The city of Vancouver, British Columbia has found a cost-effective way to provide shelter for its homeless residents, who number 1,746, according to a report released last year. The city is planning to build temporary homes out of shipping containers.
Vancouver’s Affordable Housing Agency has started a procurement process looking for companies that have experience designing and building modular homes, particularly with metal shipping containers. Using that building method will enable the city to quickly increase the number of homes available to people who are currently homeless and significantly reduce the cost of building the shelters.
The city is looking into building two types of shipping container homes. It wants to construct temporary interim housing and temporary long-term housing on land owned by the city or by other parties. The city wants the shelters to be portable and temporary.
The government plans to build 30 to 40 temporary interim housing units inside single-story or stacked shipping containers. Each unit will be roughly 150 square feet and will have sleeping and bathroom spaces. The units will accommodate one or two people, but the goal is to have 75 percent of them be single occupancy.
Instead of installing cooking facilities in each unit, there will be a communal amenity area with a kitchenette. Even though the shelters will be temporary, they must meet provincial building requirements related to foundations, smoke detectors, and sprinklers.
The city of Vancouver wants the first units to be ready in 2016. Up to 300 units could be manufactured and installed every year.
The temporary long-term housing will consist of 100 to 200 units. There will be a mix of studio, two-, and three-bedroom designs. The apartments could be multi-level and permanent and similar to shipping container homes that already exist in Vancouver.
In 2013, Atira Women’s Resource Society completed construction of a 16-unit permanent social housing project with units ranging from 280 to 290 square feet. The cost to construct them was significantly less than the price to build a conventional concrete housing project.