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Mosaic takes plunge with Woodward development in Surrey

Multi-phased Greater Vancouver townhome community is now 75 per cent sold, final phase has launched

Woodward is a townhome development by Mosaic Homes in Surrey, B.C. (Courtesy Mosaic)
Woodward is a townhome development by Mosaic Homes in Surrey, B.C. (Courtesy Mosaic)

Twenty-six months of unfavourable market conditions has stunted residential and multiresidential project launches across Canada, but Mosaic Homes has bucked that trend with Woodward, a Surrey-based townhouse development.

Mosaic Homes was undaunted as early as the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when, in the spring of 2020, it acquired the seven-acre parcel of land for the 174-unit townhouse project. Today, Woodward is three-quarters sold and already partially occupied.

Perhaps a little bewildering on the surface, the Greater Vancouver Area developer was, in actuality, resolute in its own market analyses. So resolute that, essentially, the firm's attitude was, higher carrying costs and construction materials costs be damned.

“Growing families need more space than a studio or one- or two-bedroom condominium can provide,” Geoff Duyker, the senior vice-president of marketing at Mosaic Homes, told RENX Homes.

To that end, the developer is capitalizing on the dearth of affordable family-sized homes throughout the Lower Mainland and — as Duyker noted — pretty much all of the Fraser Valley.

That’s why, he added, all of Woodward’s units — which range between 1,200 and 1,600 square feet — have either three or four bedrooms.

“The townhome is that so-called ‘missing middle’ housing,” Duyker continued, adding that with “a garage, a front door, yard space and storage, you get a lot of the benefits of a single-family home, but at a much lower price point.”

That isn’t the only reason Mosaic Homes bet against conventional wisdom.

Mosaic's 20-year track record

Signs of imminent economic contraction were evident almost as early as Canadians — whose households collectively held excess cash reserves of $90 billion in November 2020 and over $200 billion five months later — embarked on spending sprees that ultimately drove housing prices to astronomical heights in rapid order. 

That created strong need for that missing middle style of housing, which is considered homes that fall somewhere between high-rise multifamily buildings and single-family houses.

“Surrey City Centre is a real node of growth, but it’s predominantly high-rise condominiums there and we have a lot of buyers who say a townhome fits their needs,” Duyker said.

However, there’s another, preponderant reason Mosaic Homes flouted the signals of uncertainty emitted by the country’s contracting economy after years of seemingly indiscriminate consumer spending.

According to Duyker, Mosaic Homes’ 20-year history in the Surrey market instilled enough confidence that it knew Woodward would fill a glaring local need. 

While higher mortgage costs and inflationary pressures doubtless deterred many would-be homebuyers, headwinds ultimately weren’t strong enough to disabuse them all.

“We’re definitely in a period where it’s more difficult to buy a home with the cost of a mortgage but, fundamentally, people still need a place to live,” Duyker said.

Turns out the people who need a place to live form an outsized cohort, ranging from relocated workers to recent arrivals from abroad, he added.

He pointed to the fact Woodward, now on its fifth-and-final phase, is 75 per cent sold, with 40 of those sales since the beginning of 2024.

“The reasons for needing housing don’t pause because interest rates are higher,” Duyker said.

But he returned to that market chasm - which he said is substantial enough to interrupt the formation of new families - noting that three years ago some might have been able to hack it in an already challenging market. However, what little room for opportunity existed then has since truncated, as evidenced by Woodward’s buyer profile.

“It’s predominantly young people early in their housing life cycle — couples who have younger kids and a growing family, or who are starting a family and want a front door and a garage and some yard space and want at least three bedrooms,” he continued. 

“We provide high functionality at what I would say is low relative, absolute price points, so that’s why we’ve focused on all units being three- and four-bedroom homes,” Duyker said. “These are very well designed for families and growing families. We have even seen instances of multigenerational living.” 

Fundamentals don’t lie

That Mosaic Homes launched Woodward amid the highest inflation in four decades and the most capricious interest rate hikes since 2001 isn’t because it’s cavalier.

On the contrary, the fundamentals buoying Woodward have, for the most part, been impervious to the economic turmoil of recent years. Its location in Surrey’s coveted Panorama neighbourhood, for which demand has largely proven unflappable, is one of them, Duyker added.

The municipality is roughly 40 minutes from both Vancouver and Vancouver International Airport, and with affordability woes in Canada’s third-largest urban centre well documented, Duyker isn’t surprised by the people visiting Woodward’s sales centre. 

“We have experienced growing families from Vancouver, to a degree, but I would say there are more people moving from the inner suburbs to the Fraser Valley to realize more affordability, and that’s part of it, but there’s also a very loyal market in Surrey,” he said.

“It comes down to Surrey being a fast-growing municipality and there’s a big need for housing. Single-family is very difficult for people to acquire, given the cost of housing and growing families need more space than a studio, one- or two-bedroom condominium can provide.

"So the townhome is that so-called missing middle housing, but at a much lower price point.”

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