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Why some Kelowna developers are building for renters only

Remnants of an old house at 1141 Brookside Avenue soon to be replaced by a new generation of walk-up rental townhomes.
June 14, 2013 - 5:20 PM

In a housing market with plenty of condos for sale some Kelowna residents are choosing the path of less commitment: renting. In 2011 thirty per cent of the city's population reported living in rented dwellings.

For those who can't yet afford to buy a house finding a place to call home can prove a challenging task. Community and planning manager Theresa Eichler says, “rental housing is very much in need in Kelowna,” and finding it can be tough.

“There hasn't been a lot built in the last 30 years,” she says.

The City has determined it needs 300 new rental units each year to keep up with the demand. Rather than subsidize these projects, it's looking to private developers to deliver the supply.

Coun. Andre Blanleil says it comes down to a simple equation.

“It's math, having enough rental housing that comes into the marketplace keeps the pricing in line,” he says.

In other words, an adequate supply will keep rentals affordable.

Over the past couple weeks a stretch of old houses on Brookside Avenue were torn down, to be replaced by a series of two-story walk up townhomes. Developer Evergreen Lands will be renting them out as one and two-bedroom suites. Blanleil says the central location just off Gordon Drive makes it a desirable place to live for a range of prospective renters.

“A lot of that area is already seniors,” he says. “It could be for anybody — the school's right there.”

The raw framework of another rental development stands on what was formerly a parking lot on Sutherland Avenue just west of Richter Street. Vant Construction plans to build 16 rental units featuring patio and balcony extensions.

On the north side of Harvey, a 48 unit apartment building on Leon Avenue known as Prato Square is planned to get another 100 units. Cerco Development Property Manager Don Townsend says the building started out with more senior tenants but is now getting more single working professionals.

What sets these developments apart, Eichler says, is they are built for the purpose of renting, unlike the rental suites that opened up in a number of condominium projects following the economic decline in 2008. In the case of the Conservatory in Glenmore, Eichler says the developer decided to start renting out the surplus of owner apartments that couldn't sell.

“They built too much all at once,” Eichler says.

“Now the developers have to rent them to get some money back.”

Because of that, they tend to be more expensive.

“They're very high-end apartments most people couldn't afford unless they shared with someone else,” Eichler says.

At the other end of the spectrum are rental apartments past their prime. Part of the city's plan to create new rentals in Kelowna's urban core is due to the aging infrastructure and safety standards of older buildings.

Townsend says Prato Square's modern building is very competitive compared to the "older wood frame buildings" in the downtown and Rutland areas. 

"They might be a little less expensive... but we have a lot of advantages they don't have," he says.

Just how competitive and affordable the city's new rentals will be is still to be seen. It will be a matter of years before they welcome their first tenants.

At 598 Sutherland Avenue Vant Construction is building 16 new rental apartments, something the City sees necessary to modernize Kelowna's urban core.
At 598 Sutherland Avenue Vant Construction is building 16 new rental apartments, something the City sees necessary to modernize Kelowna's urban core.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at jwhittet@infotelnews.ca or call (250)718-0428.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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