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New non-profit housing project trying to shift the paradigm for subsidized housing

A new non-profit housing project is an attempt to raise the bar for affordable housing by providing tenants with a reasonable standard of living and connecting them with resources, such as an in-house health clinic.

Neena Savage is excited to be the first person to move into Bob and Micheal’s Place, the largest subsidized housing project in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

The project is an attempt to raise the bar for affordable housing by providing tenants with a reasonable standard of living and connecting them with resources, such as an in-house health clinic.

“It doesn’t get any better than this at this price,” Savage said. “I feel people think of SROs as places that don’t give people dignity. Seeing something like this is eye-opening that this can be subsidizing housing.”

Savage says her rent is $1,200 a month, which is well below market price. At 22 years old, she thought she would never be able to afford to live on her own.

“I have been working for two years, but it didn’t mean anything because I couldn’t afford to live in the city I work and grew up in,” she said

Fresh out of university, Raunaq Nambiar and his friend are searching for a two-bedroom in the city. Nambiar says the prices at Bob and Micheal’s are unbelievable, and so are the amenities.

“Finding housing is nerve-racking,” he said. “I thought it was a lie so I had to double-check.”

On the fourth floor of the project, a terrace with rows of planter beds topped with fresh soil is ready for tenants to test out their green thumbs, allowing residents to grow their own produce in the centre of the city.”

“The fact that there is a garden, I am ready to get my hands dirty,” Nambiar said.

Dr. Henry Fung came up with the idea 15 years ago, envisioning the not-for-profit housing project on an empty lot straddling Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside.

“For the revitalization of Chinatown, you have to think of, not just Chinatown, but you have to revitalize the neighbours,” Fung said.

Savage says she is excited for the government and developers to see something like Bob and Micheal’s Place and replicate it across the city.

Nambiar expressed a similar sentiment.

“We have seen this wonderful neighbourhood persistently ignored by urban planners,” he said.

“It’s the first step to bring this neighbourhood back to what it used to be.”

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