A proposal to build a seven-storey residential building out of shipping containers is raising concerns with residents in Vancouver's Strathcona neighbourhood.

The building is slated to be built at 420 Hawks Avenue, right next to the Atira Women's Resource Society, which will also manage the new property. The complex will be home to low-income mothers, their children, and other female relatives. 

But that is drawing the ire of  the Strathcona Residents' Association, which says it not only doesn't fit the community vision, but it's also dangerous.

 Elana Zysblat.

Strathcona Residents Association spokesperson Elana Zysblat says the proposed building does not fit with the community plan. (CBC)

"The local area plan talks about making this area livable, sustainable, safe, supportive. The design of this building and the notions behind it are none of those things," said spokesperson Elana Zysblat.

Specifically, the group highlights several concerns with the proposal:

  • "Unlivable configuration of densely packed tiny units, limited outdoor space for residents, no parking and no on-site support."
  • "Massively out of scale with surrounding dwellings on Hawks Avenue.
  • "No commercial space at street level."
  • "Partially blocks mountain views from McLean Park."
  • "No commitment to truly affordable rent rates."
  • "Poor track record of management at existing adjacent applicant-run housing."

Resident Paige Gardner say she's noticed a change in the neighbourhood since Atira moved in a number of years ago, and she's worried an expansion would mean more problems.

"The feeling of being unsafe, the amount of drug users we see in our alley have increased, the prostitutes just on this corner in front of the building," are some of the changes Gardner says she has noticed.

Atira's response

Shipping container housing

The shipping container housing development at Vancouver's 502 Alexander Street was established in 2013. (Atira Women's Resource Society)

A spokesperson for Atira said this is the first it's hearing of these complaints.

"No one has approached us in the past eight or nine years about this, so to me it's odd that it's coming up now," said spokesperson Janice Abbott.

She says Atira has, in fact, listened to residents' concerns and made changes to the complex design. 

There will be 21 suites in total, 14 of which will be two-bedroom units. Abbot says the original proposal included about 27 units. 

The complex will also now feature retail and community space on the ground floor, according to Abbot.

The city has yet to set a date for a public hearing on the project.

Atira opened a similar but smaller six-unit housing complex made from recycled shipping containers in 2013 on Alexander Street.


To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: Atira defends Strathcona housing proposal.

With files from The Early Edition