Temporary modular housing is the city’s immediate solution to Vancouver’s growing homeless count and South Vancouverites are worried about two new units planned for their neighbourhood.
The City of Vancouver held an information session at Langara College on Nov. 2 and it turned out to be more of a protest. Many parents showed up with various signs that read things like “KIDS SAFETY FIRST”, “OUR KIDS DESERVE BETTER”, and “NOT ACROSS FROM OUR SCHOOLS”. The parents’ main concern is the fact the city didn’t consult residents of the neighbourhood about this plan.
Ivan Cheong, a father of two who’s lived in the area for over 15 years, expressed his concern about the safety of his children in an interview with The Voice at the protest.
“We know we have to help the homeless, but it’s about the safety of the children first,” Cheong said, adding that he doesn’t trust the city or that these units will be temporary. “I’m not saying who’s more important but you’ve got 78 homeless people versus 2,500 school-aged children.”
Julie Roberts, executive director of the Community Builders Group, said tenants of the building are going to sign a crime-free addendum when they move in saying they’re willing to live in a community with safe and supportive housing.
“We’re targeting tenants that we think will be a good fit for the neighbourhood,” Roberts said. “An older demographic of tenants that are physically compromised or medically unwell and then understanding their unique needs and making sure they’re a good fit.”
Ethel Whitty, director of homeless services for the City of Vancouver, said she was excited to see the information event at full capacity. According to her, the goal of these sessions is to provide residents with real information, which is why three additional public meetings were offered that week.
“There’s a real feeling of urgency, not just for the city but also the province, about housing the homeless as the count continues to go up, and modular housing addresses it quickly,” Whitty said, though tenants will still be required to pay $375 per month for rent.
By using temporary modular housing, lower-income and homeless residents are placed directly into housing with supportive services until they can transition to longer-term housing solutions.
According to the City of Vancouver, they plan to add 72,000 new housing units over the next 10 years, including 12,000 supportive and social-housing units — a 50-per cent increase from previous targets.
“The short-term aim is to get people off the street by the time it’s especially cold,” Whyte said. “This is really kind of an urgent, rapid response to that.”
According to Whitty, the city is expected to have 5,000 social housing units of similar affordability set up around the city in the next five to 10 years.