A Native Solution To Vancouver's Housing Woes
March 13, 2024 10:23 AM   Subscribe

Vancouver, BC has been dealing with a major housing crunch for years due to a number of factors. But the Squamish First Nation has an answer - Sen̓áḵw, a major urban mixed use development on Squamish land in the Vancouver metro area - which means that it can be developed bigger and denser than Vancouver regulations would allow...and without NIMBY interference. (SLMacLean's)
posted by NoxAeternum (81 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
 
I posted this in part because this sort of development is really cool to me...and in part because the meltdown it's inducing in the NIMBY set is some of the sweetest schadenfreude I've had in a long time. It's darkly impressive how quick the mask came off for them with lines like "Indigenous way of building", which just comes across as more racist the more I read it. Without any leverage, they're reduced to bigoted whining, which really shows the truth about the movement.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:29 AM on March 13 [41 favorites]


overheard a few years ago in the midst of a rather tense discussion about a land claim issue (not in Vancouver but just up the coast) -- "It's weird to me how some who have always hated our local politicians are now suddenly completely freaked out about maybe somebody completely else determining the course of things. I personally don't care who I pay my taxes to as long as they get the job done."

And speaking of getting the job done, my only real concern as a Vancouverite is how this obviously needed development deals with/helps out with the current transportation issues in that particular neighbourhood. It's long been a mess, in part because previous NIMBYisms prevailed and no transit options (beyond buses) were pursued.
posted by philip-random at 10:45 AM on March 13 [5 favorites]


I love everything about this and want to see more
posted by emjaybee at 10:49 AM on March 13 [8 favorites]


Awesome.
posted by chococat at 10:51 AM on March 13


This is so effing delightful and I can't wait to see more developments like this. Thank you for the link!
posted by some chick at 10:58 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


Definitely rooting for the success of this one!
posted by praemunire at 11:00 AM on March 13


That article does good work covering the howling of the NIMBYs, the meaning behind it, and how little their imaginings about "indigenous ways" have to do with reality.

The actual development projects sound pretty great too.
posted by mersen at 11:18 AM on March 13 [4 favorites]


I am laughing with joy. Fuck the haters. Fuck 'em! This is some great shit.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:32 AM on March 13 [5 favorites]




Genius.
posted by aramaic at 11:40 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


“How do you reconcile Indigenous ways of being with 18-storey high-rises?”

Look, I'm not expert on Indigenous ways of being, but it's long been my impression that they believe in living in community and also in not leaving a vast assortment of community members homeless, so building housing in a modern way that works for an urban environment isn't automatically non-Indigenous. Indigenous ways of being are allowed to adapt to a modern world.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:42 AM on March 13 [36 favorites]


Incredible. I have actual goosebumps after reading that - utterly amazing, I am rooting so hard for this.
posted by tristeza at 11:57 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


This is terrific and I'm circulating it to my friends in city management and planning.

But as someone who lives in SW Florida, where towers full of condos starting at a half-million with $5 million penthouses are popping up everywhere, I just hope that the private developer partner in this project doesn't find some way to derail the project into a luxury housing cash grab.
posted by martin q blank at 12:07 PM on March 13 [8 favorites]


....These types of requests reveal many Canadians believe the purpose of reconciliation is not to uphold Indigenous rights and sovereignty, but to quietly scrub centuries of colonial residue from the landscape, ultimately in service of their own aesthetic preferences and personal interests.

this is a devastatingly accurate assessment that i'm going to be thinking about for a while.
posted by ZaphodB at 12:08 PM on March 13 [26 favorites]


At the January hearing for Iy̓álmexw, one resident called on the First Nations to build entirely with selectively logged B.C. timber, in accord with what she claimed were their cultural values. (emphasis mine)

Wow that is some serious white-savior noble-savage crap right there.

What part of sovereignty and autonomy do these NIMBYs not understand? The Squamish nation people are not here for their amusement nor are they bound by some weird patronizing notions of "cultural values" to live in a glorified diorama.
posted by tclark at 12:15 PM on March 13 [20 favorites]


Yeah, it is genuinely impressive how much of their whole ass the NIMBY set is showing here. They were expecting "stewards of the land" assuaging their guilt, not savvy people looking to support and benefit their community - and especially not their "fuck off" response to NIMBY whining.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:21 PM on March 13 [7 favorites]


Just awesome and wonderful. I grew up not far from there in Kitsilano, this'll be excellent.
posted by northtwilight at 12:23 PM on March 13 [3 favorites]


“When you’re building 30, 40-storey high rises out of concrete, there’s a big gap between that and an Indigenous way of building.”

There's an ancient trope among Canadian racists that goes something like, "if they want their rights, they should have to go back to living in the old ways without our technology." Of course, when I ask, "if you want rights, does that mean you have to give up the technology your ancestors didn't invent?" there's no answer.

I like to remember than when firearms came to the Americas, indigenous people immediately mastered the technology. When horses arrived, they became master horsemen and women. In Canada, indigenous people have also mastered constitutional law, which is why their rights and title are expanding. Now they're mastering the technologies of real estate and development.

The thing many white Canadians hate is that, to the extent this is a game (I don't think indigenous people see it as a game, they see it as necessary progress toward cultural sustainability and autonomy), "they" are increasingly coming out on top. Before, white Canada could hold them back artificially, but they're opening more doors every year, and certain parts of the establishment are getting nervous.
posted by klanawa at 12:30 PM on March 13 [14 favorites]


There is more of this coming. The Jericho lands will be redeveloped to high density. The Musqueam First Nation is not going to renew the lease for the Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club, making way for more parks and residential development. These projects add market rentals and densify, not even including a standard amount of parking for the units. The entire concept is anchored on transit and walkability.

Building residential and leasing land to whites has long been a part of Vancouver - the land along False Creek towards Granville Island is all leasehold. This is not a new idea.

These new developments on Vancouver’s west side are only being opposed by racist multimillionaires who are unwilling to admit that their real estate privilege was stolen, not earned. They also want to maintain car privilege and don’t want to wait in traffic or use transit like the poors. These NIMBYs do indeed need to fuck right off. If they want to live in some peaceful provincial backwater then they should move to one, not squat in a major city.
posted by shock muppet at 12:51 PM on March 13 [20 favorites]


Fuck yes. This kind of mixed-use development with high density and services and commerce mixed in is exactly what housing-starved big cities need, and that the First Nations are building it, bypassing stupid zoning, is the icing on the cake. Wonderful.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:53 PM on March 13 [6 favorites]


So fun context for this, the Squamish nation was given an 80 acre reserve on the shores of false creek. It got taken illegally by the federal government to build a railway bridge at the turn of the previous century.

They won their court case in 2001 and were given back an 11 acre weird curved triangular parcel that was about the only bit of the original reserve that hadn't been built on. Its also bisected by a major road, you can see it on the design plan here. Essentially an chunk of land that would not traditionally be developable due to municipal zoning restrictions for things like setback etc.

This is also happening in a fiercely NIMBY neighbourhood that has actively opposed densification. Usually citing parking concerns. This development is building less than 1 parking spot for every 6 units, and instead is building a bus terminal on the bridge that bisects the site, affording insanely quick transit access to downtown, and with the close proximity to other rapid transit, you really don't need a car in this area.

What's also really cool, the Squamish Nation has agreed to implement the BC residential tenancy act protections on their lands. This is basically the provincial rent control and legal protections act. Because its on a first nation reserve they are not automatically required to follow them but have chosen to.

Can you tell I'm excited about this development? Its needed, and its being done well.
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 12:59 PM on March 13 [35 favorites]


This rules. This is exactly news I needed to buoy my spirits in the middle of a trying week.
posted by Suedeltica at 1:12 PM on March 13


As an aside, any pronunciation advice for the name " Sen̓áḵw"? It's always fun when I run into diacritics I'm entirely unfamiliar with.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:18 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


This is just awesome. I love everything about this.

Can we add some tags though? Indigenous, Squamish, SquamishNation, IndigenousPeople, FirstNations?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:19 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


The thing to remember is that the core tool the NIMBYs have is knowing how to manipulate the government to throw up red tape. Filing objections, attending hearings - they're able to use governmental pain points, because usually they are The People The Government Listens To.

Until now.

This time, the government involved is that of the Squamish First Nation - and they have no reason whatsoever to listen to the NIMBY set - after all, they're not enrolled members, so it's not their land. Needless to say, this is driving them up the wall and bringing out their inner Karens as they turn to attempts to "shame" the Squamish First Nation into doing what they want - which winds up coming across as incredibly, horrifically racist.

Again - such delicious schadenfreude.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:27 PM on March 13 [22 favorites]


This is incredible stuff.
posted by maxwelton at 1:29 PM on March 13


As an aside, any pronunciation advice for the name " Sen̓áḵw"?
Chief Ian Campbell says it at about 17 seconds in here
Snawk is a pretty close approximation.

This is a pretty good overview of the Squamish writing system that's used on signage throughout the area.
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 1:30 PM on March 13 [12 favorites]


I love this. Thanks for sharing!
posted by EvaDestruction at 1:30 PM on March 13


Seeing how the Squamish Nation have been cheated out of the majority of their reserve they should have the ability to expropriate nearby underutilized land (ie stuff that is low-density housing) until they get their 80 acres and use that for further development.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:31 PM on March 13 [3 favorites]


I'm all in favor of this, especially in a housing-starved city like Vancouver. BUT, I wonder about the whole 'we don't have to follow your rules' aspect of it. Ok for going taller, but what about other building codes? Can they just disregard things like ADA access, for example? (I know this is Canada, but I'd imagine they have something similar.) Or codes to help prevent deaths in high-rise fires?
posted by hydra77 at 1:32 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


Why would the Squamish First Nation want to violate regulations that exist to protect their people (a good number of whom will be living there?)
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:36 PM on March 13 [5 favorites]


Looking at the google map, and knowing a bit about where things are in Vancouver, just, wow. That's a decent, if oddly shaped plot of land.

All those NIMBYs needing to get to their boats! How can this happen?!!!

Fuck 'em. Good for the Squamish Nation!
posted by Windopaene at 1:36 PM on March 13 [3 favorites]


Senakw development moves ahead despite plenty of opposition. - CBC Vancouver (YouTube, ~6 minutes)
posted by pracowity at 1:38 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


BUT, I wonder about the whole 'we don't have to follow your rules' aspect of it. Ok for going taller, but what about other building codes? Can they just disregard things like ADA access, for example? (I know this is Canada, but I'd imagine they have something similar.) Or codes to help prevent deaths in high-rise fires?

Why would the Squamish First Nation want to violate regulations that exist to protect their people (a good number of whom will be living there?)

If the Squamish government is the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) here, then they probably wouldn't be "violating" anything because they alone decide what is a violation; and yes, they likely would have a wide latitude about being able to do whatever they want; and yes, I would assume they wouldn't want to build a firetrap. Even in regular old "standard" government setups, code adoption can vary widely from place to place, depending on state and local requirements. The International Building Code (IBC) is updated every three years, but not all jurisdictions adopt every edition of the code. I think Indiana, for example, is still using 2015. California basically rewrites the entire IBC and issues their own version of it. And that's not even getting into how the code is administered in different places, or how you might assume a spot is under the jurisdiction of one locale, but actually isn't - like the UCSB megadorm project where the UC system is its own AHJ and doesn't have to care about what Santa Barbara wants. At a firm I worked for that was hired to do work on Native American land, my boss said their building code was basically "we trust you", but that was that tribe. But, in the end, it turns out that "indigenous ways of building" a modern high-rise are the same as most other people's - they hire design professionals to do it.
posted by LionIndex at 1:51 PM on March 13 [10 favorites]


The only response that Gordon Price either merits or deserves is "stop being a racist, you racist twit." A man who is white as Wonder Bread has no business or right to talk about what being indigenous means.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:53 PM on March 13 [4 favorites]


I don't see any reason to take seriously Gordon Price's apparent belief that the Squamish Nation is just developing in this fashion to spite and upset white people. Their choices on this project are intelligent, well-explained, and easily understood.

But I am 100% okay with it if Price and people like him feel that is true and are deeply unhappy that they cannot do a fucking thing about it.

That's just icing on the cake.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:59 PM on March 13 [7 favorites]


I don't see any reason to take seriously Gordon Price's apparent belief that the Squamish Nation is just developing in this fashion to spite and upset white people. But I am 100% okay with it if he feels that is true and is deeply unhappy that he cannot do a fucking thing about it.

It is not okay for him to espouse vile racist attacks on the Squamish First Nation (which is what calling the development an "act of revenge" is.)
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:08 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


WOW, did you read that wrong. Just entirely backwards.

I'm enjoying laughing at him for being an unhappy, powerless racist, not hand waving his racism.

Fuck that guy. Twist in the wind, Gordon Price, you fucking piece of shit. Twist in the wind and be miserable about it.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:12 PM on March 13 [8 favorites]


Grew up not far from this in Kitsilano too. All I feel is "HELL YES!" I really hope the developers are on the up and up and they don't turn out to be leaky condos or whatnot.
posted by Pitachu at 2:13 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


“When you’re building 30, 40-storey high rises out of concrete, there’s a big gap between that and an Indigenous way of building.”

Um, it's a Rez. A Rez for white people. A small white Rez packing a large population is about as indigenous as it gets.

And yes, protecting nature by letting people stay away from it is very, very green. There's a reason Manhattanites have a low carbon footprint even though Times Square is visible from airliners flying by.
posted by ocschwar at 2:23 PM on March 13 [4 favorites]


I really hope the developers are on the up and up and they don't turn out to be leaky condos or whatnot.

They're working with Westbank - a major Vancouver based developer which has built a good portion of the city's urban core. And frankly, the Squamish First Nation probably had the pick of the litter - "hey, we're willing to work with you on building a dense mixed use development on some of the most valuable real estate in the world, and we can guarantee that you don't have to worry about those NIMBY assholes making your lives miserable" is going to be very attractive.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:23 PM on March 13 [12 favorites]


"They're working with Westbank - a major Vancouver based developer which has built a good portion of the city's urban core"


I'm pretty familiar with Westbank-- they aren't immune to the leaky condo crisis, despite their luxury trappings. Their Vancouver House property, e.g., was having problems with this a few years ago.
posted by Pitachu at 2:29 PM on March 13 [6 favorites]


Gordon Price (Wikipedia)
Gordon Price is a Canadian urban planner, a gay rights activist and a former politician, who was an NPA member of Vancouver City Council, serving six terms from 1986 to 2002.[1] He was the first openly gay member of Vancouver City Council.[2] Since retiring from politics, Price writes, teaches and consults on urban development and planning issues. [...]
In 2022, Price criticized a 12-tower housing development project by the Squamish Nation on First Nations land adjacent to the city of Vancouver. Price argued that Squamish Nation was not engaging in "an Indigenous way of building."[7]
posted by pracowity at 2:31 PM on March 13



I don't want to kill anyones glee derived by pissing off racist Karens, but this is Vancouver, chances that this makes any dent in the housing crisis is approx. zero, Vancouver will swallow 6000 units, burp, and ask if there is more. Plus they will all be luxury condo's or at least have luxury pricing. Cool your jets on how awesome this is. It's great for antagonizing bigots, not so much for meaningful solutions to the housing crisis.
posted by Keith Talent at 3:27 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


This sounds like it's going to be wonderful! And I'm glad they're preemptively carving out dedicated housing units for lower-income renters AND others for their tribal members. This looks like it's going to be gorgeous.
posted by Tailkinker to-Ennien at 3:45 PM on March 13 [5 favorites]


this is Vancouver, chances that this makes any dent in the housing crisis is approx. zero, Vancouver will swallow 6000 units, burp, and ask if there is more.
Maybe, but Vancouver was touting a record 10,800 new housing approvals in 2022, which was part of a 10 year plan to deliver 72,000 new housing units. Given those numbers, 6,000 new units seems nontrival.

https://vancouver.ca/news-calendar/vancouver-continues-to-lead-region-in-housing-approvals.aspx

posted by jomato at 3:47 PM on March 13 [7 favorites]


6000 units makes a bigger dent than 0 units. Striking a well publicized blow against NIMBYism has value, too.
posted by 2N2222 at 3:48 PM on March 13 [24 favorites]


Any single development, or half-dozen developments, are on their own a drop in the bucket when it comes to increasing housing availability. But these seem to be housing intensifications where they're needed. Also for the Jericho Lands development at least, "around 20 per cent of the housing on the site — approximately 2,600 units — will be set aside for social housing, with a further 1,300 units for secured-market and below-market rental housing."

Anyway, I know the title of the post frames this in terms solving the housing crisis, but I think the real reason to celebrate is "Indigenous nations ... reclaiming power and wealth for their own citizens."
posted by Kabanos at 3:50 PM on March 13 [12 favorites]


Plus they will all be luxury condo's or at least have luxury pricing. Cool your jets on how awesome this is. It's great for antagonizing bigots, not so much for meaningful solutions to the housing crisis.

So, you didn't read the article - because it talked about how the Squamish First Nation took that into consideration and defined carveouts for both affordable and tribal housing in their deal (which for the developer is a cheap price to pay for getting access to prime real estate and not having to deal with NIMBY assholes.)
posted by NoxAeternum at 4:01 PM on March 13 [11 favorites]


NIMBYs hate this one weird trick!
posted by torokunai at 4:04 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


who was an NPA member of Vancouver City Council

In case anyone doesn't know, the preposterously-named NPA (Non-Partisan Association) were basically a branch plant of the BC Liberals, which were BC's dominant right-wing party. Noted shitbag and BC premier Gordon Campbell was one of its first stars.
posted by klanawa at 4:43 PM on March 13 [6 favorites]


From south of the border, Russell Means in 1989 on the resilience of first nations. When you take away any land with resources, for no other reason than its resources, and where bureaucracy becomes a solely unique burden for your people, make the bureaucracy a resource!

If you spend any time in indigenous spaces, you will hear "We are still here. We have a vibrant and living culture."
posted by rubatan at 4:48 PM on March 13 [4 favorites]


Price argued that Squamish Nation was not engaging in "an Indigenous way of building."

This is extra funny because the Squamish Nation is indigenous. And they're working with a company to design and build Senakw in a way the Squamish Nation feels appropriate. So it seems that Senakw is quite thoroughly an "an Indigneous way of building."
posted by tclark at 5:00 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


BUT, I wonder about the whole 'we don't have to follow your rules' aspect of it.
The way this usually gets worked out in BC is in the servicing agreement with the neighbouring municipality.

Basically its a "if you do these things we will in turn hook you up with municipal water and sewer." It works out well for both parties.
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 5:20 PM on March 13 [4 favorites]


Reasonably hopeful that the pronunciation rhymes with "squawk"
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 5:28 PM on March 13


This has got me curious if there is unceded/illegally expropriated native land in other Canadian cities where this building boom can be replicated
posted by thecjm at 6:18 PM on March 13


I think people of Anglo Celtic descent who want to see indigenous ways of building should first show us how they are living in small unpartitioned huts and timber longhouses with an unvented firepit in the middle, just like their British ancestors.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:24 PM on March 13 [11 favorites]


I've read this in the past and found it illuminating to the history of the Kitsilano Reserve area and other downtown locations like Stanly Park.


https://ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/bcstudies/article/view/626/669#:~:text=With%20the%20totem%20poles%20erected,in%20different%20ways.

posted by jade east at 7:02 PM on March 13


Peat, thatch, and fieldstone for all, just as the olde English intended

I hope that this spreads in the coming years, that the people nimby Karen's and Ken's do skedaddle out past Surrey, and that proper zoning can be brought in as the voting populace changes.
posted by Slackermagee at 7:13 PM on March 13


Cool your jets on how awesome this is. It's great for antagonizing bigots, not so much for meaningful solutions to the housing crisis.
Nope, still awesome!
The suggestion that, on top of everything else, the Squamish First Nation should also be solving a housing crisis they didn’t create is certainly something. I’d infer, from the article, that the proposed development has more options for affordable housing than other developments in the area:
And rather than taking an incremental approach to development, with concessions to nearby homeowners, the projects at Sen̓áḵw, Iy̓álmexw and Heather Lands consider the entire community—including those who don’t yet live there, and those often marginalized by city planning, such as renters, non-drivers and, obviously, Indigenous people. (250 affordable homes will be set aside at Sen̓áḵw for Squamish citizens, and managed by the nation’s non-profit society Hiy̓ám̓ Housing.) On the Sen̓áḵw website, the Squamish Nation emphasized that rental housing will provide economic benefits for the next seven generations of its citizens. The chiefs of all three nations emphasized that Iy̓álmexw is for both “current and future residents of the region.”
posted by chococat at 7:43 PM on March 13 [6 favorites]


Plus they will all be luxury condo's or at least have luxury pricing.

Well, they won't. 20% of the units will be affordable.

There will be over 6,000 rental units at Sen̓áḵw. Included in these 6,000 are approximately 1,200 affordable rental units as defined by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The balance will be market rental. Of the 1,200 affordable rental units, 250 will be set aside for Squamish Nation members, with the remainder serving residents of the City of Vancouver.

I don't want to kill anyones glee

Cool your jets on how awesome this is.

lol
posted by oneirodynia at 9:23 PM on March 13


Someone living in California should maybe think twice before posting their gotcha about "affordable" units as defined by the CMHC. That program has been rotten for at least a decade.

Regions like Vancouver, are in a bad place right now due to years of corruption in this industry. BC developers, government, and real estate have been using the system and programs to enrich themselves, launder money, and fuel speculation while draining well-meaning programs supposedly intended for the average person since well before the current government. Anybody expressing skepticism about a major project like this is right to do so. Sen̓áḵw is no more immune to forked tongues and greed than anyone else. Yes, NIMBYs gonna NIMBY, but developers are gonna develop too.

I want this to be a roaring success. I really, really do. Just take it with a grain of salt. Developers are manipulating the public and young people's anxieties over housing right now to strip away all of the things that make places livable in the name of a quick buck. I strongly believe there are going to be many lawsuits over developments done over the last 5-10 years in BC in another decade or so. We're already seeing things like this and, as noted by Pitachu, Westbank was very much part of the leaky condo crisis and is also well known for cutting corners on trades or just straight up not paying. Anyone working construction in BC will tell you how many bad crews and developers there are being outright negligent and that's not even getting into the speculative side of the real estate business or the ways foreign groups have been operating in the housing space in BC.

Again, I hope this is incredibly successful and will get added to the growing pile of excellent and forward thinking projects from First Nations. I would love nothing more than for this to be a shining example of how to do this kind of project and push forward decolonization and land rights efforts in this province while also tackling the housing crisis. That doesn't change what this industry is like in BC nor the history of players like Westbank. People are right to be suspicious.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 10:09 PM on March 13 [4 favorites]


Big, abundant congratulations to the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) on the beginning of this amazing project and its progress so far! I'm so excited and interested to see it unfold.

If, like me, you're interested in learning more, you should absolutely explore the Sen̓áḵw project website, where you can better understand the project details and vision, learn about the history of the site, peruse a detailed Q&A, and watch a video (there's no way for me to link to the video, but if you go to the main page and look to the bottom right corner before scrolling, there is a button labeled "watch Sen̓áḵw film"). The film is brief but full of thoughtful, informative, and emotionally rich discussion of the project, and includes a stark, effective visualization of how the small parcel of this site and all the land around it was systematically carved up and stolen from the Squamish people in multiple successive thefts.

Done right, this kind of construction megaproject can build up not just the physical environment, but also the skills, careers, and wealth of the people it employs. In addition to creating jobs and housing, including "hundreds of job and entrepreneurial opportunities for Squamish Nation membership in design, construction, and operations", the project is taking advantage of an fantastic opportunity to provide structured mentorships to "Nation members and priority workforce" who are new to the development industry.

Oh, and philip-random -- your comment made me want to investigate the transit implications, too! You may have read this already, and it's sounds like it's all preliminary at this stage, but the FAQs do address the project's approach to transit:

A new transit hub at the south end of the Burrard bridge will be created as part of the Sen̓áḵw project to support increased transit connectivity to the site. While current transportation infrastructure in the area prioritizes north-south connections, the new density from Sen̓áḵw offers the opportunity to improve east-west connectivity through the potential revitalization of the False Creek streetcar line, upgraded aqua bus and ferry services, and enhanced cycling options. Further, the project is located within walking distance of the new Broadway Subway extension.

In addition to the above, there are several active transportation infrastructure improvements in the area that will be supported through the development of this project. A comprehensive list of these improvements can be found in the service agreement document which is available on the City of Vancouver's website here: https://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/senakw-development.aspx


The Services Agreement discusses (among many other topics) the project's initial plans and processes for creating a new streetcar stop and line, water taxi stop, and bus stops/Transit Hub. With a little ctrl-F magic, you can dig into the document and learn about the Squamish Nation's commitment to making transit happen, including creating long-term easements for water taxi, bus, and streetcar stations and the streetcar line, and "lobbying all levels of government, including TransLink, to advance [the] infrastructure and... pursuing federal and provincial green infrastructure funding." It sounds like it's all pending said funding and lobbying, but it also sounds pretty exciting? I'm south of the border, and not an expert on Vancouver transit patterns (or politics), but hopefully someone else with more local expertise can chime in.
posted by cnidaria at 10:20 PM on March 13 [4 favorites]


Someone living in California should maybe think twice before posting their gotcha about "affordable" units as defined by the CMHC.

So, I followed that link thinking it was going to indicate either that (a) prices were so high that calling it affordable was simply ludicrous; or (b) there was widespread connivance by the people running the program to pass the units off to unqualified people who were connections or paid them bribes.

Instead, at least from that article, the issue was that some people committed fraud independently to get the apartments (and maybe they weren't caught fast enough? but they were caught).

I don't know how to break this to you, man, but there's not a benefits program in the world that doesn't have someone trying to get over on it. If you think by itself that makes a program rotten, time to give up on the welfare state altogether.
posted by praemunire at 10:40 PM on March 13 [5 favorites]


forbiddencabinet, I was digging looking for who their development partners were on the website and just saw that the main partner is Westbank -- that is unfortunate! I really hope the Squamish are able to keep hold of the reins on this one.

We have had a few kerfuffles with Westbank in Seattle on a couple dual tower projects doing things like, uh, not paying the GC, which meant subcontractors weren't getting paid, and then of course all the subs walked off the job, and now it's several years later and the towers still aren't done. I actually plumbed in the field on one of those towers briefly a few summers ago with a whole passel of Canadian plumbers and pipefitters, but didn't stick around long enough to personally experience the drama.

Unlike Terry and Denny, Westbank's First Light project here didn't have a mound of liens or lawsuits, though... so maybe there's hope? Development in a tight market without sufficient regulation is such a nasty business. I have no clue, but could sovereignty give the Squamish any additional leverage in dealing with the developers? Or is it not relevant in that particular wrestling match?
posted by cnidaria at 11:15 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


Is there a word for the type of behavior of these residents? I mean, NIMBYism is one thing, but specifically pretending to speak for an indigenous people or minority, to make one's (often white/European) point of view... . I have no doubt they are very 'educated' and enlightened while defending privilege in a weird sort of polite violence. See that a lot, here on Metafilter too.
posted by UN at 11:32 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


Even if the new development is specifically earmarked for high end apartments, adding stock to the local market has an effect on our old buddies, supply and demand. Create enough vacancies, and you have this weird phenomenon where cost of housing stock starts to fall. Crazy, right?
posted by 2N2222 at 4:29 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


Very strong "Not like that ... !" meme vibes.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:11 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]


Even if the new development is specifically earmarked for high end apartments, adding stock to the local market has an effect on our old buddies, supply and demand. Create enough vacancies, and you have this weird phenomenon where cost of housing stock starts to fall. Crazy, right?

This is counterfactual to what actually happens. Or, ignores that the “starts to fall” part occurs on the order of decades and depends very much on the assumption that historical pressures of urban decay and renewal will continue in a similar manner as they have in the past despite changing policy regimes from the policy incentives that caused such turnover last century, which is not a useful time frame for solving an existing crisis of housing affordability. I wouldn’t call that “crazy”, since that’s a bit of an ableist perjorative when used negatively, and my experience is that most of the people strongly pushing this inaccurate analysis have some motivated reasoning - this incorrect argument is central to most NIMBY arguments against the need for social housing or designated affordable housing, for example. (Kind of unusual to see it paired with anti-NIMBY sentiment).

But fortunately that’s all beside the point with a development that seems to have actually affordable housing on top of housing set aside for band members by design. Since the thing that does help housing affordability is providing or setting aside dedicated housing tied to income affordability. Neat, right?
posted by eviemath at 5:57 AM on March 14 [4 favorites]


Is there a word for the type of behavior of these residents?

I find that "racism" and "bigotry" work well, as they always have.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:59 AM on March 14 [5 favorites]


It's also arguably "redface".

I hope the thread isn't taking the concerns of myself and a few other Vancouver natives as NIMBYism-- I think we have room in our hearts to both cheer for the project and the First Nations involved but also feel skeptical about real estate corporations. We've seen a lot of high profile projects go south (e.g. Olympic Village).
posted by Pitachu at 7:25 AM on March 14 [6 favorites]


Eviemath, I don't have a link to hand but there is a great case study in Auckland where upzoning several years ago allowed a bunch of new construction and consequently, researchers have claimed rents are substantially less than otherwise (you can use other New Zealand cities as something of a control).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:41 AM on March 14


This is counterfactual to what actually happens. Or, ignores that the “starts to fall” part occurs on the order of decades and depends very much on the assumption that historical pressures of urban decay and renewal will continue in a similar manner as they have in the past despite changing policy regimes from the policy incentives that caused such turnover last century, which is not a useful time frame for solving an existing crisis of housing affordability.

Can you explain exactly why housing costs are not affected by supply and demand? If prices are not falling, it's because demand is still high. If you're claiming that more high end housing just causes gentrification, makes prices go higher, etc, you are, in fact, making a common NIMBY argument.

If you think more housing overall is a bad thing, consider that cities commonly have working class neighborhoods that were once high end. Additionally, the cities where homelessness is a big problem seems to correlate with cities that are slow to permit new development. If your concern is the timeline, I'd say you're not serious about fixing housing pressures. Development itself takes years to implement even in the places where local governments are development friendly. If you object because it's going to take too long, you have to ask yourself if you're serious about housing at all.

This isn't to say new development shouldn't have some kind of affordable unit goal. It's that any new housing is better than none, as long as demand is there.

I wouldn’t call that “crazy”, since that’s a bit of an ableist perjorative when used negatively, and my experience is that most of the people strongly pushing this inaccurate analysis have some motivated reasoning - this incorrect argument is central to most NIMBY arguments against the need for social housing or designated affordable housing, for example. (Kind of unusual to see it paired with anti-NIMBY sentiment).


Your experience has misled you. You can argue against my point, or you can argue with a straw man you seem to have conjured up. Once again, if you think the housing market is somehow not affected by supply and demand, you need to explain why.
posted by 2N2222 at 4:49 PM on March 14


Can they just disregard things like ADA access, for example?

Reserve land is generally subject to federal law. On the electrical end we have to follow plain Canadian Electrical Code on reserves rather than BC electrical code but the differences are minor. The BC amendments are a few dozen pages out of 700+.

This has got me curious if there is unceded/illegally expropriated native land in other Canadian cities where this building boom can be replicated

The vast majority of BC is unceeded territory. However this development is on reserve land which is a small percentage.

Squamish Nation is just developing in this fashion to spite and upset white people. Their choices on this project are intelligent, well-explained, and easily understood

Spite might not.be a motivator but I'd bet there is some amusement.
posted by Mitheral at 6:25 PM on March 14 [4 favorites]


I heard about this development a while ago, on the excellent CBC-produced podcast Land Back, by Angela Sterritt, which gives some historical context. There's also an interview segment with Gordon Price that I think is the source of his widely quoted "indigenous way of building" comment. The entire 6-episode series is great, but this is my favorite episode.

Land Back episode 5: A Village Burned.
posted by cathodeheart at 6:30 PM on March 14 [3 favorites]


2N222, you seem to have forgotten that non-luxury housing can be built, and priced from the get-go to be affordable to actual median income earners. Or that policy measures such as rent and vacancy controls, financial and administrative supports for land trusts and affordable co-op housing, and regulations preventing financialization of housing are possibilities. The market alone has never housed everyone safely and adequately in the past; and intro econ supply and demand arguments kind of break down with a necessity of life for which demand is highly inelastic at the lower end of the market.

Again, however, fortunately not an argument we need to have in relation to the development that is the subject of the fpp.
posted by eviemath at 6:38 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Or, ignores that the “starts to fall” part occurs on the order of decades and depends very much on the assumption that historical pressures of urban decay and renewal will continue in a similar manner as they have in the past despite changing policy regimes from the policy incentives that caused such turnover last century, which is not a useful time frame for solving an existing crisis of housing affordability.

Certainly not decades!

Changes in supply and demand causes rents to fall almost instantly. Eg during Covid, in Melbourne, when the borders were frozen and international students were unable to return to the country, rents fell by 22% in the city because supply exceeded demand and landlords were desperate to get literally anyone into their properties. It's not just because $450 per week is better than trying to get $600 per week and not finding a tenant, it's also because most insurers won't insure an empty property, and then if you lose insurance, you violate the terms of your mortgage as well.
posted by xdvesper at 10:06 PM on March 14


Why housing in Vancouver is so scarce and expensive:
  • Vancouver has lots of jobs and not enough housing - vacancy rates are near zero. So asking rents and prices rise to unbearable levels to push people out.
  • Getting permission to build housing is very slow and difficult (“it’s easier to elect a pope”): there’s often vocal opposition from neighbours.
Jacob Anbinder:
Around 1970, an unprecedented movement emerged across major American cities calling for returning control of urban government to the neighborhood level. Although conservatives had long embraced “neighborhoodism,” a distinguishing feature of this political trend was its newfound appeal to Democrats who were disillusioned by the turbulent urban transformations of the first postwar decades. Using New York City as a case study, this white paper shows how this new “neighborhood liberalism” reordered the priorities that urban liberals expected of their elected officials and, in so doing, remade American cities to a degree that scholars are only beginning to understand. On no issue was this influence clearer than that of urban growth. Whereas large-scale pro-growth projects had been at the heart of the mid-century liberal vision, the new generation of neighborhood liberals saw growth as an outdated obsession that had wreaked self-evident harms on vulnerable urban communities.
In Vancouver, that sounds very familiar. There's a small two-storey, eight-unit apartment building at 1000 Cypress Street in Kits Point, built in 1972. Not long after that, the city made it illegal to build apartment buildings in the neighbourhood. So it's illegal to replace the building with a new building of exactly the same size. Instead it's being replaced with three single-detached houses, probably selling for $8M each.

This is literally a five-minute walk north of Senakw.

In California, the equivalent of Senakw is the builder's remedy.
posted by russilwvong at 10:53 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


this is Vancouver, chances that this makes any dent in the housing crisis is approx. zero, Vancouver will swallow 6000 units, burp, and ask if there is more.

It is more than that. Often municipalities have rules based on height of adjacent buildings and character that limit development. Plunking down a bunch of high rises can alter standards on adjacent parcels of land. Plus it will definitely alter extremely local politics with a weight shift from SFH owners to renters and condo owners.
posted by srboisvert at 5:54 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


Fascinating article and really nicely written by the way. I'm all for it. We F-ed those cultures up as hard as we could, and whatever the survivors are able to make out of the wreckage, more power to them. It's a shame that in our chosen societal model, the only real way to rise up and effectively shake one's fist is through economic dominance, regardless of soul-crushing crassness. I don't think the conceptual designs in this case are particularly crass, btw, but other instances of tribal just-desserts-for-colonizers are not cultural keepers. I'd prefer a time machine, but this will do for now.
posted by wolfpants at 9:05 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]


Plus it will definitely alter extremely local politics with a weight shift from SFH owners to renters and condo owners.

Reserves generally aren't part of the municipality they border and residents who live there can not vote in municipal elections. It still shifts the average voice though.
posted by Mitheral at 3:44 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


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