As house prices rise, Auguston developer looks to build rental apartments

Developer says townhouses and apartments key to keeping family-focus of neighbourhood

Shifting demographics and the rising cost of housing has led the developers of Abbotsford’s Auguston neighbourhood to focus on plans for the community’s first apartment building, along with more new family-oriented townhouses.

The development got its start in the mid-90s and owns land that is zoned for around 2,500 homes. So far, about 600 homes – the vast majority traditional single-family houses – have been built. Now, as work continues on developing more single-family house lots, Ian Renton, the general manager of Auguston Town Development, says his company is in talks with the city regarding the first of several possible apartment buildings in the area.

The goal, Renton said, is to keep the area affordable and welcoming to those with kids.

“We’re a family-oriented community,” he said. “We’re not a retirement community.”

For both economic and community reasons, Renton said it’s important to keep August Traditional School with full compliment of students.

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“Twelve years ago, the first townhome site went in there, those prices were in the $220[,000] range.”

But those prices have doubled over the last five years, while houses now start around $800,000. That has left developers looking at ways to ensure families with young kids can still afford to buy in the area.

“We want to keep it so those people have the ability to live up there,” he said. “Auguston Traditional School is one of the top schools in B.C. and it has always been a great selling point for us.”

The land zoned for low-rise apartment buildings just to the east of Auguston built-out areas could accommodate up to six such buildings, Renton estimates. High demand and increasing rental rates for coach houses and basement suites in Auguston has shown a demand for such multi-family homes in the area.

At the same time, Auguston’s apartment plans come as the local condo market has sagged a bit and as several other buildings are either proposed or already under construction.

“All you have to do is drive around Abbotsford and there’s a new condo/apartment building on every corner,” Renton said. So in the short term, the company is dipping its feet in the apartment market.

“We’re saying, let’s look at one and see how it works. It will be the first of that size in Auguston and we’ll just see how the market reacts to that.”

Earlier this year, concept drawings surfaced showing a futuristic highrise-dominated community in the area. The vision had been created for Auguston Town Development and were centred around an idea to create “WeTown,” a “sustainable city for 40,000 residents.”

The concepts won two planning awards, but didn’t suggest solutions to a variety of challenges to building such a community in the area.

Renton said the drawings were “just a sketch and idea from 2017.” He added, however, that the company does have “exciting” plans for the area and expects to have more information in a couple months.

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