By Alexandra Mehl
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Port Alberni, BC – Gina Amos, Wally Samuel, George Frank, and Ed Ross met with Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions Tuesday, Nov. 29,. They came together for the signing of the deed to the former Cedarwood Elementary School, where they plan to build an affordable housing complex for Ahousaht members living in Port Alberni.
Roughly four years ago Ahousaht’s elected chief and council initiated the search for housing for the First Nation’s members living in Port Alberni, said Ahousaht elder Wally Samuel.
“A lot of us have been living here since the `60s, and we have almost 500 Ahousahts that live in Port Alberni,” said Samuel.
“It’s something I know we’ve been striving for years and years,” said George Frank (Ma’tuah), of Ahousaht, specifically, Kelthsmaht and Qwaats’wii. “Most of our people are in Port Alberni, and that’s why we chose Port Alberni.”
With units varying from studios to four-bedroom, the complex will provide affordable housing for urban Ahousaht members living in Port Alberni.
“It’s going to be important, especially for the younger generation that can’t afford housing,” said Frank.
Rent will be determined by income to support the younger generation, he continued.
They are also looking at including much needed daycare, he said.
Sharie Minions, Port Alberni’s mayor, said that the way that Ahousaht approached acquiring the land stood out to her.
“It’s really exciting to see Ahousaht come in and seek to follow that proper protocol,” said Minions. “Then to see Tseshaht here for the signing is really meaningful.”
The site of the former Cedarwood School is located at 4210 Cedarwood Street, near the fall fair grounds.
“We know there’s a lot of work yet to actually have the project completed,” said Samuel. “Hopefully, we’ll create jobs for our local guys.”
“We look forward to that economic opportunity for our city here,” added Samuel.
Samuel said that they will include local nations and partners in planning the building’s outer design.
“We’ve been waiting to sign the document for the land and today’s the day,” said Frank.
Alexandra Mehl is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the HA-SHILTH-SA. The LJI program is federally funded.