British Columbia

Snuneymuxw First Nation partnering with B.C. Housing to build affordable homes for its members

The Snuneymuxw First Nation, located in Nanaimo, B.C., already has plans in the works to construct new homes both on and off reserve for its members with provincial support.

Plans are in the works for construction of new units both on and off reserve

The Snuneymuxw First Nation near Nanaimo, B.C., has signed a memorandum of understanding with B.C. Housing to create new, culturally-appropriate, affordable housing on the its territory located on the east coast of Vancouver Island. (Snuneymuxw First Nation/Facebook)

The chief of the Snuneymuxw First Nation is welcoming a partnership with the province to build new homes for its members living both on and off the nation's reserve in Nanaimo, British Columbia.

It has signed a memorandum of understanding with B.C. Housing to create new, culturally-appropriate, affordable housing on its territory located on the east coast of Vancouver Island.

"I think we've identified about 75 potential units that we can offer our community," said Chief Mike Wyse, speaking Tuesday on CBC's On The Island

According to Wyse, this includes building two on-reserve fourplex housing developments in the next few months, with plans to build off reserve within the year.

The Snuneymuxw already owns land in the city that Wyse says could potentially work and is also looking at a couple of additional locations that could be purchased through the partnership.

Come home again

The Snuneymuxw First Nation is one of the largest First Nations in B.C. with a population of over 1,700 people, the majority of whom do not live on reserve.

Wyse said the prospect of having a place in Nanaimo for people who live elsewhere and want to return has already created a buzz of excitement among some members.

"We've got two thirds of our community living away from home — off reserve, abroad — and a lot of our people, you know, would love to come home," said Wyse.

B.C. Housing says culturally-appropriate elements of the new developments may include cultural support services and spaces for ceremonies and community gatherings that, "facilitate and encourage a sense of tradition, well-being and belonging."

Wyse said the work being done now between the nation and the province scouting potential building sites is also being done in a culturally-appropriate way because members are very involved in selecting the land that will be used.

"A lot of our land in our ancestral ways is very sacred to us, and, you know, we respect the land. We look at the land and we're going to appease the land," said the chief.

There is no precise timeline yet for the off-reserve units to be completed, but Wyse said the relationship with B.C. Housing is "very positive" and that there is also the potential for members to work on these projects.

In a statement, Doug Routley, the MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan, expressed gratitude to the Snuneymuxw people for collaborating with the B.C. government.

"Everyone should be able to have access to an affordable home close to their family, culture and tradition. Thank you to the Snuneymuxw First Nation for partnering with us to add another valuable housing resource to the community," Routley said in the statement.

Gregor Craigie spoke with Mike Wyse, Chief of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, about a housing project. 6:53

With files from On The Island