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City of North Vancouver seeks more rent-to-own housing

Plan would allow renters to build equity for down payment
NV City Hall Sign Flowers Building CG
City of North Vancouver municipal council is hoping to woo in more rent-to-own projects.

Rent now, own later.

City of North Vancouver council passed a motion Monday (Sept. 21) from Mayor Linda Buchanan and Coun. Angela Girard, seeking more rent-to-own housing options in the city.

Rent-to-own could be an underused tool in allowing moderate-income earners to attain housing in the city, Buchanan said.

“We have been in a housing affordability crisis that has left the workers who keep our economy moving without the housing options they need,” she said. “We've all felt the mounting pressure of the housing crisis, whether it's finding the right home for aging parents or watching your children struggle to afford staying in the community they've always called home, or becoming a homeowner yourself.”

Buchanan’s motion doesn’t lay out the specifics for how rent-to-own programs work but, where they have been tried, they typically involve renters being able to apply some or all of their rent for a period of time toward a down payment. The intent is to help otherwise stretched renters build up enough equity to qualify for a mortgage.

“So that their money is going to their own future inheritance rather than building someone else's,” Girard characterized it.

Finding homes for local workers would help the local business, making it easier to recruit staff, Buchanan reasoned, and ease traffic congestion by allowing people to live closer to where they work. It will also relieve pressure on the existing rental stock, which has a vacancy rate of less than one per cent.

Buchanan’s motion cited a recent development in the city that had eight rent-to-own units but more than 800 would-be residents looking to get in.

The motion directs staff to research the concept with private developers and banks and report back with ideas on what the city can do to foster more of them.

Council’s support for the idea was unanimous.

“These things were done in the '70s and then we kind of lost sight of affordable housing for people,” said Coun. Holly Back. “People really did buy into it, so I'm really happy to bring some of these ideas back maybe in a more modern form.”

Encouraging more rent-to-own development was part of the Liberal’s housing platform, Buchanan noted, adding that she will be taking the matter up with North Vancouver’s newly re-elected Liberal MP Jonathan Wilkinson and with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.