Want a Tofino townhouse for $210K? One’s for sale, with a catch

Tofino is holding a lottery for this price-restricted and resident-restricted townhouse in August. District of Tofino

Would you buy a townhouse in Tofino for $210,000?

The district is selling one under an innovative new program designed to increase the supply of affordable housing in the region.

The one-bedroom, 738-sq.-ft. unit is located in the newly developed Sea Otter Place.

Tofino is holding a lottery for this price-restricted and resident-restricted townhouse in August. District of Tofino

But there’s a catch. Both the resale price and the buyer will be restricted.

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“We’re restricting the eligibility of the buyer to people who live in the region for a certain length of time, who are employed in the region, and who don’t own any real estate anywhere else in the world,” Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne said.

Osborne said “local” is being defined as the entire region, including Ucluelet, and “resident” means someone who has lived there for two of the last three years.

The would-be buyer must also have a household income under $80,000. A restrictive covenant will be placed on the property, limiting the would-be buyer to re-selling the property for the price they paid for it plus the rate of inflation.

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Osborne estimated the market price of the home would be in excess of $300,000.

The lucky buyer will be chosen by lottery.

The Tofino Housing Corporation, an entity owned by the district, acquired the property as a Community Amenity Contribution (CAC) in a deal with developers.

The property is a 738 sq. ft. one-bedroom townhouse. District of Tofino

CACs are a common feature of development projects in B.C., and often result in a cash payment to municipalities from developers in exchange for added density. Cities then use that money for affordable housing, daycares, parks or other amenities.

Osborne said Tofino decided to do it differently, and in exchange for added density at the new 22-townhouse project, the developer gave Tofino one unit.

Osborne said rather than a cash contribution, which the district would then have to use for housing at market price, they essentially got the property at no cost.

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Lessons from Whistler

The Tofino program was modeled on a program used in Whistler that now accounts for more than 2,000 units.

As a desirable tourist destination, Tofino is facing a similar housing crunch to Whistler.

A 2015 report by the city found a “serious” affordable housing problem, made worse by rising land prices and the impact of vacation rentals.

What’s more, a 2018 survey found that almost 80 per cent of locals, many of whom work in the tourism industry, have household incomes under $60,000.

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“In 1997 Whistler established the Whistler Housing Authority, and they’ve grown that so that they now manage a number of ownership and rental units that they covenant and hold to be affordable to Whistler residents,” Osborne said.

“We really took a page out of their book and have learned from the different kinds of programs they’ve run and some of the mistakes they’ve made, and they’ve been very open and shared that with us.”

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She added that she’s already heard from other communities interested in the project, and will visit Bowen Island later this summer to talk about it.

“There’s no reason why any other municipality urban or rural couldn’t do this kind of program,” she said.

“It really is up to the elected leaders and staff of different municipalities to make the decision about what kind of negotiations they can have with a developer.”

Online reaction to the initiative has been enthusiastic.

“My hats off to you for doing this it!!! It is wonderful and needs to be done across the province,” wrote one commenter on the Tofino Housing Corporation’s Facebook page.

“That would be a great idea for Ladysmith. There is no affordable housing in this town,” wrote another.

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Tofino is holding an information session on the initiative on July 17, and will be holding a lottery to select the lucky qualified buyer in August.

Osborne said she’s expecting several dozen people to apply.

“The day that the lottery is held will be really exciting.”


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