‘Housing is healthcare’: Huupsitas helps to make housing affordable for seniors | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

‘Housing is healthcare’: Huupsitas helps to make housing affordable for seniors

Port Alberni, BC

In just over a year, a new 48-unit independent living apartment building located on the Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens Campus of Care in Port Alberni has helped low-to-moderate income Indigenous elders and seniors with disabilities overcome housing barriers while building a community.

“There is definitely [a] community developing amongst the residents that… were new to each other when they moved in, and now they're friends,” said Art Van Volsen, building manager of the apartment complex, Huupsitas.

Residents of Huupsitas can be found in the outside gardens socializing or meeting in the amenities area where they host games and bingo nights, he shared.

“The catchphrase [that] comes to mind is, ‘housing is healthcare’,” said Van Volsen. “The folks that are coming here, their health is getting better.” 

“It's important to them to have safe affordable housing,” he said, adding that residents no longer have to worry about paying rent or finding a place to live, but can now focus on enjoying their time without stress.

Financed through BC Housing’s Building BC, the project was built with $5 million as well as annual operating funding amounting to $300,000, reads a recent press release.

"The Huupsitas building will provide the kind of stability and security that seniors and people living with disabilities need more of, so they can retire in the community they know and love," said Ravi Kahlon, minister of Housing, in the press release.

Huupsitas, meaning the side of the hill in Nuu-chah-nulth, has 45 one-bedroom units and three two bedrooms.

For half of the units, rent is calculated based on 30 per cent of the tenants income, while nine suites are allocated for those receiving disability assistance or a basic seniors pension. The remaining units are rented to match “low end market rents” up to $850, reads the press release.

The five-story building is located on the southern side of Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens Campus of Care at 6161 Russell Pl., also the location of a complex care facility and another independent living apartment building.

All units at Huupsitas are currently filled, shared Van Volsen.

"Enabling this housing is a much-needed act of reconciliaction. This development provides equitable access to safe, affordable, culturally supported living for Indigenous elders,” said Margaret Pfoh, CEO of the Aboriginal Housing Management Association, in the press release. “A place to call home is essential for the well-being of all Indigenous youth, families, elders and peoples.”

“The initiative outlined in the recent BC Housing announcement, is a beacon of hope for our vulnerable elders community here and on the West Coast,” wrote Derek Appleton, president of WestCoast Native Health Care Society board, in an email to Ha-Shilth-Sa. “[It] is a testament to the importance of inclusive and compassionate housing solutions.”

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