Province commits to $550 million for Indigenous housing

“Everyone in British Columbia deserves a good home, including people who live on-reserve,” said Premier John Horgan in an announcement made in Prince George on June 18. (Photo/Colin Macgillivray)

On June 18 in Prince George, Premier John Horgan announced that through the new Building BC: Indigenous Housing Fund, the British Columbia government intends to incest $550 million over the next 10 years to build and operate 1,750 new units of social housing for projects both on and off-reserve.

“Everyone in British Columbia deserves a good home, including people who live on-reserve,” said Premier John Horgan. “That’s why we’re opening the door to all Indigenous communities to join us as we make housing better and more affordable for people in every part of the province.”

This makes British Columbia the first Canadian Province to invest provincial housing funds into on-reserve housing.

Premier John Horgan announced the new fund Monday in Prince George, joined by Chief Terry Teegee, Assembly of First Nations regional chief for B.C., Chief Dominic Frederick of the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation and B.C. Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson.

According to a news release issued by the Office of the Premier, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, BC Housing will start the project by sending out requests for proposals to identify prospective partners.

This includes Indigenous non-profit housing providers, First Nations, Métis Nation British Columbia and non-profit and for-profit housing developers who wish to partner with Indigenous housing providers and First Nations.

“We know that Indigenous peoples often face extraordinary housing challenges,” said Selina Robinson, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “With these new provincial housing funds now available to more people, we are taking a major step forward in making sure Indigenous peoples everywhere in British Columbia have access to the safe and secure housing they need.”

In addition to funding under the new Indigenous Housing Fund, further information in the news release states that Indigenous organizations and First Nations will indeed have access to provincial support.

Provincial support will be under the new housing funds announced as part of the British Columbia Government’s 2018 Budget and the 30-point housing plan, which aims to ensure affordable housing across the province.

Furthermore, Budget 2018 also launched the biggest investment in housing affordability in B.C. history, with more than $7 billion in funding being implemented over 10 years, with 700 Indigenous housing units currently in development or under construction across the province.

Chief Terry Teegee, Assembly of First Nations regional chief for B.C, was quick to praise the provincial government’s decision.

“We have never seen such a commitment from a provincial government for on-reserve housing investments,” said Teegee. “I applaud the leadership of Premier Horgan and his ministers. Housing is a fundamental human right, and impacts a wide range of societal needs, including security, health for families and employment. First Nations in B.C. seek to improve a major gap in housing needs. This is an important step for building stronger First Nations’ communities.”

Teegee also mentioned that the Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation — and other First Nations communities in the region — are in need of more than 100 houses each for their respective residents.

Per the news release, the new housing will be developed in partnership with the Aboriginal Housing Management Association, Indigenous housing societies and First Nations.

Margaret Pfoh, the CEO of the Aboriginal Housing Management Association, states that this is a positive first step towards mitigating housing challenges for Indigenous communities.

“Today’s announcement is a positive step in the right direction to alleviating the housing challenges of our Indigenous peoples,” said Pfoh. “We are over represented in every housing need category. The Aboriginal Housing Management Association — and our members — look forward to partnering with First Nations and Indigenous housing organizations to create the housing that we so desperately need.”

This announcement was coupled with June 21 being National Indigenous Peoples Day, with the investment to support affordable housing for Indigenous peoples being one of the areas the province is focusing on the advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Finally, this announcement comes with the provincial government’s serious dedication to significant investments in Indigenous priorities and reconciliation.

Reportedly, this starts with more than $250 million allocated over the next three years, in the areas of affordable housing, language revitalization, child care, mental health and addictions, poverty reduction and environmental assessment, among others.

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