Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation’s) goal of housing all Nation members within a generation is one step closer, as the Nation and Canadian federal government come together on a new affordable housing partnership that will look to house around 150 Nation members.
Announced Tuesday (Feb. 22), the $32.3-million grant from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp.’s Rapid Housing Initiative will have 80 new units built by the middle of 2023, with construction to start this coming summer.
estítkw place (a safe place) will have 50 units of housing and will be built on Capilano Road at xwemelch'stn in North Vancouver, just behind Staples on Marine Drive.
eskékxwi7ch tl’a Sp’ákw’us place (gathering place of eagles) will have 30 units of affordable housing on Government Road in Squamish. Both projects range in sizes, including studios, one- and two-bedroom units.
Squamish Nation Councillor and Spokesperson Sxwíxwtn Wilson Williams said for decades the Nation has made it a priority to create affordable and secure housing for all members, and while housing all members within a generation is challenging, Tuesday’s announcement will help the Nation achieve its goal.
“For too long, our people have lacked options for housing. Demand for housing is high, and wait-lists are long. In some cases, they are over 30 years. We are listening and hearing our people – they want to come home,” he said. “And we currently don't have enough housing for everyone, which means families and individuals who want to remain in our community, or move home, have limited choices and options.”
With the Nation contributing 10 per cent to the overall cost of the project, $3.2 million, Williams said bringing Nation members home will enable “us to come together as a Nation and care for one another.”
“To build a sense of security and acceptance. To actively participate in our cultural practices and everyday activities, and to engage in our way of life, in unity,” he said.
Hiy̓ám̓ ta Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Housing Society CEO Sarah Silva noted that of the 4,000-strong Nation, around 1,000 members are currently on the wait-list for housing – “the need is very great.”
Priority for the units will be given to women and children, people with disabilities, two-spirited people, and people experiencing, or at risk of homelessness. The Capilano Road development will also include supports for residents who are struggling with mental health and addiction challenges.
“I would like to thank and raise my hands to CMHC, Squamish Nation leadership, and all of our funding partners for this opportunity that will not only help us build safe long-term homes for people, it will help us bring our people home,” Silva said.
Ahmed Hussen, federal minister for housing and diversity and inclusion, said the Hiy̓ám̓ housing society is doing incredible work to make sure Squamish Nation members have access to safe and affordable housing.
“We're here because of partnership. We're here because of collaboration. We are here to work together to make sure that each and every British Columbian has a safe and affordable place to call home,” he said. “And we all know that affordable housing should not be a luxury. It is a basic necessity. It is how parents can plan for the future of their kids. It is really the difference between making ends meet or just getting by or getting ahead.”
More information on the two projects, along with Squamish Nation’s housing project, can be found on the Bring Squamish Home webpage.
Charlie Carey is the North Shore News' Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.