A Halifax-based property management company says they’re rethinking how affordable housing is delivered and are finding success with new ideas.
Vida Living was launched in 2018 with the purchase of a 12-unit building in the Fairview area of Halifax.
Founder Ron Lovett had been involved with real estate prior to taking over that property and says it wasn’t long after he took ownership that he started considering new ways to approach affordable housing.
“Originally I was going to take the same approach; go in, don’t put up with anything, focus and turn this thing around,” Lovett said. “And then I thought… why not go back to the drawing board on affordable housing?”
Lovett says the response was immediate as tenants began to take to their new methodology which included beefing up building security, cleaning properties inside and out, and adding amenities not typically seen in low-cost rentals like libraries and fitness centres.
“A tenant would receive a welcome basket with a welcome letter and a video of myself talking about where we came from, how this happened, what we’re trying to achieve and how they can participate,” he explained.
“Right then, right there I knew we were on to something.”
Crowdsourcing has helped them accomplish many of their goals such as providing gifts for their younger tenants at Christmas time.
“Our first library we had a tenant donate a bookshelf which we put it in an area that was just in a stairwell in one of the buildings and we had all tenants donate books,” Lovett said. “It was actually that simple.”
Lovett says the success has a lot to do with fostering an environment where people can be proud of where they call home as well as giving people a sense of ownership, in particular those they call “building ambassadors”.
“Our model is fairly simple,” he said.
Vida Living now boasts just under 350 units around HRM with plans to scale up to 1000 in the next two years, and aspirations of reaching 10,000 within seven years.
With no plans to develop new property that means taking over old stock housing and giving it their signature spin.
He says he hopes the provincial and federal governments will see the success they’re having and encourage others to revitalize older buildings rather than start from scratch with higher-end properties.