New Housing Project Puts Students and the Environment First
Going green is by no means a new concept, but one local company has found an innovative way to incorporate greener living with affordable student housing.
“We have always built houses that we would want to have our own children stay in if they were still in university,” says Henry Svec, CEO of Greener Project Developments Inc., a small, family owned and run real estate company that strives to provide affordable, yet superior and environmentally friendly living opportunities.
The idea for the company began as a means for Svec and his wife, Mary, to help their three sons while they completed their university education. He says every parent wants to know their children are safe and comfortable while they venture out on their own for the first time. So, the Svecs found a way to not only provide this opportunity to students, but to also do so in a way that helped the environment.
For instance, Svec says, “Greener [Project Developments] has been installing solar power to its rentals since the early 2000s and has plans to continue this initiative.”
Greener Project’s newest development is in Antigonish, just a short walk away from St. Francis Xavier University. “We were able to purchase about one-and-a-half acres … and work with the contractor and the local municipality … to get amazingly quick approvals on everything,” says Svec, who adds that he was very impressed with the speed and ease of the approval and construction process, which is why the new development will be up and running this spring.
“These new developments are going to be two-plexes, so they look like a house. There will be six students on each side and every bedroom also has its own full bathroom,” he explains. “That land backs onto a really beautiful, natured area, so each house is built on almost half an acre.”
Svec says he and his family envisioned this development and others they plan in the future to be like a little community within itself where the students truly feel like it is their home away from home. Svec even offers residents free exercise coaching.
“I have a company called Exercise MD.ca and we provide free access to our tenants, so they can exercise and stay healthy with a coach as part of their tenancy,” he explains. “We are pretty excited about doing different things for our tenants and for students especially, so they can have someone else they can reach out to … even though it’s a coach, it’s still a real person they can build a relationship with, so those students will have that connection while they are away from home.”
The Antigonish building opens April 1st and although it is fully rented, Svec is already working on other developments.
“We are planning to break ground on a similar project in Wolfville, about an eight-minute walk from Acadia,” Svec says. While they are currently waiting on a few zoning changes, he says the existing building they are renovating for students has an amazing ocean view and beautiful hardwood floors. “I’d love to be able to look at that view all day long,” he jokes.
Like the Antigonish build, the Wolfville complex sits on just over an acre of land. “We expect to have a building with six and six or three and three [units on each side] … once we see the demand, we will have a better idea of what we need to do. But the plan is to build as many units as we can on that site,” he says.
The cost to students is well within the range of other student accommodations, says Svec, who adds, however, each unit comes with high speed internet, an exercise membership and coaching, a private bath and once a student rents a unit, the price remains the same while they are there. So, if they are there three, four years, it will stay the same. I think parents need to have that stability as well. We don’t bump rent every year just because you stay.”
Safety is a huge concern for Svec, who says they made sure to use commercial grade fire safety measures that are connected directly to the fire department. We also have an on-site manager that is always available. As we grow and move into building more of these buildings we will add more technology and include things that ensure the internal environment is always safe and comfortable, that sort of thing.”
Greener Project Development is also in the HRM. “We have an Air B and B near the city called the Mountain House. It is beautiful, and fifty five steps to the front door. We have a lot beside it that we may develop in the future and some other multiplexes in Halifax that aren’t currently student tenants at this time, but we are always looking for places that we can use,” Svec adds.
Joshua, Henry’s son and a partner in the business also works with students to help them find suitable housing through his property management company, TreePad Property Management. “He does an amazing job of understanding the needs of the students and helping them find a great place to live and learn,” he says.
Svec also envisions creating a shared housing project for seniors who are widowed or on their own and still want the feel of having their own home, but in a community type setting. “With today’s technology, there really is no reason that seniors can’t stay in place forever.” He adds that one of the company’s long-term goals is to even have a home in which half of a building is used for seniors and the other half for students who want to help seniors, a sort of multi-generational community.
“It’s a dream, but it can also be very easily created. I firmly believe you can provide every service you need in the home with the technology we have today.”