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4 Coquitlam homes repurposed for Agassiz-area First Nation

Homes to be transported down Fraser River to Harrison Lake

Four single-family homes slated for demolition in Coquitlam are being relocated to Sts'ailes First Nation.  

The Sts'ailes repurposing project is part of Renewal Development's Home Relocation and Repurposing Program (HRRP), an initiative to repurpose and relocate good single-family homes from growing urban areas to more rural communities in critical need of housing.

"The Sts'Ailes nation sought affordable climate responsible solutions to help address their critical housing shortage needs," reads Renewal Development's description of the Sts'ailes project. "Renewal Development, working with the nation's leadership, and our moving company partner Nickel Bros identified four good homes in Coquitlam to rescue, relocate and repurpose."

Last month, the lower floor's cabinets, appliances and windows were transported to the First Nation to help rebuild the lower levels. The first two homes will be driven through the streets of Coquitlam in late June, while the other two will be moved overnight sometime in mid July. From there, the homes will be floated down the Fraser River toward Harrison Lake, where they will be offloaded at Sts'ailes. 

Sts'ailes Grand Chief Chasta Willie Charlie (Cha'qua'wet) said the new homes would go a long way toward addressing housing demand in the community. 

"We have over 40 families that are wanting to build right now," Charlie said. "To build a new house, you really have to secure a loan, and the cost of construction is really, really high. So by moving these homes to the community would help with affordable housing for some of those who might not be able to secure a home." 

Charlie estimates the homes could be move-in ready by as soon as the end of summer. He said the families to move in to the new homes have yet to be decided through a process. 

Charlie said the notion of saving these houses from demolition has massive implications for sustainability overall.

"When you think about the amount of waste today and lessening the impact on Mother Earth, we start to reduce the amount of waste we produce," he added. "I think (the HRRP) has a huge impact on that and being creative and innovative when working on the housing needs of First Nations communities." 

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said moving these four homes provides an affordable solution for Sts'ailes Nation to address an urgent need in the community. He said homes typically have a long life, and these four are relatively new.

"Picking up a house and moving it down to the river, storing it, putting it on a barge, shipping it somewhere else and then repeating the process in reverse and then finishing it, connecting it to services at a foundation is incredibly complicated, but it's worth it."

Renewal founder and CEO Glyn Lewis said that in Metro Vancouver every year, 2,700 homes are demolished to make way for higher-density developments, but the company estimates 700 of those are still "in perfectly good condition." The Coquitlam homes being moved are not even a decade old, being built in 2016. 

Driving through Vancouver and Coquitlam and looking at the conditions of some of the homes slated for demolition or properties planned for land assemblies, Lewis said it just struck him as unbelieveably wasteful.

"Unbelievably wasteful from a material perspective, unbelievably wasteful from an embodied-carbon perspective, unbelievably wasteful from an opportunity that these homes could have been affordable housing for communities in need."

Renewal's 2020 pilot project relocated ranch homes via barge from Coquitlam to Gibsons on Vancouver Island. The homes received a basement and fitted with solar panels and a rainwater harvesting system in 2021. 

In 2023, Renewal Development collaborated with the Squamish First Nation to rescue the Yellow School House, a 110-year-old historic schoolhouse. The schoolhouse was set to be demolished in Vancouver to make room for Henry Hudson Elementary, and the building was ultimately repurposed as an early childhood language learning facility on the Xwmélch'tstn reserve in North Vancouver. 

Adam Louis

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