Before the walls had been constructed, and a roof installed overhead, renters were eagerly signing leases at Lexington Court Apartments.
As the Township’s first purpose-built rental building, demand was high, resulting in all 105 apartments being pre-leased prior to the September opening.
“We started advertising on our website and (with) signage well over a year in advance, and we started taking applications and inquiries from individuals that lived in the area and other parts of the Fraser Valley,” explained Jason Fawcett, vice president of the Kelson Group, the company that owns Lexington Court.
“And often, many of them owned homes and knew they wanted to sell and downsize. Instead of buying a condominium, they thought this was a great opportunity to rent. Of course, we were their only choice if they wanted to stay in Murrayville.”
The official grand opening for the four-storey apartment building, located at 4871 221 St., was held on Dec. 13, and if the comments from dignitaries are any indication, this is only the first of many rental buildings to come.
“We need to see more communities thinking about how they encourage purpose-built rentals — there’s certainly not enough of them,” said Langley MLA Mary Polak.
“… It’s depressing sometimes to look at how some communities just don’t want to embrace what is such a need for people in their everyday lives. That piece of affordability for your home is the foundation for everything else that happens in your life. And if companies, and councils, and all levels of government can work together to do more of that, it’s going to have such a positive benefit for all of us.”
Lexington Court is the second apartment building Kamloops-based Kelson Group has built from scratch, and the third complex they own in Langley. The company also operates Encore Apartments and Riverside Gardens Townhouses in Langley City.
Despite the major construction setback caused by a fire in May, 2015, Fawcett said he is “very proud” of what they have accomplished.
“It’s the first rental building in the Murrayville neighbourhood of Langley, which is a unique opportunity for us,” he said.
“It’s such a great location to the Murrayville centre, the community centre, the hospital, and it was obvious to us that there would be great demand for rental apartments because there are no other rental buildings in the neighbourhood.”
According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the private apartment vacancy rate (referring to units that are physically unoccupied) was 1.1 per cent in the Langleys in October 2016, versus 1.5 per cent in October 2015.
When broken down even further, the 2016 October stats show the vacancy rate for bachelors was 2.4 per cent, one bedrooms was 1.4 per cent and two bedrooms was 0.5 per cent.
The availability rate (meaning the existing tenant has given notice to move, and a new tenant has not signed a lease) was 1.5 per cent in October 2016, versus 1.7 per cent in the same month the year before.
Average rent for a two bedroom apartment was $1,150 per month, up from $997 in 2015, and the median rent for a two bedroom was $1,125, versus $920.
“I believe pretty much everyone starts out renting,” said Township Mayor Jack Froese.
“And some, their entire life they’ll rent rather than own, and it’s a great way to have a beautiful home. Some people chose to own, but a lot choose to rent, (and) I think we all started out renting at some point or another. And the Township of Langley needs facilities and buildings that provide that type of housing.
“We want to build mixed communities, walkable communities, and here we have a perfect example. You can walk to the grocery store, you can walk to the hospital, you can walk to the pub, and then you can walk back from the RCMP station — it’s all within walking distance. It’s a walkable community.”
Lexington Court has also been recognized as a Certified Rental Building (CRB), meaning that is adheres to 50 different standards to ensure it is well run and well managed.
CRB is the only quality-assurance program of its kind in North America, and B.C. is the second jurisdiction to use it.
“Ultimately, it’s actually about renters and about those of you who are renters here,” said David Hutniak, CEO of LandlordBC (pictured left).
“What we want you to know is that when you look at a CRB building … you know that that company (and) that building adhere to the highest standards, and that can give you the confidence that perhaps you haven’t had today when looking at rental housing.”
Hutniak, too, is an advocate for more buildings like Lexington Court to be constructed in the Lower Mainland.
“Rental housing is a crucial form of housing. It’s the most affordable form of housing, it always has been, and it’s our goal to ensure that it always is,” he said. “One of the challenges we have in B.C. — and this is actually an issue in other part of the country as well — is that we definitely need more purpose-built rental housing units than we have today.”