All-female development team pushes social housing project forward near Vancouver City Hall

The city of Vancouver has approved a zoning change request for a social housing project for and by women.

The developer says it is “the first of its kind in Canada and possibly even North America.”

“What is particularly unique about this project is that it is carried out by an all-female team,” Carla Guerrera told Right during a telephone interview.

Guerrera is the Founder and CEO of Purpose Driven Development, a Vancouver-based company that is working with Soroptimist International Vancouver (SIV) to redevelop the charity’s property on West 13th Avenue.

Soroptimist voluntary organizations operate around the world with a mission to improve the lives of girls and women. SIV’s development site is located near Cambie Street and currently houses a three-story apartment building affordable to senior women.

A new 13-storey building will replace the current Soroptimist Apartment House which contains 21 studios and one-bedroom apartments. A presentation from Vancouver staff to city council members says rents for the current site range from $ 450 to $ 800 per month.

The new development at 546 West 13th Avenue will cater to the elderly, single mothers and their children, and working women. The 13-story building will feature a mix of 135 unit types, including studios, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units.

Staff presentation to council indicated that SIV has received funding from BC Housing under the provincial agency’s Community Housing Fund program. With this funding, the development will be able to “deepen the affordability” of the new project units near Vancouver City Hall.

The presentation said that 20 percent of homes will be offered at so-called deep subsidy rates. Fifty percent of the units will be at “rent-geared-to-income rates, with maximum income set at Housing Income Limit (HILS) levels.”

BC Housing sets the annual HILS, which differs from city to city. HILS represent the minimum annual income required to afford suitable housing in the private market.

In Vancouver, the 2021 HILS are: $ 57,500 for one bedroom or less, $ 69,000 for two bedrooms, $ 80,000 for three bedrooms and $ 88.50 for four bedrooms.

For example, a HILS of $ 57,500 translates to an annual rent of $ 17,250, using 30% of income for the cost of housing as a measure of affordability. This means a monthly rent of $ 1,437.50.

Staff’s presentation to council about 546 West 13th Avenue said the remaining 30 percent of homes in the project will be offered at “affordable market rates.”

Guerrera told the Right that market rates in the new development will be 15-20% lower than market rent in the neighborhood.

“We had great support from all three levels of government who really believed in this project,” she said.

In addition to funding from the province, Guerrera said the development is supported by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation through grant and low-cost funding.

For its part, the City of Vancouver is waiving $ 2,500,388 in Development Cost Levies (DCL) because the project is considered social housing.

A separate report from council staff explained that the city requires social housing “to include a minimum of 30% units as affordable to households with incomes below BC Housing Income Limits (HIL) levels, while the remaining 70% can be at market rents ”.

An application booklet submitted as part of SIV’s rezoning application also acknowledged financial support from the Vancity Community Foundation.

The Vancouver Soroptimist organization has an impressive history. Online, SIV says that the professional women of Vancouver formed the first Soroptimist club in Canada on April 24, 1926, and that it has become “only the second in the British Empire.”

“In 1931, when the Depression hit,” the organization says, “they aligned themselves with another unusual group of women: the Vancouver police officers who had established a low-income, unemployed women’s shelter called Dunromin. Initially they donated money, but a year later they took over.

“So began the real estate odyssey for the Soroptimist Club of Vancouver. What started as an inn in 1932 eventually became Sor[o]Ptimist Apartment House at 546 [W]is the 13th. They were the first Soroptimist club on the continent to open a facility to house low-income senior women.

“They continued to buy and sell real estate until in 1970 they teamed up with the Kiwanis Club of Vancouver to open a 90-apartment complex for low-income seniors,” SIV notes on its site. Web.

In addition to the Soroptimist Apartment House, SIV co-owns with the Kiwanis Club of Vancouver a retirement home called Southwynd Place (8080 Yukon Street).

On July 13, Vancouver City Council approved the application to rezone 546 West 13th Avenue.

Guerrera said in the interview that an application for a development permit will be submitted to the city in a few weeks. Construction is scheduled to begin in August 2022.

“We are working as a team to make this project happen in a very male dominated industry,” Guerrera said. “We are really focused on showcasing the leadership of women in the industry to provide housing for women. “

Mara R. Wilmoth