By ROY WOOD
In the face of disappointing demand for the affordable houses in the Meadowlark subdivision, Osoyoos council has drastically reduced the wait time before buyers can sell the homes at a profit.
Revealing what was decided in-camera two weeks ago, Mayor Sue McKortoff said today the 20-year period has been slashed to five years. There was no discussion or elaboration at today’s open council meeting.
The original agreement between the town and developer Hart Buckendahl stipulated that anyone who bought one of the near-market homes would not be allowed to profit by more than the rate of inflation for 20 years.
Buckendahl is optimistic the reduction in wait time will spur buyers. “We have a lot of people interested (in the near-market homes), but they don’t want to be tied up for 20 years,” he said. “But as soon as they hear there’s a change for the better they’ll be coming out of the woodwork and they’ll be fighting over it,” he said.
The four near-market homes in the 27-home subdivision are priced at $380,000.
The four houses in question represent the one major accomplishment by the town in the nearly nine years since the release of a local task force and a resulting consultant’s report called Affordable Housing Strategy.
The report from the City Spaces consulting firm was released in November 2009. A spokesman for the firm said today that Osoyoos paid $25,665 for the report.
The 104-page document provided an examination of the housing context in Osoyoos, the needs of the community, a framework for housing policy, implementation strategies and proposed actions by the town.
Under the heading Six Strategic Directions, the report urged the town to ”(u)se the town’s land holding – the Richter Property – to facilitate the creation of affordable, near-market ownership and rental housing, in partnership with market and non-market housing providers.”
The Meadowlark subdivision is part of what was the Richter Property and was petitioned out of the Agricultural Land Reserve by the town on the condition that affordable housing would be part of the mix.
Former councillor Michael Ryan was a member of the task force. He said in an interview today there has been little other significant initiatives by the town regarding affordable housing.
“It has been a very, very slow process … It’s had some blockages. Whether it’s lack of interest or some other things,” he said.
Ryan praised former town planning director Alain Cunningham as a “champion” of affordable housing in general and the Richter project in particular. Cunningham died suddenly last October.
Asked whether he senses an appetite on council and among senior staff, Ryan said he doesn’t know the current council well. “(But) affordable housing has a bit of a stigma to it, especially in a high-cost environment like Osoyoos. …There’s a hesitancy.”