It's been nearly two decades since the last house was built on the Lheidli T'enneh reserve, about the time Chief Clay Pountney was a teenager.
Today (Nov. 1) became historic as six new rental housing units were unveiled including three on the southside of the First Nation’s territory, where residents on the reserve and public figures were given a tour this morning.
It’s perhaps an early Christmas gift for the older generations living on the land as the Southside IR2 homes, located in the Shelley area roughly 25 km east of Prince George, were designed and built by the Lheidli T’enneh specifically for them as that’s when they’re set to be complete.
The living spaces will not only allow them to live in comfort, but to be closer to family and not break the bank.
“Our population at the 50-plus [years of age] level is what’s actually coming up and that’s one of our biggest bubbles,” said Chief Pountney when asked by PrinceGeorgeMatters about the need for more of these new rental units for elders.
“So we’re starting to look at these houses for independent living, and also say an elder needs in-home care, then there’s extra room for a family member of anybody else to be there to help them and assist them.”
Elder Peter John will be the first to move into the new one-storey structure.
According to Chief Pountney, the Lheidli T’enneh has had a waiting list of close to 50 people wanting to come back and live on the reserves.
The three new homes in Shelley, and the other three set to open on the Northside in January, also come at a time when the community wants to bring residences up to better living standards.
“We actually had a lot of aging houses as well, so we had elders living in houses that were at the end stages of their life,” said Pountney.
“The first start was to get these elders into newer homes and then we’re going to start a process of having the land ready and then building houses hopefully every year to get to that level our membership wants to have.”
Each home is about 900 sq. ft., with amenities that include two bedrooms, one bathroom, lots of storage space, a living room, a kitchen and an efficient heating system for those colder days.
“There’s a four-foot crawl space to keep the heat on the floor; there’s a small woodstove in there as well,” Pountney added while completing the new units’ insulation system. “Depending on what elders wanted, we have a wood-heat/propane split.”
.@HostFirstNation Chief Clay Pountney says the new rental units have been needed on the reserve for many years as people were on a ‘waiting list’ for housing. He adds he would like see more built if the funds ever became available | #CityOfPG @PGMatters pic.twitter.com/MExZYUt9tK— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) November 1, 2019
While the Lheidli T’enneh receives help from local contractors to build these homes, Chief Pountney also says funds are always a big issue in getting construction underway.
“The costs are always there [...] we use funding sources as much as we can, but that’s pretty much one of the biggest hurdles is that we do have contractors we work with. I’m really glad these houses came the way they did because we have to talk to [our] community and it’s a Lheidli-built home; it’s our design, which is nice.”
He said there are plans to build more homes like the ones opening today.
Ideas are circulating among Chief and Council for building newer, bigger family home models.
.@HostFirstNation has 6 new rental housing units for elders living expenses on the reserve 🏠 There are 3 on the southside (seen here), while the other 3 are on the northside | #CityOfPG @PGMatters pic.twitter.com/hdzcYcGlLw— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) November 1, 2019