News / Vancouver

Million-dollar view for $375 a month... in Vancouver

From the 350 square-foot corner unit on the top floor of Vancouver’s newest social housing building, the lucky tenant will enjoy million-dollar views of English Bay and the North Shore mountains.

The suite comes with a private bathroom and kitchen, a small table and dresser, a lounge chair and a bed-bug resistant single mattress that’s durable and easy to clean.

Rent is just $375 per month.

More than 1,200 low-income residents applied to live at 1134 Burrard St., the latest of the 14 social housing sites built in partnership between B.C. Housing and the City of Vancouver.

But there are only 141 spots in the approximately $28-million building. It’s slated to open in May, about one year later than scheduled according to the city.

Photo Gallery

  • Raphael McKitrick, environmental services manager, and Nancy Keough, executive director of the Kettle Friendship Society.

  • The layout of a unit on the 16th floor.

  • The main entrance and kitchen of a unit on the 16th floor.

  • The view from a unit on the 16th floor.

  • The view from a unit on the 16th floor.

  • A wheelchair accessible suite on the fifth floor.

  • A wheelchair accessible suite on the fifth floor.

  • A wheelchair accessible suite on the fifth floor.

  • A wheelchair accessible suite on the fifth floor.

  • Common area on the second floor.

  • The lounge.

  • Common area on the second floor.

  • The kitchen.

  • View of the kitchen.

  • The third floor communal garden.

  • Damian Murphy, manager of the Kettle Burrard.

The Kettle Society, which will operate and provide support services at the pet-friendly building, took Metro on a tour Thursday, a day after the preliminary 2014 homeless count results revealed rising numbers of people sleeping on Vancouver’s streets.

These B.C. Housing sites are a major part of the city and provincial strategies to end homelessness. The province provides most of the money, while the city handed over the land and waived property taxes.

Half the people in the building will move in directly off the streets or from shelters, 30 per cent from single room occupancy hotels and 20 per cent who are at risk of homelessness. Thirty units are earmarked for youth under 25 (there’s a Directions youth drop-in centre on the first two floors) and 10 per cent for people with high mental health needs.

Before they move in, their belongings spend two hours in a “bed bug sauna,” a hot room that kills pests, explained the Kettle’s environmental services manager Raphael McKitrick.

The rooms are airtight to prevent bedbugs from moving around, the wood-fibre floors are burn proof, and the heating and water systems meet LEED Gold standards, McKitrick said.

“It's an extremely high-tech building,” McKitrick said, adding there is 24-hour security and surveillance cameras. The idea is that building it right will prevent the building from degrading into the pest infested, dilapidated single room occupancy hotels in the Downtown Eastside.

Moving into this space will change the lives of those selected through the difficult application process, building manager Damian Murphy said. (He personally read every application.)

Murphy knows people will criticize the government for building social housing on high-end real estate when the average Vancouverite could never afford the property. But he argues homeless people deserve a safe, decent, affordable place to live.

“To get to this point, it’s not just like someone slept out on the street for a few weeks and now they’re being gifted with this million-dollar view,” he said. “To get to this point, folks have gone through a lot of struggles, in some cases many years of homelessness followed by many years of living in substandard, inhumane living conditions.”

His team will be doing monthly suite inspections allowable under the Residential Tenancy Act and encourage tenants to participate in the community garden.

“Our focus is to keep this place as beautiful as you see it here today,” he said. “We hope that people will have that sense of ownership and pride and will realize their home can be a sanctuary if it’s decent and clean.”

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