Despite some softening in the cost of housing recently, our attractive west-coast corner of Canada remains among the most costly of locations for aspiring home owners. Particularly for those with lower-to-modest incomes, Greater Victoria continues to provide a huge financial roadblock to home ownership.
Yes, every municipality continues to discuss this issue; and yes, most seem willing to support creative solutions. But few developers are providing them. A key exception is the Janion micro-loft project on Wharf Street. With more than half of the 113 units priced at less than $150,000, the smallest 243 square foot unit started at $110,000. When advance sales opened last November, buyers camped out overnight to plunk down their deposit; more than 100 units were sold within days.
That project provides proof of a pent-up demand for similar units which can be offered at about half the price of typical condos, yet still yield the developer a profit. The Janion condos represent only about five per cent of the condo units scheduled to come to market in the next two years. Greater Vancouver is seeing a substantial increase in the number of micro units being built. Why do we lag behind in satisfying this obvious market demand?
On the Peninsula, numerous businesses complain of an overwhelming need for affordable housing solutions to attract and keep their workforce. Sidney’s recent housing bylaw is an important step which encourages development of secondary accommodation but where on the Peninsula are micro-condo units to be found?
Perhaps councils need to consider modest incentives to attract developer interest in providing more micro-condo and perhaps, even micro-townhouse, projects in our municipalities. Victoria for instance, has long used a successful property tax incentive system to promote the restoration of its historic properties. Why can’t we come up with comparable incentives to provide much more affordable home ownership for our young, and even for many seniors.
Granted, micro-condos are a solution for the single person, or perhaps a couple. They do not solve the housing affordability issue for growing families. But more projects such as the Janion development can be a significant step toward affordable, initial home ownership for many who otherwise have little chance of breaking into the market.
A retired corporate executive, enjoying post-retirement as an independent Financial Consultant (www.dolezalconsultants.ca), Peter Dolezal is the author of three books, including his most recent, The SMART CANADIAN WEALTH-BUILDER.