CITY BRIEFS: Vancouver Social Housing To See Big Lift (Finally) This Year

January 26, 2011.

by Scott Daniel | The average price for a home in Vancouver is now $1 million and it’s no secret that finding a place to live is the number one preoccupation in this town. Obviously it’s an even bigger issue for people who don’t have an income or aren’t in a position to pay rent, let alone a mortgage. A dearth of social housing has plagued this city as the 3 levels of government spent the better part of two decades bickering over whose responsibility it is to pay for it.

The tide has turned, however, and the City, province, and a well-funded private organization – Streetohome – are marching ahead with ambitious plans to build and fund 1,575 new supportive housing units, 570 of which are expected to be open by the end of 2011.  The new housing has the potential to change the social landscape as well as the city’s built environment.  This is not your parents’ social housing.  It looks as if we’re finally turning the page on large, de-personalized tenement estates built on cheap tracts of land. The new projects are spread out across the city, built with relatively high quality materials, and are planned to avoid the ghettoizing effects that have been synonymous with public housing projects in the past.

14 Social Housing Sites

The City owns the land, the province pays for the lion’s share of construction and setup ($205 million), and Streetohome kicked in $20 million.

Of the 14 sites, 1005 Station Street will be the first to get up and running.  It’s set to open sometime this month and will have 80 apartments with services coordinated by the Portland Hotel Society.

525 Abbott

525 Abbott is probably the flashiest of the lot, set between Tinseltown and the Chinatown gates on one side, the freshly branded “Crosstown” district on the other, and next to one of Vancouver’s most dramatic buildings, the Sun Tower.  And it’s not just location…525 Abbott looks to be adorned with an awning that doubles as public art.  We’ll wait and see how that turns out.  This one is earmarked for Atira Women’s Resource Society.

1050 Expo Blvd

133 apartments to be run by the 127 Society and St. James Community

590 Alexander St.

139 apartments to be run by the Portland Hotel Society

1st and Main

1st and Main is coming right along and will be 129 apartments run by the Lookout Emergency Aid Society

675 East Broadway

675 East Broadway is 100 (or so) apartments run by the Vancouver Native Housing Society and Broadway Youth Resources Centre.  This one caused some controversy among NIMBYs and others.  In the end it was approved, only with a “haircut”.

1237 Howe St.

110 apartments run by the McLaren Housing Society

606 Powell St.

147 apartments run by RainCity

215 West 2nd Ave

147 apartments run by the Katherine Sanford Housing Society and RainCity.

1134 Burrard St.

141 apartments run by the Kettle Friendship Society and Family Services of Greater Vancouver

7th and Fir

62 apartments run by Katherine Sanford Housing and the Motivation, Power, and Achievement Society.

Karis Place

image via “SFUVancouver” on

Located at 1338 Seymour Street. 105 apartments run by the More than a Roof Housing Society.

Coast Mental Health will be the primary operator of the Dunbar Apartments at 3595 West 17th (51 units) and 337 West Pender (96 units).





The provincial government has also been buying and fixing up old SROs in the downtown eastside.  The Rainier, London, and Pennsylvania have had amazing facelifts and are adding to the resurgence of Gastown and the DTES.  Without sounding like a fucking BC Housing hack (as Mayor Gregor might say), this initiative seems like a win-win: protecting low income housing stock, adding aesthetic appeal, preserving ‘heritage’ buildings, and bringing some – daresay – ‘verve’ (if not vim and vigour) to the neighbourhood.


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