British Columbia

West Vancouver puts 'locals first' in new housing plan

The District of West Vancouver says its trying to ensure local residents get first crack at new homes by implementing a 'locals first' plan.

The plan makes condos available only to District of West Vancouver residents for the first month

The proposed Sewell's Landing development buildings at Horseshoe Bay will contain more than 150 units. (District of West Vancouver)

It's 6 buildings, more than 150 condo units, and West Vancouver residents get first crack at it.

The proposed Sewell's Landing development is slated to pop up along the main drag of Horseshoe Bay, currently occupied by a parking lot. West Vancouver council voted unanimously this week to rezone the piece of land after opening the floor to the public.

"Essentially, the project has had approval in principal." said District of West Vancouver communications manager, Jeff McDonald.

"More people spoke in favour in the project than against it, at least at the public hearing on Monday night."

But what makes this project unique is that its the first 'locals first' plan to be implemented in the District of West Vancouver.

The 6 proposed buildings are slated to be built along the main drag at Horseshoe Bay, where an empty parking lot currently sits. (District of West Vancouver)

What is the 'locals first' plan?

There are several elements to the plan.

Condos would be available first to people who live, work or own businesses in the district for the first month the homes go on sale, according to the district. Residents also get a 5 percent discount on the units.

But there's a catch.

The district of West Vancouver says buyers have to sign an agreement that says they or a family member will be living in the unit. The declaration also makes the buyer agree that the unit won't be left vacant or flipped right away for a profit.

On its end — the developer, Westbank Corporation, has agreed not to market the condo units abroad.

Something that it did earlier this year, when its marketing agency promoted the condos in Hong Kong and caused Sewell's Marina to temporarily pull the project. The District of West Vancouver says the developer has apologized since then.

No policing the plan

District of West Vancouver councillor Craig Cameron says even though the agreement is written and signed, there are no penalties for breaking the terms of the contract.

 "Ultimately, it's people being taken on their word to do what they say they're going to do," said Cameron.

"We are confident and the developer is confident... the vast majority of people who commit to something and put it in writing are willing and feel compelled to honour their word."

Councillor Craig Cameron says the district and the developers will not be policing the buyers to make sure they adhere to their contract. (Cliff Shim/CBC)

Cameron said the district doesn't believe suing condo owners for not abiding by the declaration is the way to go.

"There's always going to a myriad of situations like somebody dying or somebody getting divorced or being transferred where people's plans may be one way at one period of time, [but] life happens and they may be forced to be somewhere they didn't expect," said Cameron.

Hoping to see more of 'locals first' rule

Cameron hopes the 'locals first' plan will give local residents more living options.

"We have some of the most expensive real estate in the region," said Cameron.

"We have to address the demand side and I think the province is starting to do that and the federal government is starting to contemplate that, but the supply side is the other side of the equation,"

"So what we have to do as municipalities is open the door to some different housing options."

Cameron adds an entry level house in Ambleside is $3 million.

"Which is wildly unaffordable for all but a very small group of people."

Cameron says Sewell's Landing development has agreed to sell their units for $875 per square foot. 

Cameron admits this is a small step compared to the housing demand in West Vancouver. He adds if this project proves successful, there may be more homes popping up in the West Vancouver that prioritise locals first.