Lower Nicola Indian Band is completing a number of housing and capital works projects ahead of the band’s next election in the fall.

Four new houses for band members are nearing completion, including one all-wood structure and three wheelchair-accessible units.

LNIB Housing Manager Joe Shuter said about 85 per cent of the funding is borrowed from a bank, and the remainder comes from a housing grant from the Department of Indian Affairs.

Band members who move into the new houses pay rent, which recoups the loan.

“It’s more of a rent-to-own arrangement,” Shuter said. “With the homes, I’m trying to look at not only the monthly mortgage payments, but also the long-term maintenance costs. I’m trying to make a balance where the cost is low enough for the occupants, but the quality of the homes is high enough that we’re not continually doing maintenance.”

Shuter said band members with families who need new homes are usually high-priority, but he wanted to construct new homes for the singles who often get bumped down the housing waiting list.

“After 10 years, single people and elders kept getting pushed to the backburner,” Shuter said.

Shuter said he focused on the quality of the homes and making small changes that will prove more durable long-term, including heated, finished cement slab flooring and regular doors instead of flimsy bi-fold closet doors.

“We find we’re doing the same repairs repeatedly on houses,” he said. “It’s just about finding a better way and constantly improving the housing we provide.”

Shuter and the housing department recently finished three wheelchair-accessible, one-bedroom houses for elders, adding that moving elders out of houses with more bedrooms opens space for families to move into in the meantime, until their new lodgings are built.

The band has also completed a number of capital works projects, totalling in the millions.

One of the recently completed improvements is the tripling of the band’s drainage capacity, which LNIB Public and Capital Works Manager Hyrum Peterson said will reduce flooding in a new subdivision and on the highway.

“Additional runoff wasn’t anticipated when we built the subdivision, so we had problems with flooding for the last 10 years,” Peterson said. “We would have six to eight inches of water going across the road, from one ditch to another ditch.”

The year-long project cost just over $450,000 and included two more pipes under the highway, upgraded pipes in the subdivision, and widening and adding ditches. The funds came from the Department of Indian Affairs.

The Shulus Arbour received about $100,000 in improvements as well, including a retractable awning to reduce the sunlight on event emcees and dignitaries, as well as improved grass on the inside.

About one-third of funding for that project came from the Western Economic Diversification Fund.

The LNIB Community Hall also got an upgrade in the last six months worth $50,000. Improvements include new chairs and tables with storage racks on wheels for easier setup; an upgraded sound system; full blackout blinds on the windows; and a back deck. The facility’s kitchen also got a facelift with newly painted cupboards and a new, super-sized fridge.

The $2-million Mamette Lake Dam project has just been completed as well, Peterson said.

Peterson said the department is looking at more projects for the future, including an expansion to the band’s school.

“We’re already bursting at the seams, so we’re looking at how much bigger we need to go,” Peterson said.

Also on the future agenda is a long-term care facility for seniors, Peterson said.

“There’s quite a large need for a lot of our elders to be in some kind of a care facility, and there’s quite limited space in this area,” Peterson said. “We have had some of our elders seeking accommodation as far away as Kelowna, which is really tough for families to be able to visit.”

LNIB Chief Victor York said he expects band members on- and off-reserve to benefit from the improvements.

“It’s good to get this information out to our members so they know what we’re doing and see that we’re improving,” York said.