Port Moody ‘rent-to-own’ condo scheme overwhelmed with demand

For 30 families in Port Moody, it will be like winning the lottery.

Starting next month a unique path to home ownership will be launched that partially removes the biggest obstacle: a down payment.

A new condo development near Rocky Point Park is being marketed to buyers with a unique twist.

Just under ten per cent of the 358 units will be considered rent-to-own.

People will pay a fixed rent for two years, and all of that money will be converted into equity to put towards a down payment.

The program has been so successful the developers are holding a random draw to determine who gets to live in the units. More than 500 people have applied.

Money 123: Understanding rent-to-own

“It’s a great opportunity for home ownership,” said would-be homebuyer Christian Fracchia.

“Now I don’t have to pay rent and save at the same time. Otherwise, I would have to wait five or 10 years to save that money.”

The 24-year-old heard about the program from his mother and he signed up right away, filling out the paperwork and even writing a 500-word essay on why he deserves this opportunity.

The project is called 50 Electronic Avenue and it is being developed by the Panatch Group.

The owner, Kush Panatch, heard from a local firefighter about the lack of affordable places to buy in Port Moody.

It was a conversation he took to heart, creating the rent-to-own scheme on the spot.

The program has the support of the local city council and it was refined to offer these homes to locals.

In order to qualify, people need to live or work in Port Moody and this purchase must be their first home. In addition, the applicants must intend on living in the home.

The applications have dwarfed even Mr. Panatch’s wildest expectations.

“Being in the development industry, I thought I understood how challenging the housing market was. I have to be honest, I never really understood how difficult is for people. It is heartbreaking to hear about people’s dire circumstances.” said Panatch.

The Richmond-based developer is confident small solutions like this can add up to make home ownership easier and more affordable for young people.

Nadine Cornelius and her partner have lived in Port Moody for several years.

They are looking to remain in the neighbourhood they love, but have only just begun to save for a down payment. Having a buffer of two years to secure the remainder would mean a world of difference to their lives.

“We are starting from the bottom up, and our biggest fear is that by the time we have enough for a down payment the prices will have gone up so much we can’t afford it anymore,” said Cornelius.

As part of the process, Vancity financial advisers will meet with applicants. Even if they aren’t successful in getting a home, they will have the opportunity to evaluate their long term financial goals.

The credit union will also be able to offer mortgages to lucky winners.

Panatch is urging other developers to consider including similar proposals in future projects.

He would also like to see cities ease restrictions on developments to reduce the costs of construction.

“It’s important to remember the only person who pays for the added costs is the buyer. The developers and city don’t pay a dime for amenities many people don’t want or need, but are mandated by city hall.”

The draw for the 30 homes will be sometime in early March.

The logistics are still being worked out.  According to Panatch it is crucial the process is as transparent and fair as possible. Construction at 50 Electronic Avenue will begin sometime later in the spring.

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