Downtown condos to sell below market rates — to qualified buyers

Chard Development been involved in building high-end, mid-range and purpose-built rental accommodation in Victoria for years.

Now the company is further diversifying by diving into a partnership with B.C. Housing to offer affordable housing in Victoria’s downtown core.

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The partnership, which will see B.C. Housing finance a $50-million mixed-use building that spans the 800 block between Yates Street and Johnson Street, will have Chard bring the 20-storey Vivid at the Yates out of the ground starting this fall.

Byron Chard, the company’s chief financial officer, said the idea of the project is to give homebuyers a chance to get into what has become an overheated real estate market.

“We expect this will be well received. When we launched Yates on Yates in June, we had a significant amount of people register, almost five times more what we would [usually see],” said Chard, noting the appeal at Vivid will be getting a new condo at below market rates.

Prices for Vivid’s 135 units will run between $275,000 and $550,000. There will also be commercial at grade fronting both Yates and Johnson streets.

“It’s a great opportunity [to get into the market], and I hope people take us up on it,” he said.

The units will be listed for sale at eight per cent below the market value of the unit. That value will be set by a third-party appraiser.

“We don’t set the pricing, that’s a key component,” said Chard, who said the partnership with B.C. housing is a risk-reward proposition for the company.

“While the overall reward of the development may be lower, so too is our risk as 100 per cent of our costs are covered through the loan with B.C. Housing at a preferred rate,” he said.

“We also have to have 100 per cent presales. So we are able to mitigate our risk.”

Because B.C. Housing is doing the financing at a below-market rate, and the size of the building gives Chard economy of scale, the savings will be passed on to would-be buyers.

Those buyers also have to qualify for the project. The rules are they must have a household income below $150,000 (Chard notes preference will be given to households with income below $125,000) and they have to agree to live there for at least two years.

“They cannot sell it or rent it out in that time. That is to focus the program on workforce housing,” he said. “We are really going after those individuals who really want to live closer to where they work in downtown Victoria as well as that first-time homebuyer looking to call Victoria home and help them enter the market.”

Chard said they got involved in this kind of project because they’ve heard over the years that it’s in high demand and it allows them to diversify their portfolio. Adding the 819 Yates condos will to be its first purpose-built rental building, and the Vivid at Yates will be its first affordable housing project.

“We are looking to diversify our housing and target different groups in the market,” Chard said on Thursday.

Work on the site at 845 Johnson St., which is currently a parking lot, is expected to start in the next month, with a completion date set for early 2020.

Chard said finishes in the suites will be in line with other Chard projects, but they have focused more attention on the efficient use of space in one-bedrooms that will range from 475 to 630 square feet and two-bedrooms that range from 700 to 1,000 square feet.

“[President Dave Chard] has built a company and brand based on quality and his reputation of delivering what he says he will deliver and that’s no different as we roll out this building,” said the younger Chard.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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