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Langford launches fund to help young families buy condos

The City of Langford, long the engine of the region’s housing boom, is putting its money where its mouth is in the hope of helping more young families achieve the goal of home ownership.
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Langford Mayor Stew Young: "It's tough for young families to get into the market, even in Langford." DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

The City of Langford, long the engine of the region’s housing boom, is putting its money where its mouth is in the hope of helping more young families achieve the goal of home ownership.

Langford is tapping into its Affordable Housing Reserve Fund to provide partial downpayments for Langford residents to buy their first homes.

Mayor Stew Young said unprecedented times and a housing crisis require novel thinking.

“It’s tough for young families to get into the market, even in Langford,” said Young, noting the average sale price of a single-family home in Langford is nearly $900,000, while it’s over $1 million in the core. “A lot of people say they feel their opportunity to get in is now gone.”

In an attempt to reverse that kind of thinking, Langford has launched the $3 million Attainable Home Ownership program, which will offer as much as 75 per cent of the five per cent downpayment required for a condo in Langford.

Assistance is to be granted on a sliding scale based on gross annual household income. Those with incomes less than $99,999 would receive 75 per cent, while those between $100,000 and $115,000 would receive 50 per cent of the down payment and up to $125,000 would receive 25 per cent.

Young said they can’t afford to subsidize someone looking to buy a single-family home for just under $1 million, but they can help young families looking at condos in a city that is now building taller buildings and adding density to its core.

“We are going higher,” said Young. “When we get above six storeys we make units more affordable and we can get condos around the $300,000 to $550,000 range.”

Young said they had to find a way of making homes more affordable for Langford residents. To be eligible, families must have lived in the city for two years; Young expects the city will be able to help as many as 250 families.

“This is the only opportunity for some Langford residents to get into the market so I think it will be oversubscribed for sure,” Young said. “Our job as a city is if you’re working hard and trying to raise a family we make it possible to get you home ownership.”

The program gets high praise from the developers who have funded it.

Ron Coutre, president of the West Shore Developers Association, said all builders know they have to pay a premium to work in Langford, but the tradeoff is a better working environment and knowing some of those fees are being used for programs like this.

“In the midst of the housing crisis, it’s encouraging to see local government working collaboratively with developers to help Langford families achieve their goal of homeownership,” he said.

Coutre said it’s another example of Langford setting the bar for all other regions when it comes to providing attainable housing.

“We know it costs money to develop in Langford but for that you get a streamlined approval process, a cooperative city staff and an environment that wants to work with you to see projects be a success,” said Coutre. “It’s not unlike Langford to think outside the box and do the best for its electorate, it has always advocated for affordable housing.”

Coutre said the fund comes from the developers who have paid fees when applying to rezone land, and it’s great to see the cash being used to establish home ownership.

“We don’t see other municipalities taking on the challenge of providing attainable housing in any meaningful way the way Langford is doing,” he said.

The program will launch in early 2022. Other qualifying criteria includes maximum household assets of $50,000, that no member of the qualifying family owns any other real estate, is not receiving down payment assistance from any other source, and the applicant has received pre-approval for a mortgage at the purchase price.

Buyers will also have to agree that should they resell the unit, the price will be limited and it may not be rented for the first five years.

More information is available at: Langford.ca/WelcomeHome.

aduffy@timescolonist.com