Rent-to-own housing program sprouting in Langford

A crush of prospective tenants is expected to queue up Saturday for more than a chance to land one of 156 new rental units in a Langford development. Some may line up for a chance to buy a new home.

As an enticement to attract interest in The Crossing — a purpose-built rental building at the Belmont Residences project on Reunion Avenue near Kelly Road — developer Ledcor is offering a rent-to-own program to prospective renters.

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It’s an investment in the community, said Ledcor’s Eric Gerlach. “One of the best ways to encourage new buyers is to work with people already living in the area. ... We looked for what would help and encourage them,” said the Belmont’s vice-president of development.

The optional program allows renters to apply 25 per cent of their monthly rent toward the purchase of a new home in one of the Belmont’s other market-priced condo and townhome buildings that are being developed on the site’s 24 acres.

For example, someone paying $2,000 a month for a two-bedroom unit at The Crossing could be putting $500 a month toward a downpayment — capped at five per cent of the value of the new home — to be used a few years down the road in one of the other buildings.

As a deal sweetener and to make it more affordable, Langford is also getting in on the act by offering up to $5,000 toward the purchase of a new two-bedroom unit.

Gerlach, who expects between 10 and 15 per cent of the would-be renters to take advantage of the plan, said it’s about building a loyalty in the community.

“If you are planning on living here for a while, you can’t lose,” he said, noting renters will not pay extra to be part of the program.

However, renters in the program will also not be given priority over the rest of the real estate market when it comes to buying one of the condos.

“The desire to rent and then move in to these market condos will be subject to availability,” Gerlach said. “And we have to make sure the rental public understand that, which is why we are rolling this out now a year before we start selling [the next phase of condos].

“This gives them a tool to take advantage of that.”

The Belmont project in total includes the two rental buildings that make up The Crossing, four other condominium projects and one townhome project, all of which should be built over the next four years on the former Belmont Secondary lands.

Langford Mayor Stew Young called the rent-to-own plan innovative and something Langford will be watching closely.

“There’s a lot riding on this,” he said.

Young said they will consider the model as they search for a broader, made-in-Langford solution to affordable housing.

“This will work,” Young said, noting his council was sold on the idea when it didn’t come from a government. “It’s an old tool in the book that will help people and it takes the onus off government to solve the housing problem.

“It’s encouraging that people are doing this. It shows you they understand the market and that we need solutions.”

Dave Craig, president of property management firm Devon Properties, which will be leasing out The Crossing, expects they will have no trouble filling the buildings and that there will be significant interest in the rent-to-own experiment.

Devon will start leasing on April 13 with occupancy planned for the fall of 2019.

Craig said because of the demand for rental accommodation in Langford (he estimates the rental vacancy rate is around 1.5 per cent), they are expecting a big crowd when they fling open the doors on Saturday.

“With the demand we’re seeing in Langford, we are confident this will be full,” he said, adding the rent-to-own program is an extra incentive.

“Why wouldn’t you [take advantage of it] if you like living in the area and want to live there for a while.”

Craig said it might even be the spark to get those who believed they would be renters for life to consider the possibility of home ownership.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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