Indigenous housing: Urgent Need for Systemic Changes
Leilani Farha, UN Former rapporteur on adequate housing, called the 2019 UN rapport on Indigenous Housing an important “wake-up call” demanding immediate action from the Canadian government. While women generally face greater struggles to find affordable housing, Indigenous Women are even more at risk. The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women underlines that sad reality. At the Centre, we believe that adequate housing is key to improving living conditions for vulnerable populations. As board member Margaret Pfoh said: “Housing is the panacea of any crisis. If we don’t give safe places for people to shelter, how will they ever begin to address their own needs? They won’t be able to.”
Indigenous Housing Rights in Ontario
“We are excited to support the rapid and dynamic evolution of Ontario Aboriginal Housing Service (OAHS), which is why the Centre just awarded them a grant,” says Stéphan Corriveau, Executive Director at the Centre. “This money will allow the OAHS Board of Directors to address current challenges and formulate a five-year-strategic plan that will best support clients in the years to come at a meeting with Board members and senior staff. The strategic planning session will have a significant impact regarding provincial housing issues and spillover effects onto other sectorial partners’ activities.”
More specifically, two strategies are to be developed that are likely to have a large impact on the community housing sector in Ontario, especially for Indigenous groups and families:
• A tenant engagement and communication strategy
• An environmental stewardship strategy, meeting practices of responsible land use and protection of the natural environment
The Centre is looking forward to sharing more images and the detailed plan with you in the weeks to come—stay tuned!
Learn more about the organization
OAHS has been founded in 1994 to offer safe and affordable off-reserve housing in one of Canada’s largest provinces. Their programs support Indigenous, Métis, and Inuit families with low or moderate income everywhere in Ontario. For example, the First Nation, Inuit and Métis Urban and Rural (FIMUR) Rental Program provides geared-to-income rental rates in strategic locations to promote a holistic lifestyle. Another program offered by OAHS is the FIMUR Assisted Homeowner Program and Repair Program. Through a forgivable loan of up to $30,000, Indigenous families looking to purchase an off-reserve home can make a dream come true.
OAHS collaborates closely with 40 Indigenous Housing providers to offer services that specifically meet the needs of Indigenous communities. Those services include referral for local shelters, crisis centres, financial counselling, as well as cultural and community centres or a job board and educational scholarships. Roughly 3,400 existing units serve around 10,000 tenants.