‘Shame’: Vancouver modular housing residents protest planned removal next month

Click to play video: 'Vancouver housing advocates urge permanent solutions to modular units'
Vancouver housing advocates urge permanent solutions to modular units
Temporary modular housing is just that -- temporary. So even though residents who have called Vancouver's Larwill Place home for the past few years knew their time there was finite, there is stress as they move to different accommodations. As Travis Prasad reports, critics say temporary housing for residents need to be made into permanent homes – Jun 20, 2023

Residents of a modular housing site in downtown Vancouver are protesting its planned removal at the end of next month, when the lease for the land they’re on expires.

For five years, the 98 units at Larwill Place on Cambie Street have offered homes with to low-income tenants at risk of homelessness. Those tenants were informed last year that the lease would expire on July 31 and have all been offered other housing options.

The Our Homes Can’t Wait Coalition and Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), however, are demanding the City of Vancouver of BC Housing halt the planned demolition, which will ultimately result in the displacement of the Larwill Place community.

“Housing is at threat in this city. There are over 700 units of modular housing across Vancouver and the leases are running up,” said Vince Tao, an organizer with both organizations.

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“If the city does not choose to renew those leases, those are over 700 lives that will be displaced again by the city’s own choice to house the rich and not the poor. We say, shame!”

Click to play video: 'City of Vancouver, B.C. government partner to build housing units for residents of tent encampments'
City of Vancouver, B.C. government partner to build housing units for residents of tent encampments

In a written statement, the City of Vancouver said Larwill Place is located on municipal land that has been slated for redevelopment for the new Vancouver Art Gallery, set to open in 2027.

“We will work closely with each resident to ensure they are supported to move into other long-term, affordable homes,” the city wrote.

“These homes were always intended to be a temporary, but valuable opportunity to address the growing and urgent homelessness crisis which is impacting thousands of Vancouver residents.”

According to Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon, all of the current tenants at Larwill Place have been offered other accommodations in single-room occupancy (SRO) hotels, modular units, or market rentals with provincial funding supplements, depending on their needs.

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“Many have taken it and we continue to urge those that are still there to take the options that we’re providing them,” he told Global News on Tuesday.

“This site was always meant to be temporary so we are moving people to different housing opportunities throughout Vancouver. We are providing people options in Vancouver because we know people want to be close to community.”

Click to play video: 'Experts say more ‘wraparound’ housing needed in B.C.'
Experts say more ‘wraparound’ housing needed in B.C.

BC Housing has not yet identified a new site for the modular housing units that currently make up Larwill Place, but is in “active conversations,” according to Kahlon.

Gilles Cyrenne, president of the Carnegie Community Centre Association, said he’s “scared” that won’t happen quickly enough or happen at all.

“We don’t want to lose any housing. We have about 3,000 homeless people in the city, about 2,000 in the Downtown Eastside,” he said.

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“At Carnegie, we’re working with other groups to develop a plan to end homelessness, but until we have a plan and a way to implement that plan, we can’t lose what we have. We have to keep what housing we already have in place.”

Lance Weinert, who lives at Larwill Place, said his modular unit has spared him from homelessness.

“It kind of sucks to leave,” he said, his voice wavering. “You build a community, you get to know people, your neighbours.

“I don’t understand why we have to go through this.”

Click to play video: '‘Some of them are literally zombies;’ Residents being cleared from Abbotsford’s troubled Lonzo Park and Ride'
‘Some of them are literally zombies;’ Residents being cleared from Abbotsford’s troubled Lonzo Park and Ride

The modular units at Larwill Place, which are about 320 square feet and have bathrooms and kitchenettes, have been called a favourable alternative to SROs and encampments, where health and safety are a persistent challenge.

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Kahlon said the province is committed to finding a new home for Larwill’s modular units, and may consider neighbouring communities.

“If another site became available from the City of Vancouver, we’d move them there,” he said.

In its March DTES Provincial Partnership Plan, the province recognized that for many, “self-contained modular units with supports are preferable to SROs or shelter options.” That same month, the Ministry of Housing announced 241 newly-renovated SRO units would become available by the end of June, funded by BC Housing and operated by non-profit funders.

Another 89 new units of supportive housing are also set to become available to DTES residents in the coming weeks in a pair of temporary modular housing buildings on Western and Ash streets.

Kahlon said Tuesday that 92 units have opened and the province is on track to meet its commitment by the end of the month.

Click to play video: 'Renovated SROs welcomed as part of DTES plan, but advocates call for more'
Renovated SROs welcomed as part of DTES plan, but advocates call for more

In April, the B.C. government announced a multi-billion-dollar, four-point housing plan aimed at cracking down on soaring real estate prices, increasing construction and creating more rental units.

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The province also committed $14.8 million in new funds to support non-profit housing providers on Tuesday, $10.2 million of which has already been distributed to help “replenish reserves and provide economic stability.”

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