May 29, 2015

Putting a new home within reach


Four ways developers can enhance housing affordability for home buyers

BY ANNE McMULLIN

Housing affordability is one of Metro Vancouver’s greatest challenges. Developers offer several options that benefit buyers, allowing them to save on housing costs without scrimping on quality or location. The following measures can provide a helping hand for new home buyers entering the market.

Microsuites and small units

Microsuites and smaller, more affordable homes have proven popular with students, young professionals and single retirees. They are primarily located in amenity-rich areas close to transit. In Surrey’s City Centre, Tien Sher offers Balance, a four-storey building with efficiently designed units ranging in size from about 300 square feet to just under 500 square feet. It allows people to purchase an affordable new home in the heart of Surrey’s revitalized downtown core.

Fee-simple rowhomes

Microsuites may not be suitable for all buyers, so fee-simple rowhomes present an alternative for families and downsizers who want more space. Compared with strata townhomes, fee-simple rowhomes are free of both strata councils and strata fees. Popular in other jurisdictions, fee-simple rowhomes are a relatively new form of housing for Metro Vancouver made easier by a 2012 legislative amendment. They provide the same type of tenure as a single-family home.

In South Surrey, StreetSide Developments’ Hycroft rowhomes feature 65 spacious four-bedroom units, providing a housing choice suitable for those who want more flexibility and control over roof maintenance, landscaping and other housing costs.

Parking

Another option to improve on affordability is to forego a parking stall with the purchase of a new home. This option is especially suitable for homes located near transit. On top of saving thousands for the stall itself, buyers can also save on the costs of car ownership, which can add up to almost $10,000 per year. Located near transit and within walking distance of a variety of shops, services and restaurants is Townline Homes’ 999 Seymour, a 21-storey mixed-use tower in downtown Vancouver. It provides owners with a one-year membership to a car-share program. Buyers who choose not to purchase a parking stall reap significant savings — they get $20,000 off the price of their home and a $500 gift certificate for a bicycle.

Down-payment assistance

Often the biggest barrier to home ownership is saving for the down payment. In some cases, developers are providing options to become a homeowner sooner, such as flexible deposit programs that assist buyers in saving for the down payment. Through these innovative programs, developers can help buyers create a payment structure that suits their way of life while building a down payment for a home. The programs give buyers a tangible path to homeownership.

With developers providing variety in terms of suite size and ownership tenure, along with down-payment assistance and the option to opt out of parking, home ownership is within reach for many potential new buyers.

Anne McMullin is president and CEO of the Urban Development Institute.

As a partner in community building, the Urban Development Institute is committed to working with communities and governments to create and achieve the vision of balanced, well-planned and sustainable communities.

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