Value-Added Housing

Whalley Legion Branch; Photo:


Renewable Cities is supporting the transition to low carbon, more affordable housing on public and non-profit land in B.C and beyond. Value-Added Housing are innovative housing developments that converge affordability, climate action and economic transition. They support mixed-use, multi-unit housing with low embodied carbon and are built on strategically located land near transit and jobs.


Over 40 non-profit and public sector organizations gathered with us to explore the potential of developing housing on under-used community land.

We jointly hosted a workshop with BC Builds, BC Housing and Vancity Community Foundation to discuss goals, challenges, experiences and resources for organizations that want to develop housing on top of community spaces but are not traditional housing providers (e.g., schools, health centres, faith spaces).

"Why aren't we building excellent housing?" Our panelists - Luke Harrison, Michelle Hoar, Renée Olson and Rowena Rizzotti - shared their expertise to move beyond 'business as usual' and build excellent, socially resilient housing that will last for 100 years.

Themes that emerged:

Left to right: Lisa Helps (BC Builds), Alicia Medina (Vancity Community Foundation)

“It’s not just social benefits for the sake of social benefits. It’s about creating viable, livable communities that can then spin off into interconnected economic, social and environmental benefits.”

Building excellent housing has the potential to support vibrant, inclusive, resilient communities. It’s about more than units and economics.

“It’s a different way to do business.”

Groups need innovative solutions to match unique contexts (e.g., alternative sources of capital, cooperative housing models or modular housing).

“It’s important to maintain relation with regulatory bodies for project approvals.”

Groups need solutions to navigate and expedite rezoning and approvals processes (e.g., proactively connecting with elected councils about projects).

Aftab Erfan (SFU Centre for Dialogue) leading a dialogue to map the housing development system

“Feeling lonely and lost.”

Participants want to connect with others (e.g., workshop participants, groups that have recently redeveloped and trustworthy developers) to navigate this complex process.

“We have the land; we just need to build the capacity internally.” “Phone a friend! Who are the knowledge keepers who can share the info?” 

Participants mapping the dynamics of the housing development system

“Show me the money!”

Groups need to secure funding for developing and operating housing alongside their facilities, some need assistance with feasibility studies, others feel confident they can find funds if their membership/constituents share the vision. 

“Organizations have to make a decision on if they want to get into housing. These are not our mandate. You have to break rules. This is the new normal.”

Garnering the support of boards, membership and neighbours to champion housing developments will be crucial. 

Resources for what's next

Road map for housing development


Hey Neighbour Collective 'Building social connections' cases studies




Housing affordability, livability, climate adaptation and social isolation are growing issues in B.C. and beyond. Innovative housing developments hold great potential in harnessing strategically located, under-utilized land to build mixed-use, multi-unit housing to address these interconnected issues.   

Renewable Cities engaged with eight public and non-profit communities who redeveloped their land to include mixed-use, multi-unit housing alongside community infrastructure to inform these case studies.

These case studies aim to amplify the opportunities associated with land redevelopment for mixed-use housing projects on public and non-profit lands and to connect groups who are considering similar projects. These cases studies demonstrate the potential that innovative housing developments have in building more affordable, socially connected and climate resilient housing in B.C. and beyond. They provide practical examples of challenges, lessons learned and best practices, along with recommendations to non-market landowners and different levels of government to enable more housing developments of this kind.

Recommendations from these cases studies are being shared with the Province of British Columbia’s BC Builds program.

For an overview of learnings across all cases studies, read our summative learnings publication (6 pages).

Summative learnings

For the complete set of case studies, read our full publication (71 pages).

Case studies


Non-profit case studies:

Photo: VIA Architecture

Brechin Hill is a 74 unit, 5 storey church and residential building, replacing the original 1950's A-Frame single-storey Brechin United church building.

Brechin Hill

Photo: Co:Here

Co:Here Housing is a mixed-income apartment building located on the former under-used parking lot of Grandview Baptist Church. 

Co:here Housing

Photo: The Lark Group

Legion Veteans Village is a 20 storey tower that integrates affordable and market housing, a legion facility and services for veterans and first responders.


Photo: Rosati

The Windsor Islamic Association Seniors Housing Project developed housing to put the community's seniors closer to the mosque for care from the mosque community.


Public land case studies:

Photo: Jaden Nyberg

Bella Bella Staff Housing was rebuilt to Passive House standards after the hospital staff housing burned down in 2014.

Bella Bella

Photo: Henriquez Partners Architects/City of Vancouver

The Coal Harbour Project incorporates a school, daycare and social housing on a site owned by the City of Vancouver.

Coal Harbour


Rossland Yards incorporates affordable workforce housing and a new city hall to address the needs for both in the City of Rossland.

Rossland Yards


The Exchange Residence provides space for 651 students on top of a renewed UBC Exchange to respond to high demand for student housing and heavy transit use.