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Rental properties a growing focus for Metro Vancouver homebuilders

U.S. experience prompts Mosaic to launch a new rental home division
Parker in Surrey is one of four existing rental projects managed by Mosaic Living | Photo: Mosaic

Demand for rental housing has prompted Vancouver homebuilder Mosaic to establish a separate division focused on the rental market.

Drawing on its experience in the U.S. through Thrive Communities LLC, Mosaic announced the creation of Mosaic Living on September 7.

“What we’ve learned through [Thrive] is how critical the property management piece is,” said Geoff Duyker, senior vice-president of marketing with Mosaic, which began building rental units six years ago. “We set this up as a separate division within Mosaic … because we already know how to design and build a great home, but the key to being successful in that business is really managing it.”

The new division oversees a portfolio of four existing projects with 305 units as well as a further three projects under construction and a fourth awaiting a building permit. Together, the four projects in development represent 214 units.

Established in 2000, Mosaic aims to build a better home, from design through to construction and the buyer experience.

“We saw an opportunity in the marketplace to build that same approach into homes for rent,” Duyker said. “When most people are going to rent, they are dealing with a mom-and-pop landlord and the experience of renting is not necessarily professional. Our goal at Mosaic living is to continue to design and build a better home … but let’s also add an incredible community manager. Let’s make it very easy for someone to rent a home from us.”

The new division is building a team of more than 30 people to manage Mosaic’s rental portfolio, with technology allowing residents to engage with staff entirely online. This promises to ensure a speedier service, preventing lost paperwork and allowing requests to be made as issues arise.

“It’s to make life simple and easy for them,” Duyker said. “We’re really focused on what’s important to resident today. These are brand new modern buildings, so there’s great electric charging for residents who have electric cars, there’s parcel delivery systems for all the online shopping people do.”

Fremont in Port Coquitlam offers the Fremont River Club, a 12,000-square-foot recreational and social facility that includes an outdoor pool, gymnasium, fitness area and event rooms. Tenants will have full access to the amenities. A similar “mountain club” facility at the planned Lynn project in North Vancouver will be oriented towards that location.

“It’s another really incredible complement of amenities that a resident is just not going to get moving into Building XYZ owned and managed by Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” Duyker said. “We’re really seeking to develop properties where, if possible, we have built-in amenities to improve the living experience of people in these homes.”

The new division builds on Mosaic’s experience in the U.S., where it’s a partner in Rise Properties Trust and its property management subsidiary Thrive Communities, which manages more than 16,000 units.

Mosaic isn’t the only developer taking a leaf out of the U.S. playbook. During an Urban Land Institute on rental development earlier this year, Anthony Lanni, executive vice-president, residential with QuadReal Property Group said U.S. projects were setting the pace for innovations in Canada.

“It’s a new dawn for British Columbia rental housing,” he said.

QuadReal, for its part, is incorporating more amenities for families, such as kids’ rooms, into its buildings as well as changing up bedroom sizes to accommodate king beds.

Rental projects are also attracting growing interest from home builders, thanks to strong demand in the face of high sale pricing for condos.

“Anything that we have under construction is mostly rental product today,” said Hani Lammam, vice-president, development and acquisitions with Cressey Development Corp., which has pressed pause on condos over the past year.

Lammam is optimistic on rental starts, however, thanks to low vacancies, strong rents and action by all levels of government to support projects.

“We are optimistic that the federal government will come forward with more incentives to build more rental housing, affordable housing, so we’re looking forward to that,” he said. “We think the province will take the necessary steps to grease the wheels on the municipal front, make approvals easier.”

Western Investor