British Columbia

Modular housing would benefit downtown Vancouver, says Business Improvement Association

Charles Gauthier, president and CEO of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, says that modular housing in the downtown core could work for both businesses and those looking for shelter.

Charles Gauthier says that modular housing would improve the look of the neighbourhood and help business

A man sleeps in the doorway of an unrented store on Robson Street in downtown Vancouver. (David Horemans/CBC)

The president of the downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association says that modular housing in the city's downtown core would help improve the area for both businesses and those seeking shelter. 

"I suspect that we're going to have some of these modular units in close proximity to our member businesses so we have to play a role in educating and informing them about the positive aspects of doing this," said Charles Gauthier, president and CEO of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association.

"We don't want to be part of the NIMBY movement."

The city of Vancouver plans to build 600 modular housing units with the provincial government committing $66 million dollars towards the project.

Tarps and a tent provide shelter in Cathedral Square in downtown Vancouver. (David Horemans/CBC)

According the latest Metro Vancouver homeless count, the area's homeless population has jumped 30 per cent since 2014.

And Gauthier says that getting those people into housing could be beneficial for nearby businesses.

"It makes a difference. It gets people who are living in the doorways and the alcoves and other location throughout the downtown area and connecting them with people who are offering them services and meals, counselling, treatment."

Gauthier also makes the case that money will be saved on policing, street clean up and hospital visits if more people have shelter.

"We need to tackle this aggressively and that's why we felt it was important to add our voice to this discussion and debate and modular units can be built quite quickly," he said.

And while Gauthier says concerns around drugs use and discarded needles are legitimate, it's more important to look at the positives that providing housing and treatment provide, such as reduced visible homelessness and less panhandling.

"You start to see a change in what the neighbourhood looks like."

With files from The Early Edition