Heiltsuk Nation

Haítcístut is a Heiltsuk word that means ‘to turn things around and make things right again’. Founded on the Heiltsuk Potlatch concept, Heiltsuk and the Federal and Provincial Governments have entered into the Haítcístut Reconciliation Process, to negotiate a new Government to Government relationship. This process focuses on the social wellbeing within the following areas:

  • Infrastructure and housing
  • Employment, training, and economic development
  • Education
  • Health and wellness
  • Lands and environment
  • Self-governance
  • Marine and fisheries

Nestled on the central coast of B.C., Bella Bella is home for the Heiltsuk Nation. Over the past 20 years, the Heiltsuk population of over 2,400 members has grown steadily, however the population of Bella Bella has remained fairly constant due to the lack of available housing. The local economy is growing and many Heiltsuk members who are living outside the village would like to return home. The community is facing the joint problems of not enough housing and a building stock that falls into premature disrepair.

The reconciliation process was seen as an opportunity to look beyond the general scope of how ISC delivers housing. The Heiltsuk Tribal Council reached out to the Indigenous Research Support Initiative (IRSI) to facilitate a housing-related research collaboration with the University of British Columbia (UBC) and for support to find implementation partners for the design and building needs for the Nation. The UBC research team began with a design phase which engaged the Heiltsuk Nation in a participatory process. Community consultation resulted in the identification of culturally relevant housing options.

As a first step, the community chose to proceed with a ‘tiny home’ project that would provide independent living options for Elders and other individuals, couples, and even young families. With IRSI’s support, the Heiltsuk Nation developed implementation partnerships with FPInnovations and Builders without Borders.

The Nation proceeded to offer four tiny homes for sale (approximately 384 sq. ft.) through a lottery application process held between August and September 2021. The building cost of each tiny home was $125,000.00. A new home subsidy of $55,000.00 was applied to each tiny home making the sale price $70,000.00. Lottery applicants were required to have their finances in place for the direct purchase of a tiny home, including a confirmation letter from their bank, should their application be drawn.

Heiltsuk Nation successfully launched their homeownership program with Fund-backing for all four loans for the tiny homes. Future phases of this project will address home designs for larger families using the established community engagement process.

Congratulations to the new homeowners!

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