The Keys by Brookfield Residential aims to offer more affordable options to homebuyers in the Calgary market through a variety of home styles that occupy smaller land footprints. Sales and construction have begun, and completion is expected in 2018. Courtesy Brookfield Residential

Calgary homebuilders adapt in the face of adversity

There’s no question that demand in the Calgary housing market eased following the collapse of oil prices in late 2014.

The impact of that global event sent shockwaves through the local economy, as thousands of people lost their jobs through two brutal years of recession in 2015 and 2016.

A slowing economy and job uncertainty always have an impact on the housing market, and the city saw a corresponding ease in home demand.

However, Calgary’s homebuilders have been resilient and creative.

The housing market is a competitive one by nature, and during economic downturns it becomes even more competitive with fewer buyers in the mix.

Brookfield Residential is an excellent example of how local homebuilders have adapted to the new reality.

The company has developed an innovative approach to land use in the city that is creating a more affordable option for potential homebuyers.

In its The Keys development at Symons Gate, Brookfield is thinking of land differently – creating more affordability in the market by breaking away from the norm to provide something that is unique.

“We are trying to provide a new layer of affordability and choice for Calgarians,” said Ryan Moon, director of business development for Calgary homes with Brookfield Residential.

“We are trying to provide a new layer of affordability and choice for Calgarians,” – Ryan Moon, director of business development for Calgary homes with Brookfield Residential

Simply put, properties in The Keys – both single-family and duplexes – are on smaller footprints.
A 0.73-acre parcel in Symons Gate has been divided into 16 individual lots for five front-drive homes and 11 rear-lane duplexes. There is a minimized portion of outdoor land, providing simple living without a condo fee.

“There’s a smaller footprint of land, but the actual homes themselves are by no means smaller,” said Moon. “In fact, I would argue they’re more generous.”

The Keys development is located in northwest Calgary, just south of the Symons Valley Ranch, with amenities built all around it. The neighbourhoods of Sage Hill and Sage Meadows are also nearby.

Sales and construction have started, with completion expected in 2018.

Duplex homes start at less than $390,000 plus GST while single-family homes start at less than $490,000 plus GST.

Normally, Moon says, on that amount of land, there would be 10 homes developed, but Brookfield has increased density by 50 per cent.

The Keys development is being built directly across the street from the company’s first passive house – one of the most energy-efficient homes ever constructed in Alberta. Once complete, the “Symons Gate Passiv Haus” will use 90 per cent less energy than a typical new home constructed today, and it doesn’t come with a furnace – instead, it will rely on the warmth of the sun and heat generated from day-to-day living for most of its heating needs.

Elsewhere, innovation can also be found in a unique idea that is gaining popularity in the marketplace – custom-built homes made from shipping containers.

Jeremy Johnson – owner of Modern Huts, which began operations in 2016 – says the company repurposes shipping containers into residential homes.

For example, the company is currently working on a laneway home in the community of Killarney on top of a garage that the owners can use as a secondary suite.

The company is also constructing cabins and cottages. Units range from smaller spaces of less than 500 square feet to homes in the 3,000-square-foot range.

“We take shipping containers, the same they use for trucking and transport … and we’re putting them together and modifying them,” said Johnson. “Taking walls out and windows out and the interior ends up being fully modified, so on the inside, you wouldn’t know that you’re inside a shipping container. When it’s all done, it looks like any other residential home.”

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