A Vancouver organization with a 70-year history of delivering affordable housing for people who need it is renovating two decades-old seniors housing buildings to the Passive House energy efficiency standard, thanks in part to a C$10-million grant from the Green Municipal Fund (GMF).
The Passive House builds in East Vancouver will mean lower emissions and utility bills, courtesy of low window-to-wall ratios, triple-pane windows without metal frames, and high-efficiency mechanical and electrical systems, the GMF writes in a recent project update. The buildings will use 50% less energy and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 93% compared to conventional structures in the city.
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Brightside Community Homes Foundation is also adding 100 new units to the two buildings, enabling more seniors to stay in their home communities. The GMF announced the $10-million contribution in March, 2022 under its Sustainable Affordable Housing initiative.
Seniors with low incomes are among the 17% of public housing residents who struggle to pay their utility bills and experience energy poverty, says GMF. Utility bills are typically their highest monthly expense after housing.
“By investing in affordable and energy-efficient housing, we can meet the critical needs of both the environment and the most vulnerable among us,” the fund says.
Owned and operated by Brightside, one of Vancouver’s largest and most legendary housing societies, one of the buildings has provided affordable housing to seniors since the early 1960s. The second one started operations in 1971. All current residents will be offered the chance to move into the new housing units once they’re ready, and will continue to pay rents calculated according to their household income, Brightside said.
The retrofitted dwellings and common areas will be purpose-built to accommodate accessibility needs, with 20% of the units reserved for people with mobility challenges. The retrofits began in the summer of 2020, and is scheduled to conclude in spring 2024.