First Nations in the Columbia Basin are moving ahead with building and improving housing stock—adding additional affordable housing options and professional development opportunities—while being supported by unique and innovative partnerships.
Columbia Basin Trust launched the First Nations Housing Sustainability Initiative in 2017 after discussions with First Nations in the Basin. In just five years, First Nations have built or are developing nearly 80 affordable units and have assessed, renovated or made plans to renovate over 200 additional homes.
“Through initial talks with First Nations, the Trust gained a better understanding of how we could work together to meet their housing needs and the role we could play as a partner,” said Mark Brunton, Delivery of Benefits Senior Manager with Columbia Basin Trust. “We have provided project development support and funding so First Nations can repair and maintain existing homes as well as build new ones. Together we’ve been able to bring in other partners and resources to support this work.”
In addition, through the First Nations Asset Management Initiative, ʔakisq̓nuk First Nation, ʔaq̓am, Kenpesq’t (Shuswap Indian Band), Yaqan NuɁkiy (Lower Kootenay Band) and Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it (Tobacco Plains Indian Band) are working together for housing solutions, enhancing their processes and capacity and developing staff skillsets. These partnerships also include participation from the Trust, BC Housing and Indigenous Services Canada.
ʔakisq̓nuk First Nation
ʔakisq̓nuk First Nation is in the process of building four triplexes—two earmarked for Elders and two for families. In 2019 it completed a six-plex that offers a combination of two- and three-bedroom units. These, plus a mini-home, total 19 new affordable housing units in the community. ʔakisq̓nuk is also completing energy retrofits and renovations to over 30 existing homes.
”The recent and current flurry of on-reserve housing activity is overdue and welcome,” said Dale Shudra, Housing Manager with ʔakisq̓nuk First Nation. “New homes were needed and attention to existing homes was also necessary. It’s rewarding to see improved housing conditions and a very substantive increase in affordable housing.”
ʔaq̓am has a number of housing projects under way. The Nation is in the final stages of planning a new housing project on a 40-acre site; the first phase aims to develop 20 affordable rental units, as well as construct an energy efficient demonstration house. ʔaq̓am is also improving over 60 units with health and safety renovations and energy efficiency upgrades. By doing projects like these, members will be able to access high-quality, safe, affordable housing that meets diverse needs. Following the motto “built for community, by community,” the projects also offer training opportunities that increase the knowledge and experience of members.
“The ʔaq̓am community has not had any new housing since the mid 90s, so addressing this shortage is a priority within the community strategic plan: Ka kniⱡwi·tiyaⱡa,” said Nasuʔkin Joe Pierre of ʔaq̓am. “The community is grateful for the support of Columbia Basin Trust, as projects like these would not be successful without their continued commitment to community.”
Kenpesq’t (Shuswap Indian Band)
Kenpesq’t (Shuswap Indian Band) recently built duplexes that provide eight one-bedroom, 700-square-foot homes, and all tenants have now moved in. Also, five larger family homes are in the planning stages; these modulars should arrive this summer. These 13 homes add to the four constructed in 2018. In addition, the First Nation repaired five homes in 2018 and is currently undertaking building assessments and energy audits to plan for repairs and improvements to 21 affordable housing units.
“Our community needs more affordable housing because, prior to a few years ago, homes hadn’t been built here in 30 years,” said Dolores Nicholas, Kenpesq’t Social Development and Housing Manager. “The members really appreciate and take care of all the new and improved homes.”
Yaqan NuɁkiy (Lower Kootenay Band)
Yaqan NuɁkiy (Lower Kootenay Band) recently completed two new energy efficient small homes and plans to build four more this year. The first two are 600-square-foot, level-entry homes that will fit a maximum of two tenants each and can accommodate people of various ages and mobility levels. The First Nation has also had all existing homes inspected and is in the process of renovating 45 of those units to improve their energy efficiency and health and safety. All of these projects provide training and educational opportunities to members.
“Having a diverse supply of housing stock helps us meet the evolving needs of Yaqan NuɁkiy,” said Debbie Edge-Partington, Yaqan NuɁkiy Housing Coordinator. “The new homes—the first we’ve had in over 20 years—are small, but mighty! They are setting a high bar for quality housing standards and will have a positive impact on energy savings.”
Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it (Tobacco Plains Indian Band)
Between 2018 and 2019, Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it created 11 new affordable homes, including a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units. The construction provided employment and skill-sharing opportunities for members. In addition, the First Nation has assessed 21 units and started renovations and energy efficiency improvements.
“For anybody to live a better quality of life, they need a home, not just a dwelling—somewhere they can feel safe and secure and be proud of. These new units and the renovations are helping our First Nation meet these requirements,” said Nasuʔkin Heidi Gravelle of Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it. “Many members wanted to move home, connect to their traditional territory where they grew up and where their lineage is, but we had nowhere for them to live. So these new housing units are really opening doors.”
Learn more about the First Nations Housing Sustainability Initiative at ourtrust.org/firstnationshousing.
Since 2002, the Trust has helped 27 Basin communities develop, build, upgrade or repair over 3,000 housing units. This has occurred through initiatives with First Nations, local housing organizations, developers, federal and provincial governments, and Basin colleges. Learn more at ourtrust.org/housing.
Columbia Basin Trust supports the ideas and efforts of the people in the Columbia Basin. To learn more about the Trust’s programs and initiatives, and how it helps deliver social, economic and environmental benefits to the Basin, visit ourtrust.org or call 1.800.505.8998.