Vancouver is going mobile in its latest approach to end homelessness.
The city is looking for a company to design a series of transportable housing units aimed at getting some of the municipality’s most vulnerable people off the streets and into temporary accommodation.
A tender posted online says the units are to measure about 150 square feet, about the size of a shipping container, with sleeping quarters and a washroom.
They should also be able to stack together and connect to a 1,000- to 1,5000-square-foot communal area with a cooking facility, says the tender.
“What we’d like to do is put these modular housing units up quickly and cheaply and have people move off the street into them and start their process of recovery,” said Coun. Kerry Jang, who first floated the idea of portable housing for the homeless in 2009.
“These units are not meant to replace permanent housing. They’re simply interim housing,” he added. ”They can be moved around and come and go as we need them.”
The idea is to cycle the mobile housing every few years between plots of unused land around the city, whether owned publicly or privately. Tax incentives would be offered to developers whose idle properties are made available for the temporary dwellings, Jang said.
“It makes use of land just sitting there,” he said. ”It’s just sitting there. What else are you going to do with it, right?”
The city hopes to have between 30 and 40 units up and running by the end of the year.
One homelessness advocate applauded the announcement as a step in the right direction, but tempered that praise by describing the housing strategy as “a very small piece of the puzzle.”
“At the end of the day this is not the solution to Vancouver’s homelessness crisis,” said Doug King of Pivot Legal Society.
He described the measure as “a drop in the bucket,” but added the city is doing all that it can in many respects and that the province needs to step up.
King acknowledged the benefits of the plan’s modular design, but he raised concerns that this flexibility would make it easier for affluent areas to lobby against the units being installed in their communities, relegating them to regions with the fewest number of complaints.
“Those aren’t necessarily good places for the people who are going to be living in them,” King said.
“They need to have access to services. They should be more socially inclusive and not isolating.”
A count conducted in March 2015 found 1,746 homeless people living in Vancouver, which included 1,258 living in shelters and 488 outside.
— Follow @gwomand on Twitter.
Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press
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