It has been a quiet, picturesque village for as long as anyone can remember, but with road improvements set to begin later this year, Anacla and its neighbor Bamfield are seeing a dramatically increasing demand for housing.
Chief Councillor Robert Dennis says the Huu-ay-aht village of Anacla has maintained a steady population of about 85 to 90 residents up to the year 2020. But the following year saw a dramatic increase to 156, and he expects that number to grow even more by this time next year when the chip sealing and paving of the road to Port Alberni is complete.
In 2020 the provincial government announced it would contribute $25.7 million in funding for the road improvement with Huu-ay-aht paying $5 million to cover the $30.7 million project.
About 75 kilometres of the route between Bamfield and Port Alberni is an unpaved industrial road that takes locals anywhere from 90 minutes to more than two hours to travel, depending on weather and road conditions. Road work will begin in the spring of 2022 with three sets of contractors working on approximately 25-kilmetre sections of road.
By March 2023, the chip sealed road will be ready for the finishing touches of paving over the seal coat at steep hills, major intersections and bridge approaches.
Chief Dennis says, when finished, the newly improved roads will likely cut travel time down to an hour.
Craig Filipchuk of Remax Mid Island Realty noticed major increases in demand for housing in Bamfield once the announcement about road improvements were made.
“There were major increases in housing prices of about 50 to 75 per cent once the road announcement was made in 2020,” he told Ha-Shilth-Sa.
Up until 2020, Filipchuk said he was selling one lot per year, but that is about to change.
“There’s not much supply and when demand is greater than supply, the prices go sky high,” he said.
Over in Anacla, which is included in Huu-ay-aht treaty settlement lands, construction has begun on 25 housing units, and they have preliminary approval from BC Housing to build eight more two-to-three-bedroom units scheduled for completion in 2023. Chief Dennis says that all 25 newly built housing units are full.
In addition to rental units, Huu-ay-aht citizens can purchase their own homes at upper Anacla, where nine building lots are being prepared. Huu-ay-aht Councillor Ed Johnson says the land is already cleared and they will soon bring in the sewer, water and electrical services.
Dennis says the nation has made arrangements with their bank that allow eligible citizens to apply for mortgages using land leases as equity.
“Each lot is valued at $60,000 to $90,000, depending on where they choose to build,” said Dennis.
Citizens who are homeowners sign 99-year leases with Huu-ay-aht for $1/year, giving them use of the land ownership of the home. The homeowners are responsible for the costs of their home repair and maintenance as per the lease agreement.
Whether seeking to rent or own, Huu-ay-aht citizens are invited to visit the Huu-ay-aht website to fill out on-line applications for housing.
According to their website, renters must meet CMHC requirements to be eligible for housing, as required in the funding arrangement. The nation is set to replace their Huu-ay-aht Social Housing Regulation with their new Rental Housing Regulation.
The RHR establishes rules for allocation of units and the responsibilities of both tenants and the landlord (Huu-ay-aht First Nations). In addition, an independent housing authority will be established to manage HFN rental units.
The news of the improved road has sparked activity in the real estate market just down the road in Bamfield. According to MLS Home Price Index, the average cost of a home in Bamfield was $261,391 a decade ago. In 2022, the average home price is now $644,300 with an rise of 14.5 per cent in the past year. Filipchuk predicts the increase will be even more dramatic once the road work is complete.
“There will be a big influx of people here once the road is complete – I’d say it will be comparable to Tofino,” he told Ha-Shilth-Sa.
A look at available listings in Bamfield reveals four houses for sale. Three of the houses range from $500,000 to $699,000. The lone waterfront property with two small one-bedroom houses is listed for $1.25 million.
A quarter-acre vacant lot in Bamfield is listed for $229,000, while a 1.59-acre waterfront lot is priced at $799,000.
Chief Dennis predicts that the increased population will translate to a greater demand for services, which means more jobs. Councillor Johnson says that he has been delivering training opportunities for citizens in forestry most recently. They are considering future training opportunities like heavy machinery operator or service industry work.
Johnson said he has had meetings with provincial government officials about increasing the capacity of the local school. The Bamfield Community School website says it offers education for students from K-12, but Johnson says that most Huu-ay-aht high school students stay in a larger urban area for their schooling. With more people moving to both Anacla and Bamfield, it is expected that more high school students will live there year-round.
Huu-ay-aht owns several businesses and building lots. Chief Dennis says he envisions citizens buying and running local businesses in the future.
“We have a motel, we have a store…I see our citizens being entrepreneurs,” he said.