Woodward’s housing celebrated

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Social-housing units mixed with market condos

Tamara Baluja

Premier Gordon Campbell (left) and Liz Evans of the Portland Society tour the Woodward’s affordable housing units in downtown Vancouver at the grand opening on Friday. Jenelle Schneider — PNG

Eight years ago, Denis Paquin was sleeping on Vancouver’s streets — cold, wet and homeless. Today, the 57-yearold sleeps on a queen-sized fold-out bed with a cheerful yellow cover — and a glorious view of the mountains.

Paquin is one of the many residents who has moved in to more than 200 social-housing units at the former Woodward’s building in the Downtown Eastside.

The federal, provincial and municipal governments and the private sector pitched in $400 million for the entire renewal project, including market condos, business and community spaces.

“This is really the best social housing in the country,” said Jim Green, the driving force behind the resurrection of Woodward’s when he was elected in 2002 to city council. “It’s an extremely positive project. . . .

“I see it as a monument to rebuilding a community that had a lot of negative things dumped on it.”

The nine-storey West Hastings Street building has 125 bachelor suites for low-income singles, such as Paquin, who pay about $375 a month in rent.

Tenants have a kitchenette with a fridge and stove, a fold-out bed, a small seating area and a bathroom.

“I love the room. It’s very clean and bright,” Paquin says.

The 32-storey Abbott Tower has 75 two-or three-bedroom family apartments, as well as 206 market condos. The 43-storey W Tower has nine apartments for disabled people, plus 300 condos.

Deputy mayor Suzanne Anton said she was most pleased with the 75 family units because “it’s really important that we have families living all over Vancouver.”

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