Vancouver will soon see a new type of social housing for disadvantaged women — an apartment complex made out of shipping containers.

The structure — the first of its kind in Canada — will occupy a currently empty lot at Jackson Avenue and Alexander Street in the Downtown Eastside.

Suites made from the containers will cost about $85,000 per unit, a fraction of the cost of constructing a new apartment unit in a standard building.

The container development will consist of six self-contained suites, each with a kitchen and full bathroom. The units will be fully insulated and will each have a floor-to-ceiling window.

"They'll be stylized and they'll definitely be funky but we didn't want to disguise them," said Janice Abbott, of the Atira Women's Resources Society, which is managing the project.

There will be two units per floor, and each unit will be about 320 square feet in size.

Vancouver city councillor Kerry Jang, a proponent of modular housing, said he supports the project, as long as the units are liveable.

"This is an issue I've been very concerned about [is] liveability," said Jang. "I mean, as soon as you say the word 'container,' people think you're just warehousing people."


An artist's rendering shows how the container-housing units could look in their Downtown Eastside location. ((City of Vancouver))

Despite the concept, residents won't feel boxed in, said project supervisor James Weldon.

"We're putting two containers next to each other and then splitting them down the middle to create a more traditional layout for a small bachelor suite," Weldon said. "So once you're inside the unit, you won't know its a container."

The housing units are expected to be ready for occupancy by Sept. 1

With files from the CBC's Tim Weekes and Mike Clarke