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Responding to ‘Desperate’ Need, BC to Build 1,100 Units of Indigenous Housing

Funding approved for homes both off- and on-reserve, a first for the province.

Andrew MacLeod 24 Nov 2018TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of All Together Healthy (Douglas & McIntyre, 2018). Find him on Twitter or reach him at

The British Columbia government has approved funding for 30 projects across the province that will provide more than 1,100 housing units for Indigenous people.

“It is a game changer, and it is historic,” Housing Minister Selina Robinson said in an interview ahead of the Saturday announcement in Pitt Meadows.

“No provincial government has stepped up to recognize that wherever it is that people call home, whatever community it is, wherever their family is, their history, their cultural experiences, home is the community that you live in.”

Robinson announced in June that the province was issuing a request for proposals and hoped to have 1,000 units approved within a year.

The government had committed to provide $550 million over 10 years through a new Indigenous Housing Fund to create and operate 1,750 units of housing. The funding was to be available for projects both off- and on-reserve.

The province has supported off-reserve housing for Indigenous people in the past, but on-reserve housing has been a federal responsibility since 1867 and has been chronically underfunded.

Saturday’s announcement includes 367 units in 16 projects on reserves and 776 units of housing in 14 projects off-reserve. The projects are in 26 communities throughout the province.

Robinson said the projects will take two to four years to complete and are a substantial step towards the province’s 10-year goal.

“We’re frontloading because it’s so desperate,” she said. “It breaks my heart every time I hear a story, and I heard another one today, of a community, an Indigenous community that is reeling from two suicide deaths of young people.”

Communities are losing their young people because they don’t see hope or a future for themselves, she said. “We can’t wait. We just can’t wait, and we need to be moving on this.”

The Aboriginal Housing Management Association, an umbrella group for 42 housing providers, had welcomed the June announcement but at the time wanted more details about where the units would be.

CEO Margaret Pfoh was unavailable for an interview, but in a press release said, “We have been able to create partnerships that are responding to the needs of our diverse Indigenous communities to address their housing crises. There is still much to do, more funding that is required, steps to be taken and more meaningful Indigenous inclusion to be made, but today we celebrate how far we have come.”

Housing Minister Robinson said the provincial government received nearly 60 applications for projects through its proposal process and is planning another call for proposals in 2020.

So far the federal government has declined to get involved in the program, Robinson said.

“The demand, I have to tell you, has been significant,” she said. “We could do even more with federal partners. We’re making a big difference, but there’s more to do.”

The need is great, she said. “There are people who are struggling, there are people who have no hope, there are people who are leaving their home, leaving their community, leaving their history, leaving everything they’ve known, because they don’t have housing.”

It’s not good for the individuals or the broader society, Robinson said. “This historic investment is about helping people to thrive and be more resilient,” she said. “People who don’t have housing, they’re less healthy. It’s a good investment.”  [Tyee]

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