Over the last two years, Samantha Rullin and Cohen Isberg have steadily watched their young friends move from their rental homes in North Vancouver. All have left the District searching for more affordable home ownership options in cities such as New Westminster, Abbotsford, even as far away as Australia.
The young couple fears they may be next.
Rullin grew up in the Norgate area, where her mother still lives. The 26-year-old says, “I have a core group of friends I’ve known since we were five-years-old. We went to Norgate Elementary, Carson Graham Secondary, and Capilano University together. We’ve all dreamed of one day owning homes here and making a positive contribution to the community where we grew up, but it feels impossible.”
Rullin and Isberg, who met five years ago in Isberg’s hometown of Skidegate, Haida Gwaii, both work at Indigenous Tourism BC, located on the Squamish Nation’s lands in West Vancouver. They rent a one-bedroom condo in the Capilano area, not far from Isberg’s aunt in Lynn Valley. Isberg also attends Capilano University, where he’s completing a Bachelor of Communications Studies Degree.
Their lives are clearly implanted on the North Shore.
Given their deep connections to the region, Isberg says being forced out due to economics has even more significant negative implications than many people may realize.
“It’s so valuable to have parents, grandparents, other family and friends nearby. You’re each other’s support network. They want to be close when you start to grow your family. And their help with things like childcare, which is also very expensive, is priceless. Not to mention the emotional support. That all goes away when you’re forced to transplant yourself to a new town to afford a home.”
The good news for Rullin and Isberg is a comprehensive community proposed for the 6.28-acre Seymour Estates property at Mount Seymour Parkway and Lytton Street includes a Rent to Own (RTO) option.
The concept, which would be a first for the District, provides an easier means to home ownership for local, first-time buyers.
The developer has selected 25 one- and two-bedroom homes for the RTO program, subject to Council approval.
The program is part of Anthem Properties Group Ltd’s redevelopment proposal. It also includes a mix of townhomes, apartments, condos, below-market rental homes, transportation improvements and a neighbourhood coffee shop at the currently vacant site.
As part of Anthem’s sustainability commitment, the completed buildings will use only clean energy—no fossil fuels.
Anthem anticipates the 341-home Seymour Estates proposed development will deliver substantial economic benefits both in the short and long term.
“If approved, Council is saying yes to the creation of a minimum one-hundred new full-time jobs in construction and hundreds of spinoff employment opportunities,” says Riaan Debeer, Anthem’s Vice President, Development.
Debeer also says, “We estimate about $10.67 million economic benefit throughout the community in the project’s first year. Another $3.79 million will follow year after year.”
According to Anthem, those figures include $6.88 million in development-related fees payable to local governing authorities, $640,000 in property taxes for the District and an additional $3.15 million per year spent on dining out and grocery shopping at local establishments.
Isberg says he and his partner pride themselves on supporting local businesses and hope to continue to do just that in the region they know and love.
“I’m tired of the gut-wrenching feeling I get when I think about the amount of money we’re shelling out on rent every month instead of investing in our future,” says Isberg. “If the RTO program goes ahead, it’ll start to lift a massive weight off the shoulders of the young, hardworking people in our community.”