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Province funding homes specifically for Indigenous British Columbians for the first time

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck.

The B.C. government is planning on building more than 1,100 affordable homes for Indigenous peoples in 26 communities across the province.

Housing Minister Selina Robinson unveiled the first set of homes selected through the Indigenous Housing Fund Saturday afternoon, which includes nearly 780 off-reserve homes, and close to 370 homes on-reserve.

The commitment makes British Columbia the first province in Canada to invest provincial housing funds into on-reserve housing.

READ MORE: B.C. first province to have funding available for on-reserve housing

“We are behind right across the province, that is important to remember. But Indigenous people are absolutely over-represented in our homeless population which is a sad indication of how badly homes are lacking,” said Robinson. “I have heard stories of overcrowding of housing on-reserve and the housing crisis is affecting those most marginalized.

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“This is our government saying we need to act.”

The province announced in July that it was looking for communities to partner with. Robinson unveiled $7.8 million to the Katzie First Nation Housing Society in Pitt Meadows on Saturday. The funding will be enough to build 39 homes.

READ MORE: Housing crisis hits White Bear First Nations

The commitment to Indigenous housing is part of a $7-billion plan to find housing province-wide over the next 10 years. The government decided to focus specifically on First Nations communities because there has been a long term trend of young people leaving reserve communities in part because of a lack of housing.

“You want the younger generation to stay in community, but if there is no housing they have to leave,” said Robinson. “And they often leave, before they are ready to leave. They often end up in urban centres where they don’t have families and don’t have supports.”

READ MORE: Indigenous social housing advocates concerned about how Liberals will spend $500M in funding

The funding is part of the provincial government’s “focus on building a true and lasting vision of reconciliation” and is part of more $250 million allocated over the next three years, in the areas of affordable housing, language revitalization, child care, mental health and addictions, poverty reduction, improved access to justice, skills training, emergency management and a revitalized environmental assessment process.

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“We have never seen such a commitment from a provincial government for on-reserve housing investments,” British Columbia Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee said in July. “First Nations in B.C. seek to improve a major gap in housing needs. This is an important step for building stronger First Nations communities.”

The NDP government has also funded a Women’s Transition Housing Fund, with $734 million over 10 years to build and operate 1,500 new units of housing including transition houses, safe homes, second-stage and long-term housing.

Robinson says the province is focusing on putting housing where people can also access additional support.

“We philosophically believe as a society that people should be able to get a home, to have access to a home, in a place where they have social supports,” said Robinson. “In a place where they have a life, where they have a history. Reserves are a place where people have a history, have a life.”

Province-wide projects

Interior

Off-reserve:
Cranbrook: $7.8 million to Aqanttanam Housing Society – 39 homes
Kanaka Bar: $4 million to Kanaka Bar Indian Band – 20 homes
On-reserve:
Kelowna: $8.5 million to Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society – 42 homes
Merritt: $4.8 million to Upper Nicola Indian Band – 24 homes
Westbank: $3.4 million to Westbank First Nations for two projects – 17 homes
Windermere: $1 million to Akisqnuk First Nation – 6 homes

North

Off-reserve:
Prince George: $10 million to Aboriginal Housing Society – 50 homes
Prince Rupert: $12 million to Lax Kw’alaams WAAP Housing Society – 60 homes
Quesnel: $5.4 million to Dakelh and Quesnel Community Housing Society – 27 homes
Terrace: $9.6 million to M’akola Housing Society – 48 homes
On-reserve:
Kitamaat Village: $7.5 million to M’akola Housing Society – 23 homes
Lax Kw’alaams: $4 million to Lax Kw’alaams WAAP Housing Society – 20 homes
Quesnel: $2 million to Lhtako Dene Nation – 10 homes
Skidegate: $4.8 million to Skidegate Band Council – 24 homes
Witset: $5.2 million to Witset First Nation – 26 homes

Fraser

Off-reserve:
Hope: $9 million to Mameleawt Qweesome Housing Society – 45 homes
Surrey: $21.6 million to Kekinow Native Housing Society – 108 homes
Tsawwassen: $7.2 million to Tsawwassen First Nation – 36 homes
On-reserve:
Coquitlam: $3.2 million to Kwikwetlem First Nation – 16 homes

Vancouver Coastal

Off-reserve:
Vancouver: $22.6 million to Vancouver Aboriginal Land Trust – 113 homes
Vancouver: $8.4 million to Aboriginal Mother Centre – 42 homes
On-reserve:
Bella Bella: $1.2 million to Heiltsuk Tribal Council – 6 homes
Sechelt: $6.8 million to Shishalah First Nation – 34 homes
Vancouver: $14.8 million to Musqueam Indian Band – 74 homes

Vancouver Island

Off-reserve:
Colwood: $24.8 million to Vancouver Aboriginal Land Trust – 124 homes
Langford: $8 million to M’akola Housing Society – 40 homes
Port Hardy: $4.8 million to Gwa’sala-Nakwaxda’Xw Nations – 24 homes
On-reserve:
Fort Rupert: $1.2 million to Kwakiutl First Nation – 6 homes

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