TFN Chief Kim Baird with Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver CEO Tim Wake.

Habitat for Humanity comes to TFN land

Partnership will see eight affordable family homes built in First Nation community

Affordable housing is being planned for a portion the Tsawwassen First Nation’s new residential development.

Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver (HFH) and TFN has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will see up to eight affordable family homes built within the TFN community.

“We had a real hard time finding affordable housing for the past 10 years so we’re quite excited by this opportunity,” said TFN Chief Kim Baird.

She said there’s been talks for a number of years but it’s been challenging working around the issues of getting HFH on First Nation land.

The MOU follows discussions held over the past few months, including a community meeting in June where TFN members were briefed on the Habitat for Humanity family-partner model.

“We felt the Habitat for Humanity model would be a great one for our community as it would provide TFN members with the opportunity to volunteer and learn valuable skills on a home-construction site,” said Doug Raines, Chief Administrative Officer of TFN.

Habitat For Humanity Greater Vancouver CEO Tim Wake said other HFH affiliates across Canada have achieved great success in working with First Nations on improving family housing in their communities.

Like other First Nation communities, Baird said creating new housing has been one of the biggest challenges facing the former Indian Band over the past 20 years.

“Most of our housing starts have been done by individuals, which provides a huge gap for families who need affordable housing,” she said. “So, we have overcrowding and people who would like to move back to the community but have been unable to.”

TFN has major plans underway to build two massive shopping developments, a new residential community, and the possibility of an industrial park over the next couple of years. Baird said a major reason for that kind of development is to provide residents with better programs, services, and the sort of economic opportunities that will make housing more affordable.

HFH works with partner families on home ownership through no down-payment and no-interest mortgages, with payments tied to no more than 30 percent of the family’s gross income. The family also invests “sweat equity” through 500 hours of volunteer time, which often includes volunteer work on their own future home.

Baird said TFN and HFH will work together to assess which residents on First Nation land will be eligible for the new housing.

“There are some cultural differences between the normal process and our community, so we can bridge that in discussions about the best way to go about it,” she said.

TFN is looking at construction beginning in spring of 2013, with completion later that year.

Surrey North Delta Leader

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