M’akola Housing Society
Incorporated as Victoria Native Indian Housing Society in 1984 as a non-profit society, the M’akola Housing Society’s mission is to provide affordable and appropriate homes primarily for Aboriginal people on Vancouver Island, and enhance community partnerships. M’akola Group of Societies manages housing units in Campbell River, Courtenay, Duncan, Nanaimo, Port Alberni and Victoria, but also projects in the Lower Mainland, namely Terrace and Prince Rupert.
Over the years, M’akola Housing Society has grown to be the largest urban Aboriginal housing provider west of Ontario, housing over 1,150 families.
The Victoria Native Indian Housing Society was incorporated on Feb. 6, 1984 as a non-profit society; the name was changed to the M’akola Housing Society on April 5, 1988. The Society was originally established to provide safe, affordable housing for families of First Nations ancestry who were in need of housing in urban centres on Vancouver Island. Since that time the Society and its mandate has expanded into what is now the M’akola Group of Societies.
Kevin Albers, CEO of M’akola Housing Society, said, “The need for a housing society that focused on the Aboriginal population came along with the need to provide affordable housing to the Aboriginal community living off reserves. We are still facing increasing demand for safe, affordable and appropriate housing for Aboriginal families, singles and elders and persons with disabilities. The increase in demand stems from the increasing population within the Aboriginal community on the Vancouver Island and beyond, so the demand for this form of housing also continues to increase and the demand still exceeds the supply.”
As a not-for-profit organization, M’akola Housing Society receives 100 per cent of its financing through BC Housing. BC Housing is the provincial crown agency that develops, manages, and administers subsidized housing options such as M’akola. BC Housing creates partnerships with private and non-profit partners, various other levels of government, health authorities, and community groups to increase affordable housing options for British Columbians in need. To date, BC Housing has provided government subsidies for over 97,000 households. “Working with BC Housing provides us with advantages such as preferential interest rates, ability to secure up to 100 per cent of the real estate value in mortgage financing, construction financing, longer amortization loans, and so on.”
While M’akola Housing Society came about as a social housing project, the company grew its experience and expertise in the housing project management, project development and project consulting. “As we currently provide housing for 1,150 families, we aggregated significant experience in project development as we developed most of our projects literally from the ground up, and then maintained them for almost 30 years. As part of our social enterprise, we started to provide these services to other related and not-for-profit organizations, unrelated, as well as for-profit organizations. Our expertise includes property management, property development and consulting, and project management. The Property management is our core activity as a non-profit, however, we added social enterprise into the mix of our core function.” As an example, Albers also shared some of M’akola’s current projects in development consulting and project management. M’akola currently provides these services for Nanaimo Affordable Housing Society, a partnership between three agencies that will build 40 housing units in the City of Nanaimo. “The focus of this project aims to provide housing solutions for 40 homeless and homeless-at-risk individuals.”
M’akola chooses to maintain its focus on Aboriginal communities and maintain the quality of living for the families living in M’akola housing. To this Albers said, “We are strong believers that we can’t be great at everything. We clearly started out as a housing society that focused on addressing the needs of the Aboriginal families and we plan to continue this path. We have expanded this to provide our occupants – the elderly and persons with disabilities – assisted housing services, where we provide assisted living, support and housing. To provide this service we have just completed our second assisted living facility in Duncan. This is a 50-unit, 55,000 square foot building that provides affordable care and support for over 50 Aboriginal elders, providing support workers and licenced practical nurses to these elders — assistance with daily living activities, such as meal delivery, housekeeping, laundry and so on.”
While M’akola Housing Society continues its single focus on the Aboriginal communities, with the growing population on the Vancouver Island, M’akola expects to grow further, and continue to provide its affordable housing services to cover the increasing demand from the Aboriginal community.