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Emergency Social Services

BC Housing supports municipalities across the province by coordinating emergency lodging supplies for Emergency Management BC.

Emergency Management BC is responsible for responding to emergencies within the province. BC Housing supports this effort by stockpiling cots and blankets in existing community buildings in case of an emergency. If a municipality becomes overwhelmed, Emergency Management BC assists with resources or supplies.

Responding to a disaster

When a major disaster strikes, many British Columbians might find themselves homeless. BC Housing provides the following support to the Emergency Social Services Program:

  • Helps local municipalities locate and secure group lodging for residents and disaster support workers
  • Helps emergency staff and volunteers provide emergency lodging and assess disaster damage to buildings

BC Housing also assists local authorities prepare for emergencies or major disasters by offering courses through the Rapid Damage Assessment Program.

Emergency Lodging Specifications

A catastrophic event such as an earthquake will likely impact large numbers of people and leave them without housing. Cots, blankets and group lodging are only a short-term solution. As an affected area moves from emergency response to recovery, provisions for longer-term housing options will need to be considered. Emergency lodging facilities may be built by BC Housing or other agencies and organizations.

In 2016, BC Housing undertook a project to prepare a generic specification that would work province-wide and identify different modular housing providers who could start to generate pre-fabricated housing quickly after an emergency.

The decision to deploy these kinds of facilities would be in consultation with the affected local authority to determine what form the new community will take.  There will be a certain amount of site preparation that would need to take place, but in most cases, companies can start producing 1, 2 and 3 bedroom modular structures in a few weeks.

The Design Requirements for BC Housing Emergency Lodging were prepared to serve as a baseline reference from which full project specific designs and specifications are to be compiled for the construction of emergency lodging in British Columbia. These Design Requirements apply only to factory-constructed one-storey, single family homes designed and constructed for installation on surface foundations.

Emergency Lodging Property Management Companies

As a result of a catastrophic event such as an earthquake, major flood or wildfire whereby large numbers of citizens are left without housing, emergency lodging facilities maybe built by BC Housing or other agencies and organizations.

With the construction and delivery of emergency lodging to a community as part of their recovery plan, there would be a need for coordination and management. These buildings could be treated as rental accommodation for the community members as they establish their new normal. To that end, there would also be a need for help to manage potentially thousands or tens of thousands of rental units.

In 2016, BC Housing distributed a request for interest to organizations to see who might be in a position to assist with the property management functions at emergency lodging facilities if they became required. These organizations would take on paid positions as property managers and site staff, to assist in screening and placing tenants, signing tenancy agreements, rent collections and maintenance/response, much like a conventional building manager. Some of the responsibilities could include:

  • Short-notice provision of property management and site staff
  • Selection, screening and placement of tenants
  • Complete and maintain Residential Tenancy Agreements
  • Collect rental payments
  • Maintain sites and health and safety standards
  • 24/7 site management response

Several organizations responded, and have been included in a list identifying potential assistance for catastrophic emergency lodging planning.

Recovery: Long-term housing

BC Housing administers a centralized database of applicants in search of affordable housing called The Housing Registry. Applications are generally processed in chronological order. However, when a disaster (for example, fire, flood, etc.) occurs, evacuee applications are prioritized eligible evacuees are added to the database and considered for vacancies along with all other applicants. However, as the demand for housing exceeds the supply, there is no guarantee that a household will receive housing immediately, and evacuees are encouraged to continue to pursue other housing options.

Want more information on housing options during an emergency? Consult How to Find Emergency Shelters, or talk to someone at The Housing Registry. Call 604-433-2218 or 1-800-257-7756.