) in order to be able to hit a milestone like that.
“You’re one person and you can’t do it without surrounding yourself with incredible people and that’s what’s more humbling. Super humbling. It’s not one person. It takes an incredible team. Some of those folks are still with us.
“My old adage, and I heard it from my father years ago, you never forget where you come from and that also means the people that helped you along the way.”
Giuffre said the company created a robust, sustainable platform and has shown the resilience to thrive during market fluctuations.
Avenue Living’s core sector
In the residential rental sector, the company has focused on growing its portfolio through B- and C-class assets.
“We chased good business. We didn’t chase the shiny object in the room. We chased cash-flowing assets that were a little further afield. We started in those secondary, tertiary markets,” he said.
“We then moved on into Saskatchewan and then went back into Alberta when the moment was right and we felt we had enough momentum behind us through the support of the financial institutions and our equity stakeholders.
“We continued to apply the same principles into the major markets.
“But, really we haven’t essentially changed how we’ve gone to work in terms of our business philosophy following cash-flowing assets, buying good buildings, buying smart, holding and not looking for a spike in selling, really trying to build on the fundamentals which we believe in.”
The workforce housing demographic
Avenue Living’s philosophy is to focus on what it calls the workforce housing demographic and to provide affordable homes for that working population. The company has also spent millions renovating buildings in its portfolio to make them more attractive for prospective tenants and to retain the tenants who have rented homes.
Giuffre said the depth and breadth of its platform allows the company to pivot and adapt as necessary, adding it operates as a vertically integrated platform which gives its investment funds access to best-in-class legal, property management, marketing, logistical and customer service expertise.
“We have five unique investment offerings that have a competitive advantage in the marketplace, allowing us to pool individuals together who have incredible amounts of knowledge and expertise,” he said.
“If you look at our diversity, there’s a common theme, which really is – we’re investing in the everyday . . . That’s what we try to do.”
Avenue Living employs over 520 and has a presence in 24 markets across Western Canada and the U.S.
The platform includes five investment funds with approximately 10,000 multifamily units, 400,000 square feet of commercial space, 45,000 acres of agricultural land and 550,000 square feet of self-storage.
“What has changed between reaching $1.5 billion and $2 billion in AUM is that we have profoundly identified our ‘why’,” said Jason Jogia, chief investment officer of Avenue Living.
“Avenue Living invests in the everyday and this has proven to be tenacious through the ups and downs of three economic cycles and now the pandemic. The pandemic has been an affirmation that our investment philosophy and our ‘why’ work well, and it’s the right business to be developing.”
Giuffre said the Avenue Living platform has set the stage for future growth.
“There’s a lot of believers in the Avenue Living story, our value proposition in terms of workforce housing both in Canada and the United States, and storage. I think we validated our business platform coming on 15 years. So I do believe there’s a lot of room for growth,” said Giuffre.
“Could I depict quantum? No I wouldn’t dare to because that would not serve anybody well, but I will say there’s a lot of spirit left in the team and in the investment community to support us.
“Our focus has allowed us to speak to all of our stakeholders with a unified voice, and we continue to be in command and control of our company. The business environment that surrounds us is ever-evolving, from the geopolitical climate to the credit markets.
“We continue to take the temperature of all of our stakeholders and adapt, as necessary . . . We have created the internal framework that will allow us to achieve the next milestone.”