03/02/2015 11:17 EST | Updated 05/02/2015 05:59 EDT

Atira shipping container housing criticised for lack of retail

The Strathcona Residents Association is wary of Atira Women's Resource Society's plans to build a new seven-storey social housing complex out of recycled shipping containers on Hawks Avenue — saying the current proposal doesn't meet the neighbourhood's needs.

"The first meeting that we had [with Atira], we couldn't meet on Hastings Street because there's no coffee shop in the neighbourhood. There's nowhere to go for local residents to sit and talk," Elana Zysblat, the chair of the Strathcona Residents' Association, told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

"We'd like to see commercial space, locally relevant retail. We'd like to see a pedestrian friendly environment, because those few blocks of Hastings from Heatley and Clark which are in our neighbourhood are really not a very pedestrian or locally friendly area."

Janice Abbot, the CEO of Atira Women's Resource Society, said retail is being considered for the plan.

"I think the requests around commercial space are reasonable, so we're looking at incorporating this very early on," she said.

The 26-unit project would act as independent housing for women. 20 of the units will be studio apartments, with 6 two bedroom units for women with children.

Family housing needed

Zysblat said she would also like to see more social housing for families.

"Social housing in Strathcona is supposed to be family focused," she said.

"Atira has their mandate. They have to house the people that are a priority to them. I think our issue is with the city. The city said Heatley to Clark social housing should be focused on family. In this case, that's not what they're implementing."

Abbot said Atira does want to build more housing for families, but said that doesn't work with the current plans for this particular building.

"For us it's always a balance between doing something that meets all the needs of the neighbourhood and making it work financially."

To hear the full interview with Elana Zysblat and Janice Abbot, click the audio labelled: Atira to build new social housing from shipping containers.