Developer still bullish after Bold proposal rejected

A developer whose plan to make 163 new homes affordable to middle-class purchasers was rejected by Port Moody council at its Dec. 3 meeting said he’s not giving up on the city.

Tommy He, the president of Bold Properties, said his pitch for a partnership between his company, BC Housing and the city to reduce the cost of units in the project he’s hoping to build between St. Johns and St. George streets, next to the site of the old Barnet Hotel, was a response to a previous request by the city’s community planning advisory committee (CPAC) to find a partner to make more affordable units available. He said instead of applying that request to just a percentage of units, the company went all in.

It was able to do that, He explained, through a new BC Housing affordable home ownership program (AHOP) that was launched through its HousingHub in 2018 to address affordability for middle-class households earning up to $155,000 a year. The program effectively reduces the cost of a new home to eligible purchasers by 10% through a second mortgage that is interest-free and payment-free for 25 years and can be applied to the downpayment.

According to BC Housing, there are currently 450 homes in the early stages of development under the program across the province. Bold’s proposal for Port Moody would have been the first in the Tri-Cities.

In the proposal, He said his company would support the program by reducing its profit margin on units and the city would chip in by deferring $3.7 million in development cost charges and amenity contributions. That money, along with a percentage of any increase in equity, would be recouped when those second mortgages are repaid as units are resold or loans mature.

“It’s a mechanism,” explained He. “Potentially, it’s an investment for the city.”

But several on council balked at the idea.

Mayor Rob Vagramov said giving a price break to middle-class households earning up to $155,000 isn’t addressing the issue of housing affordability at all.

“This is not for struggling, working class people,” he said, adding it could take the city “decades” to recoup its investment in the program.

Coun. Steve Milani said supporting the program to the tune of almost $4 million would amount to the city “giving away the farm.”

But Coun. Diana Dilworth said if Port Moody is serious about addressing the affordability of housing in the city, it has to consider all demographics.

“This is an opportunity for the city to show some leadership,” she said, adding the housing needs of lower-income families will be helped by the hundreds of new rental units currently being built in the city as well as rental stock that would become available from people being able to buy into the new project.

Coun. Meghan Lahti agreed, saying Port Moody can’t turn its back on young professionals who might be able to take advantage of the program.

“This is a type of affordable housing we need to focus on,” she said.

He said while he’s disappointed Vagramov and Milani, along with councillors Amy Lubik and Hunter Madsen, voted against sending his project to a public hearing, he’s not ruling out taking another crack.

“We have full confidence that there are people who want this,” He said.

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