Columbia Basin Trust partnering with First Nations to create local housing solutions

By James Rose
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) announced in a press release last week First Nations in the Columbia Basin are moving ahead with building and improving housing stock: “adding additional affordable housing options and professional development opportunities while being supported by unique and innovative partnerships.”

 CBT launched the First Nations Housing Sustainability Initiative in 2017 after discussions with First Nations in the Basin. In just five years across the Columbia Basin, “First Nations have built or are developing nearly eighty affordable units and have assessed, renovated or made plans to renovate over two-hundred additional homes.”

 “Through initial talks with First Nations, (CBT) gained a better understanding of how we could work together to meet their housing needs and the role we could play as a partner,” said Mark Brunton, Delivery of Benefits Senior Manager with CBT. “We have provided project development support and funding so First Nations can repair and maintain existing homes as well as build new ones. Together we’ve been able to bring in other partners and resources to support this work.”

 Locally, the –Akisqnuk First Nation is in the process of building four triplexes—two earmarked for Elders and two for families. In 2019, it completed a six-plex that offers a combination of two and three-bedroom units. “The recent and current flurry of on-reserve housing activity is overdue and welcome,” said Dale Shudra, Housing Manager with –Akisqnuk First Nation. “New homes were needed, and attention to existing homes was also necessary. It’s rewarding to see improved housing conditions and a very substantive increase in affordable housing.”

The Shuswap Indian Band recently built duplexes that provide eight one-bedroom, 700 square foot homes. “Our community needs more affordable housing because, prior to a few years ago, homes hadn’t been built here in 30 years,” said Dolores Nicholas, the Shuswap Social Development and Housing Manager. “The members really appreciate and take care of all the new and improved homes.”