BY BILL PHILLIPS
Even though housing on reserves is a federal responsibility, the province is pushing ahead with a new program to build 1,750 social housing units in B.C., on and off reserve, over the next 10 years.
Premier John Horgan was in Prince George Monday morning to announce the new Building BC: Indigenous Housing Fund, which will see Victoria contribute $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.
“Housing is fundamental to who we are as a people,” Horgan said. “If you don’t have a roof over your head and walls around, you live in fear, you live in anxiety, you are not realizing your full potential. Sadly, for too many indigenous people a lack of adequate housing has been a way of being for far too long.”
British Columbia will become the first province in Canada to invest provincial housing funds into on-reserve housing. It’s a move, Horgan said, that cabinet was willing to take.
“If we are going to meet the challenges of people, we had to starting doing some extraordinary things,” he said. “… We will be working with however wants to work with use, but particularly with our partners in indigenous communities.”
He said the funding is just a beginning.
Lheidli T’enneh Chief Dominic Frederick said the program is certainly welcome as funds for housing on reserve hasn’t exactly been flowing. The band has funds for a couple of houses this year.
“Twenty years ago we got a subsidy of about $20,500,” he said. “I think we got a raise and got $20,700. You can’t borrow for a house with 20,000 bucks.”
BC Housing will send out a request for proposals to identify prospective partners, including Indigenous non-profit housing providers, First Nations, Métis Nation British Columbia, and non-profit and for-profit developers, wanting to partner with Indigenous housing providers and First Nations.
The projects will each be examined on their own merit, as they are received, across the province. There is no specific allotment for the North.
“The housing situation that’s facing the indigenous people in British Columbia is absolutely unacceptable,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “Indigenous people are overwhelming over-represented in the homeless populations and it makes no difference if the housing need is on, or off, reserve. It is incumbent upon us that we, as a government that cares about people, that we are there to help British Columbians when they need it, regardless of who has jurisdiction.”
She added that she hopes the federal government will become a partner in the program.
The announcement was also praised by Terry Teegee, regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
“The funding is really going to assist our communities in accessing affordable housing,” he said. “Coupled with federal funding this is going to be a positive change in our communities.”
In addition to funding under the new Indigenous Housing Fund, Indigenous organizations and First Nations will be able to access provincial support, under the new housing funds announced as part of the 2018 budget.
Those programs include:
Building BC: Community Housing Fund – close to $1.9 billion over 10 years to build and operate 14,350 affordable new rental homes, through partnerships with municipalities, non-profit housing providers, housing co-ops and Indigenous organizations.
Building BC: Women’s Transition Housing Fund – $734 million over 10 years to build and operate 1,500 new units of housing including transition houses, safe homes, second-stage and long-term housing.
Building BC: Supportive Housing Fund – $1.2 billion over 10 years to build and operate 2,500 units of supportive housing for those that are homeless, or at risk of homelessness.