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Wesley Place on Nelson Street

A tale of two churches

Vancouver city politicians may be looking to churches to do what they won’t be able to afford in a deep…

By Brent Wittmeier , in Elections , on November 13, 2008 Tags: , , ,

Vancouver city politicians may be looking to churches to do what they won’t be able to afford in a deep recession: build housing. Here are two examples of Vancouver churches developing their parking space into housing:

St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church (Burrard and Nelson)
St. Andrew’s-Wesley is an example of how building a development on a parking lot can benefit a struggling church while adding to the housing supply.

Wesley Place on Nelson Street
Wesley Place on Nelson Street

In 1999, St. Andrew’s-Wesley was losing money. Faced with an aging congregation and rising upkeep costs to its heritage building, the downtown church explored development options for its property next door.

The congregation decided to use its trust fund money and developed a 22-storey, 193-unit apartment building.

Six years since its completion, the church is looking at phasing out some of the market housing to provide affordable options, an example of the “Robin Hood” scenario that one Vancouver city council candidate envisions.

“The goal is to be able to use it for social housing,” says Don Evans, part of the church’s Homelessness and Mental Health Action Group.

Grandview Calvary Baptist Church (E 1st Ave and Victoria)
While some churches develop property out of financial necessity, others turn to affordable housing as part of a longstanding social commitment.

Parking lot at 1st Ave E & Victoria
Parking lot at 1st Ave E & Victoria

Grandview Calvary Baptist church expects to begin building a social housing project in the coming year.

The facility will be built on a nearby parking lot and community garden, and will house individuals with addiction issues living on or near the street.

Through a partnership with More Than a Roof, a faith-based non-profit housing agency, Grandview Calvary will take an active stake in the facility.

Tim Dickau, pastor of the East side church, sees social housing as a way of reflecting the needs of his community.

The housing will be as part of “a commitment to love our neighbourhood and love the folks in it.”

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