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Langley's unsung Willoughby area a bustling development hub

Metro Vancouver neighbourhood has over 6,700 new homes in development pipeline

The Commons by Zenterra Developments will bring 199 housing units to the Willoughby neighbourhood in Langley, B.C. (Courtesy Zenterra)
The Commons by Zenterra Developments will bring 199 housing units to the Willoughby neighbourhood in Langley, B.C. (Courtesy Zenterra)

The Willoughby area of Langley has quietly emerged as one of the Lower Mainland’s busiest development hubs. 

The neighbhourhood, located in Langley Township just south of the Trans-Canada Highway, has been experiencing a condo and townhome construction boom, with nearly 6,700 homes currently submitted as development applications. 

Low-rise condos have become big business in Willoughby and will continue to lead most development activity as the city focuses on adding density to its main arterials, wrote Manraj Dosanjh, a realtor with Dexter Realty in a recent blog post

In the past 12 months alone, six low-rise developments have been brought to market in the area, which equates to about 965 homes, Dosanjh told RENX.

Overall, those 6,700 units range from "the preliminary stages or also stuff that has received final reading," Dosanjh said.

"There are some individuals or groups who have gone in and purchased land throughout the years and submitted applications in times when the market was a little bit more active," he said.

It's unlikely all of those 6,700 homes will be completed in the next five years, but the point stands that Willoughby has been drawing plenty of attention from builders and buyers. 

"Several of these are obviously larger master-plan communities, which are built by developers who are obviously going to be able to . . . build on their own accord," he said. "It is going to be kind of like a phased-out approach."

Many developers will propose a project but then hold off building the homes until market and sales conditions are more favourable for profit. 

Most of 965 new for-sale homes already sold

More than 70 per cent of the 965 new homes have been reported sold, according to data produced by Zonda Urban (formerly Urban Analytics) and published by Dosanjh. Those projects include: 

Dosanjh said the average price per square foot ranges from $850 to $900 currently in the Willoughby area. 

Zenterra among the busiest developers

Zenterra Developments, which launched roughly 15 years ago, has been one of the more active developers in the neighbourhood located around the Langley Events Centre (LEC), south of the highway and roughly from 200 Street to 216 Street.

Derek Fenton, vice-president with Zenterra, said Willoughby has benefited from widening improvements to Highway 1 and the new Port Mann Bridge across the Fraser River, and has been drawing more homebuyers from the Tri-Cities area. 

Buyers who opt for Willoughby could save $150,000 to $200,000 in purchase price in exchange for having to drive 15 minutes on the highway, Fenton said. "We kind of went pretty aggressively in that neighborhood.”

Fenton said the planned introduction of rapid bus service along 200 Street will also help boost connectivity for the area. Meanwhile, work is beginning on the $4.01-billion SkyTrain extension from Surrey’s King George station through Langley to Langley City Centre, located south of the Township. It is expected to open in late 2028.

Zenterra is primarily a six-storey, wood-frame developer that handles its own construction. In Willoughby, Zenterra alone has 3,000 homes in various stages of planning and development that could complete within the next five years, Fenton said.  

Among their current projects are The Commons, which is a low-rise condo project that’s 75-80 per cent sold, Fenton said.

"We are getting ready to launch a new townhome community as well called Latimer Walk, next month . . . and then we also have our upcoming large-scale community called Solana, which is going to be approximately 850 condos in the Willoughby area.”

There have been shifts in buyer profiles, Fenton said. During the pandemic and the work-from-home evolution, many working people opted to leave Vancouver for communities in the eastern Fraser Valley like Chilliwack and Abbotsford.

"Those markets have definitely been softer over the last little while,” Fenton said. 

He acknowledged the pendulum is swinging back to hybrid work or more in-office arrangements, although younger workers still seem hungry for homes in the Langley area even if they need to commute occasionally to their jobs closer to the core.

He said record-high home rental prices throughout the entire region is also spurring young people to buy their first home. 

Essence moves forward with high-density master-plan

Also in Willoughby, Essence Development is launching the first phase of a multi-phase, master-plan called Jericho, located immediately across 200 Street from the LEC.

If fully realized, Jericho could eventually include a mix of low-rise and high-rise buildings with approximately 2,000 homes, green space and commercial units.

The first phase consists of four low-rise, mixed-use buildings, including 385 residential condo units and 18 commercial units, said Kevin Dhaliwal, CEO and founder of Essence. (Dhaliwal is also a co-owner of the Vancouver Bandits, a Canadian Elite Basketball League team that plays in the LEC). 

Dhaliwal told RENX his enthusiasm for Willoughby began with the opening of the LEC in 2009. 

Zenterra’s Fenton noted his team is now seeing large blocks of first-time homebuyers from two main cohorts at the same time: millennials and Gen-Zs. 

Dosanjh said young professionals can get into a new home in Willoughby for less than a comparable home in Coquitlam while enjoying a similar lifestyle as more commercial, recreational and residential development pours into the neighbourhood.

“There's been an amazing change in the overall landscape,” he said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was edited after publishing to remove erroneous information about the size of condos being offered in the district.

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