Vancouver city council is set to vote on a grant to support the construction of a 12-unit housing development in the Downtown Eastside made from former shipping containers.
A report going before city council on Tuesday (April 17) recommends that a grant of up to $92,000 be approved toward the construction of the self-contained units at Jackson Avenue and Alexander Street.
The development will consist of two, three-storey multiple dwelling buildings constructed from modified shipping containers. Half of the 12 self-contained units will house marginalized women, in connection with Atira Women’s Resource Society’s adjacent Imouto House program.
Janice Abbott, the CEO of Atira, said the six units will house elder women from the community as part of an “inter-generation” component of the supportive housing project.
“We’ll be looking for elder women tenants who are from community who are stable, and who are interested in mentoring, working with the young women at Imouto,” Abbott told the Straight by phone.
Atira’s Imouto House program is designed for young women in the Downtown Eastside who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The transitional housing program currently has about 13 tenants, said Abbott.
The program drew opposition when it was initially proposed from some community members and organizations that argued young, vulnerable women should be housed outside the Downtown Eastside.
Abbott noted the program was intended for women who are already living in the low-income community. She added the program has been “far more successful” than anticipated.
“In the eight months since it’s been open, we’ve had two young women reunite with their families and go home to their home communities—women who had been down in the Downtown Eastside both of them for more than a year,” she said.
Half of the 12 units in the new modular housing complex will be rented out at the shelter component of welfare, while the other half will be rented at just under market rent, likely to people that work in the community, according to Abbott.
Vision Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang said while the building will be constructed from shipping containers, the units will be like regular suites.
“They’ve used the shells and you know reconfigured them, moved them around a bit, to create actual units, and it looks very funky too,” he said.
“It’s not a shipping container, it’s just walls that have been reconfigured, so it’s liveable—and that was a real key for us to support this…it’s got to feel like a home.”
The development application for the 12-unit building was approved by the city’s development permit board on January 23, 2012.
Mayor Gregor Robertson expressed his support for the project in a news release today (April 12).
“This new housing project will provide safe, supportive housing that is desperately needed for some of our most marginalized women in Vancouver,” he said in the release. “This is the kind of creative housing partnership we need in Vancouver, and I’m hopeful that City Council will unanimously support it next week.”
Depending on final approvals on the project, Abbott expects the modular housing units to be available by the summer.