With the need for non-market housing becoming more and more urgent, I’m very excited about the new development at the corner of Kerr St and 55th Avenue in Vancouver. The new firehall No. 5 for Champlain Heights will be built there. Four floors of the new building will be housing for mothers and children, with a priority for those leaving abusive relationships. The lower levels will be staffed 24/7, increasing security, support, and comfort for people in urgent need of safe living situations.
Combining neighbourhood amenities and social housing fosters supportive, inclusive communities.
When I was on the Vancity credit union board, we redeveloped one of our East Side branches and built social housing in the air space above it. No credit union is staffed 24/7 but, in this case, Vancity, with its positive social and environmental policies, also carries with it an intrinsic value of community well-being and fairness. As such, it imbues the associated housing with an aura of security and caring.
There is nothing preventing us, as a society, from building social housing in the air space above all kinds of community-based services like library branches or firehalls throughout the city. Two obvious benefits arise.
First off, by using the air space above these improvements, you’re able to build much-needed social housing with zero costs for the land. This means new social housing becomes possible even with a limited budget. Equally important, by building housing above community-based services like libraries, you help provide security to vulnerable people through proximity to keystones of the community. This helps demonstrate that abused women, and others facing marginalisation and/or violence are valued and welcome participants in community life.