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Urban Planning + Architecture

A Queer-Centred Development Moves Ahead in Vancouver’s Gay Village

The 17-storey building is one of seven city-owned sites being developed into affordable housing. Our latest Hot, Hot Housing.

Jen St. Denis 29 Jul

Jen St. Denis is The Tyee’s Downtown Eastside reporter. Find her on Twitter @JenStDen.

Want to hear some good news on housing for a change?

A 17-storey building that will provide housing to seniors, queer youth and families is closer to breaking ground after the city and Qmunity, the organization that will lease space on the first and second levels, agreed on the terms for a land lease.

The development at 1190 Burrard St. — near the city’s historic Gay Village on Davie Street — is now poised to break ground this fall and be completed by 2025. It’s just one of seven city-owned sites first promised for new housing in 2017; construction is now about to start on many of those sites.

1190 Burrard St. will include 154 social housing units and a new 13,500-square-foot space for Qmunity, which offers counselling, meeting space and other services to queer, trans and Two-Spirit people in B.C. Since 1980, the organization has worked out of a 2,000-square-foot space at Davie and Bute.

“It’s just really tight for the services we offer,” said Christopher Vollan, the chair of Qmunity’s board. “We have a lot of in-person stakeholder groups, from seniors and youth to trans youth to counselling, and the new space will include space for all of those stakeholder groups plus accommodate our growing team.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Vollan said Qmunity saw demand for services grow, and recent extreme right-wing political attacks on trans people and trans rights have only highlighted the need for safe and welcoming spaces for LGBTQ2S+ people. The new space will act as a hub for the community, Vollan said, with plenty of space to gather, organize and socialize.

Back in 2017, 1190 Burrard was one of seven city-owned properties announced for redevelopment. The promise made by then-mayor Gregor Robertson at that time was that the sites would provide 1,000 units of affordable housing for Vancouver’s “working class.”

The Community Land Trust, an organization run by the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC, was given the contract to co-ordinate the development of all seven sites through a request for proposals process. Various non-profit housing providers were chosen as the operators of the sites. The CLT acquires and develops community-led housing, like housing co-operatives and other community-led housing models.

Vollan of Qmunity said attacks on trans people and trans rights have highlighted the need for safe and welcoming spaces for LGBTQ2S+ people. The building, shown as an artist’s rendering here, will act as a hub providing space to gather, organize and socialize. Photo submitted.

1190 Burrard St. will be operated by McLaren Housing Society, a provider with experience housing people and families who are living with HIV-AIDS. Some units will also be used to house LGBTQ2S+ refugees through the organization Rainbow Refugees. According to a 2021 rezoning recommendation, at least 30 per cent of the housing units will be rented to people with incomes falling under $55,500 for a one-bedroom, $67,500 for a two-bedroom and $78,000 for a three-bedroom.

Vollan said Qmunity has a good relationship with McLaren, and there’s a crossover between the mandates of the two organizations.

“There's always a need for housing, particularly for queer youth that have been disassociated from their families, and for seniors,” Vollan said. “So we're looking forward to that relationship.”

The other city-owned sites first promised back in 2017 are all in some stage of development.

“It has been a complex funding and permitting process involving all three levels of government, but we are seeing more timely progress now and have a number of construction starts slotted in for late 2022 or early 2023,” Thom Armstrong, the CEO of both Community Land Trust and the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC, told The Tyee.

Here’s where the other six projects stand today:

3183 Pierview Cres., Kinship Housing Co-op
Number of homes: 140
Status: Occupied

3510 Marine Dr., M’akola Housing Society and housing co-op
Number of homes: 337 (220 units operated by an Indigenous-led housing provider; remaining 117 units operated by a housing co-op)
Status: Under construction

3279 Vanness Ave., housing co-op
Number of homes: 102
Status: Site preparation now underway; full construction to begin in fall 2022

1210 Seymour St., housing co-op
Number of homes: 112
Status: Construction expected to begin in 2023

177 W. Pender St., Atira Women’s Resources Society
Number of homes: 74
Status: Construction expected to begin in fall 2022

1001 Kingsway, housing co-op
Number of homes: 88
Status: Construction expected to start in early 2023


We hope you continue to follow along with our column!

Remember, if you’ve got housing stories of your own — whether it’s market hijinks, tenancy horrors or survival tips — you can email us at [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you.  [Tyee]

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