Newly-opened 25-storey Austin Heights highrise includes 12 wheelchair accessible units

photo supplied

The condo market may have cooled and B.C. Housing might be in hot water but, at the newly opened 25-storey apartment building on Austin Avenue on Friday morning, the mood was decidedly celebratory.

The 189-unit apartment building at 1045 Austin Avenue officially opened with representatives from B.C. Housing, the provincial government, Vancouver Resource Society Communities, and Beedie development company touting the building’s design details and supportive housing features during a media tour.

Along with penthouse units selling for around $1 million, the development also includes 12 rental homes ranging from $375 per month to $2,470 for a two-bedroom home.


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In Coquitlam, the condo market has often served as the engine for the creation of purpose-built rentals. With that expected by some to taper off in 2023, several Coquitlam councillors expressed concerns about how the city will provide more purpose-built rentals.

As of last March, Coquitlam had 57 projects at various stages of development, which, if approved, would bring another 2,128 non-market and below-market rentals to the city.

However, those projects are generally tethered to condo developments, noted Coun. Dennis Marsden.

“So much of our purpose-built rental is tied to multi-phase condo development. And when the market shifts – oh wait, it just did – that puts that portion of it in jeopardy,” he said at a meeting in March.

The condo market has slowed down, acknowledged Beedie vice-president of residential development Curtis Neeser.

“It was really hot for a while,” he said. “We don’t want to see it completely drop off but it’s not necessarily an unhealthy thing.”

There are about six condos at Austin Heights that have yet to be sold, he said.

Representatives from Beedie stand besides MLA Selina Robinson and VRS Community executive director Ken Fraser. photo Jeremy Shepherd

Noting the 5,500-unit development at Fraser Mills, Beedie is keen to keep building, according to Neeser.

“We love working with Coquitlam. We think they’re one of the more progressive municipalities to work with and have a really good relationship with council and staff,” he said. “Port Moody’s a little tricky.”

The Austin Avenue project is a partnership between Beedie, the City of Coquitlam, and VRS Communities – a non-profit housing provider that bought 12 homes with financial help provided by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation as well as B.C. Housing.

B.C. Housing has recently faced accusations over misuse of funds. However, that news has not impacted the possibility of future developments between Beedie and the provincial housing provider, Neeser said, adding that they’d like to replicate the Austin Heights model with other projects in the region.

MLA Robinson and Fraser tour the apartment. photo Jeremy Shepherd

Inside the building

With design details that would allow a tenant in a wheelchair to access a balcony and a shower without assistance, the 12 accessible units are down the hall from a caretaker’s office.

“This is what allows our shared care model to operate,” explained Melissa DeGenova, a former Vancouver city councillor who was worked with Vancouver Resource Society for more than a decade.

The office allows caregivers to be on-call day and night without intruding on clients, DeGenova explained.

“A lot of our clients and tenants only get a certain number of hours of care so they could never live independently in the community without sharing those hours,” she said.

The 12 units will provide “provide much-needed accessible housing for people with disabilities and their families,” stated Vancouver Resource Society Community executive director Ken Fraser.

VRS Community executive director Ken Fraser. photo Jeremy Shepherd

Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson praised the design of the design of the apartments, both as a government representative and: “as a short person.”

The partnership

For Robinson, it’s crucial that several partners can find a way to make the numbers work.

“Because the numbers still have to work,” Robinson said, suggesting Beedie was taking “a little bit of a hit.”

As part of the arrangement, Beedie contributed the land and sold the 12 accessible units for $3.6 million, basically covering construction costs, Neeser said

The province provided $1.7 million in financing to help Vancouver Resource Society buy the 12 accessible units. VRS Communities contributed $324,000 in equity. Coquitlam provided $456,000 and CMHC chipped in $1.2 million.

“Finally, CMHC’s come in. They could do better, though,” Robinson said, describing the housing and mortgage corporation as “rigid” in its dealings.

On the rooftop

From the rooftop of the recently opened 25-storey highrise at Austin Heights, the building’s new tenants have a great view of the 25-storey highrise under construction next door.

Also owned by Beedie, the project is set to include a floor of office space.

While the development company doesn’t own anything else in the neighbourhood, Neeser said they’d be interested in another Austin Heights. project.

“We’d love to do something more here,” he said. “If the right opportunity came up, we’d for sure look at it.”


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