A government report says it will cost $2-billion dollars in Manitoba alone to fix the dire situation of First Nations housing.
Mould and chronic overcrowding have plagued reserves but the federal government has only budgeted $150-million for housing on all reserves this year.
Manitoba’s Treaty Commissioner Jamie Wilson says if indigenous people owned the homes it would go a long way, but that’s easier said than done.
“Home ownership increases the length of time that homes last, it increases pride, it allows you to generate wealth in the community. But, historically, it’s been very hard for First Nations to get access to mortgages like most Canadians.”
The problem stems from living on land that is held in trust by the federal government.
“You basically have to get your chief and council to co-sign your loan. It would be like me in Winnipeg getting the mayor and council to co-sign on my mortgage,” Wilson explains. “And the banks can’t foreclose on reserves to it makes banks very leery to lend money for mortgages.”
Wilson says that some reserves have taken to pooling money into rotating loans. He says you can easily identify which ones are owned by band-members driving through a reserve because of their upkeep, but strong social housing projects are needed too.
The federal government has made a number of promises surrounding indigenous issues, but Wilson says he looks forward to the upcoming budget to see what priority housing has.