Contributed The Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency opened 40 self-contained suites in February.

40 affordable homes for homeless: cost $3 million

Housing advocate says temporary home project in Vancouver would work in Maple Ridge

Anita Place Tent City could fold in a few days, if people had a place to go – a plaec of their own, to make their own meals, and, with some help, try to sort out their lives.

Housing advocate Ivan Drury, with the Alliance Against Displacement, says it’s possible to do all that at a reasonable cost, and says Vancouver is already providing an actual example of what can be done.

The City of Vancouver opened a 40-unit modular housing structure at 220 Terminal Ave., for a total capital cost of $3 million, working out to about $75,000 for each suite, which contain a bathroom, kitchen and small living space.

The suites are pre-fabricated by Horizon North, then assembled on site. It took from September to February to complete the project.

“The City of Vancouver is looking at expanding that now,” Drury said.

“It then can be disassembled and then re-used elsewhere. It can be used on any city land.”

Other more basic options are Atco-trailer type homes, which can be set up quickly.

“This is the kind of housing that they drop into mining camps,” said Drury.

The project on Terminal Ave. followed the usual formula of the city providing the land, while senior governments came up with the capital costs for the building, helped by private charity.

While Vancouver provided the property, the Canada and Mortgage and Housing Corp.’s affordable rental innovation fund provided most of the money, $1.5 million. The estate of Jimmy Chow put in more than a million dollars, while Vancity credit union donated $100,000.

Four of the units are for physically challenged people. There’s also indoor and outdoor amenity space.

The entire complex is built with the intent that it will be moved because there’s a development application already in process for that location.

Vancouver has offered a total of 20 properties as possible additional locations for affordable housing, creating another 3,500 new homes.

Drury still wants a similar, temporary structure built at 21375 Lougheed Hwy., the controversial location for a proposed shelter that was cancelled last year – until 100 units of permanent housing are built at Anita Place Tent City.

He presented the designs at a news conference last month in front of the Anita Place Tent City on 223rd Street.

Drury maintains that there is enough room on the tent city site for 100 units of supportive, modular housing. The city had intended on creating a neighbourhood park on the property.

For Drury, though, the need for housing, is greater than the need for parks.

The housing crisis is severe, he added.

“Maple Ridge isn’t short on green space.”

According to a City of Vancouver release, modular housing on vacant and underutilized sites pending redevelopment is a “cost-effective way to quickly increase the supply of affordable housing until more permanent housing can be built.”

Coun. Bob Masse said there’s some potential for modular homes, but he doesn’t want Maple Ridge to become a regional centre for the homeless.

“We don’t have all the resources to support that.”

And if new, supportive housing is built, “I don’t believe that will be the disbanding of the camp,” Masse added.

“I get the sense that if we provide 40 units, he’ll make sure there’s another 40 people at Anita Place to fill those 40. We would never get the number down.”

Masse said living in a tent city shouldn’t move people to the top of the list for supportive housing. Maybe other people, perhaps those who’ve been renovicted, could also benefit from such housing.

“I don’t believe, frankly, that people who go into a camp should go to the top of the list for getting housing.”

He wouldn’t agree either if B.C. Housing proposed 100 or 200 units of modular low-barrier housing.

“The solution needs to fit the problem in our community, numerically, and in all other ways, too. Or we will not change the numbers of homeless people on our street, and we’ll further overwhelm our mental health people and our addictions services people and our medical services people. We’d never win.”