The Penticton Indian Band hopes a recent housing announcement from the provincial government will help band members return to living on the reserve.
About 60 per cent of the band’s membership lives off reserve, according to PIB Chief Chad Eneas, who said there’s “a real desire for people to come home.”
“We’d appreciate the opportunity to develop a model both B.C. and in Canada to address the living conditions that we all face,” Eneas said.
“We’ve had some dialogue with some potential partners on some affordable housing projects. But in terms of where we’re going with the recent announcement, We’re kind of caught in a little bit of a grey area in the province, because on the federal reserve, here, a lot of times the responsibility lies with the federal government.”
The provincial government announced last week that it will be earmarking $550 million over 10 years to build and operate 1,750 new units of social housing on and off reserve.
“We’re definitely looking at opportunities off the reserve for any kind of partnership that’s going to support effective partnerships but also support that true reconciliation in terms of the unextinguished title and rights here in our territories,” Eneas said.
“We really want to push that threshold. A lot of the experience from the Penticton Indian Band has been to develop a model that can be utilized in communities across Canada. We’re really looking forward to those kinds of conversations.”
Eneas said getting housing on the reserve “has always been a priority” for the PIB, adding that the band was able to build 40 houses in the 1980s.
“It makes a difference for our babies and for our community, because people can really feel good about belonging and having some place to call home. Right now a lot of our people, there’s two or three families living in a house,” Eneas said.
“We’re working on some tiny home projects and we’re continuing the dialogue on Skaha Hills. That provides some relief for our members. We really want to focus on trying to bring something available for them.”
The tiny homes project has been in the works for a bit over a year, Eneas said, with the band waiting on funding from the federal government. Approval has been granted for some homes, he said.
“There’s some real creativity and innovation that happens through our administration office. The people that work here, they work hard in trying to meet the needs of the community. It’s still not enough,” Eneas said.
“We want to really look at coming together, supporting each other and making this place what we want it to be, and not a place that we live in fear.”
Eneas said he couldn’t quantify the need for housing on the reserve, but said the top deficiency for housing on reserve is infrastructure.
“Being realistic, the cost of infrastructure, there’s not enough funding on reserves in Canada to meet the needs of the membership for housing,” he said.
“It’s just an ongoing challenge. … But I think we do a pretty good job at the houses that we do build.”