Victoria developer gets plenty of bang for her buck

Non-profit developer who leveraged funding hopes rental project the first of many

After developing Loreen Place

After developing Loreen Place

On March 1, with no media fanfare, a new below-market apartment building quietly started accepting tenants.

The 52-unit building at 21 Gorge Rd. E. marks a new beginning for the site, which housed the notorious Capri Motel until its demolition in 2009.

For developer Alanna Holroyd, its successful completion proves rental housing can be achieved with only modest capital grants and no ongoing rental subsidies.

She named the building Loreen Place after her mother, Loreen Vandekerkhove.

“She was raised poor and she remembers it quite well,” says Holroyd, who created the non-profit Greater Victoria Rental Development Society in 2009.

She secured a $9.8-million loan to construct the building with only $740,000 in grants up front.

“In the business world, that is unheard of,” she says.

Traditionally, developers have needed to raise 50 per cent of the cost to get a loan.

Touring through one of the unrented units, Holroyd proudly points to the wide, white baseboards. “We really put thought into if we’d want to live here.”

Her desire for a beyond-the-basics facility has fuelled a good-humoured tug-of-war between Holroyd, the idealist, and her business partner, Kaye Melliship, the pragmatist.

“We’re going to reduce some of the extras in our next building,” says Melliship, executive director of the Greater Victoria Housing Society, which manages and co-owns Loreen Place.

“You have to be very realistic about the cost of maintaining the building.”

“But then it wouldn’t be so nice!” argues Holroyd.

With a grin she adds: “See how we work well together?”

Holroyd won the argument when it came to including features such a light above the tub (good for shaving, she says) and large garden beds in the interior courtyards.

“She even petitioned for in-suite washers and dryers,” Melliship says with an exasperated smile. On that final point, she put her foot down.

So far, 17 of the 52 units have been rented, and it turns out the rooms with the views aren’t the ones in demand.

All the cheapest, courtyard-facing units have been signed for. It’s a clear signal of where the biggest shortage lies in the rental continuum.

To be eligible to rent at Loreen Place, tenants’ household gross income can’t exceed $65,000. It targets low-to-moderate income earners – a wider mandate than most “affordable” housing projects.

Rent for two-bedroom apartments ranges from $875 to $1,300, making it not far off the average for Victoria. Throughout the metropolitan area, average rent was pegged at $1,000 in October, 2011, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Over time, however, rents at Loreen Place will drop, as the mortgage is paid off.

“It will just get cheaper and cheaper,” Melliship says.

“It sounds like a great project,” says Tom Durning of the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre.

“I hope other municipalities take note of that.”

While municipalities often don’t have spare land, they can encourage rental housing in other ways, such as through rezoning, he says.

“They can do density bonusing, they can ease parking restrictions. It’s not just a monetary thing,” he says. “In a case like this, you’re getting a 52-unit project and all they needed was a little bit of start-up money … Why can’t we do more of them?”

Holroyd is working on just that.

She has submitted a rezoning application to the City of Victoria to redevelop the Friendly Inn, right next door.

“We still have to ask for construction financing, but it’s nice to have something where they can kick the tires and see that the building actually was produced with only $740,000 in capital.”

rholmen@vicnews.com

Did you know?

• As of October 2011, the vacancy rate in the city of Victoria was 1.8 per cent, compared to a regional rate of 2.1. See related story.

Just Posted

Shaelyn Sinnott of Oak Bay Volunteer Services delivers groceries for client Irene Kenny. The organization has kept up delivery of food and medication throughout all phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Oak Bay Volunteer Services)
Oak Bay volunteers keep critical services running

Duo drove between Oak Bay and Jubilee three days a week, twice a day during pandemic

Two volunteers work to sieve a sample of sand and ocean water through a filter, capturing any potential microplastics. (Courtesy of Ocean Diagnostics)
Victoria startup making waves in microplastics research

New products from Ocean Diagnostics will make research faster, more affordable

Island Savings kick-starts the Equipped to Heal campaign with $120,000. (Courtesy Victoria Hospitals Foundation)
Latest Victoria Hospitals Foundation campaign targets $1M for mental health

Goal is to outfit new 19-bed unit at Eric Martin Pavilion

Willows Beach in Oak Bay. (Black Press Media file photo)
Seven days of sun set to shine on Greater Victoria

Special weather statement warns of higher than usual temperatures

Chef Trevor Randle leads a June 21 online cooking featuring recipes – beef zesty lettuce wraps, blueberry strudel and blueberry spritzer. (Courtesy We Heart Local BC)
Free online cooking course explores B.C. blueberries and beef

Chef Trevor Randle calls them the province’s most flavourful foods

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Most Read