Modular Affordable Housing In Canada: Evolving To Fit The Bill

House of Sweden photo by Ketzirah Lesser & Art Drauglis is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Sweden's embassy in Washington - a testimony to modular design

Getting on for 20 years ago, Peel Region (next door to Toronto) contracted with a private business to build an emergency shelter on a municipally owned site using modular construction. Funding was approved in July, 1999 and the shelter began operating seven months later. A second shelter was approved in 2000 following the same approach. Part of the attraction for the approving Council was that the buildings could be moved to other locations to meet other services needs when the homelessness emergency ended. Today, both buildings continue as emergency shelters on their original sites.

This year, the City of Toronto announced plans to open six temporary respite centres for people who are homeless during the 2018-19 winter. Temporary structures will be assembled on land owned by the city. The structures will include showers, laundry facilities and a servery for meals as well as space for sleeping and an eating area. Each site will accommodate 100 people. See City of Toronto: 24-Hour Respite Sites Infrastructure & Service Improvement

Toronto is perhaps influenced in this strategy by the City of San Diego, which also operates a winter respite program with temporary structures. Consider: Is San Diego On A Slippery Slope To Institutionalizing Homelessness?

Moving from emergency shelter to housing, modular construction is being used in the Vancouver area to provide temporary housing for people with very low incomes. Housing projects using modular units are being assembled on vacant properties that are planned for another use in the future. Units for single people are 23.2 square metres (250 square feet) and include cooking facilities and bathrooms. Once approved, construction and assembly are quick: units are ready for occupancy in two months. For one example in the Vancouver area, see the dailyHive: This Vancouver social housing took just 2 months to build

The temporary nature of the projects has helps to overcome concerns about permanent affordable housing, which has been a barrier elsewhere. Consider: Tiny Houses As Personalized Homeless Shelters— A Stepping Stone To Permanent Housing?