Indigenous Peoples and people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside will soon have access to new affordable and supportive homes as construction starts on a new mixed-use housing development.
“These 103 new homes will help many Indigenous elders, individuals and people living with disabilities have more than just a safe and affordable place to call home, but also a dependable and welcoming environment surrounded by their culture and traditions,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. “Our government will continue to seek out partnerships to build homes like these, so people can have the opportunities and peace of mind that comes with a stable, affordable home.”
The project located at 320 Hastings St. is the result of a partnership between the Province, through BC Housing; the Government of Canada, through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the City of Vancouver, the Aboriginal Housing Management Association (AHMA), and First United and Lu’ma Native Housing Society.
“First United has served the Downtown Eastside for more than 100 years, responding to poverty, homelessness and intergenerational trauma,” said Amanda Burrows, executive director, First United. “We’re adapting again to redevelop our building into a purpose-built facility more capable of addressing these complex issues. In commitment to reconciliation, we’re thrilled to partner with Lu’ma to offer safe and affordable Indigenous housing.”
Once completed, the project will be an 11-storey, concrete-frame building with 35 supportive housing units and another 68 rental homes prioritized for Indigenous Peoples. Each residential floor will include shared access to laundry, amenity areas and balcony space. There will also be a rooftop patio for residential use. Floors one through four will consist of the new purpose-built First United facility, offering a range of social services and programming for residents and the surrounding community.
Amenities will include two low-barrier drop-in spaces, a heating and cooling centre, washroom and shower facilities, an interfaith sanctuary, a day-sleeping room, an outdoor deck, a computer lab, administrative and program spaces, and a commercial kitchen and dining hall. Residents will have access to all First United services, including two meals per day through the Community Meals program.
Lu’ma Native Housing Society will operate the building and will manage the supportive and affordable housing units. Lu’ma will provide on-site supports to the supportive-housing residents, including 24/7 staffing, security, life-skills training, employment programs and referrals to other health and community-based services and supports.
Lu’ma will prioritize Indigenous Peoples for the affordable homes. The project will also incorporate design elements to foster culture and community, including gathering areas and space allotted for Indigenous artwork and installations.
“We know that affordable housing is a deep-seated issue in Vancouver. To counter this, we need more homes to be attainable for seniors, individuals and those experiencing or at risk of homelessness,” said Joan Phillip, MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant. “This project is an example of how we are working with Indigenous organizations to ensure that supportive, affordable and culturally inclusive homes are made available as a step toward reconciliation and affordability.”
Construction on 320 Hastings St. is expected to complete in late 2025. The residential floors will have a separate entrance at 438 Gore Ave.
These homes are part of a $19-billion housing investment by the B.C. government. Since 2017, the Province has nearly 77,000 affordable homes that have been delivered or are underway for people in B.C., including nearly 8,000 in Vancouver.
Sean Fraser, federal Minister of Housing, Infrastructure, and Communities –
“Today’s announcement is a bold step towards an inclusive and equitable future. Access to secure housing has a profound impact on an individual’s well-being, ability to pursue opportunities and connection to the community. Together, we build a stronger and more vibrant community where everyone has a place to call home.”
Joyce Murray, member of Parliament for Vancouver Quadra –
“Our region knows the impacts of the housing crisis all too well and it is especially acute for our most vulnerable in Vancouver. Addressing this crisis requires each order of government and every stakeholder to play a key role. Today’s announcement shows what is possible when there is a commitment among these actors to work together. These kinds of investments transform our communities and will give residents a true sense of belonging.”
Ken Sim, mayor of Vancouver –
“The City of Vancouver is proud to be partnering with our government and non-profit partners to deliver 103 units of much-needed affordable housing for Indigenous residents and people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside community. We are steadfast in our commitment to address the housing crisis. We will continue to advocate for housing at every opportunity, with a focus on safe and affordable housing for everyone who calls this city home.”
Margaret Pfoh, CEO, Aboriginal Housing Management Association –
“The housing crisis requires all hands on deck, including all levels of government and the entire non-profit housing sector. Housing is a central social determinant of health for Indigenous people, who disproportionately experience homelessness. We celebrate this collaborative development for offering trauma-informed, culturally supportive homes with wraparound services and hope to see more of this in the future.”
Dave Baspaly, president, Lu’ma Native Housing Society –
“On behalf of the urban Indigenous Peoples we serve, we are grateful for the partnership with First United Church, CMHC, BC Housing, City of Vancouver and many other partners who made this project possible. These homes will serve the urban Indigenous community struggling to secure affordable housing in the Downtown Eastside, making this project an important effort towards reconciliation.”
To learn about Homes for People action plan, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2023HOUS0019-000436
To learn about the steps the Province is taking to tackle the housing crisis and deliver affordable homes for British Columbians, visit: https://strongerbc.gov.bc.ca/housing/
For information about Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), visit: https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en
To learn about the National Housing Strategy, visit: https://www.placetocallhome.ca/
To learn about the details of the Fist United redevelopment project, visit: https://firstunited.ca/first-forward-redevelopment
To learn about the First Forward capital campaign and funding for the non-residential portion of the project, visit: https://firstunited.ca/first-forward-capital-campaign
A backgrounder follows.