In the Midst of Housing Crisis, OneCity Councillor Proposes Low-Income Housing in Every Neighbourhood


September 9th, 2019

In the Midst of Housing Crisis, OneCity Councillor Proposes Low-Income Housing in Every Neighbourhood   

OneCity Vancouver Councillor Christine Boyle is bringing forward a motion to explore allowing temporary modular housing in all neighbourhoods of Vancouver. 

As recent events in Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park have highlighted, Vancouver is in the midst of a housing crisis. A crisis most acutely impacting low-income residents, and Vancouverites already dealing with impacts of the opioid crisis, mental-health illnesses and physical disabilities. New solutions need to be identified and put into action. 

Vancouver’s 2019 homelessness count found 2,223 Vancouverites who identified as homeless, the highest number since the city began tracking. These Vancouver residents come from, and are already living in, all neighbourhoods of the city. 

The 2019 count shows a slower growth rate of homelessness than in previous years, demonstrating that the actions taken by the City, including the provision of temporary modular housing complexes, are having a positive, though insufficient impact. 

“Housing is a human right,” Councillor Boyle articulated. “Our neighbours working to heal, recover, stabilize from trauma or addiction, have a right to housing, and they deserve the dignity of choosing housing options within or outside the downtown eastside. Supportive housing and community looks different for different people.” 

The BC NDP rolled out its Rapid response to Homelessness program in 2017, building 2,000 modular housing units province wide, 600 of which were built in Vancouver, and in their 2019 budget pledged to build an additional 200 modular units across BC. After a year of operations, many of the fears community members had about these sites have subsided.

Ishmam Bhuiyan, a UBC student and a leader of Marpole Students for Modular Housing, says, “residents of the TMH project in Marpole have built long-term relationships with local students and families, and have been embraced by the community. The project and its residents are now an integral part of the neighbourhood.” Adding, “It’s Council’s moral responsibility to do everything in its power to drastically reduce, and eradicate, homelessness in Vancouver. This motion is a critical step towards building the affordable units needed to do so.”

Noting an ongoing rise in homelessness, in December 2018, Vancouver City Council unanimously passed a motion calling for 600 more units of modular housing in Vancouver, and directed staff to find sites. Temporary Modular Housing is currently permitted in CD-1 districts, targeting vacant or under-utilized sites pending development. Under current Vancouver zoning by-laws, the land options for the provision of modular housing is extremely limited, and is quickly diminishing, as the need for additional TMH and the relocation of current TMH becomes necessary.

Numerous studies have shown that housing people costs significantly less than managing homelessness and other related services. And in Vancouver, land zoned as RS/RT (single family and duplex) is some of the least expensive land per square foot in the city. Also, neighbourhoods segregated by wealth are a barrier to healthy urban development, something cities are increasingly trying to address. Just this summer the City of Burnaby unanimously approved numerous recommendations including welcoming an even spread of housing growth and options throughout Burnaby’s neighbourhoods. 

“Vancouver residents are experiencing homelessness and housing instability in neighbourhoods across the city,” said Jill Atkey, CEO of BC Non-Profit Housing Association. “Opening the door to affordable homes in all neighbourhoods will help our members deliver much-needed affordable housing and increase the supply across Vancouver. We support this motion as a step in the right direction in ensuring that all Vancouverites have access to safe, secure and affordable homes.”

While Temporary Modular housing provides an opportunity to create more deeply affordable homes quickly and cost effectively, permanent social housing is also badly needed. For that reason, the motion also directs staff to continue to explore, through the city-wide plan, and through implementation of other city housing strategies, additional possibilities for creating homes for low and moderate income families and individuals in all parts of the city. 

Citing the clear need and urgency for this housing, Councillor Boyle says that “amending Vancouver’s zoning by-laws to permit modular housing on RS and RT zones would provide the necessary options to meet the growing demand for modular housing and will significantly impact the unprecedented levels of homeless in the city of Vancouver.”

The motion, “Every neighbourhood for everyone: Permitting temporary modular housing and low-income housing as an option in RS and RT Zones” will come before Council on Tuesday, Sept 10th. 


Media contact:

Councillor Christine Boyle
604-754-6779 (cell)  [email protected]


Dean Pogas, Director of Communications, BC Non-Profit Housing Association
778.945.2163   [email protected]