Construction of shipping-container homes set to begin as fundraiser nears halfway point

A campaign raising money to convert shipping containers to tiny homes for people living in Victoria’s parks is almost halfway to its $500,000 goal.

Luke Mari of Aryze Developments, which is partnering with the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness on the project, said he hopes to begin purchasing materials this month to kickstart construction.

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“We knew that once we hit the halfway point that we would build at least 15 homes as a pilot project,” he said. “The hope was always to do 30, which I think we’ll still get to, but there’s no point sitting on half of our money to do nothing.”

Initially, the plan was to buy the containers and hire a supplier to build and deliver the tiny homes. But Mari said so many other companies have offered materials or services in recent weeks that Aryze may pivot to outfitting the containers themselves.

“I think we can do them for cheaper, which means more homes,” he said.

Aryze has already donated labour and resources to find a container supplier and develop designs that would meet fire and safety codes. Each unit would be 160 square feet with a bed, desk, hot plate, fridge and shared shower and washroom facilities.

Mari said organizers have yet to decide on a site for the homes.

“We’re still working on a couple different locations, but nothing is firmed up yet,” he said. “That’s kind of the benefit of these things being fully self-­contained … they can go anywhere.”

The “Hey Neighbour” crowdfunding campaign, listed under the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness on the Canada Helps website at ­canadahelps.org, was at just over $211,000 on Saturday night.

Mari said he’s aware of another $20,000 in pending donations — not including tens of thousands of dollars worth of in-kind donations of materials and consulting services.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who co-chairs the coalition and has endorsed the project, said she’s confident the campaign will reach its goal.

“I think we’ll get there,” she said. “We’re at 15 [homes]. We need to get to 30. But, you know, if we only raise enough money for 20, then maybe we build 20 tiny homes. But every home counts.”

City council endorsed a plan in November to end around-the-clock camping in city parks by the end of March, as long as about 200 people living in parks in November were offered ­housing or shelter space before the deadline.

Helps said the tiny-homes project is one of the ways to get people inside. “Those 30 homes are part of the calculation,” she said.

Mari said recent flooding that forced people from their tents in Central Park highlighted the need for housing. He’s hoping building 15 homes to start will boost the crowd-sourcing campaign and win support from the provincial government.

“Our dialogue with them is that they’re interested to see how this goes,” he said. “Hopefully, we can show that this works.”

lkines@timescolonist.com

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