By Jesse Laufer
Victoria’s luxury rental market will get another boost in August.
That’s the expected move in date for Townline Homes’s new purpose-built rental tower, Hudson Walk One, on Caledonia Avenue.
Purpose-built rental developments are designed to cater specifically to renters, as opposed to condos or mixed residential development. The third of five buildings developed by Townline in the new Hudson District, the 16-storey concrete development will contain 178 suites and 29 different floor plans. Units range from 452 to 1,302 square feet.
More than 800 people have expressed interest in moving into the building, even though the leasing centre doesn’t open until Saturday, April 30.
A launch event was held recently to give the initial tours. Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps praised the property’s pet-friendly policy and rental-first mentality.
“This district really is our future,” she said. “It’s the future of the up-and-coming generation of Victorians who want to walk seven minutes from their bedroom to their office.”
The city did not mandate that Hudson One become a purpose-built rental development. Rather it was a market decision, said Townline president Rick Ilich.
“(Victoria) was an underserved market place,” Ilich said.
“When we did research the rental market was desperately in need of new housing. The city did not push for this, we brought the idea to the city.”
Helps added interest rates are low, and there is clearly a demand in the market.
“I think what the city is doing is supporting the market demand and supporting the developer making these significant investments in our downtown,” she said.
Currently the apartment rental vacancy rate in Victoria is roughly 0.6 per cent, but Helps said more purpose-built rental housing is coming, and not just in the luxury market.
Still, some say the city could do more.
“The reality is we are starting to see some more support for purpose-built rental,” said David Hutniak, CEO of Landlord B.C.
“Victoria is still working through some potential incentives, or stronger partnerships with our industry in terms of building more purpose-built rental, but a good example of a success story on this is actually Vancouver.”
Vancouver introduced the Rental 100 program in May 2012 with the goal of providing 5,000 new rental units throughout the city by 2021. The city is expected to reach that goal early.
Through Rental 100, the City of Vancouver reduces some cost to developers, allows greater density, and lowers smaller requirements such as the minimum number of parking spots. In exchange, buildings that qualify under Rental 100 must always remain rental developments.
Helps said the city is open to making small bylaw changes regarding development, but noted that because Victoria is seeing unprecedented growth downtown, stimulating general rental developments isn’t necessary.
However, because Victoria’s growth is largely fuelled by high-paying job growth in the city, the lack of affordable purpose-built rental building is becoming a bigger challenge.