Hope will soon have apartments for rent for as low as $425, if a building plan by a Downtown Eastside housing organization goes ahead.
A delegation from the Anhart Housing Society presented an ambitious plan to council last Monday, to construct 40 purpose-built units at 1270 Ryder St., where a funeral home now stands. Council showed their support for the idea, voting to write a general letter of support for affordable housing in Hope.
The housing would be truly affordable, Crystal Wiebe told council. Targeting the lowest income earners possible, the units would range from as low as $425 per month up to $1,000 for larger units.
Wiebe said the organization has put an offer on the property and are currently doing site surveys and other assessments. The zoning of the property is the main hurdle to getting the project built.
“I know the current zoning on the property is not going to give us the density that we need,” Wiebe said.
The property on Ryder St. is currently zoned as institutional and would need to be rezoned, director of community development Jas Gill said.
The building would be a modular housing project with 16 studios, 15 one-bedrooms, six two-bedroom and three three-bedrooms as well as parking and bike parking on the property. Wiebe said 10 per cent of the units would be wheelchair accessible and it would be a pet-friendly building.
A modular housing building could be completed within a year once all permissions are given said Mukhtar Latif, development advisor for Anhart and former chief housing officer at the City of Vancouver.
Hope is facing disappearing affordable rental stock, Wiebe said. As affordable rentals are torn down and replaced with market rentals and condos, people get pushed into homelessness.
With Hope’s rate of homelessness highest it has ever been according to a 2017 regional district survey, Weibe said there is a clear need for affordable rentals.
Wiebe spoke of seniors in Hope who could not be discharged from hospital as there is no place for them to stay, of families looking to move to Hope but forced to relocate elsewhere because of the housing situation.
“I know that there’s a strong need for seniors, there’s a strong need for working poor that just can’t afford to make ends meet and the housing keeps getting farther and farther out of reach,” she said.
Coun. Gerry Dyble agreed there is a need for a continuum of housing in Hope, referring to the range of housing options from emergency shelters to home ownership that are needed to meet the shelter needs of residents.
Coun. Donna Kropp asked about community consultation Anhart plans to engage in.
“Everyone has a difference of opinion, it’s hard to please everybody. But really what we believe in the end is just more information is always better because rumours and fears always abound when people don’t know what to expect,” Wiebe responded. “So we’re very happy to talk with the community. We want a good relationship with the neighbours.”
Wiebe added Anhart has finished some projects which were contentious, most recently the construction of a 78-unit modular housing project in the Vancouver neighbourhood of Marpole set to open this month.
The project met resistance from some residents who said they were not properly consulted by the city. The B.C. Supreme Court ordered protesters to stop blocking the construction of the project in December and in January ruled against a petition the group filed.
The housing Anhart provides is a lot more than just a roof and four walls, Weibe said. The organization connects with existing support services in the community, creates social enterprises for employment and creates programs for tenant wellness and stability.
The presentation last Monday did not come with a financial ask, as the organization finances its project through private donors or Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation money.
“We want financing through private sources or CMHC has some options for affordable housing,” Wiebe said. “Zero sum operating, we don’t want to depend on subsidies. We want the project to be able to run for the life without depending on government subsidies.”
The organization is rebranding from its former name Community Builders and growing, with plans to build 20,000 units total in the next 10 years.