Vancouver city council has passed a motion that could 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.
The motion brought forward by One City Coun. Christine Boyle asks staff to find options to change that, and to look for potential sites on private or city-owned land that is zoned for residential development.
It also asks for a similar exploration for creating more permanent low-income housing throughout those same zoned areas.
The latter request passed unanimously Wednesday, which Boyle said she was particularly happy to see her fellow councillors support.
“Right now it’s much harder to build affordable, low-income and multi-family housing than it is to build a big single-family home, and that affects the kind of housing that gets built,” she said.
“We want to support those non-profits and others who are trying to build that housing but are facing a variety of barriers and financial challenges in doing so.”
WATCH: (Aug. 7, 2018) Controversial modular housing development helping those in need
Staff are now tasked with looking 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.”
Changes to the Vancouver Charter would require action from the provincial government.
Plans for more permanent low-income housing could also 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.
Boyle said staff will return to council with their report by the end of the year, but have been urged to make it a priority due to the city’s ongoing homelessness issues.
The recommendations within the report would then be the subject of public hearings in the new year before being approved by council.
Despite outcries from certain neighbourhoods regarding past modular housing projects, Boyle says she’s heard overwhelming support from the community for her motion.
WATCH: (Nov. 11, 2017) Marpole modular housing protest
“A lot of people are saying, ‘I welcome this in my neighbourhood, this would be a good fit for my neighbourhood. That’s been really moving to hear,'” she said.
“I’m sure there will be some nervousness and those unsure about people they don’t know moving in … but that will be part of the conversations moving forward.”
Boyle also cited Vancouver police and BC Emergency Health Services statistics that found no notable increase in incidents around contested modular housing projects, including one in Marpole that saw protests from neighbours before it opened in February 2018.
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.
The struggle between the city and its homeless has recently been centred on Oppenheimer Park, where hundreds of people once lived in a tent city that grew throughout the spring and summer.
Dozens of campers were moved into single-room occupancy hotel units last month by city and park board staff.
On Monday, several more people who still call the Downtown Eastside park home staged a protest “tent city” along with their advocates outside City Hall, calling on more solutions to house the homeless.
Boyle said her motion is meant to help them and the 2,000 others throughout the rest of Vancouver.
“We’re all very conscious that the housing situation is dire,” Boyle said. “So as soon as possible, or by the end of this year, we will hopefully have more information to make this happen.”
— With files from Simon Little and Janet Brown