News / Vancouver

Marpole site chosen for Vancouver's second modular housing

Neighbours concerned about needles and crime, but city staff say building will house homeless from the neighbourhood.

Mayor Gregor Robertson announced two new modular housing buildings will be built to house homeless people in Vancouver's Marpole neighbourhood.

Jen St. Denis / Metro Order this photo

Mayor Gregor Robertson announced two new modular housing buildings will be built to house homeless people in Vancouver's Marpole neighbourhood.

A press conference to announce two modular housing sites to house homeless people in Vancouver’s Marpole neighbourhood was met by residents who were angry there has been no consultation with the community on the project.

The city plans to build two modular housing buildings with 78 units on the site of a future condo development by Onni, at 59th Ave. and Heather Street. The site is near the Dogwood Lodge, a complex care facility for seniors, and is across the street from Sir Wilfred Laurier Elementary School, in the mainly single-family home neighbourhood.

The city and B.C. Housing hope to have the new housing completed by January.

“This is a blindside for us,” said Mike Burdick, a resident who has organized other community members. “We’d like to have a voice.”

Residents received word of the plan yesterday; the city plans to hold an open house next week on Nov. 2.

Burdick said people are especially worried because the buildings will be right across the street from the elementary school.

“When you go around the city and you see homeless people, some of them can be violent, some of them can be just great,” Burdick said. “But we don’t want to take that chance.”

Moshan Torki said he is concerned the new residents will mean discarded needles, which he fears children may pick up.

Moshan Torki speaks to Mayor Gregor Robertson about his concerns the new modular housing will bring discarded needles to the neighbourhood.

Jen St. Denis/Metro

Moshan Torki speaks to Mayor Gregor Robertson about his concerns the new modular housing will bring discarded needles to the neighbourhood.

Mayor Gregor Robertson listened to residents’ concerns, but he said the growing numbers of homeless and the approaching winter are pushing the city to act quickly to try to house everyone who is currently on the street, either in the temporary modular housing or in shelters, emergency shelters and warming centres in community centres.

Many of the homeless people who will be housed in the new, temporary housing will be people from the neighbourhood, said Ethel Whitty, director of homeless services for the City of Vancouver. The first floors of the buildings will likely house people with disabilities.

“I don’t see the residents of this building particularly raising the crime rate,” she said, adding that she and other city staff plan to meet with local residents on Oct. 30 to listen to concerns and give more information.

While many Vancouver residents may associate homelessness with Vancouver’s downtown core, there are many homeless people in Marpole, said Andrew Halladay, a reverend at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church. The church feeds around 60 to 80 people in a three-meals-a-week program — all of whom live in the neighbourhood.

“There are a lot of people that end up sleeping in our parkade,” Halladay said. “I would say over the course of a year maybe 20 people find their way in there for one or two nights.

“There are a lot of people I know who sleep on park benches. Last winter, it was so cold, people are feeling really anxious.”

Halladay described them as “sad — and feeling abandoned. There are some people who are in their 20s and some people are in their 70s.”

City council recently approved a bylaw change to allow temporary modular housing to be built without going through the long public hearing process, as long as the land in question does not have to be rezoned.

The provincial government recently committed to fund to build and operate 600 modular housing units in the City of Vancouver. With provincial and federal funding, Vancouver opened its first modular housing building at Main and Terminal last February. The housing, common in oil and gas work camps, is relatively quick and less expensive to build.

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