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Lock-off suites in townhomes touted as affordability fix in Metro Vancouver

The suites can be rented or used by the homeowner depending on the need to make cash or spread out.

A rendering of a new townhouse development in North Vancouver’s Moodyville neighbourhood.

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A rendering of a new townhouse development in North Vancouver’s Moodyville neighbourhood.

A North Vancouver developer says the “lock-off” suites in a new townhome development will ease affordability concerns and help make the homes more flexible for growing or shrinking families.

“A lot of the people we’re dealing with say I’d be quite happy to live in a townhome, but what I really need is that mortgage helper from an older single family home and that usually comes in the form of a basement suite,” said James Askew, president of rareEarth Project Marketing. The developer for the project is Guildford Brook Estates.

The townhomes are being built in the Moodyville neighbourhood of the City of North Vancouver, a single family home neighbourhood near the Lower Lonsdale shopping district. The municipality recently rezoned Moodyville to allow low-rise condos and townhomes.

The units are being built with a studio or one-bedroom suite in the basement that homeowners can either rent out to help pay their mortgage, or use themselves. It could also be used to house an aging parent, Askew said. The size of the rental suites range from 400 to 650 square feet.

RareEarth’s three and four-bedroom townhomes are still pricey — Askew described prices as being between $900,000 and $1.5 million. But the flexibility means homeowners don’t have to move from a one-bedroom condo, to a townhome, and back down to something smaller as they have children or become empty-nesters.

“A lot of times you can buy a single family home if you have the down payment, and by the time to receive your rent revenue from downstairs, your mortgage payments might be the same as buying a townhome,” he said.

Askew said some prospective buyers have expressed interest in using the flex rental space for short term rentals, like Airbnb. Currently the City of North Vancouver has not moved to restrict short-term rentals as cities like Vancouver and Richmond have.

Lock-off suites aren’t yet common in townhouse developments in Metro Vancouver, but they have been tried before: townhomes at Simon Fraser University’s One University Crescent development were built with the “suites within a suite.”

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