Kitsilano Neighbourhood House

Case Studies / Space profiles

Kitsilano Neighbourhood House

Space Profile 

  • Name of Space: Kitsilano Neighbourhood House
  • Society Mission: “Kitsilano Neighbourhood House creates community for all by connecting people, ideas, and opportunities.”
  • Owner - Land:  ANHBC Neighbourhood Houses Foundation[1]
  • Owner - Building / Improvements: ANHBCNeighbourhood Houses Foundation
  • Rent/Lease/Own: Own
  • Address: 2305 W 7th Ave, Vancouver BC, V6K 1Y4
  • Square Footage: 15,000 sq/ft
  • Year Opened: 2014
  • Space/Facility Type: Office; Institutional; Community Facility; Residential - Non-Market Housing; Multi-Functional
  • Organizational Type: Registered Non-Profit; Registered Charity
  • Space/Facility Uses: Community/Social Services, Childcare, Non-Market Housing 
  • Programs/Services Delivered: Kits House provides an array of programs and services that support families, children and seniors, as well as space for community activities, and seniors non-market housing.
  • Website:

Case Study

Concept & Need
Partnerships & People
Timeline & Steps to Realization
Funding & Financing
Operations & Tenanting
Impact & Lessons Learned



Kitsilano Neighbourhood House (Kits House) is a functional, purpose-built space for communities on the west side of Vancouver. For many years prior to the 2014 development, Kitsilano Neighbourhood House was in a state of disrepair and unable to serve its mission of creating community, especially for aging populations. The redevelopment of Kitsilano Neighbourhood House involved the renovation of two existing heritage buildings and the addition of a new third building linking them together. The new development contains an upgraded Neighbourhood House and child care facilities, as well as 15-units of affordable seniors housing called Red Oak Place[2] with rooftop gardens and an amenity room. Kitsilano Neighbourhood House opened its new facility in 2014. The success of the project is due in large part to strategic political leveraging and creative financing partnerships between BC Housing, the Provincial Rental Housing Corporation and the City of Vancouver, allowing the Association of Neighbourhood Houses of British Columbia and their Foundation, which owns Kits House, to not take on any interest-bearing mortgage debt.


Concept & Need

Kitsilano Neighbourhood House (Kits House) is the only neighbourhood house to service Vancouver west of Granville St. —from English Bay to the Musqueam lands, and from Granville St. to the University of British Columbia. Kits House, in operation at its current address since 1972, was in a building that had a fallen into disrepair over decades, while still working to serve the needs of the surrounding communities.

When Catherine Leach, former Executive Director of Kits House, was hired in 2006, there were only two people on the Board and little vision for the path forward to repair a building in need of major upgrades and renovations. Talk of a redevelopment was minimal, however, as Catherine puts it, “…one day, Gordon Campbell, MLA at the time, randomly came by Kits House to drop off car seats [and] learned the position Kits House was in.” A chance drop-in became the political ask that was the foundation of the redevelopment of Kits House.

“The City of Vancouver supports neighbourhood houses as key social infrastructure because they are so adaptable and responsive to the neighbourhoods they are in. Kits House was under-sized—unusable for what they needed, [and] the City of Vancouver supported their overall vision.” Vickie Morris – former Senior Social Planner, City of Vancouver

Despite perceptions of wealth on the west side of Vancouver, staff at Kits house were aware of the existence of large, vulnerable populations. In the early days of the redevelopment project, Kits House began to assess two key questions. First, “…what were the community needs?” Renting seniors were in desperate need of affordable housing, and a growing younger child population was placing increasing demands on childcare services. Secondly, “…what was the government agenda at the time?” By investigating community demand and need, and understanding the favourable projects preferred by different levels of government, Kits House was able to begin the process of creating a redevelopment vision.

“The BC Provincial government wanted an environmental approach, so Kits House created focus groups to tackle environmental component and design of building. Meanwhile, the City of Vancouver said their funding was contingent on childcare delivery.”

Catherine Leach – former Executive Director, Kitsilano Neighbourhood House


Two people that were key to realizing the Kits House redevelopment were Gordon Campbell (MLA for the area at the time and later former Premier of BC), and Christy Clark (also a former Premier of BC) who joined the Community Governance Board[3] of Kits House after the initial concept for the redevelopment was underway.  The ability of both individuals to raise the profile of the Kits House redevelopment in its early days while the project sought to solidify its vision, was crucial.  The level of give and take that the project encountered due to the political affiliations, was tempered by the fact that it was supported by two prominent political figures.

Exterior of Kits House
Photo Credit: Rebecca Blissett


Another group of people that brought of value to the project, especially in navigating and facilitating community engagement, was the Building Committee[4] which included: Catherine Leach, Andrew Lyons (Kits Board), Margaret McGann (Kits Board), Roger Foster (Kits Board), Andrew Grant (Kits Board), Bob Ransford (Kits Board), Sean Lauer (ANHBC), Terry Stanway (ANHBC), Mamie Hutt-Temoana and Tarunjeet Bhatia (ANHBC), Rob Fenton (ANH Board) Sean McEwen (Architect), Jim O’Dea (Terra Housing), Adele Wilson (Terra Housing), Shamir Bhatia (Terra Housing), Ruby Chow (BC Housing), Craig Crawford (BC Housing) and, Dick Reed (Kindred Construction). From addressing issues with the proposed childcare service, to the location of the seniors housing, the Building Committee was at the forefront of making adjustments in the myriad of input, funding criteria and responses from funders. Andrew Lyons and Tamara Little, Co-Chairs of the Building Committee, are noted as key people who helped realize the project. However, numerous community champions put in important time and energy knocking on doors around the neighbourhood, helping with focus groups and co-hosting open houses.

As for a champion who understood capital fundraising and development and brought dedication to the project despite many challenges, acknowledgement was given to Catherine Leach, former Executive Director of Kits House. A full-time Fund Developer and Event Coordinator was also critical to providing support. At the City, Vickie Morris, former Senior Social Planner, was credited as being a formidable partner, providing advice and perspective at all points through the project.[5]

The project team consisted of Kindred Construction Inc. who brought a heritage specialty to the project along with Donald Luxton & Associates Inc. (Cultural and Heritage Planning), Architect S.R. McEwen Architect, and Terra Housing who managed the negotiations with BC Housing for the housing component.


Timeline & Steps to Realization

Financing the Kits House redevelopment required a creative leasing and funding partnership. “The Association of Neighbourhood Houses of BC never had to sell the property and financing is such that there is no interest, no monthly installment to a bank”[6] While ANHBC owned the Kits House property and building prior to the redevelopment, title was transferred to the ANHBC Neighbourhood Houses Foundation upon project completion. The Foundation was formed to comply with financing arrangements with BC Housing and is responsible for three leases that makeup the Kits House property.  Kitsilano Neighbourhood House, a unit of ANHBC, is simply a name for the building and not a registered society.  The three leases were created for the redevelopment as a result of the consolidation of three separate land lots.

  • Residential Lease: ANHBC Neighbourhood Houses Foundation leases to ANHBC which has an Operating Agreement[7]  with BC Housing Management Commission.
  • Neighbourhood House Lease: ANHBC Neighbourhood Houses Foundation leases to the Provincial Rental Housing Corporation (PRHC). ANHBC has an Operator Agreement[8]  and operates as a contractor to PRHC.
  • Childcare Lease: ANHBC Neighbourhood Houses Foundation leases to ANHBC which operates as a lessee.
In an effort to create community support for the redevelopment, numerous open houses and community engagement events were held. Three events to address building design and infrastructure were held on the topics of Units & Interior Building (2009), Space Planning (2009), and Environmental/Social/Economic Sustainability (2010). “Community input was sought at every stage of design, and experts in the area of architecture, design, project management, development, childcare, seniors housing, property management and sustainability have volunteered their time to assist the board in its decisions.”[9]  
Exterior of Kits House
Photo Credit: Allen Smith

Kitsilano Neighbourhood House – Timeline

Concept/Idea: 2004
Board Strategic Planning: 2007

Community Engagement: 2008, 2009, 2010
Business Plan: 2008
Rezoning Open House: 2010
Construction/Renovation: 2012
Provincial Funding Secured: 2012
Move-In: 2014


Funding & Financing 

As a result of ANHBC retaining ownership of property and the financing structure that was put in place, Kits House has benefited greatly by not being encumbered with monthly mortgage payments. Financial risk to the redevelopment was low, even during the 2008 recession[10] . However, reputational risk was large due to the scale, visibility and political connections to the project.

  • $1.7 million – Capital Fundraising Initiative, Kits House
  • $1.6 million – City of Vancouver, capital grant[11] 
  • $488,000 – Ministry of Children and Family Development (25 space child-care) 
  • $120,000 – Ministry of Energy and Mines, Province of BC
  • $136,697 – City of Vancouver (Development Cost Levies waiver)[12] 
  • $6.5 million – Land Value
  • $5.1 million – Prepaid rent / grant[13]  (operator agreement)
  • $4.5 million – BC Housing mortgage[14]  (operating agreement)
  • $40,303 – Miscellaneous (TBC)
  • $19.2 Million – Total Revenue
  • $8.5 million – Hard Construction Costs[15] 
  • $4.2 million – Soft Construction Costs[16] 
  • $6.5 million – Land Value
  • $19.2 Million – Total Expenses


Operations & Tenanting

The continued operation of Kits Neighbourhood House, with the addition of Red Oak Place Seniors Housing and the expanded space rentals program at the site, are all new opportunities for Kits House. Thoughtful, planned expansions of space and programming can be an opportunity for non-profits going into redevelopment projects, but can also be a major challenge as an organization adjusts to increases in budget, staffing, administration, etc. In 2016, Kits House was generating approximately $40,000 per year in space rental. Currently, Kits House generates nearly $100,000 in revenue from space rentals per year, with a commensurate increase in expenses. The expansion of space and services including rentals for the purpose of weddings has created additional revenue flows for the organization.

“Our seniors housing [Red Oak Place and Linden Tree Place] make about up about 25% of our yearly operating revenue…it’s unique for a neighbourhood house to have about 50% of its revenue come from earned revenue as opposed to grants and government type programs. Other neighbourhood houses might be one-third childcare, one-third city grants, and one-third private grants.” 

Allen Smith – Executive Director, Kits House

The Association of Neighbourhood Houses of BC is responsible for the long-term maintenance of Kits House. However, increased costs, namely property tax, are challenging Kits House’s yearly operating budget. With the inclusion of Red Oak Place Seniors Housing (and the Linden Tree Place), Kits House is now responsible for paying approximately $15,000 a year in property tax (2017).  

“Typically, everyone will give us capital funds to build the place but limited opportunity for operating grants, which is probably the wrong way around. It's an area that needs to be addressed [on behalf of all non-profit organizations].” Allen Smith – Executive Director, Kits House

Impacts & Lessons Learned

Aligning the timing of the redevelopment of Kits House with political opportunities at both the Municipal and Provincial levels was key to realizing the project.  Acknowledgement that the project was a political ask from the beginning is important, as it provides context to the complexity and scale of the redevelopment. However, the political connections that helped steer the project were not without their own challenges.

Hall Room
Photo Credit: Allen Smith

As Vickie Morris reflects, “…some people at the City of Vancouver [were not] originally happy with the proposal. [Some City staff] thought Kits House needed more housing units”. As well, there were issues with the existing childcare operator and community push back added complexity. Ultimately, the vision to expand and incorporate full-time childcare and the willingness to improve the adaptive child care program, swayed the City of Vancouver to provide funding (despite hesitancy from staff at Kits House to become operators).[17] 

Replicability of the Kits House redevelopment would be challenging without similar kinds of connections at different levels of government. That said, some of the lessons learned are applicable to organizations considering such initiatives. The amount of give and take that drove the redevelopment is partially a result of the political involvement and funding criteria from each level of government. However, the promise of Kits House as a functional, purpose-built space for the west side of Vancouver that would bring supportive housing for seniors, childcare and programming for infants to seniors, ultimately drove the vision to successful realization.

“[As for lessons learned, first,] spend time finding the right architect and construction company. Also, take time finding the right people for the Board and as partners. Second, involve people in a meaningful and intentional way. I still hear from people in the community that “there was nothing like Catherine coming to knock on my door to tell me about the project.” Third, get into the details of the building—aka be involved. Fourth, dream big and don’t let those in positions of power and decision-making to dissuade you.” 

Catherine Leach – former Executive Director, Kitsilano Neighbourhood House

 “Kits House has delivered on its promise to the extent that the site could. The Heritage aspect had to be managed with sensitivity and they did. The architecture is brilliant given challenging circumstances of the recession in 2008.”

Vickie Morris – former Senior Social Planner, City of Vancouver

“I think all neighbourhood houses need to get into social housing. It adds richness to the place.” Allen Smith – Executive Director, Kitsilano Neighbourhood House


© 2018 Social Purpose Real Estate Collaborative. Portions of this Case Study may be reproduced for research and educational purposes. Please credit: “Social Purpose Real Estate Collaborative”  

SPRE Case Study Interviewees: 

  • Catherine Leach - former Executive Director, Kitsilano Neighbourhood House. Interviewed: September 9, 2017
  • Vickie Morris - former Senior Social Planner, City of Vancouver. Interviewed: August 25, 2017
  • Tarunjeet Bhatia - Chief Financial Officer, Association of Neighbourhood Houses. Interviewed: August 29 & October 13, 2017
  • Allen Smith - Executive Director, Kitsilano Neighbourhood House. Interviewed: August 15, 2017


Works Cited

  • Structure Diagram of the Operating Phase. Association of Neighbourhood Houses of British Columbia (ANHBC). Provided by Tarunjeet Bhatia – Chief Financial Officer, ANHBC.



1. ANHBC Foundation (incorporated in April 2013), is a not-for-profit charitable organization which was created specifically to hold the land and building of the redeveloped Kitsilano Neighbourhood House. 
2. Kits House also operates another seniors housing development called Linden Tree Place which was built after the redevelopment of Kits House. Linden Tree Place, a 30-unt affordable housing option is located at 8th Avenue & Vine Street. It is fully accessible with (10 units designed for wheelchairs), is a non-smoking, no-pet building with laudnry facilities, underground parking, a large rooftpo garden and a shared common space. Linden Tree Place is designed for older adults who are able to live independently. Linden Tree Place at 8th And Vine (2011). Kitsilano Neighborhood House. 
3. The fiduciary and legal board of Kits House is the ANHBC Board.
4.The Building Committee was Committee was created to facilitate the KNH site redevelopment, in keeping with Strategy 7 of the KNH Strategic Plan that being to “Plan and Develop a Physical Infrastructure to meet the community needs”.
5. Leach, Catherine (2017). Fromer Executive Director. Kitsilano Neighbourhood House. SPRE Case Study Interviewee.
6. Bhatia, Tarunjeet (2017). Chief Financial Officer, Association of Neighbourhood Houses of BC. SPRE Case Study Interviewee.
7. Operating agreements - when the non-profit owns the building (either in fee or simple or through a long-term lease) and BC Housing is providing funding in some capacity (e.g.financing, grant money) for the provider to either purchase, acquire or construct the building.
8. Operator agreements - Provincial Rental Housing Corporation is the operator of the building and the ANHBC Foundation own the building.
9, 17. Hayek, Janick (2010). Redevelopment Project - Open Letter to Community. Kitsilano Neighbourhood House. 
10. Morris, Vickie (2017). Former Senior Social Planner. City of Vancouver. SPRE Case Study Interviewee
11. The City awards capital grants to non-profit organizations that provide an array of social and childcare facilities that must be maintained and expanded to meet the priorities of Council and the Community. These grants typically generate matching funds at a ratio of at least 3 to 1 from other levels of government and/or private sources. Administrative Report (2012). Capital Grants to Kitsilano Neighbourhood House and Japanese Language School. Vancouver City Council. http://council.vancouver/ca/20120228/documents/a9.pdf 
12. Most new development in the City of Vancouver pays Development Cost Levies (DCLs). A DCL is paid by property developers based on square footage. DCLs are an important source of revenue for City Facilities such as parks, childcare facilities, social and non-profit housing, engineering infastructure. Development Cost Levies (2018). City of Vancouver. 
13. Prepaid rent for a 40 year lease. Operator agreement in place for 10 years with three 10-year renewable terms.
14. Interest-free forgivable mortgage; operating agreement with ANHBC for the senior’s housing component.

15. Hard construction costs include all building costs, on and offsite servicing, parking and retrofit, contingency, etc.
16. Soft construction costs include architect and engineer fees, consulting fees, legal fees, surveying, insurance etc.