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Vancouver councillor seeks modular housing in residential neighbourhoods

A temporary modular housing project at 220 Terminal Ave. in Vancouver.
A temporary modular housing project at 220 Terminal Ave. in Vancouver. Global News

A Vancouver city councillor is pushing a new policy that would allow the construction of temporary modular housing in virtually all residential areas of the city.

Under current zoning regulations, modular housing is only allowed in areas zoned CD-1, excluding areas zoned for detached homes, duplexes and apartments.

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One City Coun. Christine Boyle is bringing a motion to council asking for staff to look at options to change that.

Boyle said it’s the city’s moral responsibility to do everything it can to reduce homelessness in the city.

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“Right now the land we’ve looked at for temporary modular housing is relatively limited,” she said.

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“Knowing we have more than 2,000 neighbours who are homeless, and that we’re going to need at some point relocate the existing housing, I think it’s important we think ahead and see where else we can put this type of housing in the city.”

Vancouver’s latest homeless count found 2,223 homeless people in the city, the highest level since 2002 and the result of four consecutive years of increases.

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Boyle’s motion asks city staff to look for potential sites for modular housing on private or city-owned land that is zoned for residential development.

If such opportunities exist, it asks for staff to look at tools to deliver that housing, including changes to the Vancouver Charter that would allow the city’s planning director to relax residential zoning rules in cases of “low-cost housing for persons receiving assistance.”

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Changes to the Vancouver Charter would require action from the provincial government.

Boyle’s motion would also call on city staff to look for new opportunities to create permanent homes for low-income residents and families in all parts of the city.

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That could include developing a city strategy to acquire residential-zoned land, and see the city buy residential properties to use, initially, for modular housing, and later for permanent rental housing.

“I’m asking for city staff to do a scan of more of the land in the city to see what may be possible for temporary modular housing as well as longer term for permanent low-income housing across the city,” said Boyle.

The motion also calls for the city to look into the possibility of creating family-sized modular housing, noting that the current system prioritizes singles.

It also asks the city to look at the possibility of pre-approving social and non-market housing projects city-wide, to speed up their development.

Boyle’s motion is scheduled to go before council on Tuesday.

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