Converted Shipping Containers Address Housing Shortage | CMHC
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(The sound of crashing waves fades in.)

(Visual: An aerial shot of Tofino’s mountainous landscape is shown, followed by a second image of the ocean waves crashing on the beach. A surfer in a wetsuit walks on the beach carrying a surfboard over her head. A flock of small birds walks around in the sand.)

(Music fades in accompanied by the subtle sound of wooden wind chimes)

(Visual: A man and his daughter are shown strolling on the beach with their hair and clothing flapping in the wind. A group of friends is shown having a picnic on the beach. A close-up shot of bright, colourful, and weathered wind chimes is shown. The camera cuts to a “Welcome to Tofino” sign on the side of a road. RVs, shuttles, and tour buses are shown parked with green mountains in the background. A young woman with a large backpack sits on a bench overlooking the Tofino harbour. A tour boat moves through the water. A few small private boats are shown docked in the harbour. Two young women ride bicyles on a main street in Tofino.)

00:21
The first thing that I think people tend to think about when they think about Tofino is transient seasonal workers. People who live here year round, they make all their money in the summer. And a whole bunch of people come through for the fair weather. It's competitive trying to find a place to stay.

(Visual: Julian Hockin-Grant, the man speaking, appears on camera. He is facing the camera and is being interviewed in his home.)

(Text on screen: Julian Hockin-Grant, Coordinator Tribal Park Allies, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation)

00:37
I've sort of just recently finished my University, so I've spent a lot of time living in like kind of budget shared accommodations.

(Visual: A stop sign is shown at the First St. and Main St. intersection in the core of the Tofino tourist area. A First Nation wood carving is shown surrounded by parked cars. Two people wearing wet suits carry surfboards under their arms as they walk on the beach towards the water. A street sign is shown at the harbour. A colourful and weathered seaside home is shown.)

00:48
Nobody wants the whole place to get developed, but at the same time we have this burgeoning tourist economy. that relies on cheap seasonal labour. And, you know, any resort municipality has this problem with affordable housing. So it's very cool to kinda see the First Nation taking leadership there.

(Visual: Two men stand in a new housing development in Tofino: Moses Martin and Jamie Bassett. The camera zooms in on Moses Martin.)

01:09
We have an average of 35 thousand people in and out everyday.

(Visual: Moses Martin, the man speaking, appears on camera. He is facing the camera and is being interviewed in a vacant unit in the new housing development.)

(Text on screen: Moses Martin, Chief Councillor, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation)

01:14
So, housing is a huge issue around here. Especially during the summer time. Not so bad in the winter, but still the need is there.

(Visual: Slow dolly shot of a street lined with new homes and apartments built using shipping containers. A second dolly shot focuses on the detached family homes.)

01:24
My understanding is that somebody got an idea and said: "Well, you know, I heard some place where people are building houses out of containers.” Somebody else said: “Well I think that might be a good idea.”

(Visual: Jamie Bassett, the man speaking, appears on camera. He is facing the camera and is being interviewed in a vacant unit in the new housing development)

(Text on screen: Jamie Bassett, Economic Development Officer, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation)

01:35
And then somebody else talked to somebody at AANDC Indian Affairs and said: "We'd like to try this.” Basically it snowballed and money was found for it.

(Visual: The camera pans to reveal one of the detached single family container homes. The home is occupied by Shawn Quick and his family. His wife waters flowers outside the home. The camera cuts back to Jamie Bassett speaking on camera.)

01:46
They basically hired an architect and got somebody who was willing to bid on building them. As you can say, the rest is history.

(Visual: The camera tilts downward to reveal a wide shot of the Quick family’s container home. Shawn Quick is seen stepping out of his car to greet his wife and one of his young sons. They stand proudly arm in arm outside their home with the young boy in his mother’s arms. The camera cuts to the inside of the home to reveal the family’s homey livingroom and kitchen.)

01:56
My last home was a trailer that was up on cinderblocks and was full of mold. So, moving into this place, being clean and new, has been amazing for the overall quality of living. It's beautiful.

(Visual: Shawn Quick, the man speaking, appears on camera. He is facing the camera and is being interviewed in the living room of his container home.)

(Text on screen: Shawn Quick, Public Works Manager, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation)

02:15
Maintaining the home, now it only involves a pressure washer and a scrub brush rather than a paint brush and hammer and nails.

(Visual: A slow dolly shot focuses on the smaller apartment container home units. Julian Hockin-Grant, the man speaking, appears on camera. He is facing the camera and is being interviewed in his home. The camera pans across the main living space of Julian’s tiny container home. He is sitting on his bed while a dog naps on the coach nearby. The camera slowly pans across the small kitchen. The camera slowly dollies into the bathroom revealing the toilet, sink, and bathtub. The camera cuts back to Julian speaking on camera.)

02:24
I think it's not uncommon for people of my generation to be living in really small spaces. The whole “Tiny House” thing. It's like the idea of making these out of shipping container units I think is pretty cool, because that's one of those waste problems that nobody has really found a solution to. It's pretty much one big open room. I don’t know what the square footage is. And then there's just a tiny little elbow kitchen. Everything you need for cooking your own meals. And then there’s a little bathroom there, but it's got a full bath in it. It’s kind of luxury. I feel lucky to be in here.

(Visual: Jamie Bassett, the man speaking, appears on camera. He is facing the camera and is being interviewed in a vacant unit in the new housing development. The camera pans across a main street in Tofino lined with parked cars. A truck drives by as people ride down the street on bicycles. The camera cuts back to Jamie speaking on camera.)

02:53
People rent a single room in somebody’s house in Tofino for 800 dollars a month. If you can find it. Shared bathroom. No kitchen. No laundry. Basically that’s what you’re paying. That's not what we wanted to do here.

(Visual: A “Welcome to Tla-o-qui-aht” sign is shown on the side of a road. Julian Hockin-Grant, the man speaking, appears on camera. He is facing the camera and is being interviewed in his home.)

03:08
I think two thirds of Tla-o-qui-aht membership don’t live at home. And a lot of people do want to come home but, it’s just getting more and more expensive to live here.

(Visual: Shawn Quick, the man speaking, appears on camera. He is facing the camera and is being interviewed in the living room of his container home. The camera pans to reveal a wide shot of the Quick family’s container home. The camera cuts back to Shawn Quick speaking on camera in his home. A wide shot of a large dock in the Tofino harbour. The camera cuts to a boat cruising through the water towards an island off Tofino. The island is lined with a row of homes. The camera cuts to Shawn standing at the end of his driveway with two of his sons. The camera cuts again to one of the sons cuddling on the couch with his mother. The camera cuts back to Shawn speaking on camera.)

03:17
Friends and family, when they come to visit, they seem quite jealous. That fact that this is in essentially downtown Tofino, and they’re still on islands off of Tofino. Traditionally used to having to wait at a dock. 8:30 or 9:00 at night. Really hard to find a boat to get back to the island to go home. That first time being able to pull up to my driveway and unload the kids and groceries straight in the door was an amazing revelation of freedom.

(Visual: Slow dolly shot of a street lined with new homes and apartments built using shipping containers. Jamie Bassett, the man speaking, appears on camera. He is facing the camera and is being interviewed in a vacant unit in the new housing development. The camera cuts to visuals of surfboards stacked in someone’s backyard. Two surfers walk along the beach carrying their surfboards while a group of friends sits on the beach enjoying a picnic.)

03:55
I think the project was a great idea. If it can be replicated or expanded on and done other places then it should be.

(The music rises in volume.)

(Visual: Close-up shot of Julian Hockin-Grant’s dog resting on the couch. Julian sits on his bed smiling with a bouquet of flowers in the foreground. Moses Martin walks along the sidewalk outside a row of container home units. A dream catcher is shown hanging in the window of Shawn Quick’s front door. Shawn, his wife, and one of his son’s stand at the end of their driveway smiling and waving at the camera. A long haired surfer stands on the beach near the water. A silhouette of a person is seen standing on the beach near the water. A dock in the Tonfino harbour is shown as the camera tilts up towards the misty mountainous terrain. The image slowly fades to white as text and logos appear.

(Text on screen: #NationalHousingStrategy, placetocallhome.ca)

(Music fades out)

(Visual: Text, the Government of Canada logo, and CMHC logo fade in together. All text and logos fade to white.) 

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August 1, 2019

Shipping Containers Address Housing Shortage

Julian’s dog is snoring quietly. He’s slouched on his favourite corner of the couch. The afternoon sun spills in from the large, airy windows. The worn, colourful beach blanket that he is stretched across is perfect for afternoon naps. After years of living in shared accommodations with roommates, Julian finally has a place of his own. This is thanks to a brand new 21-unit affordable housing development that recently opened in Tofino.

“When people tend to think about Tofino, they think about transient, seasonal workers… but for the people who live here year round, it’s competitive trying to find a place to stay,” says Julian.

Tofino is perched just a few kilometres north of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve on the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The remote resort town swells each summer as people flock to experience the park’s wildlife and pristine beaches.

“We have an average of 35,000 people in and out every day,” says Moses Martin, Chief Councillor at Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation “Housing is a huge issue… the need is there.”

Members of the First Nation pioneered new housing construction techniques to address this need.  They converted unused surplus shipping containers to energy-efficient affordable rental homes.

It began as a 6-week vocational training program led by the community and delivered by North Island College in early 2017. It ultimately helped dozens of students gain practical skills and trades certifications. In total, 13 buildings were built—from an 8-unit studio mid-rise to 2- and 3-unit standalone homes. The development welcomes everyone from the Tofino community.

New resident Shawn Quick is the Public Works Manager at the First Nation. He lives with his wife and three young children in one of the 3-room single-family homes.

“My last home was a trailer up on cinderblocks and was full of mold,” he recalls. “Moving into this place, being clean and new has been amazing for our overall quality of living—it’s beautiful.”

Chief Moses walks the grounds of the development with Jamie Bassett, Economic Development Officer with the First Nation. Reflecting on the project, the two are hopeful that more work will be done soon in the community. “I think the project was a great idea, if it can be replicated or expanded on and done in other places, then it should be,” says Jamie.

Several funding avenues helped make this project possible. To learn more, visit:

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