08/02/2013 09:53 EDT

Shipping Container Homes Unveiled In Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (PHOTOS)


Twelve metal boxes in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside have been transformed into Canada’s first recycled shipping container social housing development.

Built on a city-owned lot, the units at 502 Alexander St. – all studios – range from 280-290 sq.-ft of living space and come fully equipped with kitchens, bathrooms and en suite laundry.

Insulated and brightened by floor-to-ceiling length windows, each suite has been retrofitted with dark hardwood floors and clean, white cabinetry.

“The building and individual suites look better than we ever could have imagined,” said Atira Women’s Resource Society CEO Janice Abbott in a statement Thursday.

Atira Women’s Resource Society, a non-profit women’s organization focused on supporting female victims of violence and their families, partnered with the City of Vancouver, BC Hydro and other organizations to fund construction costs.

It took eight months and $82,500 in building costs per unit to get the development in move-in ready shape. With that competitive price point, city hall could potentially save a stack of cash amid calls for more low-income social housing.

"If we were to build housing for disadvantaged people now it's about $225,000 per unit for custom units from scratch but these units, which are virtually indistinguishable from any of those units, are about $85,000," Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang told CTV News.

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The early praise for the project is increasing the possibility of similar developments outside the country's most expensive city.

“I also see huge possibility in rural areas and the possibility of women who want to be able to return to their home communities,” Abbott told Axiom News.

Six units at 502 Alexander St. will be rented out to senior women and the other six to those who meet low-income housing qualifications.

Some potential residents have already reacted strongly after seeing their new designer homes, Abbott told CBC News.

“Many women are teary when they see this because most of them spend most of the last decades in single room accommodation hotels – the idea of having their own kitchen, their own bathroom – and as you can see these units are particularly beautiful.”

Move-in day is scheduled for Sept. 1, but tenants have not yet been selected.