A new housing project in Port Moody will give local tenants a chance to become homeowners in the development.

Thirty of the 358 units to be constructed at 50 Electronic Avenue are going to be rent-to-own homes.

Affordability is expected to be achieved through two measures.

One is that rents will be charged below market rates, according to developer Kush Panatch.

Second, the Panatch Group will fix the purchase price as if tenants were buying their units today.

“We are going to let you rent it from us for two years from the day it’s ready you can move in,” Panatch told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “But then what we’re going to do is we’re going to take the rent that you’re paying us, we’re going to put that in a trust account and save up that rent, and we’re going to apply that towards your down payment.”

Panatch recalled that the idea came from someone else.

“I wish I could say I thought of it. I didn’t,” he said laughing. “Sometimes, you know, you connect the dots, and this is what ends up happening.”

The founder of the Panatch Group related that when his company applied to rezone 50 Electronic Avenue, the City of Port Moody issued a challenge: come up with something to give to the local community.

“We have a small family-owned development company, and our goal is always to leave the community better than we found it, and we want to kind of sort of like add to the fabric of the community,” he said. “So as part of my effort to get support for the project, I went out and actually talked to a number of residents in Port Moody.”

One of these people was a local firefighter.

“He said, ‘Kush, I was born in Port Moody. I went to a Port Moody school. I became a fireman and today I work in port moody. And yet, I can’t afford to live in Port Moody’,” Panatch related. “He said, ‘As a first responder, I now live in a community that’s half an hour further away’.”

According to Panatch, the firefighter and his family live in Pitt Meadows.

“I said, ‘How can this be?’ I said, ‘You being a fireman, you make a pretty decent income’,” Panatch said. “And he said, ‘The challenge was…when I was even younger, I could not even get an apartment’…Whenever he was trying to save up enough money to be able to buy, the prices go up.”

The fireman’s story about getting always priced out in his own city led to the concept of making 30 of the units as rent-to-own homes.

“For a lack of a better name, I call it basically taking 30 families in Port Moody or 30 people and providing them basically what I call a pathway to homeownership,” Panatch said.