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The program was established in 2006 to develop and build up to 1000 new town homes on 20 surplus school sites over the next 10 years. The program was established to help individuals and families who’ve never owned property in Alberta buy their first home. Depending on the size of the surplus school site land, approximately 25 to 50 town homes will be constructed on each site.

Success Stories

Completed projects across Edmonton have allowed many people to realize the dream of home ownership while integrating with communities that helped design the look and “fit” of the developments.

Alisha's Story

Alisha First Place home in Bearspaw Crossing

Why First Place Program

Alisha thought that it would be years before she could afford her own home.

But at 23 years old, her dreams are becoming reality. She’s graduated from the nursing program at Grant MacEwan University and put a deposit on a new town home in Bearspaw.

Alisha is a busy young woman who enjoys a number of interests. Travelling, camping, singing and enjoying live theatre are some ways she likes to spend her spare time.

New Beginnings

Now working as a Registered Nurse in pediatric surgery and medicine at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, Alisha is entering a new phase in her life. “I’ve wanted to be a nurse since I was eight years old,” she says. “It’s my passion to work alongside children and their families at such difficult times in their lives. Nursing is a very rewarding career.”

As her graduation drew closer, Alisha started to think about the next goal on her list—buying her own home.

“When I was on one of my clinical placements for school, which happened to be at the Grey Nuns Hospital, I noticed some townhouses being built just across the street.

“This got me thinking about homes and when I would eventually have one of my own. I saw that there was a show home open for the town houses, so I went in just out of curiosity.”

It was there that she heard about the First Place Program, and she went online to learn more.

Choice

Alisha purchased a lot with the Manchester 3 floor plan, which offers 1,362 square feet of space. It’s one of four available floor plans.

She’ll be living in a development built by Landmark Homes, a builder known for high-quality projects and “green” construction practices.

Bearspaw Crossing Homes feature energy-efficient appliances that are good for the environment and help reduce utility costs for homeowners.

Location

Although Alisha currently lives in southeast Edmonton with her mother and brother, the Bearspaw location appealed to her.

“The location of these homes is perfect as there are many important amenities close by, such as schools, banks, shopping, restaurants and transportation,” Alisha notes. “Because I work at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, I need an easy way to commute to and from work. The Century Park LRT will be just a few minutes’ drive from my new home, which is fantastic, especially with all the shift work I do as a nurse.”

The neighbourhood is four minutes from the Henday, and close to grocery stores, medical services, Southgate Centre and South Edmonton Common. If she doesn’t feel like cooking, there are several restaurants where she can pick up some dinner or spend time with her family and friends.

Alisha soon discovered other benefits to moving into an existing neighbourhood. She loves to read, and the Whitemud Crossing library is nearby. She likes walking, and she’ll be close to Blackmud Creek Ravine and several parks.

“The scenery where these homes are being built is beautiful, with the Bearspaw Lake very close by and a greenbelt with a baseball diamond just outside my front door! The neighbourhood seems to be quiet and the people seem to be really friendly.”

Independence

The City’s First Place program teams with banks and builders to develop attractive townhouses on undeveloped building sites in existing neighbourhoods.

First Place homes sell at market rates, but portions of the mortgage related to the land cost are deferred for five years, providing an attractive level of affordability. Owners cannot rent out the property for the period of the deferral, and the condo board ensures a high standard of exterior maintenance.

“The City of Edmonton and Landmark have made it easier for first time home buyers to qualify for a mortgage by deferring the cost of the land,” says Alisha. “Young adults like me who have only been in the ‘real world’ for under a year can have the opportunity to purchase their own home.”

“This home means independence and an exciting new milestone in my life,” says Alisha.

Janna's Story

Janna

After an educational journey involving several countries and provinces in recent years, Janna Plewes was excited about making her home in one of Edmonton's First Place developments.

She's was one of the early buyers for First Place homes in the Caernarvon neighbourhood, where units were completed in November 2013.

"I came to Edmonton to work with the City in February 2012 and am very happy with my job," say the 30-something social worker. "I plan to be here for a while, and the opportunity to buy my first home was very appealing to me."

First Place homes sell at market rates, but portions of the mortgage related to the land cost are deferred for 5 years, providing an attractive level of affordability. Owners cannot rent out the property for the period of the deferral, and a condo board ensures exterior maintenance is top-notch.

"That was another bonus," says Janna. "The condo fees are less than half of what I saw in other developments."

She also likes the design of the project, built on a vacant school site declared surplus to school board needs. "I like how First Place homes improve community life in general, and especially neat to have community input into the design of the project. That's fantastic, and something the typical development doesn't involve."

Janna worked with the builder to choose interior colours and upgrades that would really make it her own home.

"You are really building your future and your life with a home like this," she says. "I have led a rather nomadic life while working across Canada and internationally and completing my Master's, it's a big deal to settle down for five years.

"But this program is set up for young professionals who want to settle in Edmonton, and it seems geared for me. It's a good fit for me and where I'm at in my life right now."

Janna will revert to the full mortgage obligation in 5 years, when she expects to have savings and an income situation that will help her manage the transition.

In the meantime she likes the comfort of a new-home warranty on the three bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home, the expectation of a nine-minute commute to downtown Edmonton, and the pleasure of being able to keep her kayak and bicycle with her, rather than parking them at friends' places.

More bonuses: Janna will qualify for financial incentives for her energy-efficient appliances, and she'll be living in a project built by Landmark Homes, a construction company with a "green" reputation for its constructed methods and materials.

Kathryn's Story

Kathryn

What do you do?

I am a health safety coordinator with Epcor, and I am also an EMT with a private ambulance company.

What's your favorite thing about your new neighbourhood?

I like the neighbourhood because it is very central and close to many amenities; the hospital, the police station, the fire hall, grocery stores, malls and libraries. Plus it is close to my daughter's school and the new LRT system will be close by in about 5 years.

My favorite thing about my/our life?

I have a sense of independence and accomplishment from owning my first home! It feels like my daughter and I have really made it - that we are able to get our own house - it is a big sense of accomplishment for me.

What should people know about the first place program?

The First Place Program is for everyday people. It's not a certain clientele in the First Place program - it's every walk of life. I was living in my parent's house thinking about saving up the money and going to the traditional route of owning my own home and then I found this on the Internet.

It was karma; everything was lining up. Being able to have my own home - that just opens up so many more doors and possibilities of where I can go and what I can do.

What are the benefits of buying in a First Place Program neighbourhood?

You get a sense of belonging and a collective feeling that you are in a similar situation; you've all risen to the challenge and have the same sort of accomplishment in getting this home. It gives you a sense of camaraderie.

Strategy

City Council approved 20 First Place program sites in 2006 as part of Edmonton’s long term multi-pronged housing strategy. The program is meant to help create a wider range of housing options to address our city’s growing needs and population. These sites are located throughout the city and will be developed on building sites declared surplus by local school boards.

As of August 2019, 15 of the 20 First Place program sites had been developed.

Pilot Projects

The two communities of Canon Ridge and Greenview were selected in July 2008 to launch the first two sites of the program. All units sold, demonstrating the need for such a program in Edmonton. Since the program’s launch, many First Place sites have been completed. One approved First Place site, in Dechene, was found to be unsuitable for development due to soil conditions.

Essential for Labour Attraction and Retention

The Program ensures there is a range of entry-level homes available for ownership so Edmonton will continue to be an attractive city in which to invest, work and live. It targets employed first-time Alberta homebuyers with a combined household income of less than $117,000.

The program is important for the City’s long-term ability to attract and retain a wide variety of skilled workers including:

  • Teachers
  • Nurses
  • Tradespeople
  • Police
  • Fire response
  • Social workers
  • Recent post-secondary graduates
  • Service and health industry

Edmonton’s economy is growing and the economic outlook is positive. The need to create new entry-level home ownership opportunities in Edmonton is as valid today as it was when the program was first approved in 2006.

Builders

In the spring of 2012, following a competitive Request for Proposal process, the City selected Rohit Communities and Landmark Group of Builders, to continue development of the First Place Program sites.

Part of the criteria to select these home builders was their public consultation expertise and experience working with communities on new developments. The home builders undertook a detailed review of each site after which the City discussed with the builders how to equitably allocate sites.

For More Information

First Place Homes

Telephone

In Edmonton: 311
Outside Edmonton: 780-442-5311

Email firstplace@edmonton.ca

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