An affordable rental housing pilot project is underway in Vancouver that will help BC Housing evaluate innovative building materials and designs aimed at tackling affordability, inclusion and climate change.
The project, called Vienna House, is in the initial design phase. It will be proposed as a six-storey building with approximately 100 units at the intersection of Victoria Drive and Stainsbury Avenue in East Vancouver. The project is a partnership between BC Housing, the City of Vancouver (through the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency), and More Than a Roof Housing Society.
“In responding to our housing crisis and the climate crisis, there’s lots of work to do,” said David Eby, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing. “Vienna House is part of how we are taking action. Responding to the housing crisis with 100 units and the climate crisis with high energy efficiency, this project will allow BC Housing to test different approaches to prefabrication, building information modelling and integrated design. Our goal remains building affordable, healthy and sustainable homes quickly and efficiently, and Vienna House will be part of the solution.”
Vienna House will showcase innovative materials and processes designed to deliver high-energy performance with very low greenhouse gas emissions. This includes exploring prefabricated building components made from renewable materials and an integrated design process that brings all partners together at regular intervals to solve project challenges and maximize opportunities for efficiency.
This building would provide rental homes for a range of households, including low- to moderate-income individuals, families, seniors and those facing accessibility barriers.
The Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency and Vancouver’s Public: Architecture + Communication are creating the initial design concept for Vienna House and moving it through the rezoning process. The application to the City of Vancouver for rezoning is expected to be submitted in summer 2021.
If approved, the project would be built to meet the requirements of the Passive House standard. As a result, future tenants would use very little energy for heating and cooling and, in compliance with the City of Vancouver’s Zero Emissions Building Plan, the building would be designed to minimize climate pollution. If approved, the project would welcome its first tenants in late 2023, at which point ownership and management would be transferred to the More Than a Roof Housing Society.
The Urban Innovation Research Group at the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Sustainability Initiative would study Vienna House in depth, from start to finish, to ensure the project creates a wealth of evidence to inform construction best practices and policy development.
The Vienna House project is also the signature piece of a collaboration between the City of Vancouver and the City of Vienna, Austria, to explore new materials and approaches to building affordable housing. A similar project, called Vancouver House, will be built in Austria while Vienna House is underway.
For regular updates on the project, visit the project’s dedicated website at: www.viennahouse.ca
Binoy Mascarenhas, acting director, Urban Innovation Research team, UBC –
“This project represents a path-breaking approach that seeks to simultaneously address housing affordability in Vancouver, while offering an innovative, zero-emission building standard. Our role at the UBC Sustainability Initiative is to capture and document the knowledge that will emanate from this project and support the dissemination of this knowledge to relevant stakeholders in the region. We are incredibly excited to be part of this collaboration.”
John Wall, principal, Public: Architecture + Communication –
“Given global conditions of the climate emergency and housing crisis, Vienna House offers a brave turn in the right direction. It aligns with Public’s mandate of designing to serve the public good, spurring transformation, engagement and renewal. Public is honoured to contribute to this collaboration among researchers, policy-makers, design, engineering and construction professionals to address multiple challenges on one site.”
Lee Anne Michayluk, CEO, More Than a Roof Housing Society –
“Vienna House is such a unique project in that all of the partners are coming together really early in the process. This means we as the housing provider are able to have input into the homes and community spaces where our tenants are going to live and interact. It also means we’re addressing the big issues of affordability, livability and climate change in a collaborative way, rather than trying to find solutions in silos.”
Melanie Mark, MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant –
“I’m thrilled to see our government work collaboratively with partners on housing that’s built to the highest environmental and energy standards. Everyone deserves a home that is healthy, sustainable, and efficient and this project will help make sure this happens in Vancouver.”
- BC Housing has committed $320,000 in complementary funding to ensure research and demonstration activities can go ahead.
- If the project is approved through the rezoning process, BC Housing will contribute to the construction and operations of the project.
A map showing the location of all announced provincially funded housing projects in B.C. is available online: https://www.bchousing.org/homes-for-BC
To learn about the steps the Province is taking to tackle the housing crisis and deliver affordable homes for British Columbians, visit: https://workingforyou.gov.bc.ca/
A backgrounder follows.