Housing in Canada: Federal funding for British Columbia First Nation project

The federal government is providing a $1.4 billion loan to a Vancouver First Nation to build 3,000 homes on land that was once a former village that was burned down and expropriated a century ago.

The Squamish Nation broke ground on the Senakw development on Tuesday, calling it the largest Indigenous-led housing and retail development in Canadian history.

“While we were displaced we fought to get Senakw back and now he will once again provide for our people and the (Squamish) peoples future,” Wilson Williams, the country’s spokesman, said on Tuesday.

Residential and commercial development on the reservation will be built at the head of Vancouver’s False Creek, land that was returned to the nation by the courts in 2003. The complex will include 6,000 rental units and 1,200 homes when completed.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the development’s additional supply of rental units could alter both housing prices and availability in Vancouver.

“This investment, this creation of thousands upon thousands of new affordable rental units, a number of which are low income rental units, is going to make a huge difference in the lives of thousands of families who will suddenly have stability, opportunity , proximity to work,” he said.

“This will be a big step forward for Vancouver in terms of removing some of the pressures around housing, and I know that’s a good thing for the city, for the province and for the country.”

He said the plan will increase housing supply, advance reconciliation in a “tangible and real way” and position the nation to be a leader in net zero housing.

“All of these things come together, and it’s something that the federal government is very happy to be able to be a partner in,” he said.

The federal government has committed to funding the first two of four phases. The government says the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation loan is the largest in Canadian history.

The Prime Minister made the announcement before heading to a three-day cabinet retreat in Vancouver as the Liberal government prepares for the next session of Parliament.

“We are meeting in one of Canada’s great cities to be part of proposing solutions that will make a difference for Canadians,” Trudeau said.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 6, 2022.