New homes coming for Black and Indigenous families in New Westminster
An innovative housing partnership is underway as site preparation begins for a 96-unit affordable housing project for Black and Indigenous families, seniors, and individuals in New Westminster.
“This unique development will help us meet an urgent need for affordable housing for Black and Indigenous individuals and families in New Westminster,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Member of Parliament for New Westminster. “My sincere thanks to the many partners who have come together to develop a project that will have a significant impact on people’s lives for years to come.”
Located on a six-lot lot at 823-841 Sixth St., the rental housing project was first introduced 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 underserved urban Black and Indigenous communities. The project will support the sharing of knowledge, cultures and traditions for several generations of families living together.
“Over the past 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 centers in Canada, with a well-established and growing Black community. As we celebrate Black History Month, this project highlights our commitment to bringing lasting change to Black and Indigenous communities. This is an important step forward in reducing barriers and ensuring stability and essential supports are available to families.
The development will be operated by the 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 the backbone of a community,” said Jean-Claude Bakundukize, co-founder of Swahili Vision International Association. “We are witnessing the beginning of a village like we have never seen before. Indigenous people living, sharing, caring and enjoying daily life with the Swahili people; two peoples, two cultures merging, to raise their children together, learn from each other and improve each other in a modern village, and the beginning of a housing solution for some of our marginalized communities.
The building will feature a combination of one, two and three bedroom apartments, as well as a ground floor convenience room with a full kitchen, washroom and storage room. Outdoor features will include a large outdoor deck with a dining area, seating and BBQ hookups, a multi-purpose exercise area and a children’s play area.
“The lack of affordable housing has become a growing problem in New Westminster and is not isolated to the Aboriginal community,” said Kent Patenaude, president of the Lu’ma Native Housing Society. “Lu’ma is extremely proud to partner with the Swahili Vision International Association and to meet the housing needs of its members. This development represents a unique collaboration of two historically marginalized segments of society with similar rich, vibrant and resilient cultures. We believe this unique housing model will build capacity and inspire other new, innovative partnerships, ensuring access to safe, affordable and culturally appropriate housing.
The province will support 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 expected this summer. The new homes are expected to be completed in early 2024.
This project is part of British Columbia’s 10-year, $7 billion housing plan. Since 2017, the province has funded nearly 32,000 affordable housing units completed or underway for residents of British Columbia, including approximately 200 units in New Westminster.
Jonathan X. Cote, Mayor, New Westminster –
“We are very happy to see this important project underway in our community. It helps address a very real need for affordable housing and supports our vision of New Westminster as a vibrant, caring and sustainable city that includes everyone.
Margaret Pfoh, CEO, Aboriginal Housing Management Association (AHMA)–
“The collaboration between the Aboriginal Land Trust Society, the Lu’ma Native Housing Society and the Swahili Vision International Association is a big step forward for our BIPOC communities in New Westminster. It is a project that celebrates multiculturalism, 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 we look forward to welcoming future residents into the AHMA community.
Dr. Dave Baspaly, President, Aboriginal Land Trust (ALT) –
“On behalf of the ALT Board of Directors, we are thrilled to be part of a project that brings together the strengths of the Indigenous and Swahili communities in New Westminster. Together and in solidarity, we will make history for members of our communities who are looking for affordable housing by building culturally appropriate housing. We also hope that this unique development model will inspire other new and innovative partnerships so that everyone who wants housing can eventually have access to it.”
- The Community Housing Fund is a $1.9 billion provincial investment to build more than 14,000 affordable rental units over 10 years for modest 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 officially recognizing the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent. This project is part of this commitment.
- In 2021, Singh met with Black-led organizations to discuss key issues facing Black communities in British Columbia. The lack of affordable housing and wraparound supports was identified as a significant barrier.
- The Swahili association will work with the Lu’ma Native Housing Society on the day-to-day management of the building, including the selection of tenants for up to 48 units for black families, property management, long-term asset management and the capital planning.
A map showing the location of all announced provincially funded housing projects in British Columbia is available online at: https://www.bchousing.org/homes-for-BC
To learn more about what the province is doing to address the housing crisis and provide affordable housing for British Columbians, visit: https://workingforyou.gov.bc.ca/