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: https://bowenfoundation.com/

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: info@birchousing.org 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: info@birchousing.org

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!

BIRCH update on Lot 3

BIRCH would like to thank the new mayor and council for their unanimous support in moving forward with the BIRCH affordable rental project on lot 3 of the community lands.

At the council meeting on Tuesday November 13th, Council resolved to authorize staff to enter into an “Agreement to Lease” with BIRCH to provide an approximate 0.480 hectare area of lot 3 for the project, and agreed to provide a letter for BIRCH’s funding application to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation outlining BIM’s commitment to providing a portion of its Community Lands for a housing project.

Thank you mayor and council! And thank you Bowen Island for your support!


Inaugural BARC meeting

In our ongoing commitment to community engagement, this week we held our inaugural meeting of our project community advisory committee – for now to be known as BARC – BIRCH Advisory & Research Committee.

We want to thank the enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers who make up this committee and we look forward to working together to making our Lot 3 project a success.

BIRCH hires CitySpaces

BIRCH is pleased to announce we have engaged CitySpaces as our development consultants. They will help guide us through the development process.

Our first step is to submit an application for CMHC SEED funding…. we are aiming for the end of November, and will hopefully have the results by the end of the year.

BIRCH to move forward on lot 3

BIRCH is very please to announce that at the committee of the whole meeting, on September 24, 2018, council recommended approval of a 0.48 hectare site on Lot 3 of the community lands for BIRCH to develop a rental housing project. There are a few more formal steps to go through, but essentially… we have a site!

We will continue to work with the municipality on the final subdivision details, and the formal long-term lease agreement. We now start the process of applying for seed funding from various organizations and creating the feasibility/business plan for the project. We continue to aim for 20± units, in a variety of sizes, at a mix of market and below market rates (with as many below-market units as possible).
One of our most important next steps is to establish a Project Advisory Group (name to be refined!). The purpose of this group is to engage with a cross section of community members about the project: to review progress, provide feedback and direction for the project, and assist in policy/decision making (for example – who will qualify for the below-market units, how will ongoing income be assessed for the below-market units, and what do we name the project). We plan to meet every few months, possibly more if needed.
If you would like to be a part of creating our first community housing project by volunteering to participate in our advisory group, please send an email
subject: Project Advisory Group
Tell us a bit about yourself, and your background, and why you would like to be part of the team!
We will accept applications until October 12th, and hope to have our first meeting by the end of October/early November.
Thank you Bowen Island for your support!

BIM and BIRCH official partners

At the May 28th council meeting, a motion was passed to officially partner with BIRCH:

“That Council partner with Bowen Island Resilient Community Housing (BIRCH) for the development of an affordable housing project on Community Lands;

That Council agrees, in principle, that up-to 0.5-hectare portion of Lot 2 or Lot 3 of the Community Lands be allocated for an affordable housing project with BIRCH;

That Council direct staff to support BIRCH in meeting with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, BC Housing and other organizations to secure grant funding to conduct feasibility studies for an affordable housing project; and

That Council request staff and BIRCH to report back with the results of feasibility studies of the affordable housing project.


We are thrilled to be partnering with the municipality for this important project and thank Mayor and Council for their support and trust.

Our next steps include a report to compare the available sites on Lots 2 and 3; then  present back to council for a final decision.

We will also be working on creating our community stakeholder advisory committee (hopefully with a better name or acronym!)

Stayed tuned!

Welcome our new Board Members!

We are pleased to welcome 4 new board members, all Bowen Island residents:
David McCullum, Chair
Aaron Davison, Secretary/Treasurer
Anita Bleick
Jack Resels
David, Aaron, Anita and Jack are passionate about creating affordable, diverse housing options for Bowen and are committed to working on this project to see it come to completion. Please see our website for more information on our new board members: https://birchousing.org/who-are-we/
They will join Tim Wake and Marla Zucht, who will continue to serve as board members, and bring valuable experience in the non-profit housing sector and guidance in navigating the applications and funding opportunities ahead.
We thank departing board members for their service:
Tom Matzen, John Sorensen and Peter Courtney.


Please support us Monday!

Do you want to support affordable housing on Bowen?
Support BIRCH at Monday’s council meeting!
BIRCH (Bowen Island Resilient Community Housing),  a non-profit society, established to develop and manage affordable housing for Bowen Island. We have applied for a collaborative project with the municipality to build affordable rental housing on lot 3 of the community lands.  For more details about the proposal, see our website project page.
We are pleased and encouraged to have been accepted to present to council at their regular council meeting, Monday April 23rd at 9.30am.
We feel now is the right time for Bowen Island Municipality to partner with a non profit to have the best chance at accessing newly announced provincial funding of $1.9B for rental housing. We are confident BIRCH is the right partner for BIM, our board has extensive experience in affordable housing and our acting executive director has experience with construction projects of up to $15M.
How can you show your support?
  1. Write an email or letter, see a sample below
  2. Show up at the council meeting on Monday!
  3. Email or talk to the mayor or councillors individually



Please write to Mayor and Council, use this sample, and make it your own! Tell them your story of how housing has effected you.
Subject: I support BIRCH’s application for affordable housing
Dear Mayor and Councillors
I am writing in support of BIRCH’s application for a collaborative project to build affordable rental housing on lot 3 of the community lands.
Affordable Housing is a critical issue for Bowen Island. Both the Official Community Plan and the Island Plan 2018 support a diverse and resilient community. To achieve this we need diverse and affordable housing options.
I want a diverse and resilient Bowen Island for the future. I ask you to vote in favour of this project on Monday and support BIRCH in creating affordable housing for Bowen Island.

Thank You… BIRCH has launched!

Thanks to the 20 or so Bowen Islanders who took time out of their weekend to join us for the launch event at Belterra. And a big thanks to the Belterra Community for use of their space.

We had some wonderful conversations about housing on Bowen, got some ideas and feedback on our upcoming application to the municipality (more news on that to come as we move forward) and got some great overall ideas on how to address the housing challenges on Bowen.

Some specific ideas (see photos below) were to find solutions for summer workers; creating a pilot project for a tiny house village with the BC Tiny House Collective and an educational institution; ideas on funding options and parameters for a rental housing project; and ideas for surveys of housing needs, current and future, that could be undertaken at a municipal level.

Thanks again to attendees for your enthusiasm and thoughtful discussion. I look forward to engaging again soon.

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