BIRCH needs you and your letter of support. Again.

BIRCH is applying to BC Housing to the BC Housing Community Housing Fund this fall. Support from the Bowen community has been critical to our progress so far and we’re hoping that you will make the time to help us again and send a letter of support by Oct 15th.

Click here to open our full backgrounder on the project and the ask.

Bowen Island Resilient Community Housing (BIRCH) is the only non-profit housing society based on Bowen Island and is working to develop a more diverse range of housing options for our community.

We have land! Bowen Island Municipality has committed a 0.15 HA vacant parcel at 1033 Miller Road to build a community housing project with approximately 24 units of secure rental housing. With this land BIRCH will help build a more connected, resilient community by providing secure rental housing that will suit a variety of needs for Bowen Island community members, with a special focus on the Island’s most vulnerable: those with mobility challenges, low-income families, individuals, and seniors, and moderate-income families.

The need for affordable and non-market housing in our community is well-known, confirmed by a Housing Needs Assessment completed in 2020 and BIRCH’s own community housing surveys (2019, 2022). Additionally, the Bowen Island Community Foundation’s Vital Conversations most recent gathering identified affordable housing as a priority.

This project will provide urgently needed rental housing stock that is has a variety of size and rent levels. Providing secure tenure in rental housing is critical to maintaining a diverse community.

The current housing situation on Bowen Island (updated with 2021 Census data)

  • 90% single family homes
  • 85% Ownership
  • 21% owner households spending 30% or more of its income on shelter costs
  • 35% of rental tenant households spending 30% or more of its income on shelter costs
  • MLS Home Price Index, September 2023, lists detached homes price at $1,210,700
  • This requires an annual income of $253,491.10 (calculated with 10% down, with payments at 30% of household income)
  • The median total income for households on Bowen is $111,000±

We are currently preparing to apply to the next round of BC Housing’s Community Housing Fund. If we are successful in our application, we anticipate approximately $3.8m capital contribution that will be used to fund the construction of the project. In addition, we will be seeking funding from CMHC’s National Co-Investment Fund as well as contributions from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Green Municipal Fund to increase the energy efficiency and sustainability of the building.

Please send your letters of support to We will collate them and submit them with the housing application. Your response by October 15th would be appreciated.  

If you’d like a template for your letter, please click here.

Thank you so very much for your support. We cannot do this without you.

David McCullum
Board Chair
Bowen Island Resilient Community Housing

Variance Update – please continue to support this important project.

We are grateful that Bowen Council was unanimous in its support of the BIRCH variance request and has referred it to its committees for comment. They also would like the public’s comments and are asking for your input before July 24th at 4pm.

Comments may be sent:

• by E-mail to;
• by dropping off in person;
• by mail to 981 Artisan Lane, Bowen Island, BC, V0N1G2; or
• by fax to 604-947-0193

We are asking the community to send letters of support. These variances are critical to the viability of our project and so we hope you’re able to make the time to show your support.

Thank you so very much for your support. We cannot do this without you.

David McCullum
Board Chair
Bowen Island Resilient Community Housing

BIRCH Needs Your Help, Please!

Hello Bowen Island, we need your help in the form of a letter or email to Bowen Island Municipal Council by June 22nd!

Bowen Island Resilient Community Housing (BIRCH) is applying for a Development Variance Permit for our community rental housing project located on Miller Road (next to the new Health Centre). We are seeking two variances: the first is a reduction of parking spaces from the required 24 to 10.

The second variance is an increase to building height from the zoned maximum of 9.0m to 13.29m.

Only with both of these variances will we be able to maximize our use of the property and provide the ~25 units of secure rental housing that we have been working towards these last few years.

We are asking the community to send letters of support. These variances are critical to the viability of our project and so we hope you’re able to make the time to show your support.

Our application will be introduced at the June 26th Council meeting, with a vote coming later in the summer at the July 24th meeting.

Please send your letters:

• by E-mail to;
• by dropping off in person;
• by mail to 981 Artisan Lane, Bowen Island, BC, V0N1G2; or
• by fax to 604-947-0193

Thank you so very much for your support. We cannot do this without you.

David McCullum
Board Chair
Bowen Island Resilient Community Housing

BIRCH is Applying for a Variance!

Director Adam Lougheed and the brains of the sign erection project Ralph proudly show off BIRCH’s Development Variance Permit Application notice.

BIRCH is proud to have reached the next step in the project: asking the Municipal Council to approve our application to both increase the permitted height of our building and decrease the required number of parking spaces.

The height will allow us to maximize our use of the land and offer the most rental spaces possible, and the parking reduction does the same, while also recognizing that this will be a project that results in housing that is walkable to the school, shops, the ferry, and the core facilities of our community.

Please watch this space for our call for support as this decision comes before Council.

Bowen Island Municipal Election October 2022 – questions for the candidates


On October 15th our community goes to the polls to select its local government. BIRCH has questions for each candidate:

  • What tangible commitment are you as a candidate willing to make to BIRCH and the Miller Road project, and uphold once elected?
  • Will you support implementing the MRDT to provide revenue for building affordable housing for Bowen?


Several years ago, we saw a gap in the kind of housing being developed on Bowen. With no non-profit organisation in a position to go after the newly available provincial and federal funding opportunities, Bowen Island Resilient Community Housing (BIRCH) Society was formed. We reached out to the municipality, and they agreed to partner with us in the development of new affordable housing in the community and provide land for the project.

BIRCH is primarily volunteer run, with our executive director working at below market compensation. With the approximate $30,000 of operational funds BIM has provided in the past 4 years, BIRCH has been able to secure almost $200,000 in project funding for the Miller Road affordable housing project (note –this funding cannot be used for BIRCH operations). We have secured our consultant team and completed schematic design of the building. We have also recently formed a partnership with a well-established Vancouver-based housing organisation that greatly improves our chances of securing government funding.

During the campaign for the 2018 Bowen Island municipal election, 100% of the candidates for Council and the Mayoralty publicly pledged their support to working to solve the housing crisis that the Island was facing. Each candidate endorsed the project that BIRCH had been pursuing in support of solving this problem. However, after the election, Council drastically reduced the land that they would make available to the BIRCH project. The resulting renegotiation resulted in a significant reduction in the land available to the project, drastically reducing the scope of BIRCH’s ability to build, and sending mixed messages to potential funding partners regarding the municipality’s support for the project.

In the 4 years since then, our relationship with BIM has felt less and less like a partnership. In 2019 we were granted a 3-year agreement to lease on a lot on Miller Road. Recently, a renewal of that agreement was reduced to 1 year – according to the CAO this reduction was in order to “hold (BIRCH’s) feet to the fire” and ensure that the land remain available for “any higher purpose.” These types of statements have made us at BIRCH feel that we are not seen as valuable partners, working together with the municipality to build housing for the community – but rather as an outside organisation that needs to continually prove its value.

Additionally, operational funding has been very difficult to secure. Applications to BIM for multi-year funding were turned down, and it was only after 3 unsuccessful grant applications that council made a special resolution to provide operational funds. We repeatedly had to make our case for the need for operational funds to support our organisation – once again feeling we need to prove our worthiness as a partner. Continually having to justify our organisation and its role in developing housing on Bowen has taken its toll on our board and staff and our motivation.

Lastly, our advocacy for implementation of the MRDT has not been made a priority by the current council. This tax would provide revenue to the municipality that could be used towards affordable housing – such as operational funds for BIRCH or other housing organisations.

BIRCH does not purport to have the only answer to the housing crisis, nor is it the only organisation working towards housing solutions on Bowen Island. We are however, in a unique position to apply for upcoming government funding opportunities – with our years of professional experience, work completed to date towards the Miller Road project and our ongoing efforts at building relationships with funding partners.

With this upcoming election and a new mayor and many new councillors, we are hoping for a stronger relationship and true partnership with the municipality moving forward.

BIRCH’s July 2022 Housing Survey Summary


This past summer Bowen Island Resilient Community Housing (BIRCH) conducted our second community housing survey. Like our last survey in 2019, we asked the Bowen community about the current housing situation and for feedback on our proposed housing project. In this most recent survey we have also asked how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the housing situation on Bowen Island.

The survey results summarized in this post will help guide BIRCH as we progress towards the development of non-market affordable rental housing here on Bowen Island. We would like to thank everyone who completed the survey.

Key Takeaways

Similar to the survey we conducted in May 2019, the majority of respondents were middle age, with two-thirds of all responses coming from those between the ages of 50 and 79. We received no survey responses from those under 20, six responses from those between 20-34 and only 3 responses from those 80 years old and above. It is important to note that while these groups may be under represented in the findings summarized below they remain important members of the Bowen community, with unique housing concerns that must be considered.

  • Respondents from all household income levels expressed concern about housing affordability and availability on Bowen Island.
  • Almost all respondents (97%) indicated that their concerns about housing affordability and availability have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • While the majority of respondents indicated that their current housing is suitable in the near-term, many had significant longer-term concerns about their ability to age in place safely.
  • Consistent with the 2019 survey results, below-market rental remains the highest priority housing tenure type, with almost half of all respondents (47%) identifying it as their top priority.
  • There is a significant interest in exploring more unconventional housing types such as mobile and manufactured homes, as well as “tiny homes”, located on either leasehold pads or non-permanent foundations.

Nov. 25th: Community Update Event!

Hi again Bowen Island,

It’s us, BIRCH, or more formally, Bowen Island Resilient Community Housing. It’s been too long since we last talked. We are remedying that by providing an update to the community on BIRCH’s progress, our current project status, and where we’re headed next.

Given the current health situation, the best and safest way to do this is by hosting an online community update event on Wednesday, November 25th at 7 pm.

To register, please visit:

You will also learn more by going to our Facebook page or Facebook event.

At this event we will reveal for the first time what the building will look like, a breakdown of unit types, and projected rent levels. Boni Madison Architects, our development consultants CitySpaces, and BIRCH Executive Director Robyn Fenton will be available afterwards to answer questions.

We are really looking forward to seeing you there!

New Funding!

BIRCH has exciting news to share! 

BC Housing has recently supported BIRCH with a $101,500 interest-free loan under its Pre-Development Funding program. This funding supports early stage projects in initiating design for non-market housing by providing funding for refining the building project design and developing more accurate project budgets. This funding will allow BIRCH to continue working with our architects, Boni Maddison Architects, and our development consultants, CitySpaces, to apply for project funding through the BC Housing Community Housing Fund and CMHC’s National Housing Co-Investment Fund. If our final applications are successful, it will allow BIRCH to complete the final design and engineering to begin construction – the ultimate goal being the completion of new community housing on Bowen Island, something the community urgently needs.

As always, we appreciate the support of the Bowen Island community, including Bowen Island Municipality, and look forward to sharing more good news in the near future!

Thank you 2019 :)

As this year comes to a close, BIRCH would like to take a moment to say thank you to everyone in the community that has helped us along the way.

It was a busy year for BIRCH and included several important milestones for our project: we secured a leasehold lot of community land on Miller Road, we received over $90,000 in grants towards the project and completed a feasibility report. 

Looking forward to 2020 and next steps, we’re extremely excited to announce that we’ve selected our project architect, Boni Maddison Architects. Over the next few months we’ll be working with BMA to develop schematic design plans for our first community housing project, and will share those as soon as we’re able to! 

Again, thank you Bowen for all your support this past year. We wouldn’t be where we are today without your help. Now, let’s flip that last calendar page and get to work on 2020!

2019 Housing Survey Results

This past Spring BIRCH asked the Bowen Island community about the current housing situation, for feedback on our proposed housing project and thoughts on our future together. This was done as part of the feasibility stage of our project – and generously funded by a grant from the VanCity Foundation.

The feedback summarized in this document will help guide BIRCH as we progress towards the development of non-market rental housing on Bowen Island. We look forward to sharing more insights from the survey in a future report – but for now – here is a summary of the results:

BIRCH – site confirmed

BIRCH is thrilled to announce that at it’s regular council meeting on May 27, 2019, Bowen Island Municipal Council approval a 0.15ha site for BIRCH to build non profit rental housing for the community.

At the same meeting, council agreed to expedite the agreement to lease – a legal document that will secure this site for us and give us the commitment we need to apply for our next stage of funding.

We are very appreciative of the time and efforts of the Mayor’s Standing Committee on Community Lands, Council and Staff – as well as the collaboration of our future neighbours, the Bowen Island Health Centre Foundation.

NEXT STEPS: We will be completing the feasibility stage over the next 6-8 weeks and will be applying to CMHC for SEED funding to move to the next per-development stage – which will include hiring the architects and engineers to design the project.

Bowen Island Community Foundation Grant

BIRCH is very pleased to announce we have received a $15,000 grant from the Bowen Island Community Foundation. Executive Director, Robyn Fenton, and board chair, David McCullum, were in attendance at the Foundation’s AGM in April.

See more about the foundation and the amazing projects and work they support:

These funds will be used towards the project development phase of our first project, in partnership with the municipality, to be built on community lands.

A big thank you to the Bowen Island Community Foundation for investing in the creation of affordable housing for Bowen Island.

Help us name our project!

We want your ideas to create a name for our lot 3 project!

We want as many suggestions as possible! Then BIRCH will create a short list and we’ll have the entire community vote on the name, via our upcoming survey.

Please send your ideas by February 28th to: or in our post on facebook.

VanCity Grant Funding Received!

BIRCH is very pleased to announce we have received a $19,000 grant from the VanCity Community Foundation to take our project to the next phase.

This grant is Project Funding that will go specifically towards the next phase of the project on lot 3: Feasibility. The Feasibility Phase will include:

  • Community consultation
  • Concept design
  • Feasibility analysis and report (business case)

 This work will be completed by our consultants CitySpaces, and some funding is included for BIRCH to work along side them, to build our internal capacity. This means VanCity is investing in BIRCH so that for future projects, we may be able to complete much of this work ourselves, with less support from consultants.

Goals for Feasibility Phase (approx. 3 month): 

  1. Confirm land contribution by entering into a lease agreement with Bowen Island Municipality
  2. Have a clear vision of the project (unit numbers, unit mix, rent levels, building type)
  3. Complete a financial feasibility analysis for the project based on project needs
  4. Analyze feasibility options based on desired funder/financier models (BC Housing & CMHC)
  5. Confirm additional partnerships (if any) for the project
  6. Be ready to apply for next level of funding, which is SEED funding from CMHC

A huge thank you to VanCity and the support we’ve received from Noha & Emma at CitySpaces to get to this stage.

While we can now confidently continue our work towards the project on lot 3, BIRCH will continue to fundraise and apply for grants for operation funding. Securing this kind of funding is a key to making BIRCH a successful organisation in the long term. Why does BIRCH need operational funding and how is it different from project funding?

Operational Funding for a non profit such as BIRCH covers costs such as: insurance, bookkeeping/accounting, phone bills, website, and most importantly, staff time to: apply for grants; meet with: consultants, community members, elected officials, developers; attend conferences – making connections in the sector; update the website and social media; perform general administration duties, organise board meetings, record minutes, create annual reports, etc.

Project Funding is money allocated specifically to one project and to achieving specific goals and outcomes. It cannot be used to pay our regular bills, nor for staff time doing admin for the organisation.

As part of this coming phase, BIRCH will soon be conducting a survey and we want ideas from the community on what we should name this project! The short list will be included in the survey for the community to vote on. People can submit their ideas by Feb 28 on facebook, or email:

We have a new Director!

BIRCH has a new director! We are thrilled to announce that Adam Lougheed was recently elected to the Board of Directors and is already hard at work.

Here’s his bio: “Adam lives with his partner in the Bluewater neighbourhood and is proud to call Bowen home. As a transportation planner with a focus on transit, walking and cycling, Adam is committed to a Bowen that is safe and accessible for all. Prior to Bowen, Adam worked in policy research and long-term strategic planning. As a Director, Adam is excited to contribute to the development of diverse and affordable housing on Bowen.”

Thank you, and welcome Adam!