A new condo building is being developed in Richmond, one offering units large enough for two or more bedrooms and starting at a price homeowners would typically spend on a condo in the suburban city.
Except the units aren't to live in: They are specifically intended to be custom-designed by people needing a space to park and store their luxury cars and willing to pay $600,000 and up to do it.
Hungerford Properties has recently launched a development called Trove, which the company is billing as a "lifestyle condo" for supercars. The two-storey building will consist of 45 units ranging from 1,000 square feet to 2,500 square feet. Owners can design the spaces for their luxury cars by themselves, or they can choose from four predesigned interior packages, some including high-end Italian furniture, kitchens, dining areas, bars and even game tables.
Two vehicle elevators will be provided for second-storey access. The units will have many of the same amenities as a regular condo, including an option for a bathroom. The spaces could also be used to store boats or valuable art collections, the website notes.
But in a region where affordability issues have permeated every level of government and helped decide the last provincial election, housing activists and at least one Richmond city councillor say it's a blatant example of a market gone askew.
Michael Hungerford, a partner with Hungerford Properties, said the the company came up with the idea a couple years ago after noticing there was no luxury auto storage in the Vancouver area. This type of specialized storage has been successful in other cities, he noted, and within two weeks of its launch earlier this month, the units were 80 per cent sold.
His confidence isn't groundless. According to figures from DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, which tracks auto sales, British Columbia had the highest number of luxury car sales across the country in 2014, while Ontario ranked the second.
Mr. Hungerford noted Trove is not only providing a place for storing luxury cars, but it is also building a gathering place for car owners.
"There's a growing community of people in Vancouver who are passionate about cars, whether it's luxury supercars or vintage cars. And we wanted to offer them a safe place to store their treasures as well as a place to get car services and connect with the community," Mr. Hungerford said.
But Carol Day, a Richmond city councillor, said people who build for this type of elite customer are segregating society.
"This is a sad example of exclusion," she said.
A local housing activist said his first thought was that the project was a satire.
"[The project] is appealing to the richest of the rich," said Justin Fung, one of the founders of Housing Action for Local Taxpayers. "To think that we have human beings on the street and we don't have a solution for how we can house them, and yet we have these cars that are taking up spaces that starting from 1,000 feet."
Mr. Fung noted the units are big enough to house people with families.
But Trove will be located on land that is commercially zoned.
Richmond City Councillor Harold Steves said though he realizes people are struggling with affordable housing in the city, as long as such projects adhere to zoning bylaws, "there is nothing that can be done."
Ms. Day noted industrial areas are meant for creating jobs and helping businesses to thrive, eventually benefiting the wider economy. Building condos for luxury cars isn't exactly what the city had in mind, she said.
"This is, to be honest, silliness," she said.
But Mr. Hungerford said in an e-mail that Trove will support a variety of active, small businesses, primarily auto related, on the ground floor as well as storage uses.
Mr. Steves stated that parts of Richmond have become home to the superrich. But according to census data released by Statistics Canada last week, the city also has one of the highest low-income rates across Metro Vancouver.
The percentage of low-income people in Richmond is 22.4 per cent, compared with Vancouver's 18.8 per cent and Burnaby's 20.6 per cent. The average low-income rate in British Columbia is 15.5 per cent.
"It's also appalling that in some of the area codes where we have big mansions in Richmond and Vancouver, they're also declaring poverty level incomes. That doesn't make any sense at all," Mr. Fung said.