New supportive housing for women opens in Vancouver

July 25th, 2011
VANCOUVER – Women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood now have a new option in affordable housing available to them, after Sorella, a new 108-unit supportive housing development celebrated its official opening today.

Representatives from the governments of Canada, British Columbia and the City of Vancouver, along with community partners, were on site for the announcement.

“Our government is proud to have been a partner in the development of this project – one that will have a lasting impact on this community,” said the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages and Regional Minister for British Columbia, on behalf of the Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and Minister Responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). “The opening of Sorella is an important step forward for Vancouver and for the Downtown Eastside. It means that more women and children will have a safe, supportive place to live, as well as the help they need to begin a new chapter in their lives.”

“Sorella will give women and their children a safe place to call home and the supports they need to take their lives in a new direction,” said Rich Coleman, Minister of Energy and Mines and Minister Responsible for Housing. “At times we all need a little extra support to overcome the challenges life can bring and all the partners came together to help make sure these women don’t have to take that journey alone. The Province is committed to housing investments like this – that make a difference to families and to our communities.”

Through an amendment to the Canada-British Columbia Affordable Housing Agreement, the federal government contributed more than $6.1 million to support the construction of Sorella.

The Province of British Columbia provided a $14.6-million grant and will provide $472,961 in annual operating funding. The City of Vancouver provided the land, valued at $2.6 million, development cost levies of more than $400,000 and a grant of close to $3 million to develop the ground floor commercial retail space.

“Providing safe, supportive housing to women and children who are homeless or at risk of being homeless is an important step towards ensuring our most vulnerable citizens have a place to call home,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Sorella is meeting a critical need in the community and I am proud that we have created a strong partnership with other levels of government and community organizations towards the common goal of addressing homelessness in Vancouver.”

“At Atira, we have demonstrated that providing women with a safe, affordable place to call home changes their lives,” said Janice Abbott, CEO of Atira Women’s Resource Society. “Sorella is already more than just a building – it is a community of women, supporting each other and working together to create a safe, caring retreat in an often too busy and seemingly uncaring world.”

In 2008, the Government of Canada committed more than $1.9 billion over five years to improve and build new affordable housing and to help the homeless. As part of this investment, the Affordable Housing Initiative and the federal renovation programs for low-income households were extended for two years, which represented some $60 million in federal funding for B.C. Canada's Economic Action Plan built on this with an additional one-time investment of more than $2 billion over two years for the construction of new and the renovation of existing social housing plus $2 billion in low-cost loans to municipalities for housing-related infrastructure. A new agreement signed today by both orders of government implements B.C.’s allocation of the remaining three years of the $1.9 billion, which amounts to a further $90 million in federal funding for British Columbians in housing need.

Sorella is part of an overall $14-billion capital infrastructure program supported by the Province that will create up to 88,000 jobs and help build public infrastructure in every region of B.C. Increasing affordable housing, reducing homelessness and helping those who cannot help themselves is a key agenda for the Province of British Columbia. Through the provincial housing strategy, Housing Matters BC, the Province is addressing a range of housing needs, from homelessness to affordable rental housing and homeownership.

CMHC has been Canada's national housing agency for more than 65 years. CMHC is committed to helping Canadians access a wide choice of quality, environmentally sustainable, affordable housing solutions, while making vibrant, healthy communities and cities a reality across the country.

More information on Canada’s Economic Action Plan, the federal government’s plan to stimulate the economy and protect those hit hardest by the global recession, can be found at: 

To find out more about how the Government of Canada and CMHC are working to build stronger homes and communities for all Canadians, call CMHC at 1 800 668-2642, or visit:

Over the last decade, the Province has invested $2.8 billion to provide affordable housing for low-income individuals, seniors and families. This year, more than 93,000 B.C. households will benefit from provincial social housing programs and services.

To learn more about provincial programs and services to address homelessness, visit: .


Sorella, which means “sister” in Italian, is a 10-storey, 108-unit building located at 525 Abbott Street, which includes 12 two-bedroom apartments for single-parent women-led families. One-third of the resident spaces will be reserved for people with mental illness or substance abuse problems referred by and connected to health and social services in the area.

The development includes ground floor retail space, parking spaces and 110 bicycle storage lockers, amenity space and a bedbug decontamination room. Designed to LEED Gold standards, it is managed and operated by Atira Women’s Resource Society, a not-for-profit organization committed to ending violence against women. The society provides direct service as well as increased awareness and education around the scope and impact on our communities of men’s violence against women and children.

The building is the first of 14 new supportive housing developments being built through a partnership between the Province and the City to officially open. The federal government provided support for four of the projects that will create more than 1,500 new supportive housing units in the city. More than half the projects are either under construction or complete.


The total capital cost of this development is approximately $26.8 million:
  • The Government of Canada provided $6,168,100, through an amendment to the Canada-British Columbia Affordable Housing Initiative.
  • The Province of British Columbia provided a $14.6 million grant.
  • The City of Vancouver provided the land valued at $2,645,325 and a grant of $2,956,342 to develop the ground floor commercial retail unit (CRU) space, in addition to waivers for development cost levies of $416,418.

Operational funding:
  • The Province will provide $472,961 in annual operating funding.
The Atira Women’s Resource Society manages 14 different housing developments, and a number of related support programs. Learn more at

Media Contacts:
Rhonda Nguyen
BC Housing
604 439-4740

City of Vancouver
Corporate Communications
604 871-6336

Andrea Scott
BC Region
604 737-4064
604 240-1457

Ann Matejicka
Office of Minister Finley
819 994-2482

Sorella Housing with Debra