Native gains
Property Report|August - September 2020
Native gains
An indigenous-led real estate development in central Vancouver strikes a blow for the marginalised while easing the Canadian city’s chronic housing crisis and appealing to Asian buyers
Steve Finch

After the Squamish gave up all claims to a key piece of land in Vancouver back in 1947, hope they might one day develop the site into a multi-billion-dollar high-rise development seemed far-fetched.

This indigenous tribe from Canada’s western coast had witnessed their villages being razed to the ground and later occupied by the Canadian railway.

Then, in November last year, following decades of legal battles and disagreement over how to use the prime 11.7-acre plot, the Squamish overwhelmingly voted among themselves to develop the site.

The result: detailed architectural plans for 11 futuristic-looking residential towers featuring indigenous art and cascading plants. Named Senakw, the ambitious development could transform Vancouver’s notoriously lacking— and expensive—housing rental market.

Squamish Nation, the organisation representing the group, says as many as 5,400 units could be made available to renters—nearly double the net gain in rental properties coming on the market during the eight years up to 2018.

“This becomes a prototype, an example of what’s possible when we think bold and design big,” points out the single-monikered Squamish councillor Khelsilem, also known by his non-indigenous name Dustin Rivers. “Maybe it starts to break the glass ceiling on the conversation around what should be done around housing and density.”

Indeed, the future sustainable, mixed-use development set to rise on Squamish reserved land beneath Vancouver’s Burrard Street Bridge will not only be unique but could potentially draw foreign investment attention to Vancouver.

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August - September 2020