Construction has begun on a new 52-unit development in Merritt’s Bench neighbourhood, providing more accessible rental housing for local First Nations peoples.

Land for the four-storey building, located at 2640 Spring Bank Avenue, was provided by the Nicola Native Lodge Society, who will also be managing the housing for the community members of the five local bands: Upper Nicola Band, Lower Nicola Indian Band, Coldwater Indian Band, Nooaitch Indian Band and Shackan Indian Band.

“People thrive when they can live in the community they know, close to their family and friends,” said Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon. “Our government is proud to support the Nicola Bands to build housing in their communities. These 52 new homes will play a key role in helping many elders, youth and families build good lives, and we will continue to work with Indigenous partners to build on- and off-reserve housing.”

The building will feature a mix of studio, one, two, and three-bedroom units, 36 of which will either be accessible or adaptable to accommodate accessibility needs.

Each unit will have a private balcony.

Construction is expected to be completed by Spring 2025.

“We are thrilled to welcome such a distinctive and inclusive affordable housing project like the Spring Bank multi-unit development within our community,” said Merritt Mayor Mike Goetz. “This project will not only bring much needed housing to the community, but it will also bring us one step closer to building a more integrated and supportive community that embraces our diverse cultures and honours the spirit of reconciliation.”

Lower Nicola Chief Stuart Jackson added that the housing shortage has become a “crisis” in the community.

“This project will help alleviate some of these challenges. I raise my hands to all the people behind the scenes who turned this dream into a reality. Huxme’l knee.”

Shackan Chief Arnie Lampreau echoed Chief Jackson’s sentiments.

“The thought of going outside Nicola Valley was one of the fears of our people. This is a chance for the future people to retire and have a safe place to live.”