Credit to Author: Dan Fumano| Date: Tue, 10 Sep 2019 00:56:45 +0000
Vancouver council will consider building social housing for those at risk of homelessness throughout the city’s residential neighbourhoods.
The motion, from Coun. Christine Boyle, would direct city staff to explore the possibility of building temporary modular housing in the lower-density residential neighbourhoods that make up most of the city’s land.
In the past two years, Vancouver has built just over 600 units of temporary modular housing, a relatively fast-to-erect and inexpensive kind of prefabricated building, mostly funded by the province.
But the city this year counted 2,223 homeless residents, the highest since it started its annual count. And dozens of homeless people are still in the tent city in Oppenheimer Park, despite B.C. Housing’s efforts to get them into social housing in recent weeks.
Boyle says this illustrates Vancouver’s need for many more units of modular housing, which provide housing with support services for people who had been homeless or at risk of homelessness. But the modular projects are permitted only on land zoned “CD-1” or “comprehensive development” and targeting parcels of land that are pending development or otherwise vacant.
If approved, Boyle’s motion would direct staff to explore opportunities to create temporary modular housing projects in “RS” and “RT” zones, the residential neighbourhoods sometimes referred to as “single-family neighbourhoods.” Although “single-family neighbourhoods” is a misnomer — many of those houses have for years included basement suites and, more recently, laneway houses and duplexes — the neighbourhoods have lower population densities than other parts of the city, and represent the majority of Vancouver land.
Boyle expects there will be opposition to the idea given historical attitudes. But, she said, “I think we’re at a level of desperation in the housing crisis that it is changing, and people are understanding that we need to look at more mixed housing options throughout our city, including in those neighbourhoods.”
“I think it’s critically important that we … build mixed neighbourhoods, where we live in close proximity to people who are not like us. That builds healthier and stronger neighbourhoods,” Boyle said.
The only modular housing project currently in the works for Vancouver is a 58-unit proposal for Vanness Avenue near the Nanaimo SkyTrain station. That property is owned by the city and zoned CD-1, and the planned modular housing project has attracted neighbourhood opposition.
Stephanie Allen, an associate vice-president at B.C. Housing, said she hasn’t been able to read Boyle’s motion, but believes expanding social housing options throughout Vancouver’s neighbourhoods is “the kind of bold, courageous move towards equity that we actually need to see in city planning.”
While Vancouver is in the early stages of creating an updated city-wide plan, the last complete city-wide plan for Vancouver was created in the 1920s. At that time, zoning was largely used as a way to keep certain kinds of people in certain places, said Allen, whose masters thesis examined the historical relationship between urban zoning and racial and class-based segregation.
“Tenement housing, as it used to be called, or multi-family housing was, historically, not allowed in certain districts,” Allen said. “And that kept poor white folks and racialized folks away from people who were white and affluent. And we have that in our city.”
Allen is hosting a “Dialogue for Community Inclusion of Supportive Housing” this Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at Creekside Community Recreation Centre. People interested in attending can register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
If the motion is approved, staff will be directed to conduct research and report to council by the end of this year.