It was 2009 when the bulldozers rolled in and demolished 224 units of 1950’s era low-income housing at Vancouver’s Little Mountain site.
Critics at the time accused the province of acting without a plan for redevelopment; nine years later, just one building with 54 units for seniors has been built on the acres of prime real estate next to Queen Elizabeth Park.
Now, the nearly vacant site has been selected as the home of the City of Vancouver’s latest temporary modular housing project for the homeless.
The city is proposing a three-storey, 50 unit structure at the East 37th Avenue site, which Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson says will house some of the city’s most vulnerable.
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“There are staff in these facilities, in these new buildings making sure the residents have the support they need, whether it’s health or social supports. So there are resources to support people and make sure they are getting the care they need,” Robertson said.
The modular housing project still needs to go through the development permit application process, and the city says it will be holding community information sessions in the weeks to come.
The new modular housing is in addition to the long-delayed replacement of social housing at the site.
A land sale deal had been in the works since 2007, after the federal government transferred it to the province. But the B.C. Liberal government didn’t close deal with Holborn Properties Inc. for $300 million and a pledge to replace the social housing and add 232 new units until 2013. The City of Vancouver finally rezoned the property in 2016.
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Holborn plans to redevelop the site to include 282 units of social housing and 1,300 units of market housing. The more than 700 residents of the site who were evicted nine years ago will be given first right of return for the social housing units.
Phase one of that project, which will include 164 units of social housing, is slated to begin construction later this year.
Ingrid Steenhuisen lives on the property’s single social complex for seniors at the East 37th Avenue site. She questions why the city is proposing 50 modular homes right next to her building, when people have been waiting more than a decade for social housing to be rebuilt on the site.
She said adding vulnerable people from the streets is giving some anxiety.
“We’ve got people with heart conditions, PTSD, schizophrenia, people in wheelchairs, they already feel vulnerable and this is causing additional stress that none of them need.”
-With files from Jeremy Lye
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