New homes coming for Black, Indigenous families in New Westminster

February 11, 2022 at 12:50 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

An innovative housing partnership is getting underway as site preparation begins on a 96-unit affordable housing development for Black and Indigenous families, Elders and individuals in New Westminster.

“This unique development will help us address an urgent need for affordable housing for Black and Indigenous people and families in New Westminster,” said Jennifer Whiteside, MLA for New Westminster. “My heartfelt thanks to the many partners that have come together to develop a project that will have a significant impact on the lives of people for years to come.”

Located on a six-parcel lot at 823-841 Sixth St., the rental housing project was first brought forward to BC Housing through a partnership between the Swahili Vision International Association and the Aboriginal Land Trust. The groups identified a need for affordable housing for members of the underserved Black and urban Indigenous communities. The project will support the sharing of knowledge, cultures and traditions for multiple generations of families living together.

“Over the last year, we have met with Black and Indigenous communities and heard that affordable, culturally safe housing is an ongoing need,” said Rachna Singh, Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-racism Initiatives. “New Westminster is one of the most densely populated urban centres in Canada, with a well-established and growing Black community. As we celebrate Black History Month, this project highlights our commitment to deliver lasting change for Black and Indigenous communities. It’s an important step forward to reduce barriers and ensure that stability and critical supports are available to families.”

The development will be operated by Lu’ma Native Housing Society and the Swahili Vision International Association. Operational oversight will be provided by the Aboriginal Housing Management Association.

“As we say in Africa, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ and children are the future and backbone of a community,” said Jean-Claude Bakundukize, co-founder, Swahili Vision International Association. “We are witnessing the beginning of a village, the likes of which has never been seen before. Indigenous Peoples living, sharing, caring and enjoying everyday life together with Swahili people; two peoples, two cultures fusing together, to raise their children together, to learn off each other and enhance one another in a modern village setting, and the beginning of a housing solution to some of our marginalized communities.”

The building will include a combination of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, and a ground-floor amenity room with a full kitchen, washroom and storage room. Exterior features will include a large outdoor terrace with a dining area, seating and barbecue hookups, multi-use exercise space and a children’s play area.

“A lack of affordable housing has become an increasingly prevalent issue in New Westminster and is not isolated to the Indigenous community,” said Kent Patenaude, president, Lu’ma Native Housing Society. “Lu’ma is extremely proud to partner with the Swahili Vision International Association and assist with their member housing needs. This development represents a unique collaboration of two historically marginalized segments of society with similar rich, vibrant, and resilient cultures. We believe this unique model of housing will build capacity and inspire other new innovative partnerships, ensuring access to safe, affordable and culturally appropriate housing.”

The Province will support the new housing with funding through the Building BC: Community Housing Fund. The amount will be finalized once the project is closer to the start of construction, which is anticipated this summer. The new homes are expected to be complete in early 2024.

This project is part of B.C.’s 10-year, $7-billion housing plan. Since 2017, the Province has funded nearly 32,000 affordable homes that have been completed or are underway for people in B.C., including approximately 200 homes in New Westminster.

Quotes:

Jonathan X. Coté, mayor, New Westminster –

“We’re very excited to see this important project underway in our community. It helps address a very real need for affordable housing and supports our vision for New Westminster as a vibrant, compassionate, sustainable city that includes everyone.”

Margaret Pfoh, CEO, Aboriginal Housing Management Association (AHMA)–

“The collaboration between the Aboriginal Land Trust Society, Lu’ma Native Housing Society and the Swahili Vision International Association is a powerful step forward for our BIPOC communities in New Westminster. It is a project that celebrates multiculturism, while meeting the needs of our diverse communities. This special development embodies the intersections of housing, community and belonging. AHMA raises our hands to our members and the Swahili Vision International Association, and look forward to welcoming future residents to the AHMA community.”

Dr. Dave Baspaly, president, Aboriginal Land Trust (ALT) –

“On behalf of the ALT board of directors, we are excited to participate in a project that brings together the strengths of Indigenous and Swahili communities in New Westminster. Together, and in solidity, we will make history for those in our communities that seek affordable homes by building culturally appropriate housing. We are also hopeful that this unique model of development will inspire other new and innovative partnerships so that everyone that wants a home can eventually have access.”

Quick Facts:

  • The Community Housing Fund is a provincial investment of $1.9 billion to build more than 14,000 affordable rental homes over 10 years for moderate- and low-income families and individuals.
  • More than 8,900 of these homes are open, under construction or in development across the province.
  • As part of Black History Month, the Province is committing to formally recognize the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent. This project aligns with that commitment.
  • In 2021, Singh met with Black-led organizations to talk about key issues faced by Black communities in B.C. A lack of affordable housing and wrap-around supports was identified as a significant barrier.
  • The Swahili Association will work with Lu’ma Native Housing Society on the day-to-day management of the building, including tenant selection for up to 48 units for Black families, property management, long-term asset management and capital planning.

Learn More:

A map showing the location of all announced provincially funded housing projects in B.C. is available online at: https://www.bchousing.org/homes-for-BC

To learn about the steps the Province is taking to tackle the housing crisis and deliver affordable homes for British Columbians, visit: https://workingforyou.gov.bc.ca/

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