The Squamish Nation's new non-profit housing organization has now named the directors who will aim to bring more rental options to its members.
On Dec. 9, Squamish Nation Coun. Khelsilem tweeted the announcement.
"For years, the Squamish Nation had lagged behind on building housing options for the Squamish People and addressing the housing crisis for our community," Khelsilem wrote, adding housing has been slow because of a lack of policies and funding.
Three Nation members and four independent board directors will approve policies, development plans and business plans. The board will also hire a CEO for Hiyám Housing. Khelsilem said the non-profit will apply for provincial and federal funding.
Squamish resident and general manager of the Sea to Sky Gondola, Kirby Brown is one of the board's non-Nation members, and will be serving a two-year term as a director.
Brown was on the Whistler Housing Authority board for several years in the early 2000s, when it was a "tumultuous time" Brown said. His experience includes property management as well.
With that experience, he "learned an awful lot of lessons about how to effectively implement affordable rental housing — and how not to.
"I think the Squamish Nation, in particular, is stepping forward in a way that is notable and noteworthy. They're being very progressive when it comes to this desire to build 1,000 affordable housing units [over 10 years]. That's the kind of vision that actually getting inventory in place takes. It takes a bold move and a bold vision like that. I think it's very cool and shows the strength of the Nation," Brown told The Chief.
Currently, 53% of Squamish Nation members live off-reserve, paying high market rents, according to Khelsilem.
"The objective of Hiyám Housing is to provide different types of housing options, including affordable rentals tied to household income," he said.
"The Squamish Nation established Hiyám Housing to lead the development of new affordable housing for the Squamish people. The organization will be mandated to develop multi-storey housing for a range of income levels, from 'very low' to 'moderate' incomes and more."
The Hiyám ta Sḵwxwú7mesh Housing Society (Hiyám Housing) is a separate initiative from the existing housing policy's annual allocation.
The society would also be responsible for property management.
Six potential sites — in North Vancouver and the Squamish Valley — were identified by the Squamish Nation council in September for staff to report on transferring to Hiyám Housing. The report is expected to come back to council in January.