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Temporary modular housing proposed for South Vancouver’s homeless

City plans short-term housing for early 2018

Parents protest the building of two temporary modular housing units beside three schools. Photo: Becca Clarkson
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Reported by Becca Clarkson

With temporary housing for Vancouver’s growing homeless population planned on a South Vancouver site that will be redeveloped in the next five to 10 years, those depending on that shelter will find themselves displaced once again.

Ethel Whitty, director of homeless services for the City of Vancouver, hopes more social housing will be built so that people can move into more permanent digs.

The Onni Group of Companies is allowing the City of Vancouver, B.C.’s government and the Vancouver Housing Agency to build the two temporary modular housing structures in question at 650 West 57th Ave. this January.

Impermanent promises

Charles Maddison, an architect with Boni Maddison Architects, said using the space for temporary housing is easier to justify when it’s not going to be there forever.

“The city is trying to find sites where they will be used for the temporary housing for a certain number of years,” Maddison said. “And then the buildings will be disassembled and moved to new sites when those sites are redeveloped.”

According to Breanne Whyte, community liaison for temporary modular housing, the short-term aim is to get people off the street by winter.

“It was an exceptionally cold winter last year…and the long-term goal will be transitioning people to more temporary homes once they’ve kind of gotten the support they need,” Whyte said.

Momentary affordability

But Whitty, who was unsure they would be able to extend the modular housing on 57th Avenue beyond five years, said “the hope and plan” is to have over 5,000 units of this kind of affordability — even though it means some people will be displaced again when Onni builds its two residential care facilities.

“Whenever a building is shut down, it will have to be that people are being placed elsewhere,” she said. “There’s a lot of social housing coming on in the next five to 10 years in the city. As new social housing gets built, people can move into more permanent social housing.”

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