Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) has partnered with Indigenous communities across the basin to build and improve housing stock.

CBT said the projects look to add additional affordable housing options and professional development opportunities.

The First Nations Housing Sustainability Initiative was launched by CBT in 2017. In the five years it has been in place, Indigenous communities have built or are developing almost 80 affordable housing units. Another 200 homes have been assessed, renovated or have plans to renovate.

“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.”

ʔakisq̓nuk First Nation, ʔaq̓am, Kenpesq’t (Shuswap Indian Band), Yaqan NuɁkiy (Lower Kootenay Band) and Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it (Tobacco Plains Indian Band) are also working together through the First Nations Asset Management Initiative for housing solutions, enhancing their processes and capacity and developing staff skillsets.

ʔakisq̓nuk First Nation

Four triplexes are under development by the ʔakisq̓nuk First Nation, two of which have been earmarked for Elders and two others for families.

In 2019, a six-plex was completed that offers two and three-bedroom units.

Together, both housing projects plus a mini-home added 19 new affordable housing units in the community. More than 30 existing homes will also undergo energy retrofits and renovations by ʔakisq̓nuk.

“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

ʔaq̓am is leading housing solutions in their community with partners including the Trust. (Supplied by Columbia Basin Trust)

A number of projects are underway in ʔaq̓am.

The final planning stages of a new housing project on a 40-acre site is underway. The first phase of development will develop 20 affordable rental units, as well as construct an energy-efficient demonstration house.

CBT said more than 60 units will be improved 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,” said the Trust.

The projects also offer training and job experience for community members, as they follow the motto “built for community, by community.”

“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 the community.”

Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it (Tobacco Plains Indian Band)

Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it (Tobacco Plains Indian Band) is leading housing solutions in their community with partners including the Trust. (Supplied by Columbia Basin Trust)

11 new affordable homes were constructed by Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it between 2018 and 2019, including a mix of one, two and three-bedroom units.

The Trust said the construction provided employment and skill-sharing opportunities for its members. A further 21 units have been assessed and renovations and energy efficiency upgrades have started.

“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.”

Yaqan NuɁkiy (Lower Kootenay Band)

Yaqan NuɁkiy (Lower Kootenay Band) is leading housing solutions in their community partners including the Trust. (Supplied by Columbia Basin Trust)

Two energy-efficient small homes have been built recently with plans to build four more in 2021. The first two are 600-square-foot, level entry homes with room for two tenants each, with accessibility for a range of age groups and mobility levels.

The community had all of its existing homes inspected and is in the process of renovating 45 units to improve their energy efficiency and health and safety.

“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.”