Picondo prepares new approach to infill housing

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Revolutionizing the housing industry is no small feat, but one local startup developer is looking to take on the task.

By Courtney Symons.

Picondo Homes is about to build its first custom condominium in Vanier that it claims will cost its tenants nearly 40 per cent less than other dwellings in the same location.

“Developing to me is not developing to the industry norm,” said CEO Omar Hashem.

The three-unit condo will be built onto an existing house, renovating the aging home up to contemporary building codes and tacking two three-floor units onto the back. Each unit will have an average square footage of 1,200 and an average price of $330,000. Solar panels installed on the roof will generate income that will reduce condo fees to nil.

Construction is set to begin as soon as the ground thaws, and should be completed by September.

The Vanier condo, named the Matisse Project, is just the beginning, Mr. Hashem said.

By purchasing existing homes and redeveloping the space to fit more units, the cost of the home is divided up, construction costs are added in, and tenants will pay much less than the industry standard while Picondo is still able to make a profit.

“You have to tie profit to it, it’s as simple as that,” Mr. Hashem said. “If you’re not going to make profit from it, nobody’s going to do it.”

Picondo’s mission is to provide housing to individuals from any income bracket and to help those customers create custom homes dependent upon their needs, instead of picking out pre-designed units that cost the same amount or more as Picondo can offer.

Feeling good about providing lower-priced housing is only one element of the equation. A cautionary tale exists right next door: the American housing crisis has proved that people buying houses they can’t afford isn’t a good thing, he said.

“I don’t want that to happen in Ottawa because this is where I live and this is what I love,” he said. “If we don’t want the industry to crumble, we have to find innovative ways to come up with a solution.”

“Rather than saying, ‘This is a two-bedroom unit in the Glebe, I can sell it for $500,000,’ if I can sell it for $300,000, I will. If I can make a decent profit on that, I will,” he said.

To help Mr. Hashem with that solution, he teamed up with prototypeD – a local not-for-profit development workshop that brings together designers, artists and inventors with entrepreneurs, community associations and enterprises.

prototypeD’s founder Janek Alford was the architect on the Matisse Project, and the pair plan to continue working together in the future.

Mr. Hashem discussed his company at a prototypeD showcase hosted at the Museum of Nature on Friday. The event highlighted the achievements of some of the companies affiliated with the workshop.