Vancouver's Empty Homes Tax revenues directed to Indigenous social housing project

Jul 29 2022, 8:20 pm

Earlier this month, Vancouver City Council approved a $4.8 million grant partially funded by the municipal government’s Empty Homes Tax (EHT) to help build a new social housing project.

The funding benefits the First United Church Community Ministry Society’s project to redevelop the 1965-built church at 320 East Hastings Street — the southeast corner of the intersection of Gore Avenue and East Hastings Street, within the north-easternmost corner of Chinatown and on the border with the Downtown Eastside.

An 11-storey, mixed-use building will replace the aging church structure, including a 40,000 sq ft social service hub within the first four levels — containing a downsized replacement church space, a large dining room with a commercial kitchen, multi-purpose spaces, and drop-in centre.

320 East Hastings Street Vancouver First United Church

Site of the First United Church redevelopment at 320 East Hastings Street in Vancouver. (Google Maps)

320 east hastings street vancouver

Artistic rendering of the First United Church redevelopment at 320 East Hastings Street in Vancouver. (NSDA Architects/First United Church)

Above the social service hub will be seven residential levels containing 103 units of social housing, including 49 units with rents at or near the shelter component of income assistance, and 54 units with rents up to the housing income limit maximum. The unit size mix is roughly evenly split between studios and one-bedroom units.

These homes, operated by Lu’ma Native Housing Society, will be dedicated to Indigenous individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Based on the most recent homeless count, up to 39% of Vancouver’s homeless population identifies as Indigenous, but this group only makes up of 2% of the city’s overall population.

320 east hastings street vancouver

Artistic rendering of the First United Church redevelopment at 320 East Hastings Street in Vancouver. (NSDA Architects/First United Church)

320 East Hastings Street Vancouver First United Church

Artistic rendering of the First United Church redevelopment at 320 East Hastings Street in Vancouver. (NSDA Architects/First United Church)

While Lu’ma will operate the entire social housing component of the building, it will lease a portion of the residential levels from First United Church, and the other portion will be leased by the Provincial Rental Housing Corporation.

“We look forward to working collaboratively in providing housing, cultural supports, and wraparound services for Indigenous peoples most in-need marginalized in the Downtown Eastside,” said Marjorie White, vice president of Lu’ma Native Housing Society, in a statement.

“We believe this unique model of housing development will build capacity and inspire other new innovative partnerships ensuring access to safe, affordable and culturally appropriate housing.”

City staff under the Development Permit Board approved the application for this project in March 2022.

320 East Hastings Street Vancouver First United Church

Artistic rendering of the First United Church redevelopment at 320 East Hastings Street in Vancouver. (NSDA Architects/First United Church)

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