Historic building in Downtown Eastside to provide housing for women in need
The Burns Block building at 18 W. Hastings St., Vancouver, B.C. is seen in a Google Maps image dated Dec. 2020. (Google Maps)
VANCOUVER -- The province has purchased the Burns Block Building at 18 W. Hastings St. in Vancouver, to be used for housing and provide programs for women struggling with substance use disorders.
The building houses 30 studio apartments which will be managed around the clock by Atira Women’s Resource Society.
"This project will give vulnerable women the security and dignity that comes with having access to housing with wraparound services" said Melanie Mark, MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, in a news statement.
Seventeen of the units will be available for women who are committed to reducing or stopping substance use. The other 13 will be available for rent at market rates.
In addition, residents will have access to support services including clinical counselling, primary health care and 16-step recovery groups. An art therapy program, community meals, and access to a family reunification program will also be offered.
The Burns Block Building was built in 1908-1909 and was originally an office building. It was converted to single room occupancy units and was shut down in 2006 by the City of Vancouver because of fire code violations, and dozens of tenants were evicted. The building was renovated and then turned into tiny upscale rental units, marketed towards students and young professionals.
Attorney General David Eby worked as a lawyer on the evicted tenants case 15 years ago, before he became a politician.
“While this purchase won't help my old clients evicted with just hours of notice more than a decade ago, that this housing is coming into public hands to provide urgently needed housing for women experiencing homelessness, for years to come, is sweet justice," Eby said.
Each of the building’s micro units are about 250 square feet and include a private bathroom and kitchen.
In the meantime, the City of Vancouver has been buying hotels to convert to supportive housing. The most recent is the Best Western hotel at 205 Kingsway. It will become housing for 68 people sometime in Fall 2021. It follows purchase of the former Days Inn Hotel at 2075 Kingsway which requires renovations and might be ready for occupancy by the winter.