Owning a home in North Vancouver could be more realistic than you think

Mention the idea of homeownership to a group of 20-somethings today, and you typically get one of two responses:  Not for me” or “I wish.”  Both responses likely born out of the idea that owning a property is nearly impossible unless they’re a top income earner or have access to “The Bank of Mom and Dad”. 

26-year-old Francesca McDonnell and her husband Alexander, know the feeling. The couple, who met in 2012 while playing rugby, has been renting in North Vancouver for four years. They currently share a one-bedroom condo in Lower Lonsdale with their Staffordshire Terrier mix, Charlie. Until recently, the idea of homeownership felt frustratingly out of reach.

“We’re hard workers,” says Mc-Donnell. “Alex is a plumber doing manual labour all day here on the North Shore. I work full-time at my family’s contracting fi rm. We make good money, and we save. But we haven’t reached the point of being able to put a down payment on the type of starter home we want.  And every time we pay rent, we get frustrated that we’re making money but doing nothing to help build our future.”

McDonnell says, “We see friends moving away from North Vancouver to afford a home, and we don’t want to do that. I grew up here and went to Capilano University. Our family and friends are here. Our jobs are here. We pay taxes here. We’ve built our lives in North Van.” 

So, what’s changed? McDonnell says she and her husband learned homeownership could be more accessible if a proposed Rent to Own (RTO) program in their area becomes a reality. 

The RTO suites are part of a comprehensive community that Anthem Properties Group Ltd. is proposing for the 6.28-acre Seymour Estates property on Mount Seymour Parkway and Lytton Street.

Anthem has applied to the District of North Vancouver to build a mix of townhomes and apartments, including condos, Rent to Own homes, affordable (below market), and market rental at the currently vacant site.

The project is expected to generate more than $12 million in economic benefit throughout the community in its first year.  The project has a lot to offer the community, and if passed, the RTO program will be the first of its kind in North Vancouver. It will give local, first time buyers who live or work in North Vancouver the opportunity to transition to homeownership by applying 24 months of market rent towards their down payment.

“The traditional deposit or down payment structure of new homes can act as a barrier to those who may otherwise qualify to purchase their first home,” says Elva Kim, Anthem’s Executive Vice-President of Sales and Marketing. “The RTO program is not an affordable housing project but is instead intended to provide entry to the housing market for the ‘missing middle’ segment who would like to transition to homeownership.”

Rent to Own is not a new concept but is rare in Metro Vancouver. The program allows qualified buyers to take immediate possession of their home and, at the end of the two-year term, complete the sale at the price established in their purchase and sale agreement.

When taking into account the project construction timeline and the two-year RTO period, the purchase price will have been locked in for at least four years, effectively providing four years of purchase price certainty.  “Knowing we’re that much closer to owning our own home would only drive me to push harder in my career,” says McDonnell. “It effectively puts the control back in our hands. It really changes everything.”

For more information and to keep up-to-date on Anthem’s rezoning application process, visit seymourestates.ca

If Anthem’s application moves ahead, candidates for the Rent to Own program must meet the following criteria:

  • First-time homebuyer;
  • Live or work in North Vancouver (City or District);
  • Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident;
  • Agree to use the home as a primary residence and not as an
    investment unit and personally live in the home for the two-year RTO period;
  • Must pre-qualify for a mortgage at the average value of the home
    they intend to purchase; and Must declare that they do not have sufficient funds available for a deposit, either from their own assets or through family or third parties.

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