Construction begins on modular housing for Surrey’s homeless

The notorious "Whalley Strip." .
The notorious "Whalley Strip." . Global News

Construction is underway on 160 modular housing units for the homeless who are currently living in tents on Surrey’s so-called “Whalley Strip.”

There are three sites under construction, all in close proximity to the notorious stretch of 135 A Street.

MORE: ‘Whalley Strip’ can be cleaned up in 6 months with modular housing, ‘tough love’: councillor

One is located at 10662 King George Blvd., the second is at 13550 105 Ave, while the third is being built at 13425 and 13455 107A Ave.

WATCH: Modular housing program for Surrey gets mixed reviews

Modular housing program for Surrey gets mixed reviews
Modular housing program for Surrey gets mixed reviews

Surrey bylaw manager Jas Rehal said the units should be move-in ready by late spring.

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“Once the homes are operational with our providers we’ll finalize the plan and we’ll have people moved from the streets into these homes,” he said.

READ MORE: Surrey to get 160 units of modular housing by ‘early spring’

“We are talking to people, the service providers are talking to people, and letting them know this is coming and giving them updates on the situation. Once we’re closer to a date we’ll have more discussion with them.”

The City of Surrey says the temporary units are a stopgap measure, which will eventually be replaced by 250 units of permanent affordable housing.

The modular units have individual rooms with private bathrooms, meal service, counselling and medical offices, along with 24 hour staffing and employment and life skills programming.

However, community members have given a frosty response to the modular projects’ design.

At an open house to show off the new facilities back in January, one homeless advocate told Global News the housing looked to be “highly institutionalized, a box and a bathroom,” comparing it to a Downtown Eastside single room occupancy (SRO) hotel.

READ MORE: Little positive interest from community at modular housing preview in Surrey

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As to what the city will do if homeless people who are currently camping on the Whalley Strip refuse to move into the housing, Rehal said the city is taking a wait and see approach.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we need to, but we don’t anticipate that problem,” he said.

According to the 2017 Metro Vancouver homeless count, Surrey has the second-largest homeless population in the region, estimated at around 600 people. About 200 of those people are believed to be living on the street.