The head of the association representing local builders predicts townhouses will make up a growing share of the local housing stock.
“As land and [government] taxes and fees on housing increase, there is more need for low rise density such as [townhouses] to replace single detached housing,” said Casey Edge, executive director of the Victoria Residential Builders Association. “This is especially true in the core [of Greater Victoria] where average prices are $200,000 more than the West Shore.”
Compared to single residential homes and condominiums, townhouses still represent a small share of the local housing stock. Consider the numbers. In June 2019, 394 single-residential homes worth $333.6 million dollars and 216 condominiums worth $100.2 million sold in the area represented by the Greater Victoria Real Estate Board. By comparison, 79 row and townhouses worth $47.5 million sold. Only manufactured homes (15 homes totalling $2.98 million) were in less demand.
But if townhouses represent just 11 per cent of units sold and nine per cent of value sold, some expect that these numbers will move up, as they are generally cheaper than detached residential homes, while still offering plenty of space.
“This doesn’t mean the new [townhouses] will be affordable in areas with very high land prices [like Greater Victoria], but they will cost less than new single detached homes on traditional lot,” said Edge.
“[Townhouses] will have more square footage than a condo, share walls and some amenities. There are also legal obligations to other owners, similar to condos. But they tend to be more suitable for families than high density condos.”
Sak Johl, developer of Park Pointe, a new townhouse complex in Esquimalt consisting of five strata townhouses to be fully completed in October 2019, is counting on this very combination.
Johl said the development fronting onto Tillicum Road caters to families who cannot afford a single-residential home, but do not want to live in condominium. Townhouses in this sense serve as “a bridge” in the housing market, he said.
A report that Johl had prepared as part of his marketing push suggests more people will be walking that bridge.
According to report prepared in June 2019, MLS listed 106 townhouses in VREB, ranging in price from $189,000 to $1,500,000 with an average listing price of $734,957 and a median listing price of $682,450. Reviewing developments across the region, the report finds 152 townhouse units in the construction pipeline and coming on the market in 2020. In short, the industry is responding to a growing need.
But if townhouses offer more space, including outdoor space, than condominiums, they also come with disadvantages, when compared to single residential homes. They include sharing walls and having less control over the exterior. This said, they also require less maintenance than single family homes.
Edge also points to what might appear to some as snobbery, at least in a North American context, where they are often associated with groups with and of lesser means.
“The challenge in our region is getting core municipalities to accept change,” he said. “Oak Bay recently approved only its second legal duplex. The rest of the duplexes are non-conforming after a past council removed duplexes as a permitted zoning.”
Not surprisingly, Johl sees a shift in public’s perception concerning townhouses, and Edge sees them as a “good [housing] option” part of healthy communities. “Having a mix of housing is healthy for a community,” he said. “In addition, transportation systems like [Light Rapid Transit] are more viable when density is accommodated.”