Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Vancouver Embraces Modular to Ease Housing Crisis

Not only is the City of Vancouver allowing modular pods on private property to house an aging population that does not need or want to go to senior housing, they are now considering fast-tracking permits for standardized, modular laneway homes as a way to help boost the city’s rental stock.

Such a move could speed up the development of backyard homes on the estimated 60,000 lots that can accommodate them in neighborhoods across the city. While the entire city is zoned for laneway (alley) housing, just over 2,400 permits to build them have been issued.

For now, the city plans to test modular construction in pilot projects on city land, including a 40-home temporary social housing project at Main Street at Terminal Avenue. Over time they hope to expand laneway homes in the broader city.

That may include developing a standard template for homes that would — straight out of the factory — meet the city’s permit requirements. Such a system could reduce waiting times for approvals as well as costs to customers.

The idea already has staff thinking about what they could do — provided there is enough interest from local homeowners — to encourage the growth of a new modular housing industry within the city limits.

Doing so could reduce transportation costs and emissions while sparking job creation.

On Monday at Robson Square, there will be a modular home will be on display for public viewing until Nov. 1. It’s an example of one of the temporary units destined for 1500 Main Street in early 2017 for low income residents.

The display dwelling is spartan but comfortable. There is a small but fully-equipped kitchen, a shower, sink and toilet, in-unit climate control, and enough living space for one person — or two in a pinch. The room lets in natural light through thin, horizontal windows high on the walls.

Every part of the home — including the foundation — can be transported from site to site. That is key, because staff are testing the idea of hosting modular homes for short stretches of time on unused land awaiting redevelopment. The builder for the Main Street project is Horizon North, a Canadian company that will take four weeks to pump out the 40 homes.

Look for other Canadian and even US cities to look at the benefits of permitting modulars in laneway (alley) and empty lots as well as providing designated tiny house communities within city limits, providing all utilities and most importantly, mailing addresses giving the residents a job searching advantage.

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