Attainable Homes Calgary Corp. president David Watson talks new developments and more

Buying a home just got a lot easier for some Calgarians.

Local builder Partners Development Group has committed 10 per cent of its upcoming multi-family homes developments to Attainable Homes Calgary Corp. (AHCC). AHCC is a non-profit organization delivering entry-level homes for Calgarians caught in the affordability gap. Those who qualify can get into the market with a mortgage pre-approval and only $2,000 down.

“We work with AHCC as a way to give back to Calgary, helping more middle-income Calgarians get into home ownership through this socially responsible program,” said Greg Gutek, Partners Development Group president and founder. “We’re looking at our future Calgary developments to see how we can adjust the design and density to include more attainably-priced homes.”

Partners has already delivered 23 units for the AHCC program and will add 16 to that when units at ARRIVE in Skyview Ranch start selling at the end of the month and 10 more later this year at an ARRIVE development in Evanston.

“This is more than a home to us, this is the start of a whole new life,” said new ARRIVE homeowner Jill, who moved into a townhouse with her husband Will and daughter Kenzie. “I sleep better at night knowing Kenzie won’t be bounced around from rental to rental.”

“Affordable and attainable housing in Calgary continues to be one of the most important issues facing our city,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi. “Having builders like Partners Development Group backing the AHCC program is an important part of the solution.”

While CREB® forecasted housing sales to ease this year with prices increasing 1.58 per cent, AHCC president and CEO David Watson said he thinks demand for affordable housing isn’t going anywhere.

“It’s somewhere between 20-30 per cent of people can’t afford to rent in Calgary let alone afford owning a house so the affordable housing issue is here to stay, I think, and we have to start figuring ways to deal with it,” he said.

With the vacancy rate amongst the lowest in Canada – between one and 1.4 per cent throughout the year – Calgary rents conversely ranked as the highest in all of Canada. According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC), monthly rents for a two-bedroom unit increased by 5.9 per cent over the $1,224 seen in October of 2013 to $1,322 in 2014.

As a result of Calgary’s cramped market, many would-be renters in the city were motivated to look towards the sales market, contributing to a record year for condo sales in the city.
Yearly condominium apartment sales totaled 4,742 in 2014, an 18 per cent increase over the previous year. Townhouse sales totaled 3,737 units, a 17 per cent annual increase, marking record years of sales activity for both sectors.
Watson said for more and more people, condos are the way to enter into the homeownership market, which drives demand along with people making the move to smaller properties.

“You’ve got people downsizing,” he said. “[They] have the house and the pool and the drive out to Springbank, cutting the grass for six hours every Sunday … but they’re coming back to the condo market because they’re just not interested in that lifestyle anymore.”

While the housing market is expected to ease in Calgary, Watson still sees a need for a program like AHCC.

“Our view is whether the market is going up or going down on a demand side there’s still going to be people who want to enter into our program,” he said. “The people in our program are not people that are thinking about going to a builder and buying a house, because they don’t have a down payment. They don’t have any way to get a down payment so we are still pretty much the only game in town for people who can’t save up for a down payment so the demand is still going to be coming.”

– With files from Cody Stuart