A housing forum was held at the Eugene Joseph School to try and address an over $800,000 housing budget deficit within the Tl’azt’en First Nation.
Community members, Chief Ralph Pierre, administrators and some councillors came together to attend the two-day event in Tache, with an attendance on the second day of around 35 people.
Chief Ralph Pierre worked to explain some of the problems the First Nation is struggling with regarding housing costs.
Right now, Tl’azt’en reportedly pays around $58,000 per month towards mortgages and insurance for housing on the reserve.
However, the band is only able to collect around $32,000 per month from tenants towards these payments because some members are not paying their rent or insurance bills. Over the course of a year, this means the band is putting out $312,000 per year on housing out of their budget from other areas.
“That definitely hurts the bottom line,” said Pierre.
He said the band has cut eight positions this year and are planning on further cutbacks to try and address the shortfall.
In addition, Pierre said the band is talking to industry to look at some joint venture opportunities which might help create some income for the community.
The band also received a $40,000 grant to explore developing an energy project using wood waste.
The housing forum was to try and give the community members an opportunity to become informed on what was going on and to help develop a process and some policies to deal with tenancy issues when residents are not paying their housing costs.
The forum included presentations to educate community, draw prizes to encourage attendance and breakout sessions to brainstorm possible solutions.
Residents were educated on some basic home maintenance to help save money down the road, such as replacing furnace filters and replacing bricks in furnaces.
“It’s all the little things that add up to be the big things,” said Dan Veller of Fraser Plumbing and Heating, who works for the community on their buildings when needed.
Veller said maintaining a furnace properly can allow it to last 20 years, instead of burning out in five.
There was also a presentation on how to remove mould safely by wiping it off with a paper towel then washing the area with soap and water and then drying the area. Bleach apparently can react with some moulds and create toxic fumes, so it should not be used.
“Look at the little things, we can all do little things to make a difference,” said Veller.
While some community members expressed frustration their homes were not being renovated, administrators were trying to explain why the funds are not available for renovations on most homes.
“I’m trying to do this balancing act,” said Renada Monk. “If there is no rent collected … then there are no repairs and maintenance.”
She said there are amounts owing for the majority of homes in the community.
Some who had paid off their home also did not realize there were still insurance costs to be paid for each year.
“This is going to be a long-term problem,” said Pierre. But he also said he thinks it could be dealt with in three to five years if action is taken.
“I have confidence in this community,” he said.