Construction of Coquitlam's first purpose-built rental in 40 years gets underway

Mayor Richard Stewart says the fact no purpose-built rentals were constructed for decades is part of the reason rents are currently so high.

2 ½ year permitting delay drives up costs, meaning final rental rates uncertain

A rendering of what the new rental project will look like when it's completed. It's currently under construction at the corner of Charland Avenue and Blue Mountain Street, in the Austin Heights neighbourhood and will have 41 market rental units. (Redbrick Properties)

Renters across Metro Vancouver continue to feel the strain of the housing affordability crisis and Coquitlam is no different. 

The city, like other municipalities across the province, is looking to reduce the high cost of rental housing and is pushing for more purpose-built rentals.

Later this month, the first one in 40 years is set to break ground.

Mayor Richard Stewart says the fact no purpose-built rentals were constructed for decades is part of the reason rents are currently so high.

"I predicted it back in the '90s that if we didn't start building more rental housing … all of our rental housing would reach 40-years-old at the same time and we wouldn't have any 30-year-old or 20-year-old rental housing that becomes the next decade's affordable rentals," he said.

Tax incentives to built rentals "dried up" decades ago and so developers stopped focusing on rental construction, he told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Edition.

"That was our challenge — how do we foster the creation of more rentals?" he said.

A quarter of households in Coquitlam rent, and of those, nearly half spend more than 30 per cent of their income on rental housing.

Rising costs

The cost of these new rental units is still unclear, however, and the developer of the project, Redbrick Properties, says it won't be able to estimate it until construction is completed.

"Construction costs influence our overall budget and our overall economics dramatically," said president Abdul Jiwan.

A two-and-half year delay to get a permit drove up estimated construction costs by 40 per cent, he said.

"Construction costs are skyrocketing," Jiwan said. "The longer it takes to get permits, the higher our construction costs."

Stewart said two-and-a-half years is an unusually long time and the delay was partly due to land-related issues.

But delays in issuing permits is a problem that slows down construction, Stewart agreed.

"We can't approve these things fast enough," he said. "Part of the challenge that we face is that there aren't enough city planners."

Construction of the 41 new market rental units, located in the Austin Heights neighbourhood, is expected to be completed by August 2019.  

A two and half year permitting delay drives up costs, meaning final rental rates still uncertain. 8:34

With files from The Early Edition.