Non-profit organization provides 30 affordable housing units to artists in Vancouver

Local artists will pay a reduced rent and have space for their creative work

The housing includes 30 units broken into 13 studios, and 15 one-bedroom and two two-bedroom units. (221A/Submitted)

The housing includes 30 units broken into 13 studios, and 15 one-bedroom and two two-bedroom units. (221A/Submitted)

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

Artists with low-income and their families will not have to spend more than 30 per cent of their monthly income to pay the rent. They will also have access to a production space to create their work, which will be made free of charge. 

The housing includes 30 units broken into 13 studios, and 15 one-bedroom and two two-bedroom units. Occupants pay a reduced rent ranging from $467 to $1,556 with access to a rooftop playground for their children, laundry for the building, and a place to park their bikes and cars. 

The non-profit organization is a subdivision of the Artist Housing Society, an art centre that provides “educational programs, commissions research, and operates cultural spaces” around the city. 

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

Afuwa says artists face disadvantages with their field of work. 

“Artists are precariously paid, and don’t necessarily have access to permanent livable wages. We wanted to look at that but also look at the intersections of race and disability, and make sure that we were able to get … artists in Vancouver into that housing,” Afuwa says. 

Last year, 221A opened the application process, which included asking artists about their work and how connected they are to their community. 

When the housing opened, the organization received about 400 applications. There is currently a long waiting list, and Afuwa credits that to the housing crisis in the Lower Mainland. 

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

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

With this space, artists will be able to have somewhere 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 connections that you’ve been able to actually gain from not having to move over and over and over again,” says Afuwa.

“Having to uproot yourself destroys community bonds.” 

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

“The Lower Mainland has almost 2.5 million people, and this [housing has] 30 residents. So,  there’s one part in which it feels like it’s a very small beginning but it is necessary to begin,” she says. 

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