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Refugee attends open house at Downtown Eastside affordable housing facility

Click to play video: 'Innovative DTES housing project'
Innovative DTES housing project
WATCH: We're getting an exclusive first look at a new downtown eastside community housing development that's being described as the template for how it should be done. Jennifer Palma reports – Apr 27, 2024

An open house at a long-promised social housing building was held on Saturday.

Bob and Michael’s Place is slated to open this spring and has 231 independent living homes alongside an integrated health centre.

One of those at the open house was Iranian refugee Atti Houshangi, who moved to Vancouver about a year ago.

She has been living in a low-barrier shelter.

“I’m so excited, the building is so beautiful. I’m really happy I’m here,” Houshangi said.

Houshangi is a prospective tenant for Bob and Michael’s Place.

The new Downtown Eastside 10-storey facility offers micro suites, studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom suites.

The driving force behind Bob and Michael’s Place was the need to build a community of support and kinship.

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Click to play video: 'Social housing waitlists grow in B.C.'
Social housing waitlists grow in B.C.

“We’ve spent 13 years trying to create a place that exhibits care for others and how we can help uplift other people’s lives,” Carol Lee said, with Vancouver Chinatown Foundation.

Carol Lee’s father, Bob Lee, and her father’s friend Michael Audain, had a vision to build homes for those who need affordable and subsidized housing.

“(But) it’s not just for housing in this area … I think what we’re trying to do is show what can be a model for social housing in Canada — the new standard. And for our project, we want to call it community housing because it took a whole community of people that cared enough to create this housing,” Carol Lee said.

It took countless partners but it got built, and it’s set to soon welcome home new residents.

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“I think we can use this as a template for other projects … I mean there are so many community partners and corporate partners here that really have a strong voice,” Doug Aason said, EMBERS director of business development.

EMBERS is a community partner and is a registered Canadian charity that is involved in the Downtown Eastside community.

The site has a complicated history.

In 2016, it was the site of a long-running homeless encampment that was ultimately cleared after the city secured a court injunction.

That same year, then-mayor Gregor Robertson promised homeless advocates the lot would be used to develop social housing with 100 per cent of units held at the shelter rate.

The project’s rezoning was approved in 2018.

But under the next city council it evolved to include half the number of shelter-rate units after the city said it couldn’t afford to subsidize the units alone.

Currently, the building is in the process of taking applicants who wish to live in the facility, with more than 650 people applying so far.

Click to play video: 'Milestone for Vancouver’s Little Mountain project'
Milestone for Vancouver’s Little Mountain project

— with files from Simon Little, Emily Lazatin

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