Canada to lend $1bn for big First Nation development in Vancouver

The 11-tower scheme will be in False Creek, central Vancouver (Wpcpey/CC BY-SA 4.0)
The 11-tower scheme will be in False Creek, central Vancouver (Wpcpey/CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Canadian government will offer a US$1bn low-interest loan to fund an 11-tower housing project in Vancouver developed by the Squamish First Nation.

Announcing the loan yesterday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the loan “reconciliation in action”, the Vancouver Sun reports.

“This project is the largest First Nations economic partnership in Canadian history,” he said. “Initiatives like these are reconciliation in action. It’s part of our vision for a better future for everyone.”

$3bn scheme

The Squamish First Nation’s 4ha Sen̓áḵw project will consist of 11 towers. They will contain around 6,000 homes in False Creek in central Vancouver. There will also be an office tower, raising the total value of the scheme to $3bn.

The towers will be built on land owned by the Squamish. That exempts the scheme from the city’s planning process and zoning bylaws that limit the height of new buildings in the area.

Addressing a news conference, Khelsilem, chair of the Squamish Nation council, remembered the Squamish families who were forcibly evicted from the site in the early 20th century when white incomers burnt their village down.

He said Sen̓áḵw would generate more than $760m for future generations of the Squamish Nation, according to estimates.

That wealth would “support the aspirations, the dreams, the hopes of Squamish people”, he said.

“The hope that I think every culture has, [is] that the next generation will have a better life than we did,” he added.

Record loan

The federal loan will finance the first two of four planned phases of the project, which includes about 3,000 homes.

It will be the largest ever loan provided through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s rental construction financing programme. The programme launched in 2017 with a target of funding more than 71,000 homes.

The move is the latest development in the Squamish Nation’s long legal battle to reclaim and develop the land.

The Squamish are developing the present project in partnership with Westbank, one of Vancouver’s biggest real-estate development firms.

The architect for the scheme is local firm Revery; initial work on clearing the site began last month.

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