Maple Ridge council has been doling out the cash to developers who, in turn, are remaking the face of downtown.
The money is part of the downtown incentive program, in which the District of Maple Ridge speeds applications, offers permit and property tax discounts, as well as outright cash grants.
Last year, those grants added up to $272,790 for seven construction projects.
The builder of an apartment project at the bottom of 224th Street received a $31,094 incentive grant, while the condo building at the corner of Lougheed Highway and 223rd Street got $40,484, and the apartment building on Edge Street and 120th Street got $47,076.
The grants come from refunds of 10 per cent of development cost charges builders have to pay for residential projects.
Another $50,000 each has been or will be dished out to the developers of projects at 11882 – 226th St., 12040 – 222nd St., and at 11887 Burnett St.
Two more grants got council approval at its Tuesday meeting.
Target’s renovations to the old Zellers store in Haney Place Mall will get an incentive grant of $11,409, while the builder of a condo project at 11580 – 224th St. will get $46,191.
The enticements are having an effect.
More than $77 million of building projects have been issued since the program began in 2011 and started changing the face of the downtown.
Despite a slower housing market, people are still buying.
Fred Formosa, who’s building Falcon Centre across from Thrifty Foods, says there is a market for good quality housing in good locations.
The first of two buildings on the site, only about half built, has already 16 of 59 units sold, with four more in the process. The second building will bring the total complement of suites to 96.
“I think the housing market in Maple Ridge has been getting better, so people are feeling better.”
The renovations to Haney Place Mall, the arrival of Thrifty’s and Target, are drawing people to the area.
“So I think that’s going to make it better.”
Formosa agrees the incentive plan may be sparking builders to start their projects sooner, but he disagrees there’s an over supply.
Since a slow fall and Christmas, interest has grown, as people see the building go up. “It’s picked up enormously. We’re really busy.”
He said Maple Ridge’s downtown plan, which tries to create a walkable, eco-friendly community, also brings in buyers. People appreciate green space and people-friendly urban design and will buy to be part of that.
The same goes for the condos themselves.
“You just do a little bit more and then they’ll notice it and they’ll actually pay for it and then they’ll move.
“If you have a good location and good quality things that people want, then you’re going to sell because people want your product.”
Realtor Debbie Shepherd says the prices in the last year may have dropped more on condos and townhouses than single family homes because there are so many.
“It’s supply and demand.”
But in the last weeks there’s definitely been more activity, she added.
According to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, prices for Maple Ridge condos and townhouses have dropped over the last five years. Condo or apartment prices have dropped 14.9 per cent and townhouses have dropped eight per cent.
However, the last year has seen only marginal price changes.
Residential sales in Greater Vancouver also dropped 29 per cent when February 2011 and 2012 are compared.
However, the sales-to-active-listings ratio currently sits at 12 per cent in Greater Vancouver, a two-per-cent increase from last month. It’s the first time this ratio has been above 11 per cent since June 2012, says the real estate board.
Realtor Jason Exner has noticed a slowing in the townhouse market, which could be a result of more supply in the condo market.
“It’s an excellent buyer’s market right now.” With prices and interest rates low, and lots of supply, buyers have the “pick of the litter.”
But there does seem to be a lot of building in the downtown and it will take time to see how that pans out. He predicts a stable market for the next few years and pointed out sellers are not dropping their prices but are just taking their properties off the market if they can’t get the price they want.
“I think a flat market will do everybody good for the next year.”