Coalition Calls on Ottawa to Invest $6 Billion in Indigenous Housing

A new coalition is calling on the federal government to invest $6 billion in its next budget to develop an urban, rural and northern Indigenous housing strategy.

The National Urban Rural and Northern Indigenous Housing Coalition, which represents Indigenous housing providers across Canada, said housing supply needed to be increased by 73,000 units.

Investments should focus on an Indigenous-led approach, supporting community resources and culturally relevant health services to end the cycle of housing insecurity.

“Canada has a problem and we have a solution. We need a federal government now to work in partnership on this solution,” said Justin Marchand, Coalition Board Member and Executive Director of Ontario Native Housing Services, during a a press conference on Tuesday.

Marchand said current government programs are not working. He said allowing communities to make their own decisions would lead to long-term success.

The federal government allocated $300 million in its 2022 budget to jointly develop an Indigenous housing strategy, but the coalition said that was insufficient. He pointed to a 2022 National Housing Council report that called for at least $6.3 billion to be spent on Indigenous housing between 2022 and 2024.

The coalition said 80% of Indigenous people in Canada live outside Indigenous-ruled areas and many have been left out of the National Housing Strategy and federal housing initiatives. Indigenous people disproportionately live in overcrowded housing in need of major repairs and are overrepresented in counts of homelessness, correctional facilities and victims of violence.

Margaret Pfoh, Coalition board member and chief executive of the Aboriginal Housing Management Association, said investing $6 billion in Aboriginal housing could save $10 billion in health care costs. health and other service costs.

“We can continue to spend more and more money on congested hospital emergency rooms, more money on ambulances, more money on incarceration, or we can invest in preventative measures like safe and affordable housing with the support people need,” Marchand said.

Katlia Lafferty is a member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, one of the founding members of the coalition and co-chair of the National Aboriginal Housing Network. She said some of the challenges in the north are the lack of shelters and transition houses for women and children fleeing violence, limited support for rehabilitation, high heating bills and problems with existing houses such as as mold and bad plumbing.

“We can no longer just build houses. We need to build homes that are winter proof, we need to work to create a way for our communities to get healthy again,” she said.

Lafferty also stressed the importance of indigenous self-determination in dealing with the housing crisis.

“It is high time we had the opportunity to show that as a collective group of Indigenous organizations from coast to coast, we can effectively manage the money needed to do this work across the country and solve this problem once and for all.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 7, 2023.

This story was produced with the financial support of Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Emily Blake, The Canadian Press


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