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March 14, 2018

The new face of affordable housing in Bella Coola

“Getting involved in housing is important,” says Jalissa Moody, the asset management assistant for Nuxalk Nation in Bella Coola, British Columbia. “Without homes, you don’t really have much of a community.”

Jalissa is a driving force behind her community’s Tiny Homes project. The innovative and energy-efficient development will provide affordable rental housing for single men who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The four 338-square-foot homes have shared laundry and storage and feature roof-mounted solar panels.

The project began in late 2016, when Jalissa pitched the idea to a supportive council. She worked closely with an architect to design the floorplan and create preliminary drawings. They also made sure everything was code compliant.

“We’re really taking a lot of different design principles and building our buildings and our homes to suit our environment,” she says proudly.

Jalissa is a graduate of the Housing Internship Initiative for First Nations and Inuit Youth (HIIFNIY ). She had previously studied interior design, sustainable building design and construction, and she had some experience in project management. Still, she knew little about funding applications, reporting or the financial aspects of housing management. The CMHC program provided her with work experience and on-the-job training.

“The HIIFNIY program absolutely helped me become well-rounded in the field of construction, housing and design,” she says. “To be successful, education should always be a constant, and HIIFNIY definitely better prepared me for the job market here.”

Today, she works closely with the Tiny Homes construction manager and tradespeople. She supports the project’s daily administrative tasks and has a key role in the project’s operational success. “It’s so exciting to see our designs come to life from the ground up, she says. “From a bare lot to the foundation to the flooring and walls.”

When she’s not working on the Tiny Homes project, Jalissa collects deposits for the 35 rental units and 15 houses overseen by the Nuxalk Nation. She also processes housing applications and helps assess housing demand in the community.

“You just know where the need is,” she explains. “You talk to people — empty nesters, elders and single people. Everyone still wants their own place, but it’s about finding the right fit for each situation. In some cases, a single-room unit makes more sense than a 3- or 4-bedroom house.”

Looking to the future, Jalissa thinks she’ll stay in the housing industry, “I love being a part of the team here,” she says. “It’s incredible and so nice to see ourselves literally building our nation up. It’s an honour to be a part of it all.”

Jalissa graduated from the HIIFNIY program in 2016. To learn more about this story, watch a video about Jalissa and the Tiny Homes project.