Answer to more-affordable home ownership in Langford? Build higher, says mayor

Langford’s downtown area is headed for a dramatic change.

Four residential towers — 18 to 24 storeys in two developments along Peatt Road — could pierce the city skyline in a couple of years if council gives the green light.

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And another two towers of up to 20 storeys are planned as part of a development in the same area.

Langford Mayor Stew Young said the growing city of just over 50,000 needs more homes for purchase, and if they’re going to be affordable, “the only way is building into the airspace.”

“We’ve got lots of six-storey rental buildings … what we need is more options for people to buy their own homes, and we want to do that with density in our downtown core,” Young said. “That’s where you can buy something for about the same amount of money you’re paying in rent.”

Two companies have submitted rezoning applications for developments containing more than 700 condominium units, commercial and office space, and daycares.

Langford Gateway Developments Inc. wants to build 22- and 18-storey towers on a parcel bordered by Arncote Avenue, Peatt and Sunderland roads. The Langford Gateway project envisions 269 units and a large daycare centre in the initial two towers, and two more buildings of smaller or equal heights in a future phase with about 200 units and office space.

Less than two blocks away at Peatt and Scafe Road, an application by Jagpal Development for its Langford Central ­project envisions a 24-storey tower with 269 homes, as well as 271 in an adjacent 18-storey building.

The two would be connected by a four-storey parking podium with commercial space, a daycare facility and about 20,000 square feet of office space.

Both projects are designed by the same architect, Axiom Architecture, and are being jointly marketed via virtual open houses to residents of Langford.

The rezoning applications could go before council early next month.

Applications for both mega projects are causing concern for single-family homeowners in the area, and a petition is circulating asking residents to reject the plans, saying the towers aren’t right for an area of smaller homes and citing traffic congestion. About 30 people have signed the petition.

Young said he realizes not everyone is will support the projects, but the area in and around Langford’s downtown has been designated for high-density projects under the official community plan.

“It’s a huge transition period for Langford,” said Young, who would like to see 70% home ownership in the community to “support the downtown core and the community as a whole.”

He said Langford is still hoping to attract a university campus in its downtown, an issue being discussed with Royal Roads and the University of Victoria, and there are plans to build a theatre and see more government offices in the West Shore.

“Believe me, nobody here wants to commute to Victoria every day,” said Young.

He said investors have been buying up single-family homes in the area for several years, expecting to sell when larger projects are planned. One buyer, said Young, has acquired a city block of 17 1940s-era properties and is using them for rentals.

When they sell, “they can make more money than the house is currently worth,” said Young. “In some cases, they can get $800,000 or a lot more for a house that’s worth $500,000 or $600,000.”

Young said building density creates a city hub where people live and work, and makes home ownership more affordable — in the $300,000 to $600,000 range.

“Our biggest problem right now is a single-family home is about $900,000, and not many new homeowners can afford that,” he said.

The developers of the Langford Gateway and Central projects estimate the buildings will produce about 110 full-time permanent jobs on site, generate $13 million in annual local spending and provide Langford 21 times the annual property taxes previously generated from the land.

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