A temporary supportive housing project that’s been flying under the radar for the past two years in North Vancouver is expanding at the site of the Travelodge Motel on Capilano Road.
BC Housing recently signed a lease with the motel owners to take over all 61 rooms at the Travelodge to provide supportive housing at the motel for people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.
Under the agreement, the site will be leased by the province for supportive housing until 2023, with a possible extension to 2025, depending on redevelopment of the property.
BC Housing will pay $1.5 million annually towards operating costs of the supportive housing for the term of the lease, which runs until November 2023.
Part of the motel has been quietly in use for supportive housing since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020. That’s when the province began to rent hotel rooms in a number of communities to help provide more space for people who would otherwise be living in crowded conditions in emergency shelters or not have anywhere to self-isolate when they became ill.
In North Vancouver, the housing project began with 21 rooms, which was later expanded to 30 rooms. The project has been run as a supportive housing model, where tenants recommended by various agencies that work with the homeless are provided stable, long-term housing along with meals and assistance to connect them to other community and government resources. Until now, support of staff up to eight hours a day has been provided by the Lookout Housing and Health Society, which also operates the emergency housing shelter on Second Street in North Vancouver.
Soon, however, a new agency – the Lu’ma Native Housing Society – will be taking over operation of the supportive housing. The society will offer similar practical supports as well as provide options for Indigenous cultural support 24 hours a day at the site.
Recently, BC Housing has also signed a lease agreement to take over all 61 rooms at the property for supportive housing.
While the project started off as an offshoot of needs at the shelter, the current model isn’t intended to operate as a temporary shelter option.
It’s intended to provide more long-term housing for people who are likely already living in precarious situations in the community.
“The reality is, there's lots of people experiencing homelessness that are already in our communities, they're living in cars, on the streets, in tents, and parks, and couch-surfing from place to place,” said Bowinn Ma, MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale. “They're hiding out in warmer, dry places wherever they can find them, and a lot of them will spend evenings and night with the Lookout shelter.”
The supportive housing will provide an option for adult men and women, with those from the North Shore getting priority.
Letters to nearby residents and businesses are going out this week from BC Housing, explaining the shift in the type of accommodation being provided at the Travelodge.
As there is no new facility being built for the project and normal use of hotel rooms includes long-term stays, no additional public process is needed.
When the province initially began to lease hotels, locations were often not disclosed, said Ma, to avoid perceptions about street crime, for instance, that may have nothing to do with the presence of supportive housing.
The supportive housing in the Travelodge will likely be temporary, however, as the property is planned for redevelopment.
IBI Group has applied to build a 330-unit condo and rental apartment complex, including a 27-storey tower, on the site – currently also home to the Denny’s and Pho Japalo restaurants – as part of the Lions Gate Village neighbourhood currently under redevelopment at Capilano Road and Marine Drive. A public hearing on that development happens this week on Tuesday evening.