Vancouver to build shipping container homes for homeless

Dec 19 2017, 8:23 pm

Container homes are coming to Vancouver as a more cost-efficient way to house the city’s homeless population, which numbers at 1,746 people according to a report released by the City last summer.

The municipal government’s Affordable Housing Agency has launched a procurement process seeking companies with experience in designing and building modular homes, specifically with the use of metal shipping containers. Such a technique enables the City to quickly increase its housing supplies for the homeless while also significantly reducing construction costs.

Two types of container homes are being pursued: Temporary interim housing and temporary longer-term housing on land owned by the municipality or sites owned by other parties, with the expectation that the modular structures will be portable and temporary.

There is a call to build between 30 and 40 temporary interim housing units inside single storey or stacked storey shipping containers, with each housing unit outfitted with sleeping and washroom facilities and measuring roughly 150 square feet. The units will accommodate a single bed or a double bed, but the aim is to have 75 per cent of the units dedicated for single occupancy purposes.

In lieu of installing cooking facilities inside each unit, there will be a 1,000 to 1,500-square-foot communal amenity area with a small kitchenette. And even though these will be temporary and portable structures, the designs will still be required to meet provincial building codes such as foundations with seismic resilience, smoke detectors, and a sprinkler system.

The City says it wants the first units to be ready in early-2016 and as many as 300 units could be manufactured and installed per year.

With temporary long-term housing, the successful proponent will install between 100 and 200 container units with a mix of studio, two and three bedroom unit layouts. These structures could be multilevel and permanent, similar to some of the shipping container homes that already exist in the city.

In 2013, Atira Women’s Resource Society completed a 16-unit permanent structure social housing project made out of shipping container units. The units, ranging from 280 to 290 square feet, cost $82,500 per unit to construct – significantly lower than the average $220,000 per unit cost for a conventional concrete housing project.