Vancouver is providing city-owned land valued at $17.7 million, while the federal government is kicking in $150,000 in seed money, for a women-led housing project in Hastings-Sunrise. It's a legacy intiative for this week's Women Deliver Canada conference.
Aside from housing, the proposed project may include a community childcare centre, a healing and wellness space, green space, legal advocacy services, and arts and culture space.
The land proposed for the project is an existing parking lot at 2502 Franklin St., which sits between Kamloops and Penticton streets behind the East Hastings London Drugs. The size of the property is 528 by 120 feet.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart said there’s an unmet need in Vancouver for affordable housing and supportive services geared towards women and families, particularly Indigenous women.
“Existing family-led housing in this city is really beyond capacity, leaving few options for women and families,” he said during a June 7 press conference outside city hall.
While the project is in its early stages, Stewart said “it’s heartening to know that this project will be co-created with Indigenous communities and local women-serving organizations.”
“The project, I’m very excited [to say], will be developed and run by women, from design professionals, including planners and architects and engineers, to construction workers, suppliers and operators, making it something we’re even more proud to stand behind,” he said.
Vancouver-Quadra MP Joyce Murray spoke on behalf of the federal housing minister at the press conference. The federal seed money, provided through CMHC, will be used to kick-start planning for the project.
Murray said she hasn’t heard of another women-led project of this size in Canada.
“What I would say is this is a unique project and it’s a very important project. What we heard at Women Deliver, and what we know from the gender equality and Indigenous reconciliation initiatives and commitments that we have, is that people who will be affected need to be included,” she said.
“The theme is ‘nothing about us without us,’ and so this brings women in at all stages of the project. I think it’s going to be great to see what the outcome of that is in terms of the success of the final project. I’m very optimistic this will be ground-breaking and will be a pathway forward that will be picked up by other jurisdictions.”
Evelyne Guindon, managing director of Women Deliver Canada, said the conference was meant to “move the needle on gender equality,” and to call on the world to invest in girls and women, and also to invest in women-focused and women-led organizations.
She called the project a shining example of leadership, commitment and partnership.
“This work, what you’ve done, is infectious. We know that other cities will hopefully rise to the challenge,” Guindon said.
City staff have already started talking to various community, business and Indigenous groups about the plan, but the proposed development site still has to go through rezoning, which will include public consultation and a public hearing.
A community open house will be held to gather feedback before the formal rezoning application is submitted.
It remains unclear where the rest of the funding will come from, but Stewart said he’s “hopeful” there will be more funding announcements soon, possibly from the federal government.
“That’s what I’m hoping. We’re working away on those negotiations. I have to say, discussions with CMHC and the housing ministry have been very, very positive at the federal level,” he said.
“We know that there’s been unprecedented levels of investment in Toronto, [which] just had a $1.5-billion investment, so I and a councillor are working very hard to see if, in the coming months, we could, perhaps, get more investments. But this is very welcome, this early innovation money.”
It's also unlcear how large the development might be or what income levels units will be targeted towards. Stewart said the federal seed funding will be used to determine those details.
"It's very important with the organizations we're working with that they're at the ground floor in terms of planning... the eventual configuration [of units] will come through consultation but my goal would be to have it for the most vulnerable people in the city," he said.