The Runner | Nonprofit provides 30 affordable homes for Vancouver artists

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The accommodation comprises 30 units divided into 13 studios and 15 one-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units. (221A/Submitted)

Artists in the City of Vancouver will have access to affordable housing through the 221A Artists Housing Corporation.

Low-income artists and their families will not have to spend more than 30% of their monthly income to pay rent. They will also have access to a production space to create their work, which will be produced for free.

Housing understand 30 units divided into 13 studios and 15 one-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units. Occupants pay reduced rent ranging from $467 to $1,556 with access to a rooftop play area for their children, building laundry, and a place to park their bikes and cars.

The nonprofit is a subdivision of the Artist Housing Society, an arts center that provides “educational programs, commissions research and operates cultural spaces” throughout the city.

Afuwa, associate director of 221A, says the organization started out as an art gallery and over the years has built good relationships with artists and the city. She says this affordable housing is a new venture for the organization, but he feels it’s something the city needs.

Afuwa says artists are disadvantaged in their field of work.

“Artists are paid precariously and do not necessarily have access to permanent decent wages. We wanted to look at that, but also look at the intersections of race and disability, and make sure that we could bring…Vancouver artists into that housing,” says Afuwa.

Last year, 221A opened the application process, which included questions to artists about their work and their connection to their community.

When the accommodation opened, the organization received approximately 400 applications. There is currently a long waiting list, and Afuwa attributes this to the housing crisis in the Lower Mainland.

The rental price in Vancouver from January to May was valued at $2,909 per month. The cost of living increases when the price of transport, food and other amenities is calculated.

“Housing should be a human right,” says Afuwa. “It’s a matter of life. We all need safe and secure housing,”

With this space, artists will be able to have a place to live, create and contribute to the community.

“To be able to be part of a community, to create in place, to age in place, and then to be able to give the resources [and] those community bonds that you were able to actually gain by not having to travel over and over and over again,” says Afuwa.

“Having to uproot destroys community ties.”

Afuwa says it’s good to be the first organization to provide affordable housing for artists, but she wants more opportunities like this to become available.

“The Lower Mainland is home to nearly 2.5 million people, and that [housing has] 30 residents. So there’s a part where it feels like it’s a very small start but you have to start,” she says.

“As an artist and as someone who’s lived in Vancouver for over a decade, of course I feel like we could use more,” she adds. “Anyone who lives in Vancouver knows how stressful the housing situation is, and I feel like this is a really positive and wonderful step in the right direction.

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