Mortgage Helpers’ to the rescue: Condos with built-in rental suites

Does this sound familiar? “I (or we) would love to buy a condo, but they’re too expensive where I want to live and I don’t want to go the housemate route to help pay the mortgage.” Or how about this, “I’d really like to live in this neighborhood for at least a couple of years and would love to rent out a contemporary not-so-big efficiency to be able to afford it, but they simply don’t exist.”

Well, both those prayers are about to be answered with what is being referred to as Mortgage Helpers, coined by architect/developer Michael Geller, president of Univercity, a university-owned corporation developing a sustainable new community adjacent to the campus in the Vancouver BC region. It’s essentially a for-sale condo with a built-in self-contained rental suite that the condo owners can rent out as an entirely separate unit to help pay the mortgage, OR absorb back into the condo as a third bedroom as the need arises or the income allows. A flex condo if you will.

Michael was inspired by the need for more affordable housing for students who might want to live within the community, but this kind of housing attainability applies to anyone interested. Here are some of his key factors for success:

“1. A separate door to the corridor, or the outside;
2. Pre-wiring and possible venting for the small kitchen area, which can be located in a closet;
3. Very nominal parking requirements for the ‘secondary suite’. If a normal parking requirement is applied, it won’t work. We agreed to 1 space for every 4 units;
4. Some common laundry facilities in the buildings, since these units, unlike most others we build around here, do not have ‘in-suite’ facilities.”

He adds, “This is a clever way of providing a more affordable housing option, and greater housing flexibility”. I personally think the plan works best in a three-bedroom apartment, especially one where the bedrooms are on either side of the living room, but this plan seems to work as well. The 240 s.f. units are renting between $600 and $750 in our market area!

See article for more info.

What would you call them? Comment below!

  • Michael Geller adds a couple of cautions, “The city in which we are located insisted on a higher fire rating in the wall between the two bedrooms. Whether this was really necessary is questionable, but it added to the cost. They also required a separate electrical panel. The logic was that if a fuse blew, it would not affect the other portion of the unit. Again, I think this was an unnecessary expense.”