In 2016, under FPInnovations’ Indigenous forest sector support program, a participatory housing pilot project was initiated with collaboration between the Heiltsuk First Nation, FPInnovations, and the University of British Columbia (UBC). The housing project was created to help address the urgent housing shortage issue in Bella Bella – a small town located on the central coast of British Columbia where over half of the Heiltsuk Nation’s 2,400-member population resides. Although the Heiltsuk population has grown steadily over the past 20 years, the population of Bella Bella has remained relatively constant, largely due to the lack of available housing.
To address the urgent housing shortage issue, the Heiltsuk Tribal Council has partnered with FPInnovations, the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and the Faculty of Forestry at the UBC as well as with Mitacs. The main objective of the housing project was to explore timber-framed housing options for their newly created 46-lot subdivision in Bella Bella.
Throughout 2017, a community-led, 384-sq foot ‘tiny’ home design was created with significant input from the Heiltsuk community. This engagement helped create a housing design that was reflective of community preferences while accounting for the temperate rainforest conditions of Bella Bella. This particular home design is able to provide an independent living style to individuals, couples, and even young families within the Heiltsuk community.
On May 31st 2018, a ceremony was held in Bella Bella to bless the land of the new subdivision and to recognize the collaborative journey of the housing project. During the ceremony, Heiltsuk youth performed a traditional dance and song to bless the site. Hereditary chiefs recalled the continued growth and resiliency of the Heiltsuk Nation. Chief Marilyn Slett recognized the strength and commitment of the housing project team. She made a call for continued collaboration between all partners and the Heiltsuk community during the subsequent design and innovation of larger homes for the subdivision. Construction of the eight Heiltsuk ‘tiny’ homes will begin in June 2018.