Canada’s First Container Housing Development Built in Vancouver


Early last month, Canada got its first recycled shipping container housing development. It is located in the Downtown Eastside area of Vancouver, at 502 Alexander St. The housing project was developed by Atira Women’s Resource Society, which wanted to create affordable and quality non-market housing units to be rented out to older women.

The housing development is comprised of 12 studio units, each with a net living area of 280 – 290 square feet. All of the units are entirely self-contained, complete with bathrooms, kitchens and an in-suite laundry. With its colorful navy blue and burnt orange exterior walls, the housing blends in perfectly with the other building in the neighborhood.



The base structure of this three-story housing development was constructed from 12 recycled shipping containers. The walls of the units are spray-foam insulated and finished with drywall. The development meets all the national building codes, while it even exceeds the code requirements for insulation and sound transference.

The construction took approximately 8 months, with the first shipping container being transported to the building site on November 30th, 2012 and the project being finished in July 2013. The hard construction costs were $82,500 per unit.



Out of the 12 recycled container units, two were donated by private citizens, and two by B.C. Hydro. The remaining eight containers were purchased through a Port Metro Vancouver broker. The containers contain steel and are worth about $5,000 each, which would typically be too expensive for such an affordable housing development, according to the project development manager James Weldon.

Next door to the Alexander Street container housing, Atira also conducted a heritage restoration of a 16-unit Imouto Housing for Young Women. The two projects together cost $3.3 million. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. contributed $2.6 million of this cost, while the City of Vancouver contributed $92,000.

Half of the units in the Alexander Street development will be available for a fixed rent of $375 and rented to women with a minimal monthly income. The rent for the remaining six units will be calculated based on the resident’s income with a maximum rent of $850 per month. The residents of these units can also only earn a maximum of $34,000 a year.



Atira is already reviewing applications from potential residents, while they aim to make the cheaper, $375-a-month units available primarily to women over 50 years old.

The developers of the Alexander Street housing project were inspired by similar housing developments in Europe, and the society is already planning a second, more upscale container housing development at Hastings Street and Hawks Avenue in Vancouver. This one will be a seven-story structure comprised of 42 units, but the society is still waiting on city council approval to begin construction.

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  • cosmicmariner

    Is conventional construction $294/sqft in this area?

  • cosmicmariner

    Is conventional construction $294/sqft in this area?

  • cosmicmariner

    Is conventional construction $294/sqft in this area?

  • cosmicmariner

    Is conventional construction $294/sqft in this area?

  • Eric Smith

    Love this. Excellent Design!!

  • John Bailo

    $850 in Vancouver? Wow…

  • Dustin Ebaugh

    WOW! Very cool!!

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  • Kristin Pedemonti

    wonderful! This needs to happen in more locations. Here in Pennsylvania where I live we have a glut of old shipping containers from all the manufacturing/trucking companies, what a GREAT way to salvage them and provide affordable housing. Good job Vancouver!

  • Gbomo

    Been going on in Africa for a long time in terms of making them into stores. The next step is making them into housing.

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  • Andy Bax

    Unbelievable cool. Dream home.

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  • Ken Graham

    3 story open stair case – fail
    Where is the wheel chair ramp seeing as you neglected the elevator.

    Full length glass to fall against and out of – fail
    Not to mention the solar gain – requiring air conditioning – double fail.
    Plus the glass landing on the victims below – triple fail. And given no room for a hallway in the apartment this almost certainly is the bedroom – smile.

    This misses the 50 year old target age criteria, except for 1st floor – in fact I would not want children here either as you can imagine them on the stairways. You can use containers if you wish but I suggest looking at the 4 and 5 story apartments in Mexico.arranged 2×2 apartments (containers) with staircase in between them. (add a elevator as well to meet mobility requirements) And build for a 8 earthquake as if in Chile.

    I suggest the architect be required to live a year on the top floor without air conditioning along with the purchasing committee that approved this for low income housing.

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