Vancity Community Foundation gives BIRCH $19,000

The money is for the feasibility phase of the Bowen Island Resilient Community Housing project.

The power was still out Monday afternoon when Bowen Island Resilient Community Housing’s executive director Robyn Fenton got the congratulations call from her consultant.

Fenton’s laptop was low on battery so she hadn’t yet seen the email from the VanCity Community Foundation saying that it was giving BIRCH $19,000 for the next phase of the Lot 3 housing project.

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“So I went and looked at it,” laughed Fenton, adding that she’s thrilled that the organization’s received funding for the feasibility phase of this project.

The proposed 20-unit (give or take a few) market and below market rental housing project has gained momentum over the past nine months. The municipality agreed to partner with BIRCH on the project and the two have an “agreement to lease” for nearly half a hectare of Lot 3 of the Community Lands.

“I’m really flattered that VanCity really sees the possibility in this project,” said Fenton. “What I get from them giving this to us is that they really had confidence in us and our partnership with the municipality and that this is a great project for them to invest in and to really help us.”

“We were kind of stuck,” said Fenton. But she said that this money will allow the organization to get to the point where it can apply for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)’s seed funding program. The program gives affordable housing projects interest-free loans and non-repayable contributions. 

The goals of this next phase include getting an official lease agreement with the municipality for the lot 3 property, solidifying the vision of the project (how many units, how much rent will cost, how many units at market level and how many below), complete a business case for the project, confirm any partnerships and at the end of the phase be in a position to apply for the CMHC seed funding.

Fenton says that this phase, expected to last around three months, will include a concept design and community consultation.

Some of the Vancity money is to be put toward building internal capacity noted Fenton. Though the organization has engaged CitySpaces, a consulting firm, to support the project planning, BIRCH people will work alongside the professionals so that in the future BIRCH won’t need to rely so heavily on consultants.

Last week BIRCH asked municipal council for four years of operational funding from the municipality’s community grants fund (Fenton asked for $25,000 a year for four years.)

Fenton highlighted after the Vancity announcement that the asked operational funding from the municipality is different from the Vancity project funding. Operational funding covers domain names, website and social media maintenance, insurance, staff time and all that – the nuts and bolts of keeping an organization running. This Vancity funding is specifically for the Lot 3 project.

Fenton also said that part of this next phase will be a community survey on what BIRCH should call this project. For the record “BARC” is taken as it’s already the name of the BIRCH Advisory & Research Committee (the organization’s community advisory committee). Submit ideas by February 28 on Facebook or email BIRCH will then circulate a shortlist.


Correction: an earlier version of this story stated that BIRCH was looking to lease half an acre of property, they are in fact looking to lease nearly half a hectare. We are sorry for the error. 

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