It’s being billed as Canada’s first multi-home recycled shipping container housing project and it is located in the Downtown Eastside.
When it opens in April, the two pods of containers will provide 12 self-contained 320-square foot units with all the stock features found in most new apartments.
The project is the brainchild of Atira Women’s Resource Society and JTW Consulting which worked for two years to create the design, raise money and convince the city it was doable.
“When we first met with the City of Vancouver, they basically said, ‘You can’t do this’ and we said, ‘Yes we can,’” said James Weldon of JTW Consulting, adding that his project team provided a solution for every question the city posed.
Weldon was at the site near Jackson and Alexander streets Friday, along with Atira’s CEO Janice Abbott, as crews used a large crane to load 12 containers from flatbed trucks and stack them on the property.
The empty containers, which are made of thick gauge metal, were used at the Port of Vancouver and purchased for $3,000 each. The units will cost less than $100,000 each to build.
“Today is spectacularly exciting because there’s been moments along this journey where we thought it wasn’t going to happen just because it got stuck in processes,” said Abbott over the noise of a generator. “I totally understand the rigor but there were moments where we thought we’re never getting this done.”
The 12 units will be split evenly into two separate housing pods, with one at the front of the narrow lot and the other at the back. Both pods are three containers in height but there is no elevator.
The six units at the front of the property will go to renters who will pay 30 per cent of their gross annual income to a maximum of market rent.
The six units at the back will be home to older women who have been homeless or at risk of homelessness and rent for $375 a month.
The pods are designed so tenants aren’t living length-ways in one container but sideways in the ends of two containers to erase that “living in a tube feeling,” Weldon said.
Cost savings include the lack of construction waste that would typically go to the landfill, including material for building a foundation. The foundations for the containers were built with forms made of plastic and Styrofoam, and filled with cement.
The containers are air tight, energy efficient, not conducive to mould build-up and strong enough to withstand an earthquake.
“That’ll be the safest building to be in, if we have an earthquake,” he said, pointing out containers are stacked seven stories high on ships on the high seas.
Rob Turnbull, president and CEO of the Streetohome Foundation, visited the site and joined Weldon in one of the containers as crews welded the units in place.
Streetohome, an organization that raises money with the goal of eradicating homelessness, donated $120,000 to the project. The organization has donated more than $20 million to various projects in the city aimed at reducing homelessness.
“It’s truly an innovation,” Turnbull said. “We’re not a service provider but we are interested in breaking the cycle of homelessness here in Vancouver.”
The project is located on the same property where Atira bought and renovated a building — now called Imouto — to house young women at risk of family violence.
Both projects, including land and construction costs, total about $3 million, about $2.6 million of which came from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Other financial backers included B.C. Hydro, which supplied two of the containers and an additional $90,000. The City of Vancouver donated $120,000 and the Central City Foundation gave $35,000.