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admin | Category: Shipping Container Manufacturers | 20.03.2014
Five months after doors opened, tenants from a variety of backgrounds fill Atira Women's Resource Society's 12 shipping-container dwellings at 502 Alexander Street. Two women chop vegetables at a large central table in a tight common kitchen, chatting as they gently drop celery and red peppers into a central bowl, destined for snacks during upcoming community programs. Operated by Atira Women's Resource Society, the 12 shipping containers stacked three-storeys high at 502 Alexander Street in Vancouver are finally full of tenants five months after opening their doors on Sept. Media attention may have dropped away since Atira did a flurry of interviews about the then-empty containers last August. Abbott always had faith the exquisitely-staged, architecturally-repurposed containers would prove "how liveable small spaces can be," she says.
In addition to the 12 container suites, the $3.3-million construction paid for 19 other non-market rental units, plus a heritage restoration of the Imouto building.
With the suites quickly filled, Atira intends to submit a rezoning application by the end of January for a property it already owns in Strathcona. The site at the corner of Hawks and Hastings streets has the same square-footage as the one where the pilot project sits, but it's a different shape and the new structure aims for twice the height of the first, all requiring a new architectural plan.
One challenge will be securing the necessary land rezoning from light-industrial to residential, for which Atira will submit its application by "the end of the month," Abbott says.
Climbing the stairs beside the current three-storey container complex at Imouto, the blue and orange corrugated metal is icy to the touch. A smiling woman with curly white hair and round blue glasses opens her door, and I'm greeted by an enveloping warmth and a slight scent of roses.
The radio is always on, she tells me, harkening back to her work years ago as co-host of CBC Radio's morning show in Saint John, New Brunswick. From steel box to home: former CBC Radio host Susan Edwards was the first to move into the completed shipping container project.
In the four years since she moved to Vancouver, where her daughter lives, Edwards has moved five times for a variety of reasons all-too-common among the city's renters.
Although Edwards doesn't consider herself a mentor to the younger women in the enclave, she attends communal gatherings and has formed a bond with some of the other tenants. During the holidays, she painted a portrait of the block and had Christmas cards printed with the image.


Joining us in the unit is the manager of Atira's intergeneration mentorship program, Jennifer Kleinsteuber, who argues that Edwards is plays a vital role in the community.
Atira's intergeneration mentorship program coordinator Jennifer Kleinsteuber inside a soon-to-be-occupied suite.
With its ever-expanding collection of properties in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Atira is not without its detractors. Other tenants like Gayle developed a keen interest in the raised-bed gardens in the courtyard between the containers, which were the source of herbs and seasonings for the community's turkey suppers over the holidays. Describing herself as a poet who likes "to look deeper into things," Ahjahla Nelson pauses from chopping vegetables across the table to philosophize about container living. This series was produced by Tyee Solutions Society in collaboration with Tides Canada Initiatives Society.
While most newsrooms in Canada are shrinking, The Tyee is able to grow and produce independent, investigative reporting because of support from our readers (thata€™s you!). If just 5 per cent of the readers who visit this site every day sign up to give $5 per month, wea€™ll hit our goal of $20,000 in monthly sustainers, allowing us to hit the ground running in 2016. A stream of younger women move in and out of the space from the other rooms at Imouto Housing for Young Women, talking happily with each other.
She says she had been "traveling around a lot," staying with friends or nannying her granddaughter. She used to live in co-operative housing, but gave up her apartment for a friend and moved here in October.
But as they've filled with tenants -- six units for older women who serve as "intergenerational mentors" to six younger women -- the windows have become cluttered with knick-knacks and personal decorations, and the common kitchen at neighbouring Imouto is getting busier, even though each container has its own kitchen space. The project was built on a city-owned lot in partnership with Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation and BC Hydro. But the organization plans to go a step further: a seven-storey-high shipping container housing complex, with its requisite elevator and a new design.
Unlike the bachelor-suite prototypes at Imouto, the new family-oriented project will transform shipping containers into a mix of one and two-bedroom units. Susan Edwards beckons me to sit at her small kitchen table as the CBC hourly news jingle chimes in the background, where a mattress is pushed neatly against the wall-length window.


One card is addressed to the young women in the Imouto community, and sits in the main building across the courtyard. Many of the younger residents have struggled with addiction, mental health and poverty, but are seeking a new life.
Misgivings about housing women in 'crates' evaporated amid 'amazement at how beautiful these looked on the outside and on the inside,' she says. This series was made possible through the support of the Real Estate Foundation, Vancity, and BC Non-Profit Housing Association. In late November, she moved into a corrugated metal shipping container on the adjacent Atira-owned property.
At 280 to 290 square feet, each suite is a self-contained home with wood laminate flooring, a separate entrance, and its own bathroom and -- best of all, three tenants told me -- a European-style combined washer-dryer machine. Abbott says the pilot version spared no expense with some of its "premium elements" -- the fixtures, countertops and so on -- because she wanted the units "to show well" as the first container housing in Canada. She has mingled photos of her family with goalie Robert Luongo on the wall beside her entrance. Support for this project does not necessarily imply Vancity's endorsement of the findings or contents of this report. The steel frame makes them stronger then a typically built structure and the insulation gives them an advantage over the standard ISO container.
In each unit, a full container wall has been replaced by a giant window, many with perfect views of the harbour or the complex's central courtyard garden.
TSS funders and Tides Canada Initiatives neither influence nor endorse the particular content of TSS' reporting.
They also contain insulation and electrical package making them ready to go without the hassles and time it takes to modify a typical ISO container. Other publications wishing to publish this story or other Tyee Solutions Society-produced articles, please see this website for contacts and information.



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