More affordable housing options for First Nations

The Trust’s $5.5-million First Nations Housing Sustainability Initiative has three components.

Large crane removing a mobile home from plot of land.

In 2017, the ?aq?am community replaced a hazardous home with Trust support. The community will now be upgrading up to 62 units. — Photo courtesy Columbia Basin Trust

First Nations in the Columbia Basin have developed new and improved affordable housing options in their communities with $2.9 million in support from Columbia Basin Trust to develop 43 new affordable housing units and undertake energy retrofits and repairs on 88 existing units.

“We’re working with First Nations communities every step of the way—from planning to construction—to help them meet their affordable housing needs,” said Johnny Strilaeff, President and CEO at Columbia Basin Trust. “We look forward to continuing to support the efforts of these communities as they increase well-being amongst their citizens.”

The Trust’s $5.5-million First Nations Housing Sustainability Initiative has three components. First, the initiative helps First Nations communities build new affordable housing units, from planning to construction. Second, it funds energy retrofits and health and safety repairs on existing units. Third, it helps them with managing their affordable housing assets, whether this means buying specialized software or training dedicated staff or community members.

The asset management component is being delivered in large part through a unique partnership between the ʔakisq̓nuk, ʔaq̓am, Shuswap and ʔakink̓umǂasnuqǂiʔit (Tobacco Plains) communities, supported by the Trust, BC Housing and Indigenous Services Canada. When it comes to managing First Nations affordable housing, this collaborative model is the first of its kind in Canada.

The Trust’s First Nation Housing Sustainability Initiative has helped attract an additional $15 million from other sources toward the sustainability of First Nations housing in the Basin.

In 2019, ʔaq̓am received Trust funding to do energy retrofits and health and safety upgrades on several units in the community. This is the latest step in the community’s efforts to improve housing for the approximately 230 citizens living in ʔaq̓am, part of its community strategic plan called Ka Kniⱡwitiyaⱡa – Our Thinking. In 2017, the Trust supported repairs in a home and helped replace another home that was not safe for residents. In 2018, the community received Trust support to implement asset management technologies and complete energy and condition assessments on all housing to identify needed repairs. Now the community is undertaking these repairs, which will include outside building improvements like siding and roofing, and inside improvements like insulation, heating, ventilation, plumbing, and health and safety.

“Other than the replacement of the home in 2017, no new housing has been built in the ʔaq̓am community since 1995, resulting in a need for new housing and upgrades to the existing housing,” said Nasuʔkin Joe Pierre. In addition to the immediate repairs, the community will take advantage of the above-mentioned partnership. Director of Operations Michelle Shortridge said, “It is now our intention to build capacity within the community for long-term asset management and basic housing maintenance and repairs.”

The community of ʔakink̓umǂasnuqǂiʔit (Tobacco Plains) also has older housing stock, with some in need of repair, and little construction in the last 30 years. Some homes are overcrowded, and an affordable housing shortage has made it difficult for some citizens to stay in the community or comfortably return home. Starting in 2018 and continuing in 2019, the community is constructing nine new affordable housing units, of various sizes, which are being built with Trust support. These will be rented to members with low to moderate incomes.

“This will give the opportunity to bring community members home and provide properly sized dwellings for families,” said Ryan Sarfeld, Housing and Infrastructure Manager. Also, some of the units will be fully accessible. “Along with our new health facility, this will enable elders to stay within the community longer. We are always aiming to better serve the community and membership.”

Learn more about the Trust’s work in housing at

Columbia Basin Trust supports the ideas and efforts of the people in the Columbia Basin. To learn more about the Trust’s programs and initiatives, and how it helps deliver social, economic and environmental benefits to the Basin, visit or call 1-800-505-8998.

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