Chris Beaton, Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre executive director, left; Noel Brown, Snuneymuxw First Nation carver; Doug Routley, Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA and Chief Michael Wyse of Snuneymuxw First Nation, cut the ribbon at an affordable housing project in Nanaimo on Friday. (KARL YU/News Bulletin)

Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre affordable housing holds official opening

Housing complex on Bowen Road features units that are passive house certified

Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre’s $6.4-million affordable housing project on Bowen Road was officially unveiled today.

Features of the 25-unit Nuutsumuut Lelum complex include two-storey buildings, a common room, play area for children and community garden. Chris Beaton, aboriginal centre executive director, said 21 units are occupied and he envisions an atmosphere of togetherness. Nuutsumuut Lelum means ‘all in one house.’

Snuneymuxw #firstnation chief speaks at grand opening of housing in #Nanaimo.

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“I think our original vision was a place for children, a place for elders and a place for youth and young families to be able to live together, but also we didn’t want a four-storey building where folks jumped in an elevator, went to their floor and never met their neighbours. We wanted a design where it sort of nurtured and encouraged interaction between the tenants themselves and creating a sense of family and community.”

The units are passive house certified, meaning they are energy efficient, which Beaton said will benefit tenants.

“What it means really is that energy use or consumption is reduced dramatically in every one of the units, which results in lower energy costs and energy bills for our tenants,” said Beaton. “So that addresses part of the affordability in creating affordable homes, but it also creates a quality of air in each of the units that is unmatched anywhere else in residential construction. It’s just a wonderful design that is good for us as an operator and it’s good for the tenants and good for the environment.”

Partnering with the aboriginal centre were the federal and provincial governments, who contributed $4.6 million to the project through the social infrastructure fund. The City of Nanaimo transferred the $770,000 land to the centre and waived $221,000 in fees and development cost charges. The Regional District of Nanaimo granted $15,000 for the passive house planning.

Snuneymuxw First Nation Chief Mike Wyse said it’s a beautiful building and a great opportunity for his people.

“It just shows what partnerships can create,” said Wyse. “We’re really looking forward to the future of B.C. Housing and other partners moving forward. We’re really excited. We’re not only witnessing this today, but we have other projects that are in motion right now with our community with B.C. Housing, Habitat for Humanity, other partners that are really stepping up to really take care of what’s happening out there today in our greater community. We all witness the homelessness and we feel for those people. We want them to live a better life.”

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