Pictured here are members of the Lake Babine Nation who are standing in front of a new affordable housing rental unit in the Woyenne community, near Burns Lake. (Submitted photo)

Burns Lake lags behind neighbours in housing efforts

Neighbouring communities are moving forward with new housing projects but Burns Lake lags behind.

Almost two weeks ago Smithers, Telkwa and Vanderhoof received among them almost $6 million for more than 60 housing units through funding from the provincial Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

READ MORE: Smithers and Telkwa get affordable housing

RELATED: Two new housing projects receive funding in Vanderhoof

However, no organizations in Burns Lake received funding this year.

It was not for lack of trying.

The Southside Seniors Housing Society (SSHS) applied to the ministry’s Community Housing Fund in 2016 and in October of this year but was rejected both times.

This year’s application was for funding for a 12-unit project, at $100,000 per unit, Kaeley Wiseman, a development consultant with SSHS told Lakes District News.

“The idea is that [residents] don’t have to leave where they’ve been,” said Wiseman, who is also the owner of Wiser Projects development company in Victoria.

“I have good relationships with BC Housing and I’ve had meetings with the senior directors and officers who were verbally supportive of the project,” Wiseman explained.

And yet, the rejection letters received from BC Housing gave no reason for the denials, nor recommendations on how SSHS could improve the application.

The SSHS has had some success in finding funding for its project, just not from BC Housing.

In 2017 it received $3,500 from the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako, in addition to $100,000 it secured from other sources.

LOOK BACK: Southside seniors housing project moves forward

“There are winners and losers with BC Housing and the winners are all the big players, the guys who’ve been around for a long time. It’s hard for small, new societies to access funding and financing,” Wiseman said.

Other groups in the area are hoping for better luck from BC Housing.

The Village of Burns Lake completed in 2017 a housing study for residents aged 55 or more, and is next year seeking funding to conduct another study for people under 55, said Val Anderson, Economic Development Officer with the village council.

The Six Nations Housing Committee submitted in October an Expression Of Interest (EOI) to the Supportive Housing fund – one of BC Housing’s four funding streams – which is currently being assessed.

The committee, consisting of the Nee Tahi-Buhn, Skin Tyee, Cheslatta, Burns Lake, Lake Babine and Wet’suwet’en First Nations was formed to address the issue of homelessness among local Indigenous people, said spokeswoman Emma Palmantier, who is also health director of the Lake Babine Nation.

“I’m really advocating for the homeless because it’s a need we have. We lost one member last year around Christmas who froze to death because he was homeless,” she said, in reference to Terry Jack, who died on Dec. 19, 2017.

“Some of these people might have homes but coming to Burns Lake from an isolated community they have no place here in Burns Lake. And they don’t have transportation,” Palmantier explained.

The next step for the organization would be a full proposal, including funding levels, unit numbers, and architectural plans.

The Village of Burns Lake plans to support the committee in moving its EOI towards a complete proposal.

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