News / Vancouver

Vancouver zeros in on sites for affordable modular housing

Up to 120 units of modular housing at underutilized sites will help fill the gap until more permanent affordable housing is built in Vancouver, says mayor.

Atira Women's Resource Society's shipping container housing development at 502 Alexander Street.

Jennifer Gauthier/For Metro

Atira Women's Resource Society's shipping container housing development at 502 Alexander Street.

Up to 120 units of temporary, modular housing will be built on two city sites early next year, Mayor Gregor Robertson announced.

The city says it will soon issue a Request for Proposals for modular housing at two city-owned sites awaiting redevelopment at 1500 Main Street (currently an urban orchard) and 1060 Howe Street (on a raised parkade).

An expected mix of container and pre-fabricated modular housing will provide homes for people on fixed or low incomes from two to five years.

Rents for the 280-or-so square foot microsuites (which will contain a kitchen and bathroom) will start at the shelter rate of $375.

The announcement comes a day after the city released its 2015 Housing and Homelessness Strategy Report Card, which says the city’s 10-year housing plan is in need of a midlife revamp because of the “unprecedented” rise in housing prices throughout the city.

“We’ve had some good success on a number of points along the housing spectrum but there are still weak links and there are still enormous pressures on the housing market and a lack of truly affordable housing,” Robertson said Thursday. “So we need more types of housing, more innovation across the housing markets and certainly, for those on low and fixed incomes, we need better solutions.

“Modular housing is an approach that fills one of those gaps … but ultimately we need to building permanent housing to make up the overall needed.”

Mukhtar Latif, Vancouver’s chief housing officer, say modular housing is attractive because it can be delivered quickly, is cost-efficient, and can be transferred easily to other sites once the land they sit on is ready for redevelopment.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and the city's chief housing officer Mukhtar Latif announce plans for a modular housing pilot program at 1500 Main Street on Thursday, May 12, 2016.

Matt Kieltyka/Metro

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and the city's chief housing officer Mukhtar Latif announce plans for a modular housing pilot program at 1500 Main Street on Thursday, May 12, 2016.

“We can create new affordable units to address some of our more immediate affordable housing needs,” said Latif. “It’s an interesting idea to explore ways in which we can use underutilized land while it is waiting for development.”

Despite Vancouver’s well-document affordability challenges, Robertson said the city is determined to find a solution.

“We will not back down on that in the face of an affordability crunch,” he said. “We want to be sure we’re pursuing a wide range of options in terms of housing, making sure we’re creating opportunities for people to live here in the city regardless of their income or their situation.”

Recycled shipping containers have already been used as modular housing in Vancouver, including at Atira Women’s Resource Society’s 12-unit container housing development at 502 Alexander Street, which opened in 2013.

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