It’s not easy being the first. It can also be expensive.
But the developer of Port Moody’s first new rental apartment building in more than 30 years says his company remains committed to the project.
Jamie Howard, president of Woodbridge Properties, said he expects work to begin on construction of the six-storey building on St. Johns Street — just west of Moray — in six to ninth months after city council finally gives the project the green light. On Nov. 28, council gave third reading to the necessary bylaw and zoning amendments.
When the bulding is completed in 20 to 24 months, it will be comprised of 142 units, five of them three-bedrooms, 72 two-bedroom-plus-den apartments, 59 one-bedrooms-plus-den, and six studios. All will be rented at market rates.
Howard said because it has been so long since a rental building has been constructed in Port Moody, the processes at city hall for getting it done didn’t really exist when his company started working on the project in 2015. It’s also the first rental project for Woodbridge, which has built condo and townhome developments across Metro Vancouver.
“You have this idea of a rental concept, and that everyone wants that so it should proceed quickly,” Howard said. “But there was little policy in place to guide discussion.”
Formulating those guidelines on the fly while working with city staff and council has been an arduous process, Howard said, noting, “If we were building a condo, we probably would have been under construction and sold out by now.”
It has also cost the company money, he claims.
Howard said the rapid rise in condo prices has far outpaced rent increases since 2015, meaning Woodbridge has left millions of dollars on the table by sticking to its guns to build a rental building.
He admits there have been moments during the long process when he has wavered.
“You think too bad we didn’t go down the left path instead of the right path,” he said. “Clearly, we would have done better.”
Woodbridge’s resolve is good news for people looking to rent in Port Moody, especially young people heading out on their own for the first time, Dave Hudniak of Landlord BC said during the public hearing that preceded last Tuesday’s council meeting.
“I’m concerned our community is turning into an aging, relatively wealthy enclave,” said Hudniak, who also lives in the city. “Our kids need to find better housing options.”
Several young adults spoke at the meeting, imploring council to allow the project to move forward so they could move out of their parents’ basements or move closer to family or friends from expensive or inadequate housing in Vancouver.
Former councillor Karen Rockwell said the kind of project Woodbridge wants to build “is so desperately needed.”
And while some current councillors expressed reservations about the lack of affordable non-market units in the building, Mayor Mike Clay said, “It is affordable to someone. We need rental housing across the spectrum.”
Third reading of the zoning and bylaw amendments, as well as a housing agreement that assures the project will remain rental for at least 20 years, passed unanimously.
That’s a welcome result for Woodbridge’s Howard.
“Now we can get down to delivering the building,” he said.