‘The only word that I have or that I could translate in our language, is that it’s going to become a medicine house.‘
Just before site preparation began for construction of a six-storey affordable housing building at 162 Main St., Wisdom Elder Shane Pointe of the Musqueam People hosted a Blessing Ceremony. Here he explains the context and purpose:
In the chant I’m asking our collective ancestors to be here, and I’m letting this area, this land know that it’s going to change into something else. The only word that I have or that I could translate in our language, is that it’s going to become a medicine house. A place for our relatives who are poor. So this is going to be a place for them.
Also I’m asking the historical, way-back ancestors — there were five villages around this Inlet — so I’m letting them know that this is going to change and become like I said earlier, a medicine house.
I know that more than likely, the people who are going to live here are from around the world, but also our relatives from back east, that’s why I used the tobacco, and that’s not cigarette smoke, that’s tobacco.
When I put the medicine down—red ochre, salish and tobacco—I’m asking this land to protect and watch over what’s going to happen. It’s going to change, so I’m asking ancestors here to watch and protect, not only the ground, but the gentlemen, the ladies who are actually going to live here, to keep them safe, to keep their minds in a good place.
Site works begin for Main Village, 69 units of affordable rental housing
Anhart Community Housing Society is happy to announce that site preparation has begun at 162 Main Street in Vancouver. The project has been in the works since the spring of 2018, when Anhart purchased the property and began applying for financing and a development permit from the City of Vancouver.
Main Village is scheduled for completion in fall 2022. It is a six-storey building with 69 microsuites and ground-floor commercial space. Sixty per cent of the units will be social housing and rented at affordable rates, including 33% having the deepest affordability for people at risk to homelessness. The rent levels are based on the tenants’ household income, and the highest level is 10% below market rates.
The tenants will include people with disabilities, people working entry to mid-level jobs, new Canadians, and seniors. All of the tenants will meet income guidelines, have positive housing history references, and express a desire to contribute to the community.
The building is designed to promote a communal environment, with a large amenity space and a roof-top garden open to all tenants. Rather than employ a resident caretaker, Anhart’s housing model includes a tenant leadership team that fosters a sense of ownership, peer support and community watch.
Main Village was designed by architect Sandra Moore, partner at award-winning firm Birmingham & Wood Architects and Planners. Vancouver-based Etro Construction is the general contractor.
Anhart develops affordable housing through private/public collaboratives with involvement of impact investors, municipalities and senior levels of government. Anhart is grateful for the support of financing partners including Vancity Community Foundation and Vancity Savings and Credit Union.
Anhart Community Housing Society is a Vancouver-based charity that builds communities through developing, owning and operating affordable housing. Throughout its history, Anhart’s work has been generously supported by a small group of philanthropists. With their support, Anhart has invested $2.5 million in the $19.2 million project. Anhart has incorporated a Limited Partnership Agreement that will give a modest return to investors who are committed to social impact.
Affordable housing development
Anhart Community Housing Society began an ambitious plan in the fall of 2017 to buy properties for new affordable housing, including a vacant lot at 162 Main St. The charity created subsidiaries, including Anhart Homes, Anhart Construction and Anhart Tenant Services to develop, build and operate new housing while it continued to focus on operating The Dodson at 25 E Hastings St. and supporting people and communities of greatest need.
The first project completed was The Ryder, 40 units of affordable housing in Hope BC, in March 2020. This project was the first modular build to receive financing from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Rental Construction Financing Initiative. Anhart owns additional properties in Hope and Merritt that are currently under development.
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The low-rent model of community housing no longer works. What should we do?
Anhart Community Housing Society has operated The Dodson, an SRO (single-room occupancy) at 25 E Hastings Street, since 2004. We’ve owned it since 2013. Most of us would say that it’s close to our heart.
It was a gift from generous benefactors whose dedication to affordable housing in this troubled community remains an inspiration to us. It was where we developed our housing model, valuing tenant employment, bottom-up ideas, and social enterprise. We received generous support from our original investors, all manner of community-minded architects, building consultants and tradespeople, and tenant support workers. We were proud to say that the building operated on a private business model, that we supported many tenants, and that our rents were low (until recently $450).
It took many years of absorbing deficits as high as $200,000 to admit that the model no longer works. The Dodson is more than a century old, and despite approximately $3 million invested since 2004 (windows, elevator, pipes, electrical upgrades, new boiler, the list goes on) it needs ongoing and expensive TLC. Crime in this neighbourhood has increased in recent years; vandalism and unwelcome guests have forced us to bump up security and staffing. Tenants have suffered the widespread effects of the opioid crisis and many show signs of declining health.
The Dodson needs to change. We’re not giving up—in fact we are starting this new phase with a renovation, upgrading each room with new self-controlled electrical baseboard heating, new paint and kitchen amenities (cabinet, microwave and mini-fridge.) We are welcoming a new tenant in the commercial space, the formidable Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, and renovating the space to meet their needs. We are doing all we can to improve security and living conditions.
In a recent webinar, we invited all city councillors and various other parties to share our thoughts and discuss some options for the Dodson’s future. These include a new revenue model ($850 rent, achieved through subsidies, + social impact investment), partnership with other agencies, and a sale to public agencies.
We’re hopeful that recent conversations with various stakeholders will soon bring changes to ensure long-term and stable housing at the Dodson. For more detail about the current operations of the Dodson and possibilities for the future, watch the webinar below.
To talk more about the Dodson, contact Keith.Gordon@anhart.ca.
A 40-unit building in Hope BC is the beginning of a larger plan for affordable housing across Canada
Landscaping, paving and a picnic table were among the last touches to be completed at The Ryder, Anhart’s 40-unit affordable rental building at 1270 Ryder Street in Hope.
Tenants started moving into the building in March 2020, and it is currently full. Anhart thanks our partners, which included Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Vancity Community Foundation, Ralf and Helga Schmidtke, and Hart and Anita Molthagen.
Throughout the tenanting process, which began in December 2019, Anhart heard from people about their difficulty finding affordable housing in Hope, where CMHC had recently measured a zero per cent vacancy rate. Anhart is talking to several municipalities about building affordable housing in small urban centres across Canada. Many towns are struggling with the same factors facing Hope: a shortage of purpose-built rental housing and recent sales of homes with former rental units.
Anhart is currently working on a plan to develop projects for affordable home ownership in Hope BC.
May 2020: Here’s an update on Anhart’s privately developed affordable housing projects across Canada
Anhart Village Hope
In early April, tenants started moving into The Ryder, a 40-unit affordable rental community in Hope BC, and by the end of May the building was full. Construction of the parking lot continues and will be complete in early June. The Ryder is the first completed project in Anhart’s affordable housing initiative and everyone at Anhart celebrates the opening and welcomes our new tenants.
More than 150 people applied to live in The Ryder which has studio, two and three-bedroom suites. Like many small towns across Canada, Hope has been impacted by rapidly rising real estate values, the loss of rental units, and a lack of purpose-built rental housing.
To help meet this need, Anhart Homes is now developing rowhouses and condominium units for affordable home ownership on adjacent properties. While The Ryder focused on people who live or work in the district, these next projects will also attract people from other municipalities. Anhart looks forward to collaborating with Advantage Hope, an economic development agency of the district, and other local partners to help the region thrive and grow.
Anhart thanks our many partners who supported the project including: Vancity Savings and Credit Union for land purchase financing; Vancity Community Foundation for pre-development loans; Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation for construction financing; the District of Hope for advice and encouragement; and local agency Hope Area Transition Society for ongoing collaboration. The Ryder was built with off-site construction by Horizon North Logistics Inc.
Anhart Village Main
Anhart is moving ahead with plans for a 69-unit affordable rental building at 138 Main Street. The City of Vancouver’s development permit board gave the project a go-ahead in February, and architect Sandra Moore of Birmingham & Wood is finalizing design details with city staff. Tenants of the 69 microsuite units will include seniors, people with disabilities, people working entry to mid-level jobs and newcomers to Canada. Anhart Village Main will have ground-floor commercial space, an amenities room, and a roof-top garden for all tenants. Anhart recently created a limited partnership agreement to raise capital from social impact investors.
For more information about the Anhart Affordable Homes 2019 Limited Partnership, please contact Vy.Nguyen@anhart.ca or contact us here.
Anhart Village Merritt
Anhart owns a vacant property at 3757 De Wolf Way which is zoned for multi-family development. MQN Architects has drawn up plans for two buildings with a total of 76 units. Merritt has struggled with a low vacancy rate over the past few years and tenants here will include seniors, families, people with disabilities and people working entry to mid-level jobs.
Municipalities across Canada
Anhart is currently in talks with several municipalities in western provinces about affordable housing development. Many smaller urban centres are experiencing the same rental housing shortage as Hope and Merritt, and Anhart is working with officials to come up with solutions tailored to local needs and resources. To find out more about Anhart’s goal of building 20,000 affordable homes across Canada by 2030, visit here. If you are interested in bringing affordable housing to your municipality, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth Klassen needed an affordable apartment in Hope. The Ryder gave her more than she expected
I was commuting back and forth from South Surrey to Hope to take care of my dad. His health had started to decline and I was getting phone calls from the grocery store or from the bank. Like he went into the store and ate a chicken. I work with kids, and I’m getting these phone calls at work.
At first it was just day trips, and then it was weekends. I was just becoming completely unhappy because all I had was just work and my dad. And then you lose a little patience and ‘Oh Dad you can do this yourself.’ But no he can’t. Dementia is really a sad thing. So it really came to, ‘yeah I’ve got to move to Hope.’
For two years I looked for a place to rent and the cheapest I could find was about $900 and that was above and beyond what I could do. Anything else just wasn’t livable. I was staying with my dad while this building was being completed and that wasn’t going to go well for very much longer.
Finally having my own cute little apartment which I love has actually improved the quality of my relationship with my dad. The trickle effect is that now he can spend the rest of his days in his own home where he wants to be with his dog.
I love having the sense of community. There’s internet in the amenities room, and the ability to go in there and socialize with people in the building, it gives you a sense of belonging. Just meeting people and hearing their stories. Everybody was in the same boat — people were actually living in their cars in Hope.
What I have now is a big sense of relief. It doesn’t feel temporary. This place has a heartbeat. There is opportunity here. I’d love to start a forest school in Hope, I think it’s the perfect place for it. I originally thought I’m only going to be here for two years. I have changed my thinking into, ‘I’m home now.’
Elizabeth Klassen spoke to writer-in-residence Marcie Good in May 2020. This interview has been edited and condensed.
Anhart started as a partnership between community-minded property developers and a business-minded charity.