First family moves into home in subdivision, but near-market program shows problems

By on April 10, 2018

Developer Hart Buchendahl and Mayor Sue McKortoff cut a ceremonial ribbon at the new home of the Sandhu family in the Meadowlark Subdivision. The Sandhus — Mandeep and Karamjit and their daughter Muskaan and son Sahaj and Mandeep’s mother Kuldeep — were the first family to take possession of one of the newly completed homes. They were joined by realtor Eileen McGinn, Buckendahl’s partner David Neufeld, and members of the construction crew. (Richard McGuire photo)

There were balloons, flowers and a ribbon cutting on Friday as the first family took possession of their new house in the Meadowlark Subdivision south of the fire hall.

But the sale of the house also highlighted problems with the town’s near-market housing program intended to help families to buy a home.

The family of Mandeep and Karamjit Sandhu, their daughter Muskaan, son Sahaj and Mandeep’s mother Kuldeep seemed delighted to move in. The Sandhus are relatives of the owners of Sandhu Greenhouses.

Happy too were realtor Eileen McGinn, and developer Hart Buckendahl of Ellcar and his partner David Neufeld.

The ceremony, at which Mayor Sue McKortoff cut the ribbon, marked the success of this housing development, but also drew attention to a problem – the failure of the near-market housing program as it is now designed.

The home the Sandhus bought was originally intended to be one of four subsidized, near-market homes in the 27-unit development.

The requirement for four subsidized units was a condition put on the town for removing the subdivision from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

But the conditions of the near-market housing program are so stringent that potential participants like the Sandhus have balked and chosen to pay full price instead.

Both Buckendahl and McGinn say they have no problem selling the regular-priced units, which range in price from $400,000 to more than $500,000. It’s the four near-market homes that are the problem.

At Buckendahl’s request, town council last week authorized the removal of the covenant on the Sandhus’ house that required that home to be sold through the near-market program. That covenant is instead being applied to another lot that Ellcar has purchased.

The near-market program has been advertised for some time, but so far there haven’t been takers for any of the four units, said Buckendahl.

The problem, he said, is that if buyers don’t hold the home for 20 years, they only take a small percentage of the profits if they sell the home.

“That’s a long time and nobody really wants to commit for such a long time,” he said. “That was the problem.”

Buckendahl said he’s encouraged that the town is taking another look at the program, which he suggests was prepared rapidly without all the consequences being understood.

“It’s got to be made simple,” he said. “When it’s simple, it will work.”

This project has 26 lots, but because there is a duplex, there will actually be 27 homes.

Nine houses are currently being built, and seven of those have been spoken for, said Buckendahl. Other buyers will be taking possession shortly, including two more this month.

The houses from the outside look smaller than they are. The Sandhus’ house is 2,380 square feet with three bedrooms, three bathrooms and a double garage.

“The whole project is a modern design done by an architect in Kelowna,” said Buckendahl. “Everybody thought that Osoyoos isn’t ready for it. I think we proved them wrong.”

While the price tags on the homes put them above “affordable” for many people, Buckendahl said they offer the best value for a new home in this market. Older homes, he said, may be in a similar price range, but they often require major costs to fix them up.

McGinn agrees that there’s huge demand for housing in Osoyoos now and says these homes offer great value to families.

“If they were all built, we could probably have them all sold tomorrow,” she said. “To me there’s no comparison. Like a 2,380 square-foot house with three bedrooms and three bathrooms like this. You can’t touch it in Osoyoos… You’re getting a combination of different sized housing, but for dollar per square foot, there isn’t a better buy in town right now.”

Mayor McKortoff joked that she’s had her scissors ready since December to cut the ribbon.

“I’m delighted to have somebody move into the first unit,” she said. “This is exactly what we want – to have more housing.”

This project, she said, was a special arrangement that the town organized by getting the land out of the ALR on certain conditions, putting in roads, sewers, lights and sidewalks and then selling the lots to Buckendahl.

The Southeast Meadowlark subdivision is actually much larger, extending south to Osoyoos Baptist Church, but the other land remains in the ALR.

“We’re certainly willing to expand into the next area, but I think we should do this [project] first,” McKortoff said.

She’s hopeful that the town can adjust the near-market housing program to make it more attractive.

Buckendahl, 70, said he’s willing to continue developing more homes in the next phase of the Meadowlark subdivision as long as he stays healthy.

He says he’s phasing out his custom homes in other communities.

“I live in Osoyoos and I’d like to work pretty much in Osoyoos,” he said. “I have no intention of retiring.”

RICHARD McGUIRE

Osoyoos Times

Joined by realtor Eileen McGinn and Mayor Sue McKortoff, the Sandhu family poses in their new kitchen. McGinn said the near-market covenant had to be removed from this house in order to complete the sale.(Richard McGuire photo)

While two homes at the end of the street appear virtually finished, workers build more homes that are at various stages of construction. (Richard McGuire photo)

The Sandhus’ home (right) is complete and the house next to it is nearing completion. the modern-looking houses were designed by an architect in Kelowna. (Richard McGuire photo)

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One Comment

  1. Les Dewar

    April 11, 2018 at 11:34 pm

    These houses are not just “modern” they are downright ugly! I am shocked that the town allowed designs like these to be built in Osoyoos, and right by the highway so we have to see them every time we drive by. Whatever happened to the “Southwestern” theme that was supposedly adopted by the town? How about some adobe style houses or at least normal looking houses. These are awful!

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