Shelter is a basic human need. Here in Vancouver, the single family home (with white picket fence and two Buicks in every driveway) dominates the city’s space, our measures of status and our media conversation. But in reality, there are plenty of alternatives —  the “missing middle” and high-rises among them.
Here’s another.
In March 2014, Council approved the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency (VAHA), with the primary mandate of creating new affordable housing in Vancouver across the housing continuum through innovative partnerships with private developers, charitable and/or nonprofit organizations, and senior levels of government. The Agency’s mandate targets the delivery of 2500 affordable housing units on City and/or partner land by 2021.
Underway is a 40-unit demonstration project underway at Main and Terminal, featuring Temporary Modular Housing.
The modules are supplied by Horizon North, and apparently the entire building can be disassembled, shipped and rebuilt at a fraction of the cost of a new traditional build.  For a glimpse inside, check out this video, courtesy of Postmedia outlet the Province.  [The preceeding advert is tone-deaf to award-winning level].

The 14,875 square foot building will feature 40 single occupancy suites with self-contained bathrooms and kitchens, individual climate control, and private living space. The central building features include indoor and outdoor amenity space, central laundry and a number of wheelchair accessible suites on the first floor.
. . .  with anticipated occupancy February 2017.  The 1500 Main Street site was selected because it is large enough to accommodate the project, it is City-owned and the existing zoning allows multi-family residential and rooming houses that are similar to the TMH design. The units in the pilot project will be approximately 250 square feet per unit, including a bathroom and cooking facilities. The site is also a future redevelopment site located within the False Creek Flats planning area and the TMH will therefore be relocated as development proceeds.


  1. Why we need to move around the “affordable housing”?
    some time ago, it has been a outcry at a development provisioning a separate entrance for the subsidized housing part of the building and rightly so.
    What Vancouver has been successful so far, is to integrate the social/below market unit into the urban fabric, so that people living there can keep their dignity,
    This modular housing totally defeat the purpose: they are a a blight in the urban landscape, and just a cheap political expedient relieving the city to do the right thing (address the housing issue in a permanent and dignified way).

    1. That’s a fair comment from a planning and architectural aspect.
      However, the other voices need to be heard: Residents. My guess is that they will find that these units, pre-fab or not, better meet basic human rights than their current situation, likely SROs with disgusting shared bathrooms and roaches, or under the viaducts.

    2. Modular housing does not have be ugly. Altira has container housing in Railtown that looks fine. The problem with modular housing is it limits density

  2. We have to keep in mind that there are other kinds of very beneficial prefab buildings coming on line, from the passive House-rated Britco homes supplied to some First Nations communities who are apparently ecstatic about them due to their current mould and high energy cost situation with existing houses, to employee housing at Whistler, and the wooden high-rise at UBC being built from prefab cross-laminated timber.

  3. Happy to see this project going forward. Concept promises to deliver positive affordable housing results. Architecture and urban design can vary broadly with in the development concept. Brilliant!

  4. As mentioned above; prefab cross-laminated timber walls are almost certainly the best way to go. BC has plenty of renewable timber. BC also has manufacturing facilities producing precision laser-measured machine produced wall systems that are far superior in fit, than traditional framed and shimmed structures. Keep the jobs here.
    One has to wonder why a Calgary company was selected by the City of Vancouver for the above mentioned project, when state-of-the-art CNC wood panels for residential construction have been manufactured in BC for a few years.

  5. Shelter might be a basic need, but it’s not enough. Go into just about any social housing and you will be struck, choked, by cigarette fumes. Just like having a safe injection site, there must be a ventilated smoke room. It would improve living conditions massively.
    I’d also propose that the venal tobacco pimps supply, at cost, plain wrapper cigarettes to those they’ve addicted. As it stands, a large part of begging goes to pay retail for this horrible tobacco drug – when they’re unable to scrounge or pick up enough butts off the street. Tobacco companies should not profit from people’s misery.
    Poor people, not surprisingly, are like the rest of us. They like to drink alcohol. So, I’d further propose that they be helped to set up breweries. It would give them something to do; a sense of accomplisment and pride – much better than the homeless soccer competition. Like the Greek saying goes: To work is hard; not to work is harder. To have nothing to do, day after day, hopelessly, interminably, is tremendous hardship.
    No wonder they seek the surcease of boredom with drugs – just like the rest of us. Of course they should grow their own. It’s mind-boggling bully hypocrisy for those who drink alcohol to oppress those who prefer herb.
    Then there’s the basic need for food. As someone who is quite accomplished in the kitchen, I can attest to the fact that cooking is a huge amount of work – shopping, cooking, cleaning – far too much for those of us not endowed with Gordon Ramsay’s energy and skill set. Social housing should live up to its name and stress communal kitchens. It would save a bundle in building costs and reduce the chance of fire, and cockroaches. People could eat better and cheaper. It would be empowering. Lining up for meals put out by do gooders is no solution. It’s degrading.

    1. This project does not need a smoking room, a communal kitchen, a micro-brewery, or a grow op. Your parody of folks in need of housing is infantile to say the least.

  6. Who are the homeless? Refugees in their own country. What drastic measures are being taken to house refugees? Look at Sweden which has accepted so many.
    They have started using cruise ships. What makes more sense – which is the moral high ground – to provide homes for the homeless, or a travel experience to those that have homes.
    Of course, the issue of cost always comes up, but sheeple are afraid to point fingers at greedy billionaires who could pay for this humanitarian extravaganza without feeling the pinch.
    The beauty of using cruise ships is, of course, they can be moved. Some Swedes object to having a refugee cruise ship berthed close by. Those in other towns would appreciate having the business. Logically, the ship should be moved to where it’s wanted – like Coal Harbour.
    It’s useful to look at business solutions to housing – like the Delta Spirit Lodge – an 11 storey ferry that was reconfigured to create 700 SRO’s for workers in northern BC. These large vessels are also considered for use as student housing. Maybe we should dock a few at UBC.

  7. The Southridge Jam Co. has gotten good press for its job program with those who are homeless. Vancouver has the Potluck Cafe. There are other employment geared programs. These are laudable.
    But, realistically, how many jars of jelly are you going to buy? I buy Smuckers Grape for $2.97. That’s not a lot of cash. And who is going out of their way for a jar of jam? No one is going to pay rent with the proceeds.
    Beer and herb are another story. I don’t drink beer, or smoke anything, but I guarantee hordes of customers would buy DTES brew. It would become the de facto beverage of the cost-conscious socially-minded. It would carve out a minuscule niche in the beer market – just like craft beers. It would be profitable.
    We need to get away from a beggar’s mentality with charity. Greedy Billionaires strut around who wouldn’t notice if million dollar bills were falling out of their pockets. They must be shamed, boycotted, ridiculed until they share. To pay retail for food to a billionaire, and then put it in a box for the foodbank – is ludicrous. Offensive.
    You want positive change? You want an equitable society? Sometimes it needs serious prodding with a pitchfork.

  8. So, we’re back to housing we cannot afford. Nothing new there. We’ve been on that for the best part of this century and a good part of the last.
    The public have been pretty complacent. For how long?
    A few bought in decades ago. Some have plump Mummies and Daddies! What happens when there are more kids out in the rain than there are plump mummies and daddies?
    Underway is a 40-unit demonstration project at Main and Terminal, featuring Temporary Modular Housing.” Note demonstration! Note modular! Oh wot commitment!!! And that could have been said 30 years ago three hundred times!
    How many demonstration projects by well-heeled complacent do-gooder mayors and professional do-gooders have stumble thru, the affordability issue, in my 88 years I cannot remember, but one is too many!
    Pretty pictures on the walls don’t solve international self-serving socio-financial hi-jinks.
    There is need for a new paradigm!

  9. Went to a promotional session in the basement of a church on 27th at Kaslo re. “temporary” modular housing for the homeless on property owned by the church a block away.
    It was an ugly, intimidating, claustrophobic experience. Security at the door and inside, including police; city employees outnumbered citizens three to one; crappy Hortons cookies to sweeten the deal.
    This was not an information session, but an arm-twisting ‘we’re going to stick you with this grossly oversized inappropriate building whether you like it or not’.
    No residents like it. It doesn’t belong in this RS1 neighbourhood.
    The logical move would be to rezone the whole area around this Skytrain station to allow towers. Values would jump. Residents would sell. Goodbye. Build what you want.
    Or build on golf courses. Lots of those around.
    How about offering housing in towns that are losing population – like Kitimat.
    How about the hotel at 3075 Kingsway. It’s never even 20% full.

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