In a precedent-setting move, BC Housing will be providing more than 1,100 new homes for Indigenous people in B.C., including almost 50 in the Terrace area.
“This is historical,” says B.C.’s minister of municipal affairs and housing, Selina Robinson. “No provincial government has ever said we’re going to build housing with First Nations. It’s important that we do it because it’s the right thing to do, it’s part of reconciliation and it’s better for everybody when there’s access to appropriate housing.”
Overall, approximately $231 million will be provided to build new housing in 26 communities throughout B.C. This includes $76 million for 367 unit of on-reserve and $155 million for 776 reserves of off-reserve housing.
In Terrace, the M’akola Housing Society was granted $9.6 million to build 48 homes off-reserve. Each home was given a budget of $200,000. It’s expected the project should take between two to four years.
“We know it’s absolutely critical in Terrace, Indigenous families make up about 55 per cent of the rental population in your community and of those Indigenous renters, 25 per cent are spending more than 30 per cent of their income on rent and utilities, so that’s what we emphasize as a core housing need,” says Selina Robinson, minister of municipal affairs and housing.
She says many in the Terrace region are on the verge of homelessness, with 11 per cent of renters spending over 50 per cent of their income on housing, meaning they have little money left over for other basic needs.
“If you’re challenged to pay for medication, food, and transportation — these are all essential to have a decent life,” says Robinson. “We shouldn’t have to wait years and years to build these sorts of projects, we want to give 48 families (in Terrace) a key to a home that will provide them with some security for a long-term.”
BC Housing will be working with 30 different projects across the province, which are at different stages of development. From June to October, they had accepted proposals from organizations who had housing projects that they were working on. Part of M’akola Housing Society project criteria was to ensure sustainable long-term housing that would be available for the next 50 years.
The rent payment of these properties also have to reflect the renter’s income, which is determined on the Canada Mortage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) guidelines of having to pay no more than 30 per cent of income for housing.
“There have been so many stories of overcrowding, so children and young adults leave because there’s no housing for them, they go to urban centres where they have no support system and then they fall into challenging lifestyles,” says Robinson. “Or even elders who lived in communities their entire lives, but now they need to leave because there’s isn’t any of housing they need — it makes it harder for everybody.”
Robinson says that there were a number of chiefs and leaders from Indigenous communities at their event on Nov. 24 and that everyone in the room wanted to “collectively weep” after the announcement, feeling an “immense sense of relief.”
“This is historical, that’s what was so touching about Saturday,” Robinson says.
M’akola Housing Society did not respond to an interview request.