Cumberland Affordable Family Housing

g̱wax̱’dzi dsas: Tall Tree Place

We would like to acknowledge that this project will be built on the unceded traditional territory of the K’òmoks First Nation.

Project Summary


g̱wax̱’dzi dsas (pronounced gwaugh dzee dzaas) is imagined as a place for families to find a home. The development will include 22 units of affordable housing for families. The mix of unit sizes will accommodate a range of family sizes and incomes, with many units planned to be attainable for single parent-led households. Dawn to Dawn: Action on Homelessness Society and the Comox Valley Transition Society have partnered to build and manage this project.


g̱wax̱’dzi dsas is intended to provide affordable rental housing to families in Cumberland, with a special focus on single parent-led households. Finding 2, 3, and 4-bedroom houses that can accommodate families living on median or below-median income can be a challenge, and this project aims to fill some of that gap. BC Housing and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation have funding opportunities for families that this project is planning on accessing to ensure long-term financial affordability.


Located at 3339, 3341, and 3345 Second Street, the development is within walking distance of the commercial core, schools, and parks. It is located just adjacent to Cumberland Lodge in a residential neighbourhood.  The Societies will enter into a long-term lease for the land for the life of the building.


g̱wax̱’dzi dsas will be a three storey wood frame building with 22 two, three- and four-bedroom family apartments and 1 one-bedroom for a caretaker/senior. The building is organized in an ‘L’ along the south and west property lines to provide maximum usable open space with a large sheltered courtyard and play area. The siting also retains existing trees and keeps the mass of the building back from the main street of small houses. The three storey massing provides a transition between the taller, institutional buildings of the adjacent Cumberland Lodge and the smaller scale residential character of the rest of the street. The building also is set to the south side of the lot to provide a generous separation from the single-family home on the north side. The building form is a series of volumes that reference the simple window layouts, wood cladding, steep gables, and proportions of Cumberland’s early industrial buildings. Indigenous art and design will be incorporated throughout and featured on the exterior facade.  

Patios are provided are all the ground floor units. In the shelter of the ‘L’ there is a central courtyard for social gatherings and a playground for children. The remaining site area will be lawn. Several mature trees are retained including a large evergreen on the north that provides a visual buffer between the three storey apartment and the adjacent home. Fencing will be provided along the north and west property lines. Other fencing, if any to be determined. 


The name g̱wax̱’dzi dsas has been chosen for this project, which is a Kwak’wala word meaning “Tall Tree Place” or “where the big tree stands”. This was chosen according to Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw naming conventions, as it describes something about the place . The design of the building has been organized around a large tree on the northeast side of the property and which will become a landmark of the property.

g̱wax̱’dzi dsas is pronounced gwaugh dzee dzaas; listen to a Kwak’wala speaker say the name in the sound clip below.



Dawn to Dawn: Action on Homelessness Society: Dawn to Dawn provides a variety of housing solutions for the homeless and those at risk of homelessness. These solutions include: subsidized market housing, container housing and Dawn to Dawn-owned residential properties. 

Comox Valley Transition Society: CVTS provides services in Comox, Cumberland and Courtenay areas to women and children who have experienced violence. Among their many services, they provide a safe home for women and children fleeing violence. 

Why Now?

This project is a response to a need for affordable rental units for families in Cumberland. While rental prices in Cumberland are relatively affordable when compared to the overall median income ($71,655), renters still represent the majority of those in core housing need with about 26.4% of renters finding themselves in core housing need. The median income of renters in Cumberland is significantly lower than the overall median at $39,146, while the median income of lone parent households is $41,088. As core housing need is defined as spending more than 30% of your income on housing, this puts renters and lone-parent households into a low or very low-income bracket, where renting a typical 2 and 3+ bedroom unit would place them in this precarious core housing need situation.   

The housing need for renters and lone-parent families extends beyond Cumberland into the whole of the Comox Valley Regional District. The region had a 1.3% vacancy rate in 2019, making it difficult to find rental accommodation for any household size. According to the Comox Valley Regional District Housing Needs Assessment (2020), individuals and lone-parent households are struggling the most, while renters are six times more likely to experience core housing need.  

The need for affordable rental housing can also be seen by looking at BC Housing, D2D, and CVT waitlists. As of January 2020, BC Housing has a waitlist of 270 applicants for subsidized units, 73 of which are families. 11 of those applicants are currently located in Cumberland. D2D has had 37 requests for housing for families since January 2020, and CVTS currently has 21 women led single parent households on their wait list for housing. 

Rental Information

As this project is anticipated to be a partnership with BC Housing, potential residents must qualify for BC Housing accommodation. You can learn more and apply for this, and other BC Housing units, here.  Once you are on the BC Housing Waitlist, you will be eligible for applying for a unit in this new project.

The Societies are able to support you in your application to BC Housing; contact them as per the information below.

Project Updates

July 2020

  • Rezoning and subdivision applications submitted
  • Website launched
  • Neighbourhood flyers launched

August 2020

  • Council and Advisory Planning Commission meetings anticipated
  • Development Permit submission anticipated
  • Community meetings – outdoor – anticipated last week of August

September – November 2020

  • Municipal approval processes proceed
  • Design development – submitted September 17, 2020
  • Updated website FAQs
  • Public hearing – November 18th, 2020
  • Municipal approval of rezoning/development permit
  • Funding submissions

Winter 2020-2021

  • Design development
  • Building permit submission and approval

Spring 2021

  • Ground breaking ceremony
  • Site preparation
  • Construction

Fall 2021

  • Building opening


Community Engagement

Check back here for upcoming events and opportunities to provide feedback.

To contact the project team, you can email us:


Design Drawings

Download the Design Drawings – (PDF 8.3MB)

Project Timeline

Download the Project Schedule – (PDF)



Traffic, Parking and Access

Q: How many parking spaces are being provided on site?

A: We are providing each unit with one on-site parking space. Each unit will have secured bicycle and stroller parking, with exterior bicycling parking for visitors.


Q: Will residents be parking on the street?

A: It is unlikely, as in our experience one parking stall per unit will be sufficient for this tenant type. Many of our clients do not own a car or only have one per family. This site was chosen in large part for its proximity to services including schools, downtown and transit, which will minimize the need for vehicles. Currently, many visitors to the area park on the street and this will be formalized through on and off-site street improvements to organize the public parking.


Q: How will the parking area/building be accessed? Will you be using the driveway/right-of-way from Ambleside Avenue?

A: No, we will not be using that driveway for access. Some parking will be just off of Second Street, and the rest will be off of the shared driveway with Cumberland Lodge, directly adjacent to 3339 Second Street.


Q: How will the site be secured?

A: During construction, safety fencing and cameras will ensure public and contractor safely and security. Upon occupancy, 24 hr cameras and lighting will ensure the residents and neighbourhood are secure and visible.


Landscape and Trees

Q: Will you be keeping all the trees on site?

A:  Our team aims to retain as many trees as possible and to ensure those retained are viable in the long term. Specifically, we will be ensuring the largest, existing mature tree on the northeast side of the site, just off of Second Street, will be preserved and its environment enhanced. Additional soft and hard landscaping is planned with a priority to maximize quality greenspace.


Q: Will the children have somewhere to play outside?

A: Yes, on the east side of the property adjacent to Second Street, there will be a play area and outdoor communal area. Details are being worked on and feedback from the community is being sought on how these outdoor areas can provide the best quality space for all.


Q: What will the landscaping look like?

A: Our landscape architect is working on designs, but the property will have attractive landscaping that will also be functional and provide shading and privacy where appropriate. A tree replacement plan will be included in this landscape design.


Density and height

Q: How tall is the building?

A: 3 storeys


Q: Isn’t this too high for this neighbourhood?

A: Cumberland Lodge, the Island Health building just adjacent to this site, is 3 storeys and is on a higher elevation. Our building will be 3 storeys with a more residential design and feel, reflecting Cumberland’s character and mining heritage. The setbacks and design will ensure the building does not look out of place with the rest of the neighbourhood.


Q: How many units are in the building?

A: 22 family units, with a combination of 2-, 3-, and 4-bedrooms.


Q: Can you build something smaller with less units?

A: There are a few reasons we wanted to build something with this number of units. The main reason is that Cumberland and the Comox Valley have an immediate, and ever growing, need for affordable family housing. Many families who are renting in Cumberland make less than the median income and are struggling to find somewhere to live or are paying too much for rent. Between both Societies’ waitlists and the BC Housing waitlist, we could fill double this number of rental units easily. We want to provide housing for as many families as possible.

The other motivation to build a slightly denser project is that funding currently focuses on larger projects to maximize project efficiencies. This design positions us well to get funding to ensure this project is successful.



Q: Is this shelter housing?

A: No, the units will be for independent families seeking affordable housing in Cumberland.


Q: What does affordable housing mean?

A: In this case, we are offering a mix of affordability for our future residents. 50% of units will be rented at “rent geared to income” (RGI), where the rent is calculated based on the residents’ income. They will pay 30% of their income on rent. 30% of units will be slightly below market rentals, meaning we will charge approximately 10% below the market rental rate in Cumberland. Finally, 20% of units will be rented at a deep subsidy, ranging from $570-$700 per month, depending on the size of the unit.


Q: How will you decide who gets to live here?

A: All residents will be required to be on BC Housing’s Housing Registry. Residents will be selected from this list and based on those seeking housing through Dawn to Dawn and CVTS.


Q: Will there be an on-site manager?

A: The design includes an office space at the entrance of the building that will be staffed by Dawn to Dawn and/or CVTS staff.


Q: What accessibility features will be included?

A: The design team met with the Cumberland Accessibility Committee and received positive feedback and valuable comments. The design intends to include accessible suites, wide and hard non-slip surface walkways, accessible playground features, ample space inside and outside the building for wheelchairs and walkers, and a variety of seating and gathering areas.

Project Partners