An Indigenous community in the Fraser Canyon is planning a unique affordable housing development.
Chief of the Kanaka Bar Indian Band Patrick Michell says the band owns 10 acres of Crown land on Kanaka Station Road near Highway 1, and says it is building a multi-phase housing complex on five acres, called “The Crossing Place.” He says the band will employ people who live there on a farm directly beside it, on the other five acres, with wind and solar energy as power sources.
Michell says the project would also include a community building, which would be expected to have a number of uses including emergency management operations for floods or wildfires.
He says the housing will be “inclusive,” for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from rural or urban areas.
“A number of homes here, we’ll call them over-utilized, that means there’s more people in the house than is comfortable. So they’ll be able to transfer into these new units. It’s application driven, it’s not built for the membership of Kanaka Bar, it’s being built so that a person who needs a home can apply,” he says.
“When I was a child my grandmother told me that to live you needed air, water, food and shelter in that order. You didn’t need more, you just needed those. And so I was raised in a house with 17 people and no electricity until age 18. So I grew up understanding that there are certain perks in life.”
Michell says the project is expected to start in the spring and phase one with 20 units should be ready by September of next year, with one, two and three bedrooms. He says phase two would more than double the number of housing units available.
The property needs re-zoning to be approved by the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, and the plans were first brought to board members last week.
Michell says the housing model is self-sufficient, and could be replicated anywhere in B.C.
“What we’re actually turning on its ear is the chase of profit. This housing that we’re putting up will operate at a break-even point, it’s not profit motivated. And if we can get that and show how it’s working, that’s what we can replicated anywhere in B.C. So that other places throughout B.C. – whether it’s Lillooet, whether it’s Chase, Quesnel – will be able to say ‘hey, here’s something that we could roll out.’ It’s not profitable, but it’s affordable.”
Michell says the Fraser Canyon would be considered a “depressed economy,” but he says farming could offer work for many people moving to his community.