LOWER NICOLA, B.C. — Last November, the provincial government announced close to $231 million dollars to build more than 1,100 new homes for Indigenous peoples in BC, both on- and off-reserve, as part of the 10-year Building BC: Indigenous Housing Fund Program.
This morning in Lower Nicola, a unique partnership was announced between BC Housing and five Nicola Valley Indian bands which aims to improve existing on-reserve housing and could lead to new affordable housing projects down the road.
“I’m really excited about what we’re doing here today,” Lower Nicola Indian band Chief Aaron Sumexheltza told those gathered at the LNIB office Tuesday morning. “We’ve been working on this MOU for many months, with BC Housing.”
It’s a unique partnership between five First Nations in the Nicola Valley and BC Housing. Tuesday, the groups entered into The Indigenous Asset Management Memorandum of Understanding, meant to improve the quality of on-reserve housing in the Nicola Valley.
“BC Housing will be providing technical support and will be training our community members so we… as the five bands, do better when it comes to assessing the buildings that we have on-reserve and off-reserve,” Sumexheltza explained.
The three-year MOU was signed by representatives from the five bands involved: both Upper and Lower Nicola, as well as Coldwater, Nooaitch, and Shackan Indian Bands. BC Housing CEO Shayne Ramsay says this agreement opens the door for similar cooperation throughout the province.
“This really is precedent-setting for the province,” Ramsay explained. “It really is about addressing that continuum of need, no matter where it happens.”
The Chiefs and Councillors who signed the agreement believe the MOU will provide both opportunities for members of the five bands along with improved housing for their members.
“When we get together like this, I like to call it a historic day,” Coldwater Chief Lee Spahan said.
“It’s going to be a lot of work,” Shackan Indian Band Chief Jordan Joe remarked. “As a lot of people know, a lot of the housing on-reserve is not exactly top tier.”
“It’s going to be difficult, but it’s going to be worth it,” Councillor Brian Holmes from the Upper Nicola Indian Band said. “To make it better for our communities and for the valley as a whole.”
While there aren’t any large-scale affordable housing projects on the horizon, Sumexheltza says there is an opportunity for cooperation on projects of that nature in the future.
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