Squamish Nation to build more than 400 affordable housing units after ‘landslide’ referendum


The Squamish Nation’s historic plan to build more than 400 affordable housing units at three sites is expected to move forward after an overwhelming majority of members backed the projects in a land designation referendum.

On July 28, 85 percent of Squamish’s 548 members voted strongly in favor of the three sites chosen for various affordable multi-unit housing projects for members only. Two sites are located in communities in North Vancouver, at Mathias Road and Orwell Street, and the third is in Squamish, at Government Road.

The developments are part of the Bring Squamish Home Project, which is being led by the Nation’s Hiy̓ám̓ Housing Society as part of a larger goal of housing every Squamish member within a generation, or 25 years.

“It was an overwhelming vote for housing because it is the nation’s top priority,” said Sarah Silva, CEO of Hiy̓ám̓ Housing Society̓.

“This is our first referendum of this magnitude on affordable housing and we felt excited and hopeful that we were one step closer to having our members home within a generation. ”

The council’s hope is to designate six plots of land for affordable housing over the next two years, with the nation’s goal of building 1,000 housing units. Together, the six sites represent the largest land designation for affordable housing in the nation’s history.

The Nation’s plan is to build a range of affordable housing for their people, as well as meet the various needs that exist in the community with the support of provincial and federal funds. Collective housing will provide options for seniors, families fleeing violence, members with low income or at risk of homelessness, students, and people with modest incomes.

Now that members have voted in favor, construction of the first project, a four-story multi-family complex at Welch and Mathias Road in the community of X̱wemelch’stn (Capilano IR No.5) in North Vancouver, will begin this fall.

Silva said the project had already received funding from BC Housing in September and it was hoped the building would be completed within 16 months.

Located adjacent to the Nation’s Elders Center, the 94-unit affordable housing project will include mixed-use housing for independent seniors, families and youth at subsidized rents, a co-op grocery store and a community garden.

Under the province’s Community Housing Fund, 20 percent of units must be rented at a large subsidy, restricted to people with disabilities or income assistance. Half of the units must be for households earning up to $ 48,000 per year, costing no more than 30% of their income. The remaining 30 percent of the units will be offered at below market rates for low-income households earning up to $ 74,000.

“The community has long called for more diversity in the types of housing and equality of the target populations served,” said Silva.

Currently, over 50% of the 4,000 people of the Squamish Nation live off reserve, and 1,000 members are waiting for housing. Some members wait up to 30 years to return to one of the Nation’s communities.

“Many have been evicted and pay very unaffordable rents and are delighted to be able to return home and be close to family, culture and community support,” said Silva.

Silva added that the goal was to create “a holistic community that will foster positive intergenerational relationships.”

The second site chosen is Orwell Street in North Vancouver, where the village of Ch’ich’éx̱ wí7ḵw (Seymour Creek RI # 2) once stood, north of Phibbs Exchange. The site has the potential to accommodate three housing blocks and 280 units with a mix of one, two and three bedroom studios in a 28-story tower.

The third Siy̓ích’em community site (Seaichem IR # 16) in Squamish, west of Government Road, between Brackendale and Garibaldi, will accommodate approximately 30 units with a mix of studios, one bed and two bedrooms. The proposed design is currently for a four story modular structure.

Both projects are still in the early stages of development. The three locations were chosen because of their proximity to community amenities, utilities and, in some cases, transit locations.

Silva said the next three sites to be developed include a location on Mortenson’s Land in Squamish, and two more sites in North Vancouver, one on the Capilano Reservation along Marine Drive and another on the Mission Reserve which is currently in use. by Eslhá 7an Learning Center.

In an interview with North Shore News earlier this month, Khelsilem (Dustin Rivers), spokesperson for the Squamish Nation council, said the introduction of affordable housing on reserve with subsidized rents was “a bit a paradigm shift ”, but it was a“ really important ”decision to be able to accommodate more members.

He said the reality was that the nation could not afford to do it on its own and would be able to build much more housing in a shorter timeframe, by taking out low-interest government loans. to finance construction.

Khelsilem noted that the ability to have cheaper rent and return to the community would be a welcome relief for many members living off reserve.

While members wait for projects to be built, Silva said the Nation and Hiy̓ám̓ Housing are also developing long-term programs to ensure housing security for the community, on and off reserve, including a two-year pilot program. called Squamish Nation Assistance with Rent. (SNARP) and a new home loan program where members can access a mortgage to build a house in a community.

She said the message to members was “to be encouraged, as this is only the beginning”.

“We are making plans so that overnight housing is no longer the number one concern,” said Silva.

“They [members] may have hopes of owning a home or having a rental opportunity in the community.

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