Loading articles...

Supportive housing, unsupportive neighbours: Concerns about temporary units in Metro Vancouver

Last Updated May 14, 2019 at 8:28 am PDT

An example of supportive modular housing in Vancouver's Marpole neighbourhood. (Monika Gul, NEWS 1130 Photo)

MAPLE RIDGE (NEWS 1130) – The conflict surrounding housing for the homeless in Maple Ridge may be making headlines lately, but it was the Marpole neighbourhood in south Vancouver where residents were raising their voices 18 months ago, as the city was readying its first supportive, temporary modular housing units there.

Protesters were concerned about property values and risks to children at nearby schools, but Abi Bond — the city’s Managing Director of Homelessness Services and Affordable Housing Programs — says more than a year after it opened on Heather Street, the housing complex has integrated into the neighbourhood well.

“We really haven’t had any major issues with the homes at Marpole, or any of the other sites across the city,” Bond tells NEWS 1130. “The kinds of calls we get are for things like extra garbage pickup or sidewalk repairs adjacent to the buildings, just regular calls we would have come in for any community,” she says.

“There were some difficult conversations we had with some communities early on with people worried about what the impact would be, but we really have not seen those things come to pass.”

RELATED: Petty theft frustrations lead to push for citizens patrol group in Maple Ridge

In fact, Bond says, they have seen a lot of support for the 606 temporary modular housing units opened across the city since last February.

“We’ve had neighbours and residents celebrate things like Chinese New Year or Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter together. There has been a lot of support around food provision. We have seen them really well integrated into the community.”

To ensure any concerns that do come up are dealt with, Bond says a community advisory committee meets with neighbours regularly.

“Our staff and other staff from partner organizations check in and make sure it’s going okay from the community’s perspective and, as I say, we haven’t seen any major issues arise.”

RELATED: British Columbians urged to focus on housing ‘solutions’, not ‘discriminatory rhetoric’

The biggest impact from temporary modular housing, Bond claims, is on the tenants.

“Housing like this, which is affordable and provides 24/7 staffing support, really saves people’s lives. The people who moved in here came from the street or shelters and we have seen real successes. Some of the tenants have been able to return to work, some of them have enrolled in school and we are seeing people reconnect with primary healthcare, getting mental and physical issues addressed for the first time in a long time. It’s a life-changing opportunity.”

The City of Vancouver is currently working with BC Housing — which provides funding under the provincial Rapid Response to Homelessness program — to identify possible additional sites for temporary modular housing.

The BC government has said it is investing $291 million to build over 2,000 modular supportive housing units across the province for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.