Struggling buyers find respite

When Scott Fraser, 28, and his 25-year-old girlfriend found a condo in Port Moody, they could scarcely believe their luck—especially considering they were among 2,000 registrants vying for 84 units.

Even more unbelievable was that their builder gave them an 8% grant towards the down payment on their $449,000 unit, which worked out to about $38,000.

“This area is extremely expensive at the moment, so we were having trouble, especially as first-time homebuyers, finding anything that was in our budget,” said Fraser. “At that point, we weren’t really looking aggressively just because we knew everything was out of our way, but we were extremely motivated to buy at The Strand because of its initiative.”

The Strand is a Townline Homes condominium offering a unique program to out-of-luck house hunters. In partnership with Townline’s sister company, TL Housing Solutions, CMHC and B.C. Housing, potential buyers had to meet strict criteria related to their income, and also had to agree not to rent their units (or even rooms within their units,) as well as to live in there for at least two years before selling.

For a one-bedroom unit, buyers could earn no more than $65,850; for a two-bedroom, the cutoff was $92,430. While an 8% down payment grant was provided upon closing, candidates preapproved for mortgages weren’t permitted co-signers or guarantors.

“In four days, we had north of 2,000 registrants,” said Chris Colbeck, Townline’s vice president of sales and marketing. “We used a third-party appraiser, and as the developer we were not allowed to set the price or change the price. We couldn’t increase prices on demand.”

Metro Vancouver’s affordability woes are well documented, but with nary a panacea on the horizon, unwonted developments like The Strand draw everyone’s attention.

“We sold to the demographic that needed the help,” said Colbeck. “We sold to true end users and all of them have benefited, because we set them up strategically for the rest of their lives. Eighty percent of Strand buyers were renters. These weren’t people who have major debt loads that precluded them, they just didn’t have the opportunity to save up down payments. Putting a down payment down is the hard part. A lot of people have good jobs but they just don’t have enough money to save to get their foot in the door.”

“A down payment is so difficult to get because 10% or 20% down is a huge chunk of money,” said Fraser. “When we heard about The Strand, all our ducks fell in a row.”

Seventy-seven percent of Strand buyers are in their 20s and 30s, 51% are from the Tri-city of Burnaby, Port Moody and Coquitlam, and 25% are originally from Vancouver.

“We were super, super lucky,” said Fraser.


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