Citified's Ten on the 10th is a monthly question-and-answer segment connecting our readers with the insight and knowledge of Victoria's top real-estate and business professionals.
November's Ten on the 10th features Byron Chard, the CEO of Vancouver-based development firm Chard Development
Asking the questions is Ross Marshall, Senior Vice President of the Victoria offices of commercial real-estate brokerage CBRE
. As a leader in facilitating large-scale commercial real-estate transactions throughout the Capital Region – which include apartment complexes, industrial retail and office properties, and land/development opportunities – Ross and his team are at the forefront of market-leading real-estate transactions on Vancouver Island.
1) Your business has been a staple in the Greater Victoria community for a while. Tell us a bit about Chard Development?
Chard Development is a family-owned, BC-based company, with a community-first approach and a deep commitment to the City of Victoria. Now in our 26th year of business, we’ve completed seven mixed-use developments and delivered 700 homes to the Victoria community. We really take pride in the level of integrity we bring to any project and the relationships we develop within the community.
2) As the CEO of Chard Development, can you tell us about a few of the Chard accomplishments that you are most proud of?
We’re most proud of the fact that we have been able to add such a diverse range of offerings to the housing continuum - from purpose-built rental to market condos. As households move along that continuum, opportunities open up at lower levels and are filled by others. It is for this reason that Chard has invested in a diversity of housing types. The scale of our developments and the support of our financial partners has allowed us this opportunity.
The affordable homeownership program that we created at Vivid at the Yates
was the first offering of its kind in Victoria. A partnership with BC Housing, this offering resulted in 135 homes sold exclusively to British Columbians within moderate income levels at 8 to 18% below market value. Our purpose-built rental project, Yello on Yates
, was completed last year and added over 200 much-needed market rental units to the downtown core, providing security and stability for renters.
I am also extremely proud of the number of jobs our projects create for the community. Our average project will generate approximately 300 full time jobs throughout the project life cycle and a significant number of indirect jobs.
3) You have a number of new development projects in Victoria underway. Can you tell us about these projects?
Currently, we are underway with construction of Chard’s largest development to date! These two towers – located along the 800-block of Yates and Johnson streets – are known as The Yates on Yates
. When complete, this development will bring over 260 market and affordable condominium homes to downtown Victoria.
Chard is also in the midst of the rezoning process for two diverse Victoria developments. Our proposed development bordered by Cook, Yates and Johnson streets
will provide both affordable and market condos as well as a purpose-built daycare and enhanced green space to the growing Fernwood neighbourhood. This project will also maintain and renew the existing Victoria Professional Building.
In Victoria’s Old Town District, we are proposing to construct Victoria’s first purpose-built hotel development in over 15 years
. If approved, this development will include the rehabilitation of the historic Duck’s Building and the Duck’s Carriage Factory rubble wall. We recently received support for this project from both the Advisory Design and Heritage Advisory Panels and are excited about the economic benefits and employment opportunities this development would bring to the downtown area.
4) Where do you see the development community going in Victoria?
The City of Victoria has seen a lot of growth and change over the past few decades. I think it’s easy to say that the City’s old reputation as the home of the “newlywed and nearly dead” has been thrown off and Victoria is now broadly recognized as a hip, progressive community and as a tech hub. The changing face of Victoria has meant that the demand for well-located homes in walkable communities with easy access to transit has grown significantly. Over the next ten years, the population of Victoria is anticipated to grow by 13% and that demand is only going to increase. Developers will need to focus on bringing density to these locations and to providing a diversity of housing – from purpose-built rental, to affordable ownership opportunities, to family and downsizer friendly homes – to meet the needs of a broad community of residents.
5) What type of housing is most needed in the city of Victoria?
A healthy, sustainable community requires a diversity of housing types to comfortably house and move people along the housing continuum. With vacancy rates hovering around 1%, it’s clear that more purpose-built rental units are desperately needed as well as more affordable ownership opportunities. Developers can play an essential part in creating more market affordability by bringing these types of housing to the market, thereby helping to that help to free up current rental stock.
In addition, partnership opportunities exist with the provincial and federal government to provide a diverse range of housing. I hope to be able to bring these partnerships to Victoria to deliver below market housing within our market developments. Chard successfully did this in North Vancouver where we partnered with the YWCA to provide 14 homes in a 256-unit purpose-built rental building.
6) What are the biggest challenges the development industry is facing currently?
The largest challenge is lack of clarity from politicians to assist in addressing the affordability issues. Developers are extremely creative and dedicated to the community; however, open constructive dialogue is critical to be able to deliver projects – let alone below market housing. This is impacted by rising land and construction costs, increased development charges and taxes and frankly, a lack of understanding around the financial challenges associated with development. Developers need to assume a share of the responsibility and should play a big part in the City’s efforts to bring more affordability to the market, but our dependence on investors and financial partners means that we can’t do it all. Of the total cost to build a condo in Victoria, approximately 20% of the total costs are government charges throughout the development process. This means for a one bedroom that cost $500,000 to build – about $100,000 of the cost is in government charges.
7) What do you see as the solution to the challenges in Victoria?
The affordability crisis needs to be approached head on with a partnership approach. There is no magic bullet that will solve the problem of affordability, but when the development industry is able to work in partnership with municipalities and other levels of government – as we did with our Vivid project – that is a good first step.
8) What would help create more affordable homeownership?
The answer to this question is not a simple one as affordability means something different to everyone. Generally, I believe that more education and a deeper understanding of the complexities of development – as well as an appreciation that projects need to be financially viable to proceed – could help to shape the decisions of policy makers and result in the creation of more housing in Victoria. Increasing supply – and adding more homes at all levels of the housing continuum – would have an impact on affordability across the board by allowing households to move across the housing continuum and freeing up more affordable housing stock. More approvals and faster approval times could have a major impact on affordability.
9) Can you speak to your affordable home ownership programs in Victoria?
Absolutely! In late 2017, we were thrilled to bring a first of its kind, affordable home ownership offering to downtown Victoria. Now well under construction and 100% sold out, this offering of 135 affordable homes was the result of a partnership with BC Housing. The government agency provided 100% construction financing – thereby reducing the costs, risk and equity requirements on Chard – and in exchange, those savings were passed along to homebuyers. Qualified buyers were able to purchase their homes at an average of 12% below market value.
The buyers at Vivid were 60% first time buyers. Seventy percent are Victorians with the remaining 30% hailing from other parts of BC. Their median age is 35 and their incomes ranged from $0 to $145,000 with the median being $61,000. Over 50% of the buyers will be moving out of rental units into Vivid, demonstrating that affordable home ownership is a form of housing that supports the transition into home ownership while freeing up rental stock.
The success of this project has inspired us to continue to envision projects that provide the same opportunities for home ownership and movement along the housing continuum. We are excited about our proposed development at Cook and Yates which, if approved, will bring 104 affordable home ownership opportunities to Victoria.
10) What are you most excited about for the future of Chard Development?
There is an incredible team of smart, dedicated people behind Chard Development every one of whom is passionate about upholding our community first, relationship-based approach. I am excited to work with them every day. I am excited about their creative ideas to create partnerships and deliver diverse type of projects to the community. And I am confident that together, we can continue to build healthy, sustainable and diverse communities that we are proud to identify as our own. C
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View Chard Development's website here
| View CBRE Victoria's website here
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