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Victoria’s shipping container village to continue until end of March

Supply-chain delays causing slowdown in building permanent housing

By Martin Bauman
August 3, 2022
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Victoria’s shipping container village to continue until end of March

Supply-chain delays causing slowdown in building permanent housing

By Martin Bauman
Aug 3, 2022
Photo: Martin Bauman / Capital Daily
Photo: Martin Bauman / Capital Daily
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Victoria’s shipping container village to continue until end of March

Supply-chain delays causing slowdown in building permanent housing

By Martin Bauman
August 3, 2022
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Victoria’s shipping container village to continue until end of March
Photo: Martin Bauman / Capital Daily

A tiny home shipping container village in Victoria’s North Park will carry into the new year, Our Place Society has told Capital Daily.

The village—which houses about 30 residents—had originally been slated for closure this summer. But as Our Place Society waits for permanent homes for those living in the transitional housing, Victoria’s city council has given a green light for the shipping containers to stay until the end of March 2023.

That extension comes as good news for those living in “Tiny Town,” says Our Place Society’s Grant McKenzie.

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“Instead of having to take people out… and move them somewhere else, we’ll be able to keep people together as a community,” he adds.

“It just seems to work a lot better than when you put, you know, 200 people in a hotel.”

Homelessness in Victoria

Victoria mayor Lisa Helps was among those involved in pitching a shipping container village, as far back as the fall of 2020. 

The CRD’s point-in-time survey from earlier that spring found more than 1,500 people were experiencing homelessness in Greater Victoria—including 270 people without any shelter, and 350 people sleeping in emergency shelters. (The former number could be significantly higher. Some experts argue point-in-time counts tend to undercount unsheltered people, who need to be seen to be counted.)

At the time, the region’s shelters had been upended by the onset of the still-unfamiliar COVID-19 pandemic. The City of Victoria had opened its parks for tenters—only to face backlash from neighbours and park users.

“I think what we’re all starting to realize in Victoria and across the province is that leaving people outside—many of whom have mental health and/or addictions issues and all of whom have likely experienced some form of trauma—is not working for anyone,” Helps wrote then.

‘A real success story’

The shipping container village opened its doors on May 12, 2021. A crowdfunding campaign brought in $550K for construction. Victoria’s Aryze Developments spearheaded the design and construction. Each of the 30 living units came with a bed, a fridge, a side table, and an armoire.

Image: Aryze

McKenzie says one of the most drastic differences he’s noticed in the year since the tiny homes opened is the look on residents’ faces.

“We actually had to retake their photos, because they had changed so much, just from having a safe, secure, good night's sleep, where they’re not sleeping with one eye open.”

BC Housing delays

The plan was never for “Tiny Town” to be permanent, McKenzie says—but rather, for it to serve as a stopgap until more permanent housing could be completed.

“That’s always been the end goal. And that remains the end goal,” he says.

But BC Housing, which has been building roughly 280 supportive housing units around Greater Victoria, is behind schedule. Supply chain issues have set back construction timelines, McKenzie says. Plus, CEO Shayne Ramsay just announced his retirement.

(Capital Daily reached out to BC Housing for comment, but could not arrange an interview before publication.)

Helps says BC Housing is continuing to fund the shipping container village’s upkeep until the end of March. The City’s hope is for at least some of the permanent units to be completed by then—though a project timeline isn’t clear.

McKenzie says Our Place will be managing one new five-storey build on Albina Street in Saanich, which will eventually house 52 units. That project will be completed this month, according to the Times Colonist.

The future of the shipping container village

Even if “Tiny Town” stands empty by March, McKenzie hopes he’ll see it refilled—whether in North Park, somewhere else in Victoria, or in another municipality.

“There are still people on the streets who need to get into housing,” he says. “And permanent housing, of course, takes a long time to come online.”

Helps says the city has kept the door open on the possibility. Council extended the shipping container village’s temporary use permit until 2025—but, she notes, that would be subject to an operator like BC Housing funding it.

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Martin Bauman
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