Medicine Hat News

Housing advocates eye federal budget for aid to urban Indigenous providers


The Trudeau Liberals have told stakeholde­rs in the affordable-housing sector to look for funding in next week’s budget to help expand the stock of units for Indigenous people in urban centres.

Going back to the 2019 election, the Liberals have spoken about funding for urban Indigenous housing providers as the missing piece of the national housing strategy.

While those providers can apply for programs that make up the remainder of the $70-billion strategy, they have asked for specific funding to meet their unique needs.

Several sources in the housing sector who spoke to The Canadian Press on condition of anonymity to discuss matters not made public, said government officials have strongly hinted to them that the budget will include measures to meet those requests.

Asked Wednesday about the budget, Social Developmen­t Minister Ahmed Hussen would only say it would continue the government’s leadership role in housing across the country.

“Not only should the federal government exercise its leadership role in terms of encouragin­g movement on the building of more affordable housing, but the government of Canada should also provide resources to back that leadership role,” Hussen said during a virtual event announcing funding for a program to boost housing supply.

“I have no doubt that budget 2021 will also follow the previous budgets that have always had an emphasis on the importance of affordable housing investment­s.”

A report earlier this year from the parliament­ary budget office noted that the Liberals’ decade-long national housing strategy explicitly allocates $179 million per year to Indigenous housing in urban, rural and northern areas.

But to really close the housing gap these Indigenous people face, the budget office estimated the government would have to spend between $159 million and $1.4 billion more annually, depending on what percentage of constructi­on costs and rent subsidies the government wants to cover.

Margaret Pfoh, CEO of the British Columbia-based Aboriginal Housing Management Associatio­n, said any new program for urban Indigenous housing should be developed and delivered by urban Indigenous people.

In B.C., the provincial government sends housing money to Pfoh’s associatio­n, which it then delivers in subsidies and capital dollars to housing providers.

It’s a model Pfoh said the associatio­n is trying to build on and become a template for the delivery of any new funding under the national housing strategy.

“The reality is that the complex needs of our community require more than just bricks and mortar. You can’t just build four walls and think we’ve solved the problem,” Pfoh said.

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