The developer of a major real-estate project in Horseshoe Bay, BC, has concluded its “locals first” marketing period and opened its doors to buyers from anywhere in the world. However, buyers are still required to sign an agreement stating that they, or a family member intending to live in the unit, don’t intend to resell or “flip” the unit. 

The commitment is part of an agreement worked out last year between the project’s developer, Westbank, and the West Vancouver council following concerns that the project would be unaffordable for locals.

“Our goal with this project is to [attract] people who are committed to the community – versus an investor-style product,” Michael Braun, Westbank’s marketing director, told The Globe and Mail.

About half of the units in the Horseshoe Bay development, which include 158 units in six buildings, have been sold, according to Braun.

The project, which is being developed on land owned by one of the community’s historic businesses, Sewell’s Marina, was originally scheduled to go to a public hearing in July. The developer ended up pulling out its proposal after complaints it would be unaffordable for local residents and was instead being promoted to foreign investors before it had won zoning approval.

The West Vancouver council finally approved the project in October after Westbank agreed to contribute $10.7m in public benefits, including $4m for the district’s housing fund. Westbank also agreed to sell to locals first and to require buyers to sign a statutory declaration saying they planned to live in the unit, not flip it or leave it vacant.

The developer’s “locals first” offer ran for 30 days after a disclosure statement for the project was filed on Nov. 4, and restricted sales to people who lived or worked in West Vancouver. The 30-day term followed the agreement worked out between Westbank and the local council. Over the next two months, sales were subsequently opened to people residing in or working in North Vancouver and then Metro Vancouver.

As of Feb. 4, all restrictions on where prospective buyers can live or work have been lifted.

West Vancouver councillor Mary-Ann Booth, who helped drive efforts to ensure that the new project would not end up being a luxury vehicle investment, said she felt that “Westbank [had] met the terms of the agreement in form more than in substance,” as prices ended up making the project largely unaffordable for locals. “When you set prices based on what the market will bear, the locals are priced out,” she said.   

Booth said the only way for the West Vancouver council to provide housing that locals can afford is to focus on purpose-built rentals, something that offshore investors would likely not be interested in. 

Braun, however, said Westbank had more than lived up to its commitment. “We made the project exclusively available to locals at the beginning of the project – and we even extended that period. I don’t think there’s ever been a project in Canada that’s ever been willing to do that.”
 

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