British Columbia

City of Vancouver approves Marpole modular housing project for the homeless

After several weeks of heated protests and meetings, the City of Vancouver has approved a modular housing development for the homeless in Marpole.

Proposal had divided the community; with the location and consultation prime concerns

The modular housing units are slated to go on a plot of land owned by Onni at 59th Avenue and Heather Street. (Google Streetview)

After several weeks of heated protests and meetings, the City of Vancouver has approved a modular housing development for the homeless in Marpole.

Director of planning Gil Kelley said a conditional approval has been given for the project, which will house 78 people who are currently on the street or living in shelters. 

"The conditions placed on this approval are specifically designed to address and alleviate concerns we've heard from the local residents," said Kelley in a statement.

"The City of Vancouver has a longstanding history of successfully integrating housing for vulnerable residents into neighbourhoods across our city; I'm confident this project will be no exception."

The modular homes will be built across the street from two schools, one for elementary students. That fact, along with the lack of consultation before the city announced plans to build the modular homes, were the focus of a series of protests from some in the community. 

Under the conditions, B.C. Housing will have to give periodic reports to the city. A community advisory group including local parents will meet regularly. 

It's part of a larger plan by the city to build 600 temporary modular housing units on various underused or vacant sites. The province has committed $66 million to the project.

Lessons learned

Kelley said he spoke extensively with neighbourhood residents, community leaders, schools representatives, and people on both sides of the ongoing debate about the development.

He said that when handling future projects, he'll start those conversations earlier in the process.

"Not wasting time in getting the VSB and the school leaders there to convene a conversation with the community and with the owners and operators of the facility — to keep that conversation going and get suggestions on the table," he said.

"We don't want to see a long period of people wondering what's happening."

Kathleen Llewellyn-Thomas, the city's general manager of community, also said that improving communication will be a focus area for future housing projects.

"We realized that we moved very quickly on this, and it'll be our goal on future sites to make sure that we've done some more careful communications with the school board and non-profits," she said.

"Have a little slower rollout, to make sure people don't feel surprised. That's a lesson learned for sure."

The city hopes the first building is up February 2018. 

With files from Justin McElroy

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