Heiltsuk Nation

Project Team: Community partner: Heiltsuk Nation, UBC partners: Indigenous Research Support Initiative (Lerato Chondoma, Associate Director), Faculty of ForestrySchool of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Research team: Builders without Borders


Nestled on the central coast of BC, Bella Bella is a First Nations community on Campbell Island and the home for the Heiltsuk Nation. With over 2,400 members, the Heiltsuk population has grown steadily over the past 20 years, but the population of Bella Bella has remained relatively constant due to the lack of available housing.

With the local economy growing, many Heiltsuk members who are living outside the village would like to return. However, the community faces the joint problems of too little housing and a building stock that falls into premature disrepair. When new construction does take place, labour and materials are typically imported from outside the community, resulting in a lost opportunity to create needed employment within the community. To meet housing demand over the next 10 years, the community will need 150 mold remediations, 160 home renovations, 100 new homes and 120 new lots.


Engagement and IRSI's Role

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council reached out to IRSI to facilitate a housing-related research collaboration with UBC and for support to find implementation partners for the design and building needs for the Nation. The UBC research team began with a design phase, which engaged the Heitsuk Nation in a participatory process. Community members’ ideas were gathered via housing open houses, surveys, community dialogue sessions, one-on-one interviews and other methods. This input was then incorporated into the designs, resulting in culturally relevant housing options.

From these options, the community chose to proceed with a ‘tiny’ home design of approximately 384 square feet that would provide independent living options for of Elders and other individuals, couples, and even young families. With IRSI’s support, the Heiltsuk Nation has developed implementation partnerships with FPInnovations and Builders without Borders and eight Heiltsuk ‘tiny’ homes are currently under construction.

Outcomes and Next Steps

Future phases of this project will address home designs for larger families using the established community engagement process. The Nation intends to continue to build partnerships with external networks.

The tiny homes project represents an important opportunity for the Heiltsuk Nation, which is currently in reconciliation agreement negotiations with the federal and provincial governments. Given the government’s increased attention to housing as a priority, this demonstrates the Nation’s ability to design, construct and maintain culturally and environmentally appropriate housing.

Project funding



Community-University Engagement Support Fund

Additional information

Support Builders without Borders for the construction phase.

FPInnovations Blog Post: Tiny Homes Construction in the Heiltsuk Nation

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