Hiy̓ám̓ ta Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Housing Society Organizational Capacity – Community Housing Transformation Centre – Centre de transformation du logement communautaire
11 Aug, 2020

Hiy̓ám̓ ta Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Housing Society Organizational Capacity

By Sabine Friesinger

$49,500 from Sector Transformation Fund – Local Project

At the Centre, we fervently believe and support the Indigenous Peoples right to self-determination—this is precisely the reason why one of our priority areas for funding is answering to gaps in service for Indigenous communities. Our recently awarded Organizational Capacity grant to BC’s Hiy̓ám̓ ta Housing is a great opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to support Indigenous-led housing providers and work towards reconciliation with Indigenous communities. Squamish Nation Council created the Hiy̓ám ta Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Housing Society because of the challenges to house members on reserve due to political, social and structural issues. Since years of colonization and genocide have kept Squamish people away from their community, the primordial work of the Society is to bring Squamish people home: the Centre’s grant will serve as a trampoline to a transformative, sustainable housing project that is sure to inspire, and provide a blueprint, for Indigenous Peoples across Canada.


Squamish Nation is a group of Coast Salish people who have lived in villages in Greater Vancouver, Howe Sound and the Squamish River watershed in southern British Columbia since time immemorial. After contact with European settlers, 16 tribes united as the Squamish Band on July 23, 1923. The Squamish Nation has 23 reserves located in North Vancouver, Burrard Inlet and Squamish Valley, boasting a traditional territory of 6,732 square kilometres. With a waiting list that is currently 150 households long, more and more families are living in overcrowded conditions and others are forced to live away from the community. With a population growth projection of 2200 by 2040, it is estimated that there will be a need for at least 650 more homes for Squamish people on reserve over the next 20 years. Due to the previous lack of federal investment in Indigenous housing, and the ongoing land tenure challenges with developing housing on reserve, there is limited housing choice and availability for Squamish Nation members who wish to live in their community. It is also especially important to the Society that Squamish people can return home and be able to live, heal and thrive on their ancestral lands.


Hiy̓ám̓ ta Housing is an incorporated non-profit society, newly formed by the Squamish Nation Council as part of its strategic priority to house every Squamish member within a generation. Their purpose is to provide affordable housing for low-to-moderate income families with a priority, but not exclusive, focus on Squamish Nation members, all in a manner consistent with Squamish Nation values and snewiyelh (Squamish laws).


Founded in 2019, the Hiy̓ám ta Housing Society has the mandate to develop 1000 new affordable rental homes over the next 10 years for Squamish Nation people and the wider community. Given these ambitious goals, the Society is currently in the start-up phase and requires additional capacity building, team building and community engagement activities to successfully start to plan and implement its goals to develop affordable rental housing on 6 potential on-reserve sites.

“With this Organizational Capacity grant from the Community Housing Transformation Center, Hiy̓ám̓ ta Housing is able to start to fulfill our mandate of building safe, equitable and affordable housing that reflects our Squamish values, culture and identity. Further, the grant has given Hiy̓ám̓ ta Housing the needed tools and structure to get our new non-profit off the ground in a good way. We are able to conduct a 5-year strategic plan, create an administrative and governance manual and access training. This is all needed work to lay the foundation of our new organization that was created by the Squamish First Nation to address our housing crisis. Hiy̓ám̓ ta’s mandate further responds to this crisis by adopting a First Nation Housing Authority model, ensuring that our operations reflect sound financial management, good governance, and Squamish culture and identity,” says Sarah Silva, CEO at Hiy̓ám̓ ta Housing Society.

The Centre’s funds will go towards supporting:

  • Consultant services to develop a strategic plan that will help guide the Society’s work over the next 5 years.
  • Consultant and legal services to develop a Financial Management Policy and Human Resource Policy, and other policies that may be required by the Board.
  • Governance, leadership and cultural training for Board and CEO through workshops and courses.
  • Attending educational conferences to learn and network
  • Engagement with Squamish Nation members, the Elders Committee, Youth Committee


Hiy̓ám̓ ta Housing will create best practices for governance including policies and procedures, a strategic plan and development of a culturally appropriate engagement process with Indigenous community members. These materials and processes will be shared with other Indigenous organizations that are looking to start arm-length non-profit housing societies, and the community housing sector at large. The sharing of the Society’s innovative and sustainable business practices will help the sector grow their capacity and knowledge of affordable housing development, community engagement and board governance practices on- and off-reserve lands. Most importantly, a strong Hiy̓ám ta Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Housing Society will act as a model for other Indigenous Nations to create opportunities to develop more affordable housing for their community members and neighbours.

The project will also engage Squamish community members and Squamish Nation Committees in understanding and guiding the work of Hiy̓ám̓ ta Housing Society to ensure that the approach and work of the organization will meet the needs of Squamish people and the wider community. The Society will develop a process for engaging in a culturally appropriate manner and gain insights as to how the community would like to be engaged on projects and design of future affordable rental homes.


Squamish Nation Council will provide ongoing operational funding for the Hiy̓ám̓ ta Housing Society.

To keep up to date with their work, you can visit the Squamish Nation’s website and subscribe to their newsletter. https://www.squamish.net/

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