Business

Housing complex in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is first of its kind

231 housing units — which range from 107 studio suites to 12 two-bedroom apartments — are for people living on income assistance

Article content

A housing building in the Downtown Eastside — the first of its kind — opened its doors to prospective tenants Saturday morning.

Some touring Bob and Michael’s Place were single mothers looking for a one-bedroom to raise their children. Others wee seniors looking for a studio and a few were unhoused, seeking a microsuite.

Nearly half of the project’s 231 housing units — which range from 107 studio suites to 12 two-bedroom apartments — are for people living on income assistance. The rest are priced at about half the current market rate for those households making less than $72,000 annually with studios going for $1,250 monthly.

Advertisement 2

Article content

bob amd michael'splace
People tour the Bob and Michael’s social housing complex June 22, 2024. The facility is the largest such social housing complex in Vancouver and aims to be a model for future projects. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

“I thought something like this was too good to be true,” said Raunaq Nambiar, who came to the building’s open house after seeing it mentioned in a social media post.

The 22-year-old roamed the mixed-use building’s hallway and one of its furnished two-bedroom suites, which is $1,850 monthly.

“It’s not just focused on providing housing, but living. It has opportunities for professional development, health and cultivating community.”

The 10-storey building has five commercial units on the main floor, a two-storey primary health centre operated by Vancouver Coastal Health and a common amenity space and garden on its fourth floor.

“I’d be so excited to get my hands dirty with my neighbours,” said Nambiar, who came here from India for undergraduate studies.

Thousands of housing applications have poured in for the project managed by SUCCESS, the social services organization.

bob and michael's social housing in DTES
The open house at Bob and Michael’s social housing complex June 22. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

Applicants must be capable of independent living and on the B.C. Housing registry. Priority will go to those who live or work in Downtown Eastside neighbourhoods including Chinatown, Gastown, the industrial area, Oppenheimer district, Strathcona, Thornton Park and Victory Square.

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

Only two tenants have moved in so far, one of whom is a 22-year-old who grew up in Strathcona whose parents are health care workers in the Downtown Eastside.

Carol Lee of the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation, which raised $30 million in private donations for the $110 million project, was happy to see the response.

“It shows how much of a need and want there is for a place like this,” Lee said. “It’s almost heartbreaking — I wish we could house everybody.”

The building is named after Lee’s late father, Robert, and Michael Audain — both philanthropists and developers. Robert Lee died in 2020.

bob and michael's social housing complext in DTES
The social housing complex, Bob and Michael’s, on June 22, during an open house. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

Carol Lee said this project proves that social housing is possible with the collaboration of public and private sectors.

“Most people — including my dad — thought a project like this would be very difficult to raise that much money for. It’s never been done before.”

The provincial government contributed $33.6 million through B.C. Housing, and the federal government $45.8 million. The City of Vancouver donated the land through a 99-year lease.

Bob & Michael's social housing complex
The provincial government contributed $33.6 million through B.C. Housing, and the federal government $45.8 million. The City of Vancouver donated the land through a 99-year lease for Bob and MIchael’s social housing complex in the Downtown Eastside. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

Lee noted the project’s principal contractor, Axiom Builders, didn’t profit from its work, and WT Leung Architects designed the building at cost.

Advertisement 4

Article content

“We wanted a place that would give people a sense of dignity. Every tenant will have access to an outdoor space — I don’t have a patio in my own apartment,” said Lee.

Nambiar plans to apply for a two-bedroom apartment at Bob and Michael’s Place, and is heartened to see the project close to Chinatown.

“Vancouver needs more of these sorts of places to pick a community back up and revitalize it.”

[email protected]

Recommended from Editorial


Bookmark our website and support our journalism: Don’t miss the news you need to know — add VancouverSun.com and TheProvince.com to your bookmarks and sign up for our newsletters here.

You can also support our journalism by becoming a digital subscriber: For just $14 a month, you can get unlimited access to The Vancouver Sun, The Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites. Support us by subscribing today: The Vancouver Sun | The Province.

Article content

Source

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button