News / Vancouver

Vancouver to announce homeless modular housing sites soon

City hopes provincially funded solution will bring rising homeless rates down.

Modular units are assembled at Vancouver's first temporary modular housing project at 220 Terminal Ave., on Dec. 21, 2016.

Jennifer Gauthier / For Metro

Modular units are assembled at Vancouver's first temporary modular housing project at 220 Terminal Ave., on Dec. 21, 2016.

As new data shows Lower Mainland homeless numbers grew at four times the pace of population growth between 2011 and 2016, the City of Vancouver is preparing to move forward on a plan to build 600 units of temporary modular housing.

City staff will be ready to identify the first three or four specific sites within the next two weeks, and hope to have some of the units ready by mid-winter.

“We really want to talk to those members of the community early," said Kathleen Llewellyn-Thomas, the city’s general manager of community services. "Start identifying the three or four (sites) that we’re thinking about right now, and (announce the sites) once we have finished our analysis.”

Homelessness grew by 30 per cent across Metro Vancouver between 2014 and 2017, and rose the most for seniors over age 55 and aboriginal people. Metro Vancouver mayors have been clear about the link between high real estate prices, soaring rents, increasing evictions — and homelessness.

Out of the 4,211 people counted as homeless in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley in March 2017, half — 2,128 — live in the City of Vancouver. They do not come from somewhere else: 68 per cent of homeless people in Vancouver lived in this city before becoming homeless.

The province has committed to fund the construction and operation of 2,000 units of pre-fabricated modular housing (a faster and less expensive way to build) throughout the province, with 600 of those units identified for Vancouver.

Earlier this year, the city opened a 40-unit modular apartment building at Main and Terminal and had planned to build more on city-owned sites, or on developer-owned sites that are pegged for redevelopment but currently sitting empty. But the city pulled back from a plan to place more modular housing in the Joyce Collingwood neighbourhood after residents expressed concerns about neighbourhood safety.

Last week, city council approved a fast-tracking process, which will exclude the need for public hearings, for modular housing. That quicker process includes commercial or comprehensive development zones throughout the city, but excludes all single-family zones.

The city has fast-tracked a development process for temporary modular housing in commercial (red) and comprehensive development zones (purple) in the city. Click on the image to view a map that shows zoning for the rest of the city.

City of Vancouver

The city has fast-tracked a development process for temporary modular housing in commercial (red) and comprehensive development zones (purple) in the city. Click on the image to view a map that shows zoning for the rest of the city.

While staff are not revealing any hint of possible sites, there is currently a tent city on city-owned land at 1131 Franklin St. As well, social housing is planned for a former tent city site at 58 W. Hastings St., but the site is currently vacant. Although concentrated in the downtown core, CD1 and commercial zones are scattered throughout the city, and staff are looking at locations in all city neighbourhoods, Llewellyn-Thomas said.

The modular housing will be operated by experienced social housing providers, and will include supports for people with mental health, addictions or other needs.

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