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Marpole modular housing opponents want to be heard by Supreme Court of Canada

The City of Vancouver learned late last week that a group called the Caring Citizens of Vancouver Society is continuing its battle against temporary modular housing for the homeless in Marpole.
modular housing protest
Last November, more than 200 Marpole residents held a demonstration outside Vancouver city hall to protest plans for modular housing at West 59th and Heather Street. Photo Dan Toulgoet

The City of Vancouver learned late last week that a group called the Caring Citizens of Vancouver Society is continuing its battle against temporary modular housing for the homeless in Marpole.

The society’s earlier lawsuit challenging the development permit process the city followed was dismissed by both the B.C. Supreme Court and the B.C. Court of Appeal. Last week, the city received notice of the society's intent to seek leave to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The modular housing complexes at 7430 and 7460 Heather St. in Marpole house 78 units and they opened for occupancy earlier this year.

“The Caring Citizens Society’s application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada is regrettable,” said deputy city manager Paul Mochrie in a statement to the Courier. “In the face of two clear rulings on the matter, the city is now compelled to spend additional public funds in responding to that application. Furthermore, the success of the modular housing operation in Marpole provides clear evidence to counter the misapprehensions that the society relies on as the basis for its opposition.”

In a press release issued May 10, the society said it remained committed to its cause.

"The City of Vancouver and BC Housing officials have publicly alleged success of their TMH projects, ignoring numerous complaints and objections from the community and the serious consequences of their decisions," the statement reads. "The Society is of the view that to willfully eliminate a public hearing process in the name of swiftness violates the principal of modern property laws and raises serious questions of due process and fundamental justice. The Society demands genuine public consultation and transparency."

Chris Qiu, vice president of the society, said it would pursue every legal avenue available.

"For months, we have been arguing, using available methods in the community as well as in the courts, that this project has been pushed through without due process and that the chosen location is inappropriate," Qiu said. "We hope that the Supreme Court of Canada will hear this issue of great public significance, including on how our elected government officials should exercise the powers that the voters entrust to them."

According to the Supreme Court of Canada website, about 600 leave applications are submitted each year. Only about 80 are granted.

"The possibility of succeeding in getting an appeal heard is in general remote.  Each application for leave to appeal is considered carefully by the Court.  The Court never gives reasons for its decisions.  It is important to remember that the Court's role is not to correct errors that may have been made in the courts below," it states.

The City of Vancouver says both buildings in Marpole have been operating smoothly. There have been four calls for service to the buildings, as reported by the Vancouver Police Department, which weren’t related to the community or safety. One call was also reported through 3-1-1.

Some Marpole residents have been supportive of modular housing in the neighbourhood by organizing welcome packages for residents and funding an Easter dinner. A barbecue is also planned in the future.

The city is working on opening a total of 600 units of modular housing in Vancouver thanks to $66 million of funding from the provincial government. The buildings in Marpole have attracted the most opposition.

Other complexes are in various stages of development.

Tenanting is underway for 39 units at 1131 Franklin St., while another 39 units have been built at 525 Powell St. A 52-unit complex is under construction at 4480 Kaslo St. and construction on a 52-unit complex at 595 and 599 West Second Ave. is expected to start soon.

A complex at Little Mountain at East 37th near Main Street is in the development permit stage, while the city announced May 9 that a seventh site is under consideration for temporary modular housing at 688 Cambie St.


Note: This story has been updated since first posted.