Langford's housing push delivers 2,000 apartments as Capital builds out of tight rental market
MIKE KOZAKOWSKI, CITIFIED.CA
Published December 4, 2019
A surge of purpose-built rental apartments on Victoria’s Westshore has been a driving force in the rebound of housing availability in the Capital during a prolonged vacancy crunch.
Since the mid-2010s dozens of rental complexes have materialized from Sooke to Sidney, but nowhere has their impact been more pronounced than in the City of Langford where 2,000 out of a regional total of 3,700 new apartment suites were completed in recent years, according to Citified’s data.
With a population of 35,000, the municipality has absorbed Greater Victoria’s highest per-capita share of new rental inventory thanks largely to its rapid-fire municipal approvals process, a welcoming attitude towards densification and the public’s growing recognition of Langford as a desirable urban-meets-suburban community.
“Langford’s housing policies have resulted in the creation of a significant volume of purpose-built apartments that range from affordable homes geared towards families, to luxury suites with condo-quality finishings,” says Claire Flewelling-Wyatt, the managing broker of Victoria-based Pemberton Holmes' Property Management Division.
“We’re in the midst of a paradigm shift as young urban professionals that have historically focused their housing choices on Victoria’s urban core now view Langford’s town centre as a desirable, central area geared towards a demographic that values both an outdoor and an urban, amenity-rich lifestyle on equal terms.”
Flewelling-Wyatt and her team at Pemberton Holmes have been at the forefront of Langford’s rental housing boom in their role as intermediaries between development firms and the first generation of tenants at newly completed buildings.
As a bellwether for emerging trends that has helped guide the supply of new housing product, Flewelling-Wyatt has been instrumental to Westshore builders looking to make an impact on residents who up until recently were likely to have pursued rental residences in markets like Victoria, Esquimalt and Saanich.
“We’ve had the opportunity to witness first-hand the changing attitudes towards the Westshore as it grows into a key player in the Capital’s rental industry, which has traditionally been the domain of the urban core,” said Flewelling-Wyatt. “But no longer is the Westshore perceived as merely a suburb to Victoria. It has a distinctly unique vibe, and the expectations of residents choosing to relocate to its rental offerings are not materially different from what one would expect of tenant desires in James Bay or Vic West.”
Having leased nearly 500 suites since 2015 in newly built apartments (the majority of which are situated on the Westshore and include Peatt Commons, Danbrook One and Roberts Landing) and over 1,700 in years prior, Pemberton Holmes’ approach to meeting the needs of applicants starts with matching prospective parties with each building’s appeal, location and amenities. And for new-build homes on the Westshore, part of the job is promoting a lifestyle.
“Deciding to move from the core to another part of the city can feel like relocating to a different town,” Flewelling-Wyatt said. “It is my responsibility, and that of my colleagues, to make the best first impression on behalf of my client while developing a sense of an applicant’s needs and desires in a community they may not be familiar with. A successful tenancy is a two-way process and we strive to ensure the expectations of tenants will be met, and vice-versa, by the home and the neighbourhood.”
Connecting with tenants and welcoming them to a new buildings begins with Pemberton Holmes’ in-house show suite staging. By utilizing the company’s private furnishings and housewares, landlords can showcase their building with an inviting, lived-in space that helps prospective tenants visualize their future apartment in a cost-effective manner during an open house phase that can last several weeks.
Once a tenant is shortlisted, Pemberton Holmes draws on third-party vetting partners to develop a sense of an individual’s credit and rental history.
“We’ve got the entire process down to a science,” Flewelling-Wyatt says. “Our streamlined services are designed to save our clients money and time, and present tenants with a level of professionalism and dependability the Pemberton Holmes brand is known for.”
The Capital’s vacancy rate has been on the rise alongside the fever-pitch rate of construction (moving up to 1.2% from around 0.5%), but after many years of little to no purpose-built inventory the availability of apartments remains tight as pent-up demand translates to strong competition among applicants.
2019 data due in the coming weeks from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is expected to show upwards momentum in the vacancy rate, although nowhere near the rate of 5 to 7% where analysts agree the market is well balanced.
“Among the 2,200-units that we manage on behalf of our clients, I can count the number of unoccupied studio or one-bedroom suites on one hand,” Flewelling-Wyatt says. “The overall market’s vacancy rate may be experiencing a slight incline but well managed, high quality properties are at near-zero percent availability and tenant retention rates are very high.”
With 3,700 rental units already added to Greater Victoria’s housing supply since the mid-2010s, an additional 1,400 are currently under construction on the Westshore and nearly 2,000 elsewhere in the region. Completion for this inventory is earmarked for 2020 through 2022. However, demand for professionally managed new supply is so high, particularly as Victoria’s older generation of apartments nears the age of renovation or outright replacement, that renters should be developing a plan today for an apartment which may hit the market next year.
“The overarching theme of the housing equation is to build long-term relationships between tenants and landlords,” says Flewelling-Wyatt. “If we can bring people together and build a positive experience in their new home in a new neighbourhood from the first day they arrive, we can eliminate many of the pressures tenants experience when mobility in the housing market becomes a challenge. Good management of rental properties means so much more than ensuring the lights are on and suites are well maintained, it is knowing the needs of the residents, the pressures facing landlords, and working with all parties on their long-term goals.”
To learn more about the changing rental market on the Westshore, and to enquire about apartment availability at Pemberton Holmes-managed rental properties, visit the Pemberton Holmes' Property Management Division website here. C
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