Single-family housing starts in Greater Victoria hit a 10-year low in 2011, dragged down by the harmonized sales tax and confusion surrounding the process of returning to a GST/PST system in the wake of the referendum that extinguished the HST. In February, the provincial government cleared the air by saying new homes selling for less than $850,000 would be subject to an HST rebate of up to $42,500. The region’s construction industry praised the move.
“This will help restore tax certainty and consumer confidence in the new home building industry,” said Cam Hayward, president of the Victoria chapter of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association.
Small Modern Living and EcoTec Homes (a division of Westco Construction Ltd.) joined forces to create the Studio37 Garden Pavilion, a prefabricated, self-contained, 400-square-foot, one-bedroom residential unit compliant with the City of Victoria’s new garden suite policy. They exhibited one of the units at the Canadian Home Builders Association Home & Garden Show in early March, where Douglas magazine caught up with them for a video interview about the product.
Woodland Creek, a 180-unit development in Sooke, took home the award for best website at the 2011 Construction Achievements and Renovations of Excellence (CARE) Awards. The Totangi Properties Ltd. project also employed a unique sales tactic: the relocation vacation. The program gave visitors discounted rates at local accommodations, and those who fell in love with Sooke and wound up buying a new home at Woodland Creek had their vacation expenses reimbursed up to $1,000.
The Brick in Langford is strengthening its commercial sales division. Sales consultants Jackie Bayles and Tina Toby have teamed up to offer appliance packages directly to developers, property managers, insurance companies, and realtors. Bayles, a member of the Westshore Developers Association, says the store’s commercial pricing applies to all furniture, mattresses, electronics, and accessories; staging services are also available for business clients.
Carpet One’s Healthier Living flooring installation system responds to the demand for increased air quality in homes and offices by cutting down on allergens, mold, mildew, and bacteria. It’s being supplied by Pacific Coast Floor Coverings Inc., at 100-2374 Millstream Road, Colwood. The service also guarantees the resiliency of all new carpet installations for the lifetime of the product.
Garden City Mortgage is focusing on the underused financing option known as “purchase plus improvements.” It’s a strategy for homebuyers who want to make an offer on a property but are concerned about the cost of renovations. It allows buyers to use part of their down payment to finance up to 10 per cent of the appraised value to perform updates and improvements that directly affect the value of the home. “It’s a specialty offering many people aren’t aware of,” says Garden City’s Randy Hollands.
Clad in gumboots and “stubbies” and surrounded by sheep, NZ Builders Ltd. may be half a world away from where founder Damon Gray grew up, but they’ve found a home in Victoria. The company incorporated in 2009 and has been busy with commercial projects like Shiki Sushi restaurant at Fort and Blanshard, as well as Discovery Coffee’s new café at Menzies and Michigan in James Bay. They also handle residential work and are certified by Built Green BC.
How has the development business changed since the time you started?
We diversified … pretty much all across the U.S. in the mid-1970s. We were doing big high-rises, downtown office buildings, 30- to 40-storey stuff. We would do four to five towers at one time, and they would all lease up at once — those were the days! You just can’t complete four towers at a time anymore. Also, over the years you start buying existing properties. We’ve always liked troubled existing properties — often there’s lots of value in that approach.
Your partner in the Bayview residential towers, Vancouver’s Bosa Properties, is also new to the Victoria market. How’s your collaboration with them going so far?
We interviewed all kinds of different developers to jump in and do one or more of the next buildings, and we were very pleased with our discussions with Bosa. They’ve got lots of staff, lots of enthusiasm, and so out of the 10 pieces of property here, we sold them two, with us having participation going forward. So that’s going very well. They’re extremely expeditious, extremely professional, and now we’re proceeding with the excavation of the next building [the 21-storey Promontory].
You have a long-term vision for the build-out of Bayview. Tell us how you see it developing.
Bayview will all be cohesive and coordinated. There’s not going to be any craziness with one developer building one thing and another guy trying to undercut him with something cheaper. We came into this investment on the basis that we control the area. The government tried to sell us one piece at a time of the site and then let other developers buy pieces. Ultimately, what that creates is more piecemeal stuff — it gets sold separately to different people and they start competing against each other in a hectic manner. And then by the time you take some shortcuts on quality and architecture, you end up with a disappointing product and outcome.
It’s amazing that you stuck with the Bayview development after a seven-year delay whose timing couldn’t have been worse.
In 1999 we got control of the property but we weren’t able to start anything until ’06. So we had roughly seven years of standstill while the city was getting comfortable or not with what had already been zoned. And that’s very unfortunate, because those seven years was the time when the market wanted product. So when you take seven years and especially the most buoyant seven years out of the equation of a project, and that was the market you targeted in your strategy, and you don’t get the benefit of that absorption, plus you have to carry everything — which in these cases is in the tens of millions — well, thinking and talking and visiting for seven years will buy you a lot of homes for the homeless. It’s a waste to have $30 to $40 million in carrying costs, no roof over anybody’s head, certainly no labor getting paid to work and no taxes … notwithstanding, we hung in there and tried to pursue the project based on the design guidelines.