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UBC gets $30K from province for social housing program

Finally, the B.C. government has turned to design acadme for ideas to address homelessness.

The province has just committed $30,000 to the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (SALA) towards a graduate seminar and design competition for students.

The grant from the Housing Endowment Fund is intended to inspire students to develop new forms of social-housing units, emergency shelters and transitional housing, with the long-term view of breaking the homelessness cycle. The grant should also help develop a framework for future design competitions and seminars on the subject.

"We want to ensure that the next generation of architects has a meaningful opportunity to learn directly from today's prominent social housing architects, social housing providers and their clients," declared SALA director Ray Cole, adding that the students be challenged to conceptualize new social- housing paradigms that will be "safe, affordable and environmentally sustainable."

Sounds great. In fact, that's exactly what Emily Carr University of Art and Design instructor Christian Blyt has been doing for the past year with his industrial design class, so he's surprised that no one in provincial or civic government has contacted him as well.

You can see and walk right into four 64-square-foot prototypes these days at Granville Island, courtesy of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp, which is providing the exhibition space next to the Public Market.

Other benefactors include Cloverdale Paint, which donated all the paint supplies for the project, and Griff Building Supplies, a New Westminster outlet that supplied the building materials free of charge, not to mention Emily Carr itself, since the institution supplied its workshops and human resources.

Blyt's project is now set to enter the real world, with an agreement last week with a First Nations advocacy group to build all four designs as emergency housing on the paved lot behind a shelter at Hastings and Nanaimo.

The Emily Carr team is going to upgrade the prototypes with better watertightness, fire resistance and baseboard heating. But the miniscule square footage will remain.

"We tend to look at the North American context, where most of us live in these huge homes," says Blyt. "But 75% of the world's population lives in under 45 square feet." ­

Adele Weder is a regular contributor to the Tyee.

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