Selective logging is set to begin in the coming weeks as shíshálh Nation moves ahead with an 91-lot subdivision in Selma Park to address ongoing housing needs that far surpass availability for band members.
The subdivision will include 85 lots for single-family homes, two duplex lots and four “quadruplet building lots,” according to a construction notice issued last week.
Selective logging is expected to occur in late April or early May, following an environmental review, including inspection for nesting birds.
Harvested wood may be salvaged, including bark from cedars for cultural use, and any timber suited for totem pole carving, according to shíshálh Nation IGS Division operations manager Jesse Waldorf.
The logging will be visible from the road and will occur on the northeast corner of Highway 101 and Selma Park Road, according to the notice, and will last for about three weeks.
Selma Park Road will also be widened as part of the project, with that work, as well as modifications to Monkey Tree Lane and excavation of the subdivision site, starting once logging is complete. Road widening is intended to accommodate local traffic and access into the subdivision.
“There will be traffic delays during the road construction and widening,” Sechelt Indian Government District (SIGD) manager Peter Jmaeff said in the notice. “The Nation is requesting patience during this essential work.”
The tendering process for civil work, including sewer, water, electricity and roads to service each lot, is expected get underway this year. Waldorf said the intention is to complete that work in one phase.
Each band member who acquires a lot is expected to proceed on their own schedule to construct a home, said Waldorf.
Plans for the Selma Park subdivision predate these latest developments, shíshálh Nation hiwus (Chief) Warren Paull told Coast Reporter.
Previous councils had started work, including design and membership consultation. “All of that was done, it just fell to us to find a way to finance it and … get it over the finish line,” said Paull, adding the decision to move forward on the project came because of a need for housing.
The construction costs associated with the subdivision will be “easily” north of $10 million, said Paull.
When asked whether the Nation is being served well by funding it is receiving to meet housing needs, Paull said that will depend on whether an application with the federal government, started about a year and a half ago, was included in this week’s federal budget.
Shíshálh Nation along with other self-governing First Nations across Canada joined forces through a Self Governing Indigenous Governance Table to establish a proposal for $300 million in federal funding to construct homes, said Paull, which if approved in the 2021 budget, could be used to assist with Selma Park subdivision home construction costs.
“I have some very dedicated individuals who sat through those gatherings and put forward our position paper,” he said. They expect to find out whether the proposal was approved this week.
This subdivision marks the second major housing development undertaken by the Nation in recent years.
Construction is also underway for Our House of Clans – a six-storey multi-use building with rental units for Nation members at 5573 Sunshine Coast Hwy., which is expected to be completed in 2022.
The Nation received $6.8 million in provincial funding for the Our House of Clans project through BC Housing’s Indigenous Fund.
Of the approximately 1,400 Nation members, about half live on Nation lands, according to a BC Assembly of First Nations profile.
Demand for housing has “never truly gone away,” said Paull, and has grown since the pandemic hit, with about half of those who live away interested in returning to Nation lands, which Paull said he welcomes for added diversity and experience.
“I think it should be incumbent on every Nation member to leave here, and then come back. Only then do you actually value [what you have].”
More than 150 names populate a waiting list for housing, with 34 to be housed at Our House of Clans. “I’m hoping with the 85 homes we can take a fairly substantive chunk off that list,” said Paull.