Construction has started on the second phase of an Indigenous housing development in Newton.
The second phase, according to a release from the Ministry of Attorney General and Responsible for Housing Tuesday (July 5), will provide 104 new affordable rental homes for Indigenous individuals, families and Elders.
Located at 7561 140 St., the first phase was completed in 2019 with 73 homes. This next phase will consist of a 44-home, three-storey building and a 60-home, four-storey building.
Once Phase 2 is complete, there will be 177 homes in total in the the Kekinow Native Housing Society’s (KNHS) Sohkeyah development.
The project is expected to be complete in spring 2024, notes the ministry release. The first phase of the project broke ground four years ago, in June of 2018.
The project is a redevelopment of Kekinow’s existing housing project at the site, which officials at the time said “no longer meet the demands of family composition.”
According to the ministry, Sohkeyah means “robin’s nest.”
Each of the buildings will include a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units, amenity rooms, kitchens and lounge areas. The release adds that outside features include play areas and “pathways encircling the site to build community among the Elders and children.”
The project will be owned and operating by KNHS, “with support from the Aboriginal Housing Management Association.”
June Laitar, president of KNHS, said the society “focuses its efforts on serving low-income Indigenous individuals and families.”
Laitar added the society has “proudly been providing subsidized, affordable, long-term rental housing for Indigenous Peoples in the Surrey and Chilliwack area since 1987.”
Margaret Pfoh, the CEO of Aboriginal Housing Management Association, said Sohkeyah “will make meaningful change in the lives of all its future residents while enhancing and fostering a broader sense of community for Indigenous Peoples and the city of Surrey.”
Pfoh said this is an “exciting initiative and a wonderful example of how AHMA members are leading the change for Indigenous housing across British Columbia.”
The ministry notes Sohkeyah is part of B.C.’s 10-year, $7-billion housing plan.
Surrey Coun. Laurie Guerra said the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society “came on board as an early supporter,” committing $275,000 to the project.
“It is truly wonderful to see it moving forward with construction on Phase 2,” said Guerra, who is also the board chair and president of the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society.
The release adds the province is providing $11.2 million from the Building BC: Community Housing Fund for the housing development, and will provide $600,000 in annual operating funding.
The Kekinow Native Housing Society provided the project land, which is valued at approximately $5 million.