Rental project for Indigenous people to fill 12-year-old crater in Colwood

A giant hole that has marred Colwood’s Wale Road for years will be the future site of 124 affordable rental units for Indigenous people.

The provincial government is kicking in $24.8 million for the housing development at 342 Wale Rd.

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Colwood Mayor Rob Martin said in addition to providing secure housing for First Nations families, the development will revitalize an area which, for the past decade, has come to symbolize Colwood’s development woes.

“The hole is being finally filled,” Martin said of the site of the stalled Silkwinds highrise condominium project. “It's something that has always been a sore spot for Colwood and residents are always talking about it.”

Work shut down on the Silkwinds project in 2007 and Colwood declared it a nuisance in the summer of 2010, before having the slopes of the excavation stabilized.

Martin said the affordable housing project “is a symbol of Colwood now changing and being prepared to grow.”

The development is close to transit links, the Juan de Fuca library branch, West Shore Parks and Recreation facilities and other resources, Martin said.

“I think putting this project in this location is going to allow a lot of people who are struggling and looking for affordable housing to be successful and to thrive here in Colwood,” he said.

Construction is expected to start this summer. A completion date has not been set.

The project is a partnership among the province, the Aboriginal Land Trust Society, the City of Colwood and the Huu-ay-aht First Nation, located on the west coast near Bamfield.

Chief Robert Dennis of the Huu-ay-aht First Nation said the affordable rental units will be an important lifeline for Indigenous people now living on the streets.

“We have a shortage of housing [on First Nation reserves], so they’re forced to move away from home to look for adequate housing,” Dennis said after a news conference at Colwood City Hall. “It becomes even more traumatic for them when they move to an urban area and there's no housing, or it’s not affordable.”

Mitzi Dean, NDP MLA for Esquimalt-Metchosin, said people across B.C. are struggling for find affordable housing — a problem even more acute for Indigenous people, who are grossly over-represented in the homeless population.

“These new homes will make a significant difference for Indigenous families,” Dean said. “It will give them the peace of mind that comes with stable housing, something that everyone in B.C. deserves.“

The funding is part of the government’s Indigenous Housing Fund, a $550-million investment to build 1,750 units of social housing over the next decade.

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